The mobilisation of citizens to achieve the immediate withdrawal of the Ministry of Finance bill on the shoreline was the focus of the discussion organised by the Citizens’ Initiative “Stop the destruction of the Greek shoreline”, with the participation of environmental organisations and citizen groups.
‘Public goods such as water, shoreline, coastline, squares, roads and ports are protected by the Civil Code, which stipulates that any citizen who is barred from their use may sue for infringement of the right to protection of personality’, said Andreas Petropoulos, vice-president of the Environmental Law Society. He added that the proposed law is unconstitutional. As he pointed out, the bill makes no exceptions for Natura regions or archaeological sites and monuments, and allows business concerns to completely take over beaches.
Margarita Karavassili of the Citizens’ Observatory for Sustainable Development (CISD) and former secretary-general of the Ministry for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change, said that converting protected areas into lots for sale constitutes a violation of environmental and natural resources. She pointed to the immediate reaction of thousands of people on two petition platforms and the outcry that this “disastrous” bill has raised. “This bill cannot be fixed”, she said, “it must be withdrawn”.
According to Theodota Nantsou, head of environmental policy at WWF Hellas, “behind the Ministry of Finance is the Ministry of Tourism, which has been pressing for large-scale tourist facilities and huge investments in many places including Crete, Atalanti, and Ithaca. They are using the crisis to push for something they never dared support openly before – a model for tourism that risks ruining everything, a model which countries like Spain, Italy and France implemented many years ago and have now abandoned as extremely damaging. Spain is now saddled with tens of thousands of unsold summer houses, for which there are no buyers.” Besides the environmental issue, the bill also raises a social issue if people end up losing their right to free access to the shoreline.
The rich but vulnerable biodiversity of the coastal areas were the topic of Christos Anagnostou, head of research at the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research and Vanghelis Paravas, president of the Society for the Study and Protection of the Mediterranean Monk Seal (MoM). Mr Paravas mentioned the good condition of the natural environment in Greece, especially the coastline, where 99% of the world population of the threatened Mediterranean monk seal has found refuge. In other countries it has disappeared, , as he described, because governments implemented a strategy which destroyed the shoreline and the natural environment.
Finally Fotis Kokotos, managing director of Elounda Real Estate Development, spoke of a “badly-written bill that only focuses on finance and does not serve its stated aims, which are the ‘delineation, management and protection’ of the shoreline”. He also said that the bill must be withdrawn. As a businessman of the tourism sector he said that tourism itself would be harmed, as visitors come to see a country with unspoiled nature and attractions that other countries no longer can offer. As he pointed out, “This is the main product our tourism industry sells ”.
Source: Athens News Agency