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Columnists

What’s Wrong With This Greek Beach Big Picture?

Officials on the island of Rhodes were shocked – shocked – to find out that an unlawful beach business in an archaeological site had again put sunbeds on metal platforms in the water to cater to tourists and suckers paying for them.

The response was swift and terrible for the unlawful business operating unlawfully that apparently didn’t learn a lesson from 2023 when it was fined for operating unlawfully and did it again, yawning at the laxness.

It was ordered closed, but not for a couple of weeks so it could make more money, and no initial report that the sunbeds and umbrellas set up unlawfully on an archaeological site – apparently few in government knew that – would be removed.

Those on Rhodes knew when the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, Islamic Umayyad forces of Caliph Muawiyah I, the Knights Hospitaller, Suleiman the Not So Magnificent, Italy, and the Nazis were coming but missed the guy who got a license for a food truck on the beach and took it over.

He put 19 metal platforms in the sea, with umbrellas and sunbeds, no report whether he had a lease required to run a beach business – in violation of the Constitution – and supposedly limited to 50 percent of the space.

That was reportedly the third year in a row the beds were in the water and they will be again later when the heat dies down, so somebody should start checking secret foreign bank accounts to find out why.

The photo of a waiter wading in water up his waist, carrying drinks to tourists and the well-to-do brought some blowback about unfair labor conditions in Greece, which relies on foreign visitors for up to 20 percent of its annual Gross Domestic Product.

This is not a picture that the New Democracy government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wants you to see as it’s luring more luxury resorts competing with Greek businesses to take over public beaches until they’re apparently going to be fully occupied.

At the time, then-Labor Minister Adonis Georgiadis, who never saw a developer he didn’t like, said he was essentially powerless – which he probably is – but this wasn’t the time to roll over and give up.

‘I immediately requested a direct inspection by an [inspector]. We sent a ladder [sic] that went in two hours and no violations were found…. you see, there is no written provision that prohibits it,” he said. Why not? That’s the question he should have been asked.

There was outrage on some islands in 2023 where residents were being kept away from public beaches by owners of businesses either with leases or not, and who in some cases were said to have bullied those who didn’t want to pay, but wanted to sit on public sand.

The Umbrella Revolt led to some predictable responses that the businesses would be found and punished and fined and shut down yadda yadda yadda, and there were a few sacrificial sunbed victims, but no luxury resorts was harmed, thank Zeus.

As the beach business was in an archaeological site, local authorities said they wouldn’t provide a license. But the owner, who wasn’t named, ignored it and expanded the business, no report how much the fines were in 2023.

“Approval was never granted nor would it be possible to grant it for the installation and operation of the business, considering the archaeological legislation, since it has proceeded to illegally occupy the shared seafront and beach area,” a statement from the municipality said, without adding why they allowed it to continue.

Wait a minute? Is that a McDonald’s on the Acropolis and someone renting umbrellas? The government wasn’t aware of that and is shocked – shocked – to find out that gambling is also going on in casinos and state run gambling offices.

The owner was issued a permit only to operate a food truck on the beach in 2014 and 2015 and then took it over without anyone apparently noticing. Nor was it said if he had paid for a lease as is required – by laws in violation of the Greek Constitution.

A demolition order was issued in 2016 and another to seal the business in 2017 but nothing happened and it’s been allowed to keep operating unlawfully, no report whether the municipality was getting any revenues or if taxes were being paid.

The government is talking out of both sides of its mouth, hard to do with a forked tongue, but impressive nonetheless, a paper tiger law aimed at curbing unlawful beach businesses somehow missing luxury resorts.

The bill to limit public beach takeovers is as phony as investigations into a long line of scandalous wrongdoings that have gone nowhere beyond File 13, the measure allowing “social factors and local peculiarities” to be taken into account in giving leases.

Translated, that means public beaches will continue to be unlawfully exploited, more by the government than the businesses getting unlawful leases, and most of the coastal beaches will be returned… for development.

This will happen all summer, on islands and prime coastal spots where the signs should say GNNE – Greeks Not Need Enter – because those are being set aside for foreigners and rich Greeks, and their beaches will remain private.

Send in the drones.

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