LITTLE attention appears to have been given to the passing of the bills that would allow the state to privatise beaches. This was the line taken by Greens deputy, Charalambos Theopemptou, who strongly opposed the bills approved by the legislature last Friday.
An area of beach with a quay or docking area could now be classed as state land and as such, it could be sold or leased, said Theopemptou.
In practice, any hotel owner, who had a quay or docking area, will now be able to take ownership of the beach by reaching an agreement with the government. The final decision would be at the discretion of the interior minister, he warned. And let us not forget two former interior ministers ended up in prison for corruption.
The new legislation might seem harmless – an alleged attempt to overcome some practical difficulties in the management of the beaches – but considering the way things work in Cyprus we can only fear the worse. This is a case of opening the door to the eventual creation of private beaches, not just for hotels but also for developers, who would be able to charge huge amounts of money for properties with a private beach.
During the House debate, one deputy said the law would allow the creation of fish farms, which seemed a peculiar point to make considering such farms already exist. Another deputy pointed out that the Limassol marina was private, but still served the public interest, which is a fair point, but not a convincing argument in terms of the need of the new legislation.
The absence of this legislation has not prevented the building of marinas. One is under construction in Ayia Napa, while others are planned for Paralimni, Paphos and Larnaca.
Bearing in mind existing legislation does not prevent the building of marinas or quays it is difficult to understand the point of the new laws, unless the government has an agenda regarding private beaches for hotels and developments.
One deputy claimed last Friday that the laws would serve narrow private interests and it is difficult to disagree. It is also difficult to be certain the new laws will not be abused by government at some point in the future because there is a history of favourable treatment for select individuals.
We can only express the hope that we do not eventually follow the example of places like Lebanon where the best beaches are private and ordinary people have to pay a fortune to be able to use them.