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Society

Greece Will Legalize Unlawful Buildings in Forests, Woodlands

ATHENS – Despite unlawful building in woods in the seaside village of Mati blamed for the deaths of many people who couldn’t escape July 23, 2018 wildfires – and promises to raze them – Greece will allow unlicensed buildings to stand in forests and woodlands.

The New Democracy government will let owners of the unlawful buildings have immunity from seeing them torn down – as had been promised – if they pay a one-time 250 euro ($248.38) fee, said Kathimerini.

An electronic platform to declare unlicensed buildings will be set up, the report said, giving protection to people who built unlawfully in forests and woodlands without having to worry about demolition.

The Secretary-General of Forests Konstantinos Aravosis the platform will operate through the website of the Hellenic Cadastre and, “Sanctions against them will be frozen. Those that meet certain conditions can then be legalized for 30 years,” he told the paper.

That perpetuates New Democracy’s position to protect violators who represent a sizeable voting bloc, with 2023 elections coming and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis under fire on a lot of fronts.

In 2019 the owners of illegal buildings in Greece, or those adding additions unlawfully, were also protected from demolition or even fines, allowing them to flout the law although they were then given until Dec. 31, 2015 to enter a settlement plan, apparently now abandoned.

Unlawful structures were also said to be a major reason for deaths in flooding in the town of Mandra west of Athens and for blocking rainwater and causing erosion and even taking over state land.

At the time, the Environment Ministry, without explaining why, extended the June 30, 2020 deadline giving unlawful property owners more time to comply with a scheme legalizing their illegal act if they pay for it.

It was the sixth time in 10 years that a government is introducing measures enabling owners to protect their illegal properties from demolition although former Premier and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras vowed to tear down more than 1100 after the fire killed 103.

Environment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, who had criticized plans to legalize unlawful buildings, reversed course and went ahead with the the plan to protect those he said should be taken down before changing his mind.

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