In a draft law rushed through a 7-day public consultation process, the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change proposes the declassification from protection status of over 15% of Greek territory. The aim of this act is to allow for the development of touristic and industrial uses on lands currently protected under the national Forest Code, on the basis of article 24 of the Greek Constitution. Through the proposed amendments, the State also relinquishes its right to collect the financial penalties imposed on a number of currently illegal uses in the declassified lands. Furthermore, new development uses are added to forests and other lands remaining under the Forest Code.
According to WWF Greece, the draft law:
- Abolishes the protection status of much coveted natural lands, primarily in coastal and littoral zones.
- Allows new intensive and high footprint development uses.
- Introduces strange new uses, such as “search for lost treasures”.
- Legalises countless cases, for which there is a finding of violation.
- Reduces the protection status of Greece’s Natura 2000 sites.
The lands proposed for declassification are mainly covered with sparse arboreal, maquis and phryganic vegetation and have been included in WWF’s Global Ecoregions list as “Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands, and Scrub”.
According to WWF, “[t]he Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands, and Scrub is one of only five shrublands of its kind, which together support 20 percent of the plant species on Earth. An incredible variety of plants grow in this ecoregion that covers coastal, plains, and highland regions. More than 25,000 species of plants occur here, and more than half are endemic.”
The declassified areas constitute habitat types that are considered of Community Importance under the EU’s Habitats Directive.