ATHENS – Major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras has called on opposition parties, independent MPs, labor unions and environmental groups to unite and block a bill that would allow unfettered development on the country’s beaches and coastline.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, eager to bring in cash to help offset a crushing economic crisis, wants to open the coast and green space, including parks, for development and building although environmental groups said it would destroy the areas and ruin tourism there.
After a critical backlash, Samaras’ coalition of his New Democracy Conservatives and its partner the PASOK Socialists, temporarily pulled back the measure but it’s expected to be pushed through the Parliament the government controls with a narrow majority during the summer, when the body has fewer members in session, making it easier to pass.
In a speech in Athens to representatives of other parties, unions and non-governmental organizations, Tsipras said that parliamentary opposition to the revised bill should be matched by street protests and called for opponents to rise up against the bill.
“If something sums up the politics of piracy at the country’s expense and in favor of the most opportunistic international capital, then this bill is it,” said Tsipras, who made references to citizens’ groups opposing gold mining in Skouries, Halkidki, and the creation of a waste management unit in Keratea, eastern Attica, as examples that should be followed if the government’s opponents are unable to stop the bill in Parliament.
Members of Democratic Left (DIMAR) and To Potami, as well as independent lawmakers, accepted invitations to hear Tsipras’s speech. The head of the POE-OTA local authority union, Themis Balasopoulos, as well as representatives of environmental groups were also there but the lawmaker opponents don’t have enough votes and the government has routinely ignored critics of any of its policies.
Environmentalists warned that opening the country’s coastline to develop would create a tourism catastrophe similar to what happened in Spain and just as Greece is enjoying a second-straight record-breaking year for visitors who are bringing in critical cash for the country’s biggest revenue engine.
Athens’ beaches are already overrun with unlawful resorts, tavernas, coffee shops and operations that force people to pay to use public beaches, a policy that has been ignored by the government.