The Standing Committee of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats adopted a recommendation at its annual meeting last week, urging Greece to prevent habitat deterioration and ensure improved protection of Kyparissia Bay. Indicative of the strong European reaction is the call for a permanent construction ban in the area.
“The Council of Europe’s Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, is aware of the severe pressures on the habitat due to construction interests since 2010,” said the organizations in a a statement.
In July 2014, the Convention visited the area for an on-the-spot appraisal to assess the habitat and document conservation problems. As a result, at its annual meeting last week in Strasbourg, the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention unanimously adopted a Recommendation which is in direct conflict with a draft Presidential Decree (PD) that Greek authorities are currently promoting.
Specifically, the draft PD llegitimizesillegal interventions that have been made to date in the site, such as illegal roads, and ignores the need to restore nature elements that have been destroyed, as in the case of the dune system. In contrast, the Bern Convention calls for the removal of any illegal constructions and restoration of the natural environment.
The draft PD allows construction with few restrictions behind the core nesting area of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta), thus accommodating investor plans to build 47 beachfront summer houses. On the contrary, the Bern Convention calls for a permanent construction ban in this section. It must be noted that the Greek Ministry of Environment has previously ordered a temporary suspension of building permits, rrecognizingin this way the need to preserve the area’s natural features.
While the draft PD allows for sun-beds and umbrellas to occupy 30% of the beach, even in the core nesting site and although the local community has never requested to use the beach in such a way, the Bern Convention recommends that beach equipment licences are not issued for this area.
The draft PD designates the site as a Regional rather than a National Park, in an effort to downgrade the need for protection measures and to consolidate the current uncontrolled situation, by transforming a natural area into a tourist and residential area. On the contrary, the Bern Convention calls for an appropriate protection status that may ensure long-term increased conservation of the natural habitats.
“The Greek Ministry of Environment had the opportunity to move towards integrated spatial management of the site that would allow for long-term, low-impact and sustainable development to the benefit of both the local community and the sea turtles,” reads the organizations press release.
“Instead, authorities have chosen to “succumb” to short-sighted, visionless, construction and business interests and are fast-tracking a Draft Presidential Decree, which legitimises the illegal interventions made in the nesting area and – on the pretext of environmental “protection” – allows for intensive and complete build-up of a virtually pristine coastal area.”
Given the fact that the European Commission has already referred Greece to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to ensure the protection of marine turtles in Southern Kyparissia Bay, the Recommendation of the Bern Convention may be a herald of the country’s’ condemnation.
Environmental organisations ARCHELON, MEDASSET and WWF Greece express their deep concern about these developments, and ask the Greek Minister of Environment, Mr. Maniatis, and the Ministry’s General Secretary, Ms. Giannakopoulou, to consider their international responsibilities and revise the entire Draft Presidential Decree based on the Bern Convention Recommendation.