The Greek government’s plans to allow people who built unlawful homes, including on protected property, to keep them if they paid a penalty has been undermined by a ruling from the country’s highest court, the Council of State, that the legislation is unconstitutional. It was unclear yet whether the buildings would have to be demolished but the government has been keen to let them stay up.
The law encouraged the owners of buildings that had been built or extended without permits to put the properties in order by paying a fine that would protect their assets from any legal action or demolition for 40 years, in effect legalizing criminal actions because the government needs the money.
However, judges said that this went counter to Article 24 of the Greek Constitution, which deems that all construction should adhere to town planning. They said that this rule should only be by-passed in exceptional circumstances and the government’s need to collect revenues could not be considered such.
The court recommended that the process be canceled and the money paid in fines by citizens should be returned. Anticipating the adverse ruling, the government passed another law to let homeowners pay a fine to semi-legalize their properties but the court is going to review that as well.
The court also ruled unconstitutional the first transfer of civil servants into a labor pool, which took place in 2011. The government is currently trying to place 12,500 public sector workers in a similar scheme, where they will receive 75 percent of their pay for a maximum of eight months while another position is sought for them. Those who are left without new positions will be dismissed. Four thousand civil servants will lose their jobs this year and 11,000 in 2014.
The court said that the 2011 scheme did not respect the constitutional rights of equality or meritocracy as it affected only civil servants that were close to retirement age. Judges ruled that civil servants can only be dismissed without evaluation if they have been found guilty of an offense or if they have served the maximum number of years.
The court also overturned a government decision from November 2011 that placed 239 judiciary staff in the labor pool after abolishing their positions. It was unclear how the ruling would affect the ongoing plans as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras ignores orders with which he doesn’t agree.