Monday, October 15, 2007

Environmental protection to be stripped away

Currently on the governments hit list is Article 24 of the constitution which sets out the basis for environmental and forest protection in Greece.

The governing party of New Democracy has proposed that Article 24 (together with art. 117.3) be revised, but instead of strengthening it, they want it watered down so much to make it meaningless. In its argument it has stated that the highest court of the land, the Council of State (Sumvoulio tis Epikrateias) and in general the courts often issue restricting decisions with respect to forest areas.

In other words, the courts have ruled against a new project or in favor of the demolition of illegal constructions (afthaireta) in forest areas in favor of forest protection, and this they say jeopardizes the public interest.

It seems that the constitutional reform is aimed at the promotion of projects and interventions in sensitive areas, particularly forested areas, that would go against the established constitutional protection status of these areas.

It has been said that here in Greece there has been a conscious choice of past governments and administrations to deprive administrations the tools, policies and measures that would lead to rational development that would also protect the environment. Currently Greece is devoid of a National Spatial Plan, a National Cadastre (Land Registry) and Forest registry, which would clarify the status of many disputed areas.

To change the constitution and Article 24, 180 of the 300 MPs need to vote on it. Thanks to the governments poor showing it falls well before this number. This of course does not stop it from gathering support from the minor parties, including its old allies the Communists. We wait and see and hope that the correct action is taken.

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