By T. Igoumenidi
The government on Wednesday inserted amendments into a controversial draft bill concerning forestry maps, which will allow farmers that have cleared and cultivated state-owned land for decades to actually purchase the expanse or simply continue their agriculture-related activity.
The draft amendments allow for a payment plan of 100 installments, for instance, in case farmers choose to purchase land they can prove they cultivate. Another provision allows for the hiring of agronomists and foresters, on a contract basis, with payroll costs expected to be covered by revenue generated from filing fees tacked on to appeals.
The amendments were abruptly added on Wednesday evening.
The opportunity to purchase rural land, under the draft bill, affects tracts ostensibly cleared before 1975 by the same user, with the price set at one-fourth of the land's objective rate - the figure used by the state to tax real estate. Where no objective tax criteria is found, then the price will be based on "commercial rates".
For farmers that don't want to purchase the state land they've cleared and cultivated, then a leasing prospect will be available.
Nevertheless, in a fashion typical of the modern Greek state's land management, a new amendment allows interested farmers to prove their land use by submitting sworn affidavits affirming they have cleared and cultivate the land. Additionally, other documentation, such as tax statements, registration into the still developing land cadastre etc. must also be submitted.
A preamble to the draft bill noted that "...according to customary rules that were applied for land use and issues of land ownership, the right to cultivate usually resulted from long-term use, without existing land deeds (titles)."
The initial tabling of the draft bill generated a firestorm of reaction, primarily from rural communities. The standing problem in terms of land use and zoning in Greece continues to be a lack of a unified, functional and digitalized land registry (national cadastre) throughout the country.