On June 12th, WWF addressed International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, outgoing European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and the President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi, calling them to stop ignoring the alarming environmental rollback unfolding in Greece, as a result of the economic adjustment programme.
The letters, signed by the directors of WWF’s European Policy Office Tony Long and WWF Greece Demetres Karavellas, state that “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”.
WWF’s letters identify major environmental problems occurring behind the headlines of the impending Greek economic and social crisis:
- 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;
- constantly undermining the environmental impact assessment and licensing system;
- endless environmentally destructive legalisation of illegal constructions, even within legally protected areas and 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 of ecologically significant and legally protected areas, many of which are designated as Natura 2000 sites, 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 land use and nature protection rules.
“The political leaders of the Troika cannot just sit back and pretend to watch helplessly as the environmental rulebook in Greece is torn up and thrown away,” said Tony Long, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office. “In fact, the opposite should be the case. In overseeing the fiscal austerity measures imposed on Greece, these public institutions have a special responsibility to enforce the rule of law as a condition of their financial assistance. The European Commission, in its role as ‘guardian’ of the European Union treaties, has an overriding duty to ensure that its body of environmental rules, regulations and policies is enforced uniformly and fairly across all Member States. That after all is the lynchpin of the Single Market.” Debunking the Greek Government’s approach to the environment as a luxury, WWF Greece’s Demetres Karavellas stated: “As we have shown in our report ‘A living economy for Greece’, our country’s fragile economy and state have a tremendous potential for good governance, innovation and competitiveness, based on Greece’s natural treasury. WWF calls on the troika of lenders to recognise the alarming trend of environmental loss and offer the necessary support, in order for Greece to plan and follow a more environmentally and socially sustainable development path”.
Source: WWF EU.