After a two hour marathon session in parliament on Friday, MPs voted in favour of laws that effectively allow the government to privatise beaches. Greens MP Charalambos Theopemptou, who was vociferously against the bills, said the basis of Friday’s legislative change was that an area of the beach with a quay or a docking area can now be classed as state land.
“When you look at legislation on state land though, it includes an article which outlines that state land can be sold or leased,” he said.
The bills surrounding the laws were voted with 21 votes in favour by Disy, Edek, Solidarity Movement and Citizen’s Alliance leader Giorgos Lillikas. Voting against were 18 MPs from Akel, the Green Party, Anna Theologou of the Citizen’s Alliance and independent MP Pavlos Mylonas. Seven MPs from Diko and Elam abstained.
The first bill expanded the remit of the term ‘immovable property’ to include docking areas on beaches that can be backfilled to create dry land. The second piece of legislation allows Cabinet to lease parts of the beach to develop marinas and docking areas.
Edek MP Marinos Sizopoulos tabled an amendment that outlines that an area that is decreed as a docking area, and therefore state land, can only be leased for development and must allow free access to members of the public.
The amendment was voted in favour by 28 MPs, 13 against and 14 who abstained. It was the tipping point that allowed the bills to finally be passed by MPs.
Theopemptou said that despite the amendment, “the municipality won’t have the power to do anything in the area. It will be in private hands.”
Simplifying legislative jargon, Theopemptou said that in practice, what will happen is that any hotel owner who has a quay or docking area – whether legally or not – will now be able to own the beach as it will be in government hands to decide the fate of the immovable property.
“The only thing we can hope for is the decency and honesty of whoever is interior minister and any connections.”
House interior committee chairwoman Eleni Mavrou said “the bills are yet another example of sloppiness and serving small private interests.”
The only advantage of the move heard by the committee was that it will help create fish farms, she added. Disy MP Andreas Kyprianou, countering criticism, cited the Limassol marina saying that despite it being in the hands of private interests, it still served the public good.