International Treaties

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Greece

Greece’s Constitution features provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 24 reads:

“The protection of the natural and cultural environment constitutes a duty of the State and a right of every person. The State is bound to adopt special preventive or repressive measures for the preservation of the environment in the context of the principle of sustainable development. Matters pertaining to the protection of forests and forest expanses in general shall be regulated by law. The compilation of a forest registry constitutes an obligation of the State. Alteration of the use of forests and forest expanses is prohibited, except where agricultural development or other uses imposed for the public interest prevails for the benefit of the national economy”.

Greece is a unitary state with a decentralised system of environmental governance. The nation comprises seven decentralised administrations exercising devolved state powers in one or more regions. The 13 regions and 332 municipalities are administratively and financially independent and decentralised administrations supervise local governments.

Featured Legislation

1977: Law 743 was instituted to oversee all matters relating to pollution of the country’s marine environment.

1986: Law No. 1650 on the protection for the environment. This Law provides the basis for the protection of the natural environment. Its provisions aim at the institution of fundamental rules and the establishment of criteria and methods for the protection of the environment, so that man, both as an individual and as a member of the society, can live in a high quality environment. More specifically, the basic aims of this law are the following: prevention of pollution and degradation of the environment; safety of human health; renewal of natural sources and rationalistic use of the non-renewable or rare natural sources in a combination with the present or future needs; protection of soil, superficial and subterranean waters, atmosphere as well as preservation of nature and landscape, especially of areas which have an important biological, ecological, aesthetic or geomorphological value; determination of permitted waste emissions; environmental impact assessment. It should be noted that Law 1650/86 introduces a new classification of the protected areas, which is more complete than the one in force as defined by the Forestry Code. According to article 18 and the criteria described in article 19 the protected areas are characterized as: Areas of Absolute Protection of Nature; Nature Protection Areas; National Parks; Protected Natural Formations, Protected Landscapes and Landscape Elements; Eco-development Areas.

1987: The Water Management Law was created to ensure Environmental Impact Assessments are used to ensure that economic, environmental, hydrological and social objectives are sufficiently considered before major projects proceed.

2009: The Ministries of The Environment and Energy merged to create The Ministry of Environment and Energy (MoEE). This increased the scope of environmental administration, raising the profile of climate change policies. This would later become The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change.

2011: Law No. 3937 was passed. The legislation consists of six Chapters divided into 36 articles aimed at the sustainable management and effective conservation of biodiversity as a valuable, irreplaceable national asset of the diversity of living organisms of all origins, including: terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and ecological complexes to which they belong.

2011: Law No. 4014 was instituted, providing for the environmental assessment of works and activities in order to grant an authorisation (permit) to build (Part A, articles 1 to 22). It also makes provisions for the regulation of illegally constructed buildings, with the aim of promoting a better environmental stability.

2012:  The Greek Environmental Network (GEN) was established to ensure exchange of environment-related information and experience among 10 central government authorities, the 13 regional General Secretariats of Development Planning and other organisations involved in programmes and projects financed by European structural and investment funds.

2012: Law No. 4042 was enacted to harmonize the Greek legislative framework with EU Directives 2008/99/EC and 2008/98/EC with regards to the protection of the environment through criminal law and waste management. The law consists of 72 articles divided in four parts. Part I incorporates into the national legislative framework the provisions made under EU Directive 2008/99/EC. Articles 2 to 9 (Part I) establish penalties for environmentally harmful activities.

2014: National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.Greece’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (Strategy and Action Plan) is the country’s response to its international commitments under the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). It is a cross-sectoral strategy and action plan with national coverage for the 2014-2029 period, and which is also aligned with the EU 2050 vision. The general objectives are to halt biodiversity loss, promote biodiversity as a national natural capital, and intensify the contribution of Greece to preventing the loss of global biodiversity. Indirect contributions are noted to eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.

2014: The Law on Regional and Urban Planning (amended by the 2016 Law on Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development) was adopted to reorganise and reduce the number of planning levels. It also revised the content of framework and regulatory plans and introduced a new land-use classification, in line with good international practice.

2014: Law 4280 was approved but was heavily criticised by environmental organisations, citizens groups, individual citizens and part of the media because  it introduced a series of critical changes to forest legislation. The legislation:

  • Legalized many categories of illegal constructions in forest lands
  • Expanded the use of protected forested lands for industrial, energy, mining and tourism installations, roads, networks, agriculture
  • Abolished the absolute protection hitherto enjoyed by forested lands that have been destroyed by fire or clearing (“reforested lands”)
  • Allowed for the clearing of forested lands for agriculture

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • In 2020: Greek lawmakers approved a controversial environmental bill that has come under attack by the opposition and environmental groups who claim the legislation opens the door to exploratory oil and gas drilling in protected areas. The government has argued the proposed legislation will help protect the environment while also ensuring sustainable development, helping end Greece’s dependency on coal. Lawmakers voted 158 -56 for the bill, with 214 of parliament’s 300 members voting, but Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund have already collected 30,000 signatures in an online petition against the legislation, citing fears that the bill will remove vital safeguards for environmental protection.
  • A record-breaking 586 wildfires have burned in all corners of the country, according to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the summer of 2021. Experiencing one of its worst heat waves in decades, Greece is facing a protracted battle against extreme heat and months of drought – both consequences of climate change. Sixty-three organized evacuations have taken place in the month of August alone and communities have been displaced from their lands and rural farmers’ produce — including resin, honey, olives and figs — has been destroyed in the flames. The fires in Greece erupted during the release of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s state-of-the-science report on human-induced climate change. As a result, hundreds of protesters have rallied outside the Greek Parliament in Athens over the government’s response to the fires. Citizens have accused the government of putting profits before people and failing to fund the country’s fire brigade due to cutbacks.

References and Further Reading


The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change: