Greek State violates human rights for decades

Hundreds of thousands of Greek citizens have bought agricultural land next to cities in order to build a home. They followed all the legal procedures, made the appropriate checks at the Land Registry and paid taxes. Some time after the land was acquired, the Greek State with the Forest Agency characterized arbitrarily their land as “forest area” and claimed it as public. The citizens must go to courts to prove that the land is private which is very expensive, time consuming and almost impossible to win given the insanity of greek laws.  Even if they win their case in the Greek courts, they only thing they can do with their land is to pay taxes since any use of land is prohibited in forest areas.  The Greek laws are irrationally strict on what is “forest area”.  If 25% of some land was covered with bushes 70 years ago, then it is considered ‘forest area’. 

People who get tired of not being able to use their land as intended and decide to build a house have two choices. Either bribe foresters, city planning officials and in some cases judges, or be treated as the worst criminals with many years sentencing, hundreds of thousands of euros fines and threat of demolition.
In many other cases people have built homes with legal building permits and are threatened with unbearable fines and demolition because after the completion of the house their land was characterized “forest area”.  Foreign citizens that bought land for leisure purposes and local or foreign business investors that bought land for business development have faced similar problems and new investors are reluctant to buy land in Greece.
Housing Associations and companies took their cases to the European Court of Human Rights and won in all occasions.  High compensations were ruled which the Greek State has not paid. The vast majority of people facing these problems are of medium and low income and cannot afford such legal expenses. They are also financially exhausted  from Greek court expenses  and the cruel fines imposed on them.

The population of Greek cities has increased tremendously in the past 60 years. Greek authorities were not able to expand city and town limits in pace with the population growth because of; a)  many areas around the cities are characterized “forest areas”  b) state incapacity.  Crowding, traffic jams, parking difficulty, very high summer temperatures, low living space per occupant ratio, lack of green areas are all results of this inability. The majority of suburbs are not real suburbs but areas with multistory buildings which have small gardens.  Although Greece has low density population, it’s cities have very high.
Many residential areas have developed in greek cities, especially Athens, outside town boundaries.  These areas, since they do not belong in any town, face water supply, drainage, electricity, carbage collection and roads problems.  The Greek state refuses for decades to expand town boundaries and include these areas in town plans.

The two ruling parties, PASOK and Nea Demokratia make promises about providing solutions to the problem and never do, in order to have citizens as “political hostages”, keep getting votes and collect heavy fines. They also fear  strong opposition from various groups :
a)     Left wing parties since a large number of their voters are radical fanatic environmentalists and also according to their political ideology everything belongs to the State.
b)     Lawyers Association since there are hundreds of legal cases every year in courts.
c)       Foresters Association because state foresters make an extra income from bribes. 
d)     Many judges for the same reason as above. 
e)     Environmental NGO’s to justify their existence.

We do not want to harm the environment but protect it.  The vast majority of our members love nature which is the main reason that made them buy land in a natural environment.  There are solutions that preserve the environment, protect human rights and promote economic growth. They have not been implemented for decades due to the corrupt system described above and the incompetence of the “medieval” Greek State.
This is one example of  Greek governmental “malfunction” that contributed to the greek financial crisis  and costed trillions of  euros to people around the world. A solution would not make Greece’s economic problem disappear but would definitely provide “some push”.  Construction and real estate activity will improve, foreign investment will rise, more taxes will be collected. 
We are proposing policies that are implemented in other developed countries. For instance in US and many other countries, construction is permitted in what is considered a “forest area” by Greek laws. In many developed countries someone can get permission to cut trees by paying the cost of replacement.

ELOK stands for Elliniki Laiki Oikistiki Kinisi which means Hellenic Populist Residential Movement. It’s a countrywide coordination committee of various local grass-roots groups and organizations that deal with residential issues and mainly with what is known as “forest areas problem”.  It represents people from all political ideologies and income levels and according to estimations over 25% of the voting population. If necessary, the movement will transform to a political party.

It is not for the purpose of this document to go in to the details of the problem and the proposed solutions but to provide a general briefing. We are at your disposal for further information.

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