The environmental group Greenpeace has joined in criticism over a bill that would let developers run amok on Greece’s coastline and build where they want, legalize unlawful construction and hinder public access to public beaches.
“Enough is enough. The coastal bill must be withdrawn without a second thought,” Greenpeace said of the measure but forth by the coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy leader, and his partner the PASOK Socialists.
“Protecting and exhibiting the [Greek] shoreline is key for the country’s biggest industry which is tourism. That should be the government’s aim in order to improve the national economy,” the organization said.
The bill, which has been prepared by the Finance Ministry, lifts all current restrictions on the maximum area designated for beach concessions – such as bars, umbrellas and sun loungers – while abolishing the right to unhindered access to the coast for the public.
The proposed measures would also facilitate permanent constructions on beaches for commercial purposes, while making it possible for businesses to pay fines to legalize unlicensed constructions.
The ministry claims that the new framework will delineate the Greek coastline and simplify construction on and management of coastal areas.
Public consultation on the bill, launched during the Easter break, has been extended to May 13.
Earlier, the Greek branch of the World Wild Life Fund (WWF) wrote to Members of Parliament – which is controlled by the government, to protest the proposal it says will deprive Greeks of their right to be able to get to public beaches.
Athens’ coastline is dotted with unlawful taverns and businesses that charge people for access to public beaches, many of the operations running without licenses, which is common in Greece, amid complaints of corruption and officials being paid off to allow them.
The mayor of one of the coastal neighborhoods several years ago, in an attempt to get rid of the unlawful businesses on each fronts, tried to demolish some but the government stepped in and barred it.
WWF Greece labeled the Finance Ministry bill “criminal” and urged lawmakers in an open letter not to support it but MPs from the ruling parties face expulsion if they vote against the wishes of their leaders – who have already decided to let the proposal go ahead.
The bill lifts all current restrictions on the maximum area designated for beach concessions – such as bars, umbrellas and sun loungers – while abolishing the right to unhindered access to the coast for the public.
While there are public beaches, the prime pieces have long been seized by private businesses and the bill opens the way for the kind of clustered development that destroyed Spain’s beaches.
The proposed measures would also facilitate permanent constructions on beaches for commercial purposes, while making it possible for businesses to pay fines to legalize unlicensed constructions, effectively opening one of Greece’s best assets – its beaches – to be taken over and limit public access.