The Greek government has revised a law on shoreline use that gives shoreline rental businesses the right to use beaches for the rental of sea sport equipment, placement of tables and chairs, umbrellas and recliners for public use without restrictions. The new law renews environmentalists’ fears Greece’s natural legacy and sustainability will be undermined.
The revised laws will complement rules that are already in place for cafes, campgrounds, hotels, leisure centers, and restaurants, is now in effect for rooms to let. The new lease law is a three-year agreement, which now comes at a 40 percent discount in an effort to shore up hospitality-related businesses. The law also gives the owners of illegally constructed buildings on the shoreline the right to legalize these through to 2022.
In the past, WWF Greece and other environmental groups have protested against the amended law. The activists have been up in arms because the law not only legalizes illegal dwellings on shorelines across Greece, but it also authorizes illegitimate fish farms. In addition, the revised law legalizes the extension of ski resorts constructed without permission from the forestry department. Government spokespersons say these latest revisions were only made for the financial support of businesses on account of COVID-19.
The most controversial aspect of the revised law allows entrepreneurs the right to proceed with direct leases (without an auction process) and without any legal restraint concerning the maximum area of use. Greece will now offer a 40% discount on leases, with 70% going to local municipalities, and 30% going to the state.
Other groups that have been opposed to such legislation include Medasset, Mom, ANIMA, Arcturos, Archelon, Ornithological Society, Hellenic Society for Environment and Culture, Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, Society for the Protection of Prespes, Mediterranean SOS Network, Callisto and the Ecological Recycling Society.
The passage of the revision seems opportunistic in the extreme to me, since the outcry against such legislation has been constant and ongoing for decades now. A story from 2014 in the middle of the financial crisis bears rereading now.
“During the deepening economic crisis in Greece, the government has been looking for new ways to bring profits to the lenders. This time they have put the country’s beaches and shores in the firing line. The prime minister aims to reduce bureaucracy and increase investments, but critics fear it will destroy the natural coastal environment, discourage investors, and eventually send away tourists.”
Underneath the news, the real reason for Greece selling off shoreline use is economic once again. This announcement by the man authorized to establish this shoreline use law, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, reveals the need to balance 14 billion euros slated to help tourism businesses during the pandemic crisis. The government needs more than revenue from bonds to balance the books at this time. For bean counters, the money simply has to come from somewhere, and selling off Greece’s delicate seashore environment is easier now that COVID has put thousands of businesses at risk.
The real danger here is the total degradation of one of Greece’s most valuable legacies, here pristine beaches, and shoreline. If the reports ring true, and if “interested parties now have the right to proceed with direct leases (without an auction process) and without any legal restraint concerning the maximum area of use”, then anyone who can afford beach chairs and umbrellas will be able to set up shop and reap the rewards. Can you imagine the mayhem?
We’ll contact the authorities to get a better understanding of these lease licenses, but the news is definitely not good for Greece’s nature lovers.
To be continued….
Sources: GTP, Greek Reporter, and Kathimerini.