WWF: Dear Mr Barroso …

Dear Mr Barroso,

WWF is writing to you again (original letter January 2012) to emphasise the critical environmental dimension of the commitments agreed between the Troika and the Greek Government in the framework of the programmes of economic adjustment.

Since 2010, when the first Economic Adjustment Programme (herewith “Programme”) was agreed, we have witnessed an important loss of legal and political safeguards for the protection of the environment and a diminution of the overall quality of life. Greece is now embarked on an even deeper crisis to come: ecological, social and economic. The elimination of legal provisions for the protection of the environment, the intensified legal uncertainty and lack of transparency about the costs on nature and citizens of this country from the austerity measures, the constant weakening of the already feeble environmental governance system and the absence of a coherent framework for a truly living economy, ‐ these are the incalculable costs of the measures imposed to date.

Using the austerity measures as legitimation, you are no doubt aware that different ministries in our country have launched a concerted legislative barrage which results in:

  • constantly undermining the environmental impact assessment and licensing system;
  • undermining the conservation framework for protected natural habitats (such as national parks and the Natura 2000 sites) with provisions favoring specific types of investments, primarily holiday resorts and new tourist villages;
  • declassification from protection status of ecologically precious forest and coastal areas;
  • endless environmentally destructive legalisation of illegal construction, even within legally protected areas;
  • continued refusal by the state to collect financial penalties of unaccounted millions of euros for illegal constructions along the coastal zone and on forested land;
  • privatisation through the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund of ecologically significant and legally protected areas, many of which have been designated as Natura 2000 sites, under the guise of easing the path for development of vacation homes and tourism resorts;
  • the overhaul of the spatial planning framework in order to allow the rapid approval of large investments, primarily in the area of tourism, contrary to specific or local land use and nature protection rules.

The recent announcement by the Ministry of Finance of a draft law on coasts has fueled an already heated state of unease and anger over the continued loss of environmental acquis. This draft law, which is included in the Programme as a commitment by Greece, would allow for the degradation of important parts of the coastal zone and promote a tourism development model based on the construction of large resorts and tourist villages. In the case of Spain, this has proven to be an environmentally and economically unsustainable development model.

WWF believes that there is a shared responsibility between the members of the Troika and the Greek Government for the environmentally dramatic consequences of the policies and measures agreed under the Programme. The Greek Government, under the threat of sinking deeper into the crisis, is overseeing measures that deregulate and undermine the prospects for the genuine development of a truly living and sustainable Greek economy. The members of the Troika are equally responsible for promoting and formulating measures of a development model based on narrowly defined economic objectives that will lead ineluctably towards a profound ecological deficit.

WWF urges you to rethink Greece’s unsustainable development model that you are supporting and even insisting upon. We believe it is essential for the short, medium and long‐term prosperity and stability of this country that you undertake a vital and urgent revision of the policies and conditions of the Programme. You must realize that it is necessary to incorporate urgently ecological and social sustainability indicators and safeguards in order to:

  1. Respect the environmental acquis and reinforce the protective measures for Greece’s natural capital, through clear and comprehensible legislation.
  2. Require the submission of all Programme updates to comply with strategic environmental assessment, in compliance with Directive 2001/42/EC (including the public consultation procedure), using ecological indicators to assess the impact on natural ecosystems and services;
  3. Formulate a national framework for the development of a living and long‐term sustainable economy.

The policies which are included in the Programme and implemented by the Greek Government are often presented as the only way to prosperity. They are not. As we have demonstrated in our report “A living economy for Greece”1 , Greece is endowed with a huge potential for truly sustainable development in ecological, social and economic terms.

The Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece needs to be brought into line with contemporary thinking and action on sustainable development in developed and developing economies alike. As a country we must be able to respond to the international, regional and national environmental challenges as reflected in the global agenda for sustainable development. Greece cannot remain a passive spectator in these developments, sacrificing its institutional framework and rules for protecting its natural capital in the name of an environmentally crippling programme for economic adjustment.

Given the enormous public attention and alarm about the issues raised in this letter, and believing that an urgent response is required from the public institutions responsible for devising and enforcing the joint Euro area/IMF bailout package, WWF intends to make this letter a matter of the public record. We look forward to receiving a reply from you to the issues raised here. We have sent a similar letter to Mr. J.M. Barroso at the European Commission and Mr. M. Draghi at the European Central Bank.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Long, Director WWF European Policy Office

Demetres Karavellas, Director WWF Greece



The Greek Ombudsman on the occasion of the World Environment Day

(Press Release, Athens, 5 June 2014)

Participating in the celebrations for the World Environment Day in its institutional capacity, the Greek Ombudsman focuses closely on the highly topical and crucial matter of the protection and management of the coastal zone. The recent publication of the Draft Bill on the delimitation and management of the coastal zone for the purpose of public consultation, in conjunction with the Draft Bills for the regulation of the possibility of state-owned property being purchased by private [legal or natural] persons and for the out-of-court settlement of property-related disputes between the State and private owners, justifies this Authority’s grave concern.

The risk of degrading the coastal environment through exhausting exploitation is inherent in the proposed regulations. The narrow and short-term conceptualisation of economic development increases the risk of damaging  coastal natural habitats, the already shrinking protected areas that are part of the Natura 2000 network, natural resources, the value of the landscape, and the quality of life.

The risks that arise from legislative policies that have been adopted over the last few years are: the creation of irreversible conditions, the degradation of the environment, and the erosion of natural habitats through the depletion of their productive capacity.

The present independent Authority, as it has pointed out in a recent special report and documents, as well as in older proposals (Annual Report 2005, p. 220; Annual Report 2004, p. 213 [both in Greek]) submitted to the ministers responsible [for these issues],  believes that it is imperative to manage the coastal zone in an environmentally sound manner and according to the principles of sustainable development. At the same time, having evaluated the recent legislative initiative, it highlights the potential risks and proposes that concrete criteria, procedures, or environmentally sound policies be adopted, so that the coastal environment can be protected and utilised and public property, as well as the citizens’legal rights, can be safeguarded.

The Greek Ombudsman, especially in the current economic and social circumstances, emphasises that safeguarding the citizens’ quality of life and respecting the preservation and protection of environmental goods, so that we don’t mortgage the natural legacy of the coming generations, is of the utmost importance.

For further information contact:

[Ms] Kallirroi Tzavara, tel. [+30]213 1306 610, mobile [+210]6979448887
[Mr] Petros Parayios, tel. [+30] 213 1306 625
[Ms] Demetria Papageorgopoulou, tel. [+30]213 1306 604

Tollé en Grèce contre un projet de privatisation des plages

par  Pierre Magnan/FranceTV Info


Le gouvernement grec a du faire marche arrière. Sous la pression des associations, il a du geler un projet de loi réformant la loi littoral locale, menaçant selon ses opposants, les côtes grecques. Le projet prévoyait notamment de supprimer les freins à la construction sur les plages et à l’exploitation de la côte. La proposition du gouvernement avait pour but de «promouvoir un style d’exploitation du littoral de type espagnol», résume le journaliste Periclès Vassilopoulos à popos de la loi qu’a tenté, en vain, de faire passer le gouvernement. Il est vrai que le bétonnage de la Costa Brava n’est pas un exemple enthousiasmant pour la Grêce et ses 16.000 km de côtes méditerranéennes.

Cette loi que le gouvernement avait décidé de mettre sur la table de l’Assemblée affirmait «simplifier» les dispositions existantes. «Dans sa forme actuelle , le projet de loi supprime toutes les restrictions existantes sur la superficie maximale désignée pour les concessions de plage comme des bars, des parasols et des chaises longues tout en levant le droit de libre accès à la côte pour le public. Les mesures proposées visent également à faciliter des constructions permanentes sur les plages à des fins commerciales, tout en permettant aux entreprises de payer des amendes pour légaliser des constructions non autorisées», détaillait le journal grec Ekathimerini.

Lire la suite…

WWF: Διεκδικούμε ένα σωστό θεσμικό πλαίσιο για τον αιγιαλό

Με δεδομένη την πρωτοφανή και τεκμηριωμένη αντίδραση που έχει προκαλέσει το σχέδιο νόμου «Οριοθέτηση, διαχείριση και προστασία αιγιαλού και παραλίας», το οποίο τέθηκε πρόσφατα σε δημόσια ηλεκτρονική διαβούλευση, θεωρούμε επιβεβλημένη εκ μέρους της Κυβέρνησης τη μη κατάθεση του συγκεκριμένου σ/ν στη Βουλή.

Με αυτόν τον τρόπο ξεκινά η επιστολή που απέστειλε σήμερα το WWF Ελλάς προς την Υπουργό Τουρισμού, κα Κεφαλογιάννη και τους Υπουργούς Οικονομικών και Περιβάλλοντος, κ.κ. Στουρνάρα και Μανιάτη. Με αυτή της την επιστολή, η περιβαλλοντική οργάνωση δημοσιοποιεί το πλαίσιο των βασικών αρχών και κατευθύνσεων για ένα αποτελεσματικό και σαφές πλαίσιο για την παράκτια ζώνη και καλεί την Κυβέρνηση να μην προχωρήσει στην κατάθεση ενός καταστροφικού σ/ν στη Βουλή, εν μέσω μάλιστα πλέον των θερινών της τμημάτων.

Πιο συγκεκριμένα, το WWF Ελλάς υποστηρίζει ως απαραίτητες τις εξής αρχές και κατευθύνσεις για ένα ορθό θεσμικό πλαίσιο για τον αιγιαλό:

  1. Ολοκληρωμένη διαχείριση και οριοθέτηση της παράκτιας ζώνης, ως φυσικής υποδομής για μια πραγματικά ζωντανή οικονομία και ένα περιβαλλοντικά ασφαλές μέλλον και ως χαρακτηριστικού ελληνικού τοπίου και στοιχείου της ελληνικής πολιτισμικής ταυτότητας.
  2. Θέσπιση αδόμητης ζώνης τουλάχιστον 100 μ. για νέες κατασκευές, όπως επιτάσσει το Πρωτόκολλο «για την ολοκληρωμένη διαχείριση των παράκτιων ζωνών της Μεσογείου» (Απόφαση Συμβουλίου 2009/89/ΕΚ).
  3. Κατοχύρωση της απρόσκοπτης πρόσβασης και κοινής χρήσης όλης της έκτασης του αιγιαλού και της παραλίας.
  4. Ολοκληρωμένη διαχείριση της παράκτιας ζώνης και όχι αποσπασματική ή ανάλογα με τις προτεραιότητες του κάθε συναρμόδιου υπουργείου, με βάση την προσέγγιση της απόφασης 2009/89/ΕΚ.
  5. Διασφάλιση του θεσμικού διατομεακού συντονισμού των διάφορων διοικητικών υπηρεσιών και των περιφερειακών και τοπικών αρχών για την παράκτια ζώνη.
  6. Άμεση καταγραφή και δημοσιοποίηση όλων των αυθαιρέτων σε αιγιαλό και παραλία, επιβολή και είσπραξη των σχετικών προστίμων.
  7. Διασφάλιση της προστασίας και οικοσυστημικής διαχείρισης των παρόχθιων οικοσυστημάτων και του κοινόχρηστου χαρακτήρα της και παρόχθιας ζώνης σε όλες τις λίμνες και τους ποταμούς.

«Νομοσχέδια, όπως τα πρόσφατα για αιγιαλό και δάση, αλλοιώνουν και εν τέλει παραδίδουν άνευ όρων τον φυσικό μας χώρο. Τέτοιες πολιτικές επιλογές υποτιμούν τους φυσικούς μας πόρους και μας καθιστούν όχι πιο ανταγωνιστικούς αλλά φθηνότερους. Τόσο φθηνότεροι που στο τέλος θα έχουμε πουλήσει «κάτω του κόστους» τη μοναδικότητά της χώρας μας και θα σκοτώσουμε εμείς οι ίδιοι κάθε προοπτική για βιώσιμη ανάπτυξη και ποιότητα ζωής. Για την Ελλάδα της κρίσης και με τα όσα συμβαίνουν γύρω μας, η φετινή Παγκόσμια Ημέρα Περιβάλλοντος έχει σημασία μόνο αν μπορούμε να πάρουμε ξεκάθαρη θέση: τι θέλουμε τελικά για τον τόπο μας; Πώς θέλουμε να αναπτυχθούμε, εμείς και οι επόμενοι από εμάς; Η υιοθέτηση ενός βιώσιμου και όχι καταστροφικού θεσμικού πλαισίου για τον αιγιαλό και τα δάση μπορεί να είναι ένα πρώτο βήμα», σημειώνει ο Δημήτρης Καραβέλλας, Διευθυντής του WWF Ελλάς.

via WWF

Δείτε εδώ την επιστολή προς τους Υπουργούς Τουρισμού, Οικονομικών και Περιβάλλοντος.
Δείτε εδώ το κείμενο – πλαίσιο διεκδίκησης με τις κατευθύνσεις για ένα αποτελεσματικό και σαφές θεσμικό πλαίσιο για την παράκτια ζώνη.

In Greece, a battle to reclaim the seashore as commons by Maria Hadjimichael

A grassroots campaign is taking off against the proposed privatization and commodification of one of Greece’s last-remaining utopias: its coastline.

Seashores are one of the clearest manifestations of what is generally considered to constitute “the commons”: a place where access is free and the gratification of being present can be the same for all, irrespective of the size of their paycheck. Unfortunately, in real life this is not always the case. A seashore undisturbed by humans represents for many (even unknowingly) a utopian vision of what society can be in that grey area which is neither private nor state-owned.

However, actions such as those by Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras, who recently proposed a bill threatening the right of access to the country’s beaches, are a burning reminder that the seashore — just like the square — is no longer a common space. Rather, it is a space that the government donates to the people by concession, until the opportunity arises to enclose and subsequently monetize and valorize the former common property. The Greek bill for the privatization of the seashore, besides proposing restrictions on the public’s longstanding constitutional right of free access to the coastline, also proposes to grant developers the right to appropriate the seashore and to provide amnesty to existing structures built in breach of current legislation.

There was an immediate public outcry in opposition to the bill. With the help of a group called ‘Save the Greek Seashore: A Citizens’ Initiative’ — a grassroots, nonpartisan mobilization that aims to “safeguard Greece’s unique and irreplaceable shoreline as part of humanity’s commonwealth” — the news about the bill spread fast through social media. The opposition was strong: more than 122,000 signatures were collected in a petition demanding the bill to be scrapped. Spearheaded by the people and with the support of environmental NGOs, the movement created such a storm that even members of the ruling parties are now jumping ship.

On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, the Greek government unexpectedly announced that the bill would be halted and reconsidered with potential amendments after the European elections, which took place on May 25. Even though this delay constituted a small victory for the movement, the coastline is far from safe yet, even more so because attempts to privatize beaches in Greece are nothing new.

Read on…

Maria Hadjimichael is a researcher in the governance of common resources, with a focus on marine issues, at Aalborg University in Denmark.