Thodoris Chondrogiannos 06 • 08 • 2021

Violation of the legislation for relocation of a settlement in Western Macedonia due to its proximity to lignite mines

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
Violation of the legislation for relocation of a settlement in Western Macedonia due to its proximity to lignite mines
06 • 08 • 2021

The Greek state violated its obligation under law 3937/2011 to relocate the settlement of Akrini in Western Macedonia, in order to protect the quality of life of its inhabitants from the health risks posed by the adjacent production of lignite.

In 2011, Article 28 of law 3937/2011 provided that “the settlements of Akrini in the Prefecture of Kozani and Anargyroi in the Prefecture of Florina, which are adjacent to mines and land containing extensive deposits of lignite, are to be relocated for reasons of public benefit, which consists of the production of electricity for the public good by the Public Power Corporation, and the protection of quality of life.” According to the same law, the relocation procedures, “due to their urgency, should be completed within a period not exceeding 10 years from the entry into force of this law,” i.e. by March 31, 2021.

The relocation of settlements and villages away from lignite-producing areas has long been a method used by the Greek state, with the aim of expanding the exploitation of lignite-bearing soils for electricity production, whilst protecting public health, given that living close to mines poses health risks to citizens.

Although the deadline for the relocation expired on March 31, 2021, with the completion of 10 years from its publication in the Government Gazette (Government Gazette 60 / A ‘Issue / 31.3.2011), the relocation of the settlement of Akrini has yet to take place, in violation of the legislation. The result is that the requirement of the law to protect the quality of life of the inhabitants of the settlement, which continues to be adjacent to the lignite mines, has not been fulfilled to this day.

In August 2021, the MPs George Arvanitidis and Vassilis Kegeroglou of the Movement for Change Party, submitted a question to Parliament, specifically to the Minister of Environment and Energy, Costas Skrekas, pursuing the issue of Akrini’s relocation.

Where is the problem with the Rule of Law?

In a state that adheres to the Rule of Law, the public authorities must fulfill their obligations under the conditions provided by law.  

However, in this case the state – specifically the government, through the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, as well as the Public Power Corporation – violated their obligations to relocate a settlement, the purpose of which was to protect the health of citizens living close to lignite deposits.

This failure, in addition to the legislative violation, shakes the trust of the citizens in the authorities, as it sends the message that the state does not follow the rules she herself has set out.

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
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