Greece’s Ministry of Finance abolishes the coastal protection zone!

Posted on February, 22 2024

In times of climate crisis, healthy coastlines are a protective shield for humans and the economy in the face of the more and more frequent disasters.

The protection of coastal and marine ecosystems is the most efficient and impactful tool for climate resilience. Unfortunately, in Greece, coastal ecosystems are treated as land for housing and tourist development.

Through a bill currently debated in parliament, the Ministry of Finance is abolishing the already inadequate setback zone of 30 meters from the shoreline. Setback zones of at least 100 meters are required by all signatory countries of the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean, which has been ratified by the European Union but not Greece.

The continued disregard for the valuable protective services offered by a healthy coastal zone free of hard infrastructure is a policy that is a multiple failure, since it not only ignores the protection of the natural environment, but also puts the safety of citizens at immediate risk. Scientific knowledge and the recent past have shown that the continuous degradation of the coastal zone can only cause dramatic disasters and incalculable costs to the national economy in terms of the compensation it has to pay afterwards.

Eight environmental organisations state that the bill does not introduce any meaningful positive measures for the effective protection and management of the coastal zone, while crucial provisions related to climate change adaptation are missing (e.g. For example, there is no reference to other natural or man-made risks threatening the coastal and riparian zone, flood risks, etc.). The bill also removes the ban on the concession of "small coastal areas" (less than 5 metres in length or width, or less than 150 square metres in area). The use of even these small isolated beaches will now be allocated to hotels. 

The bill also fails to provide necessary safeguards and improve the framework for the immediate removal of illegal buildings along the coastline. Cases such as the illegal bungalows within the high protection zone of the coastal forest of the Schinias-Marathon National Park or the numerous illegal constructions and hotel developments on the beaches of Ios Island and countless other valuable coastal and riparian ecosystems of Greece, are serious violations of existing environmental laws that cause irreversible loss of valuable natural ecosystems but do not seem to be of serious concern to the government.

In this context, eight environmental organisations are calling on the government to urgently plan a national climate resilience policy for the country. In the context of the bill currently debated in parliament:

  1. Withdraw a series of problematic provisions, which seriously undermine Greece’s climate resilience, most notably the abolition of the 30 meters setback zone.
  2. Explicit ban of any individual or business responsible for illegal constructions from the right to apply for state aid and benefit from subsidies and other economic incentives.
  3. Immediate ratification by Greece of the Protocol on the Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean, which sets a minimum 100 meters setback zone.
  4. Strengthen the independence and available resources of the Inspectorate of Inspectors and Auditors to enable it to intervene effectively in cases of arbitrary acts and to proceed immediately to the removal of illegal constructions.
  5. Fully comply with the decision of the European Court of Justice, which ruled that Greece violates the EU’s Habitats Directive by failing to legally protect its Natura 2000 areas and approve the necessary management measures.

The statement is co-signed by the following organisations:

  • Society for the Protection of Prespa
  • Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature
  • Hellenic Ornithological Society
  • Callisto
  • Ecological Recycling Society
  • Greenpeace
  • WWF Greece

More information:

© Daniel Jurin / Pexels