In the wake of a series of natural disasters which hit Greece recently, culminating in the fire in the east of Attica on 23 July that resulted in 95 deaths, the Greek Government is speeding up the adoption and execution of measures aimed at facing chronic practices of anarchic or illegal residential development which end up threatening the very life of people.
In a speech delivered on 7 August in Lavrion, Attica, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras presented a comprehensive and coherent package of measures intended to catch up the decades-long delays in organising the working of the public authorities on a sound and transparent basis.
Interventions speeding up the application of provisions of the relevant Law which we passed in Parliament last October, and a series of new actions.
1. We are proceeding, in the immediate future and by applying a priority plan, to demolish 3200 unlicensed buildings and structures on which irrevocable protocols of demolition have already been issued, under the responsibility of the Decentralized Administration.
Constructions located in the zone of the seashore, in forest areas intended for reforestation, in national forests and dry watercourses in Attica constitute a direct threat to public safety. Same thing will be extended to the rest of Greece. These 3200 unlicensed buildings only concern Attica.
2. For any unlicensed construction detected in the process of building, demolition will be executed immediately.
3. Specific legislation will introduce a “Protocol of compliance”, to be issued with the approval of a building controller.
4. Engineers of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport will be seconded immediately to the Decentralized Administration, to reinforce them with human resources for the time necessary to carry out priority demolitions.
5. Recording and mapping of enclosures on beaches, through the Registry of building controllers and the use of other available mechanisms of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, is starting immediately.
6. Procedures for checking and demolishing fences within a radius of 500 meters from the foreshore zone in areas lying outside the construction plan are strengthened and speeded up in application of Law 1337/1983.
In the coming days, we will enact a fast-track demolition procedure, parallel to the one entrusted to the Decentralized Administration, of walls built on the seashore, through an immediately enforceable Joint Ministerial Decision, as provided for in Law 1337/1983.
It took 35 long years before a government eventually enforces a Law which was passed in 1983, initiated by the late Antonis Tritsis (a progressive Minister of Environment in the PASOK governments in the ‘80s).
7. The Ministers of Environment, Energy and the Interior are empowered, through a Joint Ministerial Decision, to detect and demolish directly any unlicensed structure, in application of the recent law passed by the Ministry of Environment and Energy.
To put things simply:
If some competent authority, or employee thereof – and I am saying that because this is what has happened more than often in the last few decades – choose to turn a blind eye to cases of arbitrary buildings, they should know that this is not a joke any longer.
It will only take a Ministerial Decision on the matter to enforce legality.
8. Information on unauthorized constructions of the State, Local Authorities or the broader public sector shall be communicated immediately to the competent department of the Ministry of Environment and Energy.
9. The procedure has been launched in view of recruiting 250 new staff for Regional and Local Observatories (for Building Control) in application of the new legal framework.
10. From 15 October, in collaboration with the Technical Chamber, an online system of electronic licensing is put in full operation: e-Licensing.
The process of licensing, applying for and issuing building permits now works online, in full transparency and subject to full and continuous control.
In this way, a whole pool of corruption and give-and-take, which has grown for decades over the issue of licensing is now being eliminated.
11. Today, a Ministerial Decision is being signed, calling for the registration of engineers empowered to control building, pursuant to Law 4495/2017, with the Registry of Building Controllers, thus increasing the number of building controllers. Any engineer can apply, any engineer can become a building controller.
12. Once the Registry of Building Controllers will be activated in mid-October, a control of a 5% sample of declarations of unlicensed constructions will start.
13. The Ministry of Environment & Energy, in collaboration with the Technical Chamber, are creating a new electronic platform on unlicensed building, in which any arbitrary construction will be electronically recorded – in urban areas, forests, on the seashore, or on dry watercourses.
At the same time, the follow-up of all complaints will be monitored, so as to put an end to the shameful phenomenon of complaints stagnating in the drawers of Services and officials who dodge their responsibilities. This phenomenon will not exist any longer. Everything will be under constant control, in transparency and under constant monitoring.
14. Each case shall be assigned to a controller selected through an irreproachable electronic mechanism of drawing lots. This will be the way of choosing a building controller, who will then examine the case either following a complaint, or ex officio.
15. The posting of forest maps has been completed for 47% of the total territory of the country. For the country as a whole, the forest maps will have been finally completed by the end of 2019.
This is something that goes without saying for a modern state. Still, for our country, it constitutes a historical breakthrough.
Such things should have been done by the ‘50s, as they were in all advanced European countries.
The only thing I would like to say is that, in 2015, we found ourselves with approved forest maps for less than 1% of the territory of the country. I think that I don`t need to tell you anything more about it.
16. Along the same lines, we are now proceeding, at long last, to trace the seashore line for the whole country, until the end of the year. Today, approximately 15% of the operation has been carried out. And, of course, after the possible complaints which might be lodged, the seashore line will be validated in the whole country, for the whole country, by the end of 2019, next year.
17. On the issue of dry watercourses, we experienced the tragic consequences of earth-filling and building on them, in the case of Mandra (a town in the west of Attica, flooded after heavy rainfall).
We are taking a fast-track legislative initiative for the demarcation of the dry watercourses throughout the country, so as to complete the legal framework for flood protection.
All the dry watercourses across the country will be demarcated, under the responsibility of the municipalities and with resources that will be allocated from the special account of the Green Fund, also by the end of next year, by the end of 2019.
18. In the context of the national strategy which we are now shaping for forests, we are creating a special subsection for the comprehensive prevention of forest fires.
19. We are also ensuring the doubling of the available resources of the Green Fund, from 2.5% to 5%, for the financing of immediate measures, namely, demolishing, demarcating dry watercourses and the compensating of building controllers.
20. And finally, we are activating the tool of the Special Development Plan for tackling the consequences of natural disasters and the restoration of areas.
In this context, the elaboration of a Special Development Plan for Mati (the sea resort in the east of Attica which was hardest hit by recent fires) will be carried out quickly, in order to start as soon as possible the reconstruction of the settlement on a sound basis.