ATHENS – A long-running broiling heatwave that could see temperatures hit as high as 114 degrees has moved the New Democracy government – which has leased public beaches to private companies – open part of the capital's shore for free for three days.
Public beaches that are controlled by the private companies who dominated the shore on Athens' coast, and charge for use of facilities, were open without charge from July 31-Aug. 2 but then can go back to charging people to use public land.
That was for the privately-operated allegedly public beaches of Akti Vouliagmeni, Asteras Vouliagmeni and Akti A’ Voula on the capital’s southern coast, not others.
There are next to no municipal swimming pools either in Athens, leaving children and others without the means to reach beaches they would also have to pay to enter no alternative but to swelter at home.
The Public Real Estate Company (ETAD) said the three beaches run by private companies were cooperating for the three days and that COVID-19 measures impossible to enforce on beaches would be in force.
The closing-off of public beaches has been going on for decades, stepped up by the previous ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which said it was the champion of the people but had more than 90 public auctions to lease them to private companies.
A total of 130 beaches across Greece, including Spetses, Hydra, Poros, Aegina, Rhodes, Crete and Kefalonia were put up for lease, making the public pay for use of public land, no word where the money went.
The New Democracy government has continued the practice, allowing unlawful structures on public beaches that were supposed to be razed to continue to operate if a fine were paid.
Environmentalists and even municipal officials where the beaches are located have long squawked about the leasing of the public beaches that include charging people to use umbrellas and chairs or blocked from the water.
The Greek Constitution states the shoreline is public but has been ignored by repeated governments wanting to cash in on leasing the land, and no person or company allegedly can keep anyone from reaching the shoreline.
With corruption unstoppable in the country, private companies have taken over public beaches and no government has tried to stop it, although the law stipulates that if access to a beach is blocked by a hotel that anyone has the right to walk through it to reach the water.
Municipal authorities can issue licenses but critics said the process has become so corrupt that the public believes public beaches are private beaches and few challenge it if blocked from the water.
Almost all the beaches on Athens' coast are blocked off but for those which aren't people will be charged to rent beach equipment and pay dearly.