Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated in parliament on Tuesday that economic growth in the 21st century must act in step with the protection of the environment. He noted that the opponent of both growth and environmental protection is often one and the same, namely phobic bureaucracy.
"Eco-friendly prosperity is a top priority for this government. The future of our country is fully connected with our ability to protect and utilise our unique natural and cultural environment," he said and added: "Greece, especially under the current circumstances, is called upon to intensify its efforts to manage the great crisis of climate change".
"Who can deny that these problems are dramatic shortcomings for a modern European state?" the prime minister asked, and pointed out that the bill stipulates that "the stages for examining and the time taken to issue environmental permits are in line with what applies in Europe."
Mitsotakis referred to the criticism of the opposition, saying: "I am trying to understand whether there is any real disagreement in principle with the regulations promoted by the government."
"When criticising, I would like us not to think of Greece as a special case. Let the opposition indicate to us which European countries do things differently when it comes to licensing," he stressed and added:
"In our opinion, these policies are great opportunities that are already being exploited. We have achieved the 2020 targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, objectives for the further penetration of renewable energy sources. We are organising the phasing out of large lignite plants earlier and more methodically than more powerful states, such as Germany; also a fundamental, comprehensive protection of the natural environment by restructuring all the agencies put in charge of this task, with a final clarification of the status of Natura areas and new forest maps."
Noting that the environmental management bodies had been proved ineffective, as they did not have the appropriate means and coordination, he announced: "That is why we are launching the creation of an organisation of natural environment and climate change."
Regarding the debate about Natura areas, the prime minister said that "there was a lot of noise, there was a stridency on the part of the opposition, which is inconsistent with the climate of creative dialogue that we want to cultivate in Parliament," he added.
"So what is it that are we doing? Essentially what is happening in all European countries. We divide [areas] into four zones. Land uses depend on the degree of protection. Τhe Olympus case is different to that of the Samaria Gorge, where it must be absolute. The current lack of transparency, the frequent local flouting of rules, are being replaced by an overall institutional framework that will set out what is allowed and what is forbidden."
"The transformation of the green economy into a steam engine for growth is for me a consistent and abiding choice," he said.
He pointed out that, like the coronavirus pandemic, the environmental crisis was also global. "Both crises do not recognise borders, countries or social classes. Both of them encourage us to work together globally and take a different view of life itself. Both the coronavirus crisis and the crisis of climate change call on us to think and act differently," he explained.
Mitsotakis stressed that Greece must urgently establish itself as an attractive and dynamic destination for investments and he called on everyone to put the lessons taught by recent experience to good use, noting that, if the coronavirus crisis proved anything, it was that "we can change our behaviour when this is for the common good."
"I am convinced that the most difficult times are behind us," he concluded.