Thousands of people from throughout the world including environmental organizations are blasting the Greek government’s latest effort to raise some badly needed cash in the form of a “coastal development” bill that has been introduced by the Finance Ministry.
The bill would lift all current restrictions on the maximum area designated for beach concessions– such as restaurants and bars and umbrellas and would abolish the existing law that makes beach access a public right, paving the way for commercial interests to effectively close access toy certain beaches.
In short, the new bill proposes the following new developments:
•restrict the longstanding public right to unhindered access to the coast;
•restrict the number of lakes with a legally protected coastal ecosystem to those that are larger than 9,450 sq.m;
•legalize existing illegal developments on the coastline, upon payment to the public purse of its “objective value”;
•facilitate beach concessions primarily for the benefit of bars, umbrellas and summer beds (currently the allowable area for each concession is 500 sq.m., with a min. 100 m. of free land between concessions);
•encourage permanent constructions on the beach for business purposes;
•abolish the requirement of coastal zone delineation, as a prerequisite for the approval of private or public developments;
The World Wildlife Fund Greece and Greenpeace have blasted the proposed law.
According to George Chasiotis, Legal Coordinator at WWF Greece, “this draft law is a radical change for the worse of a long-standing, time-honored regime that protects the Mediterranean coast, both as a commons and a valuable, fragile ecosystem. Instead of moving towards the direction of the Integrated Coastal Management, Greece opts for a piecemeal, perfunctory and environmentally destructive approach, which will eventually not only degrade its natural heritage, but harm its tourist sector as well. ”
“Enough is enough. The coastal bill must be withdrawn without a second thought,” Greenpeace said in a statement. “Protecting and exhibiting the 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.
An international petition has also been launched via the online platform Avaaz.org calling on people to “wake up”. At the time of this publishing, almost 60,000 people have signed the online petition which will be delivered to Yannis Stournaras, Minister of Finance in Greece.