The first non-related to the pandemics bill which was submitted to the Hellenic Parliament after the coronavirus outbreak was the one titled “Modernizing environmental law and adaptation of the Greek legislation to the Directives 2018/844 and 2019/692 of the European Parliament and of the Council and other provisions”.
Its provisions have been rightly considered as elements of an “anti – environmental bill”, as they undermine the environment and the core values of sustainable development. As a result, Greece, except from being unable to meet the high European environmental standards in near future, could face the imposition of convictions and sanctions for abusing the European environmental legislation.
This analysis highlights risks arising from the new law for the environment and biodiversity in Greece:
- According to the new law provisions, the environmental licensing of projects and activities is conceptually considered as a bureaucratic process that needs to be accelerated. This approach undermines deeply founded scientific considerations and accuracy of the evaluation of investment projects.
- Notifications and public consultation regarding modifications of environmental licenses are no longer considered as a legal obligation. This provision violates the general principles of the EU environmental legislation.
- The new law puts at risk protected areas by abolishing the autonomy of Protected Areas Management Bodies and by depriving them of important responsibilities such as expressing opinions over licensing procedures.
- According to the new law, part of the public authorities’ administrative competences regarding environmental licensing of economic activities can be outsourced to certified private evaluators.
- The legal framework concerning licensing of projects and activities in urban areas is now applied to the NATURA areas as well, putting their ecosystems into danger.
- The law promotes the reckless expansion of mining industrial installations abolishing the much stricter criteria and restrictions of the previous environmental legislation.
- Not only the new law undermines the core values of sustainable development but it also creates obstacles to its main goal (i.e. the acceleration of investments) as its implementation is likely to create judicial complications.
The above proves that the legislator will was to boost economic activity at any cost without taking seriously into consideration sustainability prerequisites. This will apparently result in the degradation of Greece’s natural capital and in spite of the fact that the coronavirus outbreak has highlighted, once more, the critical environmental and human risks arising from climate change and global warming.
Overall, given the aforementioned, serious doubts are expressed concerning the capacity of Greece to successfully implement EU environmental and green policies and meet the UN Sustainable Developments Goals.
* Analysis (abstract) by Nelli Palamiti, Attorney at Law, specialized in environmental and urban & regional planning law