A growing number of Greeks are taking to the streets to demand the restoration of free public access to the country’s beaches as enshrined in the law.
A protest movement that began on the Greek island of Rhodes has spread to the north of the country with activists of the so-called ‘Towel Movement’ protesting in Chalkidiki for the restoration of full public access to Greece’s beaches.
Greeks are increasingly frustrated by the takeover of large stretches of coastline by private businesses that illegally restrict access to beaches and frequently charge exorbitant sums for the rent of sunbeds.
On Sunday, residents of Nikiti and Nea Potidea in Chalkidiki chanted ‘the coast belongs to the people’ and ‘every beach will be free’.
Scheduling a new protest, organisers declared, ‘We claim our rights, we defend public spaces’.
The Towel Movement began in June on the island of Rhodes. It spread to the island of Paros, where residents measured the area of beach occupied by parasols and documented its expansion despite a lack of permits in many cases. Naxos, Crete and Attica followed.
Greek law does not recognise private beaches. However, according to a report by Greece’s public broadcaster, some 80 per cent of Crete’s Falasarna beach – considered one of the most beautiful in the world and part of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas – has effectively been fenced off by private businesses operating without permits. The fines they face amount to roughly half a day’s takings, which critics say is far too low to act as a deterrent.
In May, Greece’s Supreme Court sent a memo to prosecutors reiterating that it remains illegal to block access to public beaches and that those who violate the rules should be sanctioned.