Greek Economy and Finance Minister Kostis Hatzidakis on Thursday unveiled the government’s plans to better utilize public coastlines and beach properties, a matter that once again generated headlines over the summer in the country due to the so-called “towel movement”.

The latter initiative referred to citizen groups, beach-goers, and residents attempting to “re-take” portions of coastline illegally occupied by umbrella and lounger operators, beach bars, and other assorted businesses.

“We are taking a significant step forward,” he said, before highlighting the use of drones and other means to monitor compliance with legality, as envisioned in the draft law’s provisions.

Hatzidakis said the bill aims to establish a clear legislative framework that strikes a balance between effectively protecting the coastlines as an environmental element while not hindering economic development.

Among others, the draft law modifies the concession process, expediting procedures and increasing transparency, ensuring compliance with legality, utilizing technology (drones) and preserving environmental parameters.

On the issue of coastal area violations – such as obstruction to access of beaches – which has been a long-standing conundrum in Greece, he said fines would be immediately verified and would be four-fold, on average, in relation to the initial contract value. “In case of violation without a contract, the area will be sealed off immediately and a fine will be imposed accordingly.”

Once fines are verified and the trespasser fails within 48 hours to clear the area at their expense, the relevant municipality must subsequently intervene and safeguard the area.

He said there would be a system of classification and rationalization of violations, as “one square meter cannot be equated with a thousand”.

The minister said the arbitrary setting of beach deck chairs (chaise longue or recliners) by businesses on public beaches – the issue that sparked the “towel movement” last summer – would be banned.

Furthermore, a significant change concerning beach rentals is that tender calls would no longer be conducted by local municipalities but digitally via the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corp., thus introducing order into the process while ensuring complete transparency.

The minister said state revenue would rise significantly as a result of the new rules via the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), Greece’s privatization agency. “We will have more revenue for the country,” adding there would be legal and technical support provided to real estate owners.

Hatzidakis went on to say that the concept of “pristine” beaches would be introduced to establish order in coastal areas, following the issuance of exact definitions by the environment ministry and after consultation with local municipalities regarding tenders.