Κατηγορία: MAIN ARTICLES IN ENGLISH

FORESTRY TROUBLES IN MANI: A REASONABLE PROPOSAL AND THE CONDITIONS FOR ITS REALISATION

A few years ago, the Women’s Association of Mani –  Kalamata Chapter had invited one of the most respected experts on civil law and eminent academic, Apostolos Georgiades, Professsor at the Law School of the University of Athens, to speak about forestry issues in Mani.

That was five years ago, a time of euphoria in Mani about a recent law that was passed by the Parliament, according to which in (cases of) legal processes between a citizen and the Forestry Department, both parties have the same rights in supporting their claims, i.e. the State will not have the presumption of ownership. In his speech, the distinguished professor stressed that this law is favourable for the Maniot landowners, however, it does not solve the existing problem. Professor Georgiades was right, because the recent compilation and display of (the?) forestry maps at administrative departments and the pending validation of these maps has only compounded the problem and has aggravated the conflict between Maniot landowners and the Forestry Department. The law that was passed five years ago strengthened the ownership claims of the Maniots on some lots that seemed to wrongly belong to the state, but did nothing to determine whether an area was forest or not. This law also did nothing to improve the previous 1979 law regarding the status of forests and forest expanses.

At that time, our newspaper, MANIOT SOLIDARITY, fully supported the stance taken by Professor Georgiades and urged our compatriots to mobiblise so that the recent law also included the properties which turned into forests because the owners had stopped cultivating them. We supported the same line of thought in editorials and in detailed analyses in our issues after the publication of the forest maps in January 2017. Now that it seems that no extension will be given beyond the end of this month for landowners to repeal the labelling of their propery as forest land on the official forest maps, we feel the need to suggest the following solid proposal, which in our opinion might provide a way out of the current impasse. We also want to outline the conditions under which we might have a favourable evolution of the present deadlock situation.

In the two paragraphs below we are presenting an excerpt from Professor Georgiades’ speech, which contains the prosposal that we are putting forth (we have deliberately ommitted some information of secondary importance):

“1. A similar problem arose in 2003, as preparations were made for the compilation of the National Land Registry. In order to deal with problems relating to properties outside urban planning zones, the Minister of the Environment, Regional Planning and Public Works at that time convened a committee consisting of experts from different political parties, which after many meetings, it(?)developed and submitted to the Ministry a bill, which was proposing solutions similar to those for properties within urban planning zones. This bill outlines the following: concerning real estate which is outside urban planning zones or an agglomeration which existed before 1923 or an agglomeration under 2000 people which has been properly defined, its “possessor” has the presumption of ownership, as long as before the applicability of this last law: a) he/she has been using this property in good faith and continuously for the past ten (10) years, having a legitimate deed of property or disposal/acquisition for a value in his name or in the name of a licensor; this deed of property needs to have been acquired and registered in a land registry after the applicability of the Civil Code or b) the “possessor” has been using this property in good faith and without interruption for thirty (30) continuous years.

  1. Unfortunately, this bill was never brought to the parliament and did not become a state law; this created many serious problems for properties outside urban planning zones, problems which remain unresloved today, and have hindered the completion of the National Land Registry, which still remains unfinished. These problems are particularly acute in Mani, because many Maniots do not have deeds of property for the lands that they own and use. A way out of this impasse for Maniot landowners would be the following: they should be given the right to sell / gift / transfer to their children a particular property, as long as they can provide two papers: a) a certificate from the mayor that the licensor/owner has been using the land for over 20 years and b) a certificate from the Forestry Department that according to the aerial photographs of 1945 or 1960 the land was at that time cultivated and unforested”.

It goes without saying that putting forth this proposal, which also includes reclaiming the forest expanses that used to be cultivated by our ancestors, needs strong political intervention. The only way for the few Maniots in our area to achieve this, is solidarity and unity. Unfortunately, until now, in our mobilisation efforts towards this goal, we have not been successful in displaying these two values. Maybe Professor Georgiades’ well-supported proposal, which we are presenting in this editorial, will give us the chance to display them. Only in this way, by internalising and displaying  great unity and solidarity, can we achieve favourable results regarding the current issues regarding the forestry laws.…

Δημοσιεύτηκε στο 2017 MAIN ARTICLE IN ENGLISH

IS MANI ENTITLED TO A MODERN MAIN ROAD?

It is a fact that tourism is reaching every area of Mani. What can we do to facilitate the development of tourism even more? We believe that a prospective traveller will be attracted to our region, because of its geophysics, climate and culture. However, as this potential tourist looks into the possibility of a trip to Mani, he/she might have some reservations regarding the main road in Mani, the Kalamata-Kardamyli-Areopolis-Gytheion road. The state of this main road as well as the Sparta-Gytheion motorway (particularly after Krokees, where the road gets split into two destinations, those of Monemvasia and Gytheion), might negatively influence the potential traveller to Mani, as he/she is making the final decision.

The facts mentioned in the paragraph above about the state of the Mani main road should mobilise all those who love Mani, and particularly the politicians who represent our region. We are certain that all Maniots and philo-Maniots  are worried about the poor state of our roads. We need therefore to find a way to improve the transportation, so that tourism continues to increase. We, the representatives of the Maniot Solidarity Association and the founders of this newspaper, have many times and in many ways expressed our views: we believe that we need solidarity and joint action so that we can drive forward the most urgent Maniot needs, the most important of which is probably the Mani main road. Unfortunately, in the past there has been no joint action or concerted effort in this regard.

Let us mention two public works that have improved the Mani main road: a) the detour of Gytheion and b) the road improvements in the areas near Passava and near Areopolis. These are both praiseworthy, but fragmented projects, that were undertaken by the corresponding prefectures before the year 2010. However, what is needed now is a full study of the road from Marathea (where the detour of Gytheion ends) to Areopolis, but this has not been approved as yet. After the completion of the two public works mentioned above, the travelling time from Mani to Sparta has been reduced somewhat. However, the study for the improvement of the Sparta-Gytheion road, which had been announced in 2006 and which would reduce travelling time even more, seems to have been abandoned! And it remains abandoned ten years later…

The new Koscaraga bridge and the new stretch of road from the Koscaraga bridge to Kriskios (a settlement of Sotirianika) are two of the few projects undertaken by the prefecture from the period before 2010. Yet the detour Kambos-Sotirianika, which had been pre-approved for EEC subsidy and which if completed, would reduce travelling time by 15 minutes, was abandoned in favour of other projects outside of Mani. This happened without any Maniots objecting! The study for the detour of Verga which would be the natural continuation of the Kalamata Peripheral Ring Road was announced in 2007, but it was also subsequently cancelled, because there was not enough support!

The trigger for writing this article has been the news that many politicians, municipal leaders and businessmen have been mobilised in order to secure a subsidy for the road Kalamata-Messini Rizomylou towards Pylos. There is no doubt that these people have more influence than us Maniots; they also know how to mobilise effectively. Today, mobilisation is a tool that can counteract the disadvantage of having a small population in areas such as Mani. By “mobilisation” we mean joint actions, conscious and well-coordinated solidarity efforts so that we can use to advantage every possibility for intervention and every chance to showcase our just request for an improved main road in Mani. The first people who should internalise this need and work towards this goal are those working in the tourist sector, because they will be the first ones to enjoy increased income and higher living standard for their families.  But it is not only they who will benefit from an improved central road; all inhabitants of Mani will benefit from the tourist development of our area. The right people to coordinate these joint undertakings should of course be our local political leaders. If they coordinate and successfully foster the common actions that we mentioned above, they are the ones who will be credited with the beneficial results…

Δημοσιεύτηκε στο 2017 MAIN ARTICLE IN ENGLISH

LET US CREATE HARMONY AMONG INDIVIDUAL – FAMILY – COMMUNITY – STATE

The four concepts Individual – Family – Community – State are full of nuances and semantics, which were acquired during the long journey in the development of societal groups. In some societies, these concepts co-exist harmoniously and complement each other, while in other societies the relationship between these concepts is either underdeveloped or exaggerated. According to the science of Sociology, only harmonious relations between people lead to strong states with prosperous citizens. In Greece, the lack of harmony between Individual – Family – Community and the State is one of the main causes of the present lengthy economic crisis. This means that the fundament of the crisis is basically sociological. If we could pinpoint what leads to co-operation or lack thereof between the above groups (Individual – Family – Community – State), then we could have a first understanding of how to plot a course out of the present economic crisis.

If we examine the social development of the other European countries, we notice that Greece missed the transition from Middle Ages to Renaissance, a transition very important to western European nations. Greece experienced the Middle Ages during  the later years of the constantly declining Byzantine Empire, followed immediately by subjugation by a barbaric occupying power (the Turks). We did not experience the economic necessity that led the other European states from feudalism to monarchy, which is the first step towards the ethnogenic phase with the ultimate formation of separate independent states. Centuries of Renaissance and social revolutions, which followed the formation of social classes, strengthened the state administration, so that it could safeguard not only the external security but also the individual rights of its citizens. In this way, slowly and gradually, the harmonious rapport among  Individual – Family – Community – State was forged, a formula that led to the prosperity of these states.

In our country, during the Turkish occupation the state was a foreign conqueror. Subjugation stifled social development and restricted the harmonious rapport among only three of the four groups in the title of this article (Individual – Family – Community). It is a blessing that the relation between Individual – Family – Community was strong. This is an advantage, when we compare our country to western European nations. Unfortunately, it is not enough of an advantage to reverse the existing poor rapport of the above three groups to the state. The fact that for the last 200 years our state is not foreign, but our own, has not reversed the mentality of the previous 400 years, which is still deeply rooted in Greek people. It is possible that the economic crisis with its ensuing hardship will finaly lead to a change in mentality.

In a strong state, the leaders are elected according to democratic processes, and the finances are based on economic activity as well as on fair taxation of the different social classes. Such a state provides security for its citizens and is able to deal with most external or internal problems. In such a state, the rapport between Individual – Family – Community – State is more harmonious. In case of conflict between the above groups, these states are able to revert to harmony in a relatively short time.

This is the kind of state that we need. We, its citizens, are the only ones who can achieve this goal; however, we need to internalise first that the state is not a foreign entity. It is ours, it belongs to us, since we are the ones who elect our leaders according to democratic processes. It is even more important for us to internalise that since the state is ours, we are obliged to obey to the laws. Even when our leaders do not act accordingly to their pre-election promises, we can criticise them, but we need to wait for the right time (the elections) to replace them and thus punish them.

In our region, Mani, from the time of our ancestors, the bonds between Individual – Family – Community were exceptionally close. In addition, our ancestors understood the necessity for the creation of an independent modern Greek state, and they willingly and selflessly led the struggle for indepenence. They did this, although occupation was not as hard in our area, since Mani had the privilege of local autonomy. In the present difficult times, we need to learn from our ancestors and finally develop a genuine rapport to our state. Harmony with the state can be achieved not only by careful selection of our representatives during election time, but also by our adherence to the laws. In this way, we too will contribute to fostering a harmonious rapport of Individual – Family – Community – State, which will be an important step in the development of our area.

THE EDITORIAL BOARD…

Δημοσιεύτηκε στο 2017 MAIN ARTICLE IN ENGLISH, MAIN ARTICLES IN ENGLISH

BORROWING MONEY AND PAYING OFF DEBTS

Borrowing large amounts of money, disproportionate to the financial capabilities of a family or a business, rarely happens because of random or imponderable events. It usually happens because of poor management of family and business budgets. Those who get into default because of random or unforeseeable events deserve our sympathy; those who get into default because of poor financial management are usually dealt with sceptically. If we examine the financial management of family and business budgets and delve into the reasons for default, we will see that insolvency is usually due to undertaking extravagant projects and excessive spending that does not correspond to the financial capabilities of the borrowers. In these cases, it is certain that leniency and restructuring of the debt are not effective solutions.

What we described in the previous paragraph does not just apply to families and businesses, but to all societal groups. Similarly, the conclusions reached above, already well-known to most people, also apply to individual states, particularly to Greece. Unfortunately, poor financial management by our governments during the 200 years that we have been an independent state, has led our country to seven bankruptcies. Since 1824, when we first got our first loan, our country did not meet its financial obligations towards its foreign creditors seven times. It is obvious that the money borrowed each time was not managed in a productive way, but rather was distributed among supporters, so that corrupt leaders could stay in power and get reelected. The consequences were disastrous: new borrowing was required in order to pay off the previous debt, curtailing of the income of those citizens who were too weak to protest and new unfair taxation was imposed, usually directed towards the poor. Each time, between bankruptcies, there were periods of artificial (false) prosperity and unjustified optimism as well as overconsumption, usually of not-needed products, promoted by corrupt politicians. Thus, the next bankruptcies came very quickly…

We believe that the current proposal for paying off our country’s debt is the correct one: prolonging the pay-off deadline of our large debts. If we are successful in setting back the pay-off date, the tax burden imposed on the Greek citizens will be reduced. Of course, this measure alone is not enough, as it needs to be accompanied by additional long-term legislation. Other prerequisites for ending the present economic crisis are unanimity and consistency in the policies of the next governments as well as improved productivity. We need strong will, constructive criticism of our actions up to now, deep reflection, and of course reforms, with the most important one being the reform of our educational system. These reforms will slowly change the mentality of the Greek people, will help reduce parasitism and corruption, will help increase competitiveness and finally will bring improved productivity in work, businesss initiative and technical know-how.

Good governance is the key element in achieving the above goals. Greek citizens should elect those politicians who will be able to put into practice these aspirations and will bring meaningful reforms, by legislating the appropriate bills and enforcing them. Unfortunately, the electorate has so far not responded appropriately to the urgent need for reforms in order to end the economic crisis that has been plaguing our country for so many years. It is possible that something positive will finally come from this slow response of the Greek people: a deeper realisation of our obligations as citizens, which will steer us steadfastly towards realistic and achievable goals.

In Mani, the mountainous landscape has played a role in creating “closed” societies for many generations. Maniots were taught by their ancestors to avoid getting into debt at all costs; if an urgent, unforeseeable need left them with no alternative but to borrow money, the ideal was to pay off the debt as soon as possible. This mentality continues to the present time in Mani, although during the last few years of false prosperity we have seen isolated cases of irresponsible borrowing. Financial responsibility, a concept that our ancestors valued, is an ethical obligation, that should not only be practised by the newer generations of Maniots, but also guide us in electing the right politicians who can steer our country out of the present economic crisis.

THE EDITORIAL BOARD…

Δημοσιεύτηκε στο MAIN ARTICLES IN ENGLISH