Another episode in the intense battle to reclaim the Commons in Greece. This time the enclosure of the seashore is imminent. writes in the ROAR magazine:
A grassroots campaign is taking off against the proposed privatization and commodification of one of Greece’s last-remaining utopias: its coastline.
Seashores are one of the clearest manifestations of what is generally considered to constitute “the commons”: a place where access is free and the gratification of being present can be the same for all, irrespective of the size of their paycheck. Unfortunately, in real life this is not always the case. A seashore undisturbed by humans represents for many (even unknowingly) a utopian vision of what society can be in that grey area which is neither private nor state-owned.
However, actions such as those by Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras, who recently proposed a bill threatening the right of access to the country’s beaches, are a burning reminder that the seashore — just like the square — is no longer a common space. Rather, it is a space that the government donates to the people by concession, until the opportunity arises to enclose and subsequently monetize and valorize the former common property. The Greek bill for the privatization of the seashore, besides proposing restrictions on the public’s longstanding constitutional right of free access to the coastline, also proposes to grant developers the right to appropriate the seashore and to provide amnesty to existing structures built in breach of current legislation.
There was an immediate public outcry in opposition to the bill. With the help of a group called ‘Save the Greek Seashore: A Citizens’ Initiative’ — a grassroots, nonpartisan mobilization that aims to “safeguard Greece’s unique and irreplaceable shoreline as part of humanity’s commonwealth” — the news about the bill spread fast through social media. The opposition was strong: more than 122,000 signatures were collected in a petition demanding the bill to be scrapped. Spearheaded by the people and with the support of environmental NGOs, the movement created such a storm that even members of the ruling parties are now jumping ship.
In the current climate of Greece’s economic crisis, there is an aggressive push towards economic growth, which is now being used to entrench a neoliberal agenda. Privatization of public and common wealth is high on the list of the Greek government. From the gold mines in Halkidiki to the management of water, citizens are being deprived not solely of their natural environment, but also of the most basic necessities of life. Now, corporate interests and the Greek government have realized the market potential captured in the golden sand, and they are trying to exploit it to full effect.
What we are witnessing is an attempt to appropriate one of our last remaining “commons” through different levels of control: the state, sometimes involving local authorities, and private capital itself. It might be unknowingly that they, the servants of capital, are trying to dispossess us of our last utopias and fill them with concrete. But these utopias are what constitute life for people, just like the air they breathe and the water they drink.
As Eduardo Galleano taught us, and as we will need to remember while we keep fighting for the right to the seashore, the purpose of Utopia “es para caminar” — it’s to keep walking. The battle of the commoners for the seashore will continue, as they look down with pity at the servants of capital, who in their battle to promote the neoliberal dogma have managed to commodify even their own utopias.