Locals and environmental groups are lobbying to block privatisations of the best beaches on the island of Elafonisos, which are protected under the EU Natura 2000 programme. They are having some success too as the government begins to back away after a major backlash and a spiralling campaign across the internet and on the ground.The Greek state privatization fund is taking a step back from the planned privatisation of some of the country’s most pristine and prized beaches after a strong local protests and a nationwide uproar.
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The backlash involves a 50-year lease of the best beaches of Elafonissos island, Simos and Sarakinos, which locals stress are protected under the EU’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas, as is the entire island, which is noted for its unique plant life.
The state-owned beachside properties to be exploited covers an area of nine hectares, and they are just two of the 13 beaches that the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (Taiped) reportedly seeks to privatise.
The idyllic tourist resort, with virgin, white sand beaches, lies in the Laconian Gulf, near the eastern tip of the Peloponnese. Its not the only one that is being prepared for the auction block. Another beachside property that Taiped had put on the bloc in 2013 is Agios Ioannis in Sithonia, Chalkidiki, which has an area of 200,000 square metres and boasts a 2km beachline.
In an ongoing civil society campaign on the Avaaz website, over 131,000 citizens have signed a petition demanding that the European Parliament address the issue of the use of and free access to beaches.
“It sounds outlandish but this summer may be the last one that we can freely enjoy access to Greek beaches,” the petition warns.