Greek parliament passes environmental bill despite criticism

Greek lawmakers approved a controversial environmental bill on Tuesday despite the opposition and environmental groups said it could open the door to exploratory oil and gas drilling in protected areas, news wires reported.

The bill passed with 158 against 56 votes. From all 300 members of parliament 214 MPs took part, but most of them cast their ballots by mail due to social distancing measures that limit the number of people in the plenary hall.

The center-right government has argued the proposed legislation, which covers a wide array of subjects in its 130 articles, will help protect the environment while also ensuring sustainable development and help Greece end its dependency on coal. “The new environmental regulations finally set clear rules for (environmental) protection, but at the same time they are the drivers behind a quick and, above all, sustainable development,” PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in his speech, adding that much of the criticism directed at the government was unjustified.

On the eve of the vote, Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund said they had collected 30,000 signatures in an online petition against the legislation, which they say will remove vital safeguards for environmental protection. “Beyond the drilling, this legislation is deeply problematic in many areas, as has already been established by dozens of agencies and organizations,” WWF Greece head Demetris Karavellas said in a statement on Monday.

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