Troika policies in Greece are recipe for environmental disaster

Environmental protection in Greece has been seriously compromised by the ‘short-sighted policies of the Troika’, the Greens–European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) said in an open letter to the President-elect of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

Citing a report published on September 15 by WWF Greece that highlighted how legal and political safeguards for environmental protection have been seriously undermined, the Greens urged Juncker to conduct “a rigorous assessment of the environmental and social impacts of economic reform policies in Greece.”

“This report is yet more evidence of the failures of the short-sighted policies driven by the Troika and forced upon countries in economic crisis,” the Greens said in the letter adding that “Greece’s natural capital is being destroyed and its chances of sustainable recovery undermined.”

The Greens pledged  to continue the push for more accountability and supervision of reform policies and denounced the policy of putting economic interests above all other considerations as a recipe for disaster. “Sacrificing these in the interest of economic activity is a certain recipe for expensive, future social and environmental disaster.”

WWF Greece had issued an ominous warning earlier this month – in its tenth annual review of Greece’s environmental laws and policies –  saying that the rollback of environmental policies and laws in order to meet goals dictated by the Troika – the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank – will only lead to an unsustainable economy with lasting social and economic consequences.

Echoing the call of the Greens, Demetres Karavellas, WWF Greece’s Director, urged the European Commission to review Greece’s economic adjustment programme.

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“We call on the new European Commission and particularly President –elect Jean Claude Juncker, to honour its role as Guardian of the Treaties and undertake a vital and urgent revision of the policies and conditions of the economic adjustment programme. The vision needs to be a long-term sustainable and living economy for Greece and not a return to the unsustainable past”, he said

According to the WWF, among the many areas most obviously impacted  are forest legislation, spatial and urban planning legislation and  legalisation of illegal buildings.

“The economic crisis is used as an excuse for the weakening of environmental legislation and policy,” the report said, drawing attention to a coastal bill allowing commercial constructions on beaches announced by the ministry of finance in April,  as an example of the destruction that could be wrought on the environment.

“Armed with the policies and legal changes stipulated in the structural adjustment programme, many ministries have launched efforts to downgrade and alter the environmental legislation relating to their policy domains,” it said.

Theodota Nantsou, Head of Policy at WWF Greece, said the findings of this year’s report are clear.

“The environment is paying a heavy price of the crisis in Greece. With support from the EU, Greece is losing a “good” crisis that should be treated as a signal that the past development model is flawed and needs to be scrapped,”she said