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Five years after its first memorandum and Greece has yet to computerise its registery of land ownership and usage

When Greece applied for its first international bailout in 2010, only two countries in Europe lacked a computerized register of land ownership and usage. Albania was the other. Its 2015, little progress has been made in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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When the whole, Greece is broke, saga started in 2010, the EU and IMF each identified the lack of legal certainty about property rights and land usage as a huge barrier to meaningful investment, proper taxation and eventual economic growth.

2015…Five years later and while Greece is on its third bailout and to date the lad registry issue is still less than half done complete, even though Athens spent hundreds of millions of euros with technical assistance from EU partners…where that money really went, we can only imagine.

For some context how bad it is in Greece…Albania, poorer Balkan neighbour that is a distant candidate for EU membership, has surpassed Greece and implemented a digital land registry and zoning map program.

Via Ekathimerini…

Greek newspapers call the never-ending epic of the cadastre, started in 1995 with EU funds that had to be returned to Brussels in 2003 because of misuse, “our national shame”.

It is a microcosm of everything that remains to be fixed in the country – bureaucracy, political patronage, competing layers of government, legal complexity, fiscal uncertainty, vested interests, cheating, tax evasion and opaque relations between the two biggest landowners – the state and the church.

The continued absence of a comprehensive land registry is one reason why a privatization program announced in 2011 and initially meant to raise 50 billion euros (37 billion pounds) over five years has netted a mere 3.1 billion euros to date.

Roughly half of deals so far have come from the sale or lease of state land, including a flagship plan to sell the disused Elliniko airport site next to Athens which is still stalled.

The 50 billion euro goal was reaffirmed in the third bailout package agreed in August but stretched out over 30 years.

The state cannot sell its prime real estate while disputes fester in the courts about ownership, boundaries and zoning.

“We have to give investors certainty that whatever they get from the Greek state they can actually realize,” said Lila Tsitsogiannopoulou, executive director of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund in charge of land privatization. “We still have a long way to go. We still have so many authorities.”

Illegal house owners’ union

The country even boasts a union of illegal house owners that campaigns to legalize their homes.

Michael Vlahakis a 60-year-old pensioner from Irakleio, the main city on Greece’s largest island Crete, is president of the “Residents Outside Town Planning” club, which he says represents some 45,000 illegal home owners on the island.

“Our club is unique in Greece, in Europe and probably in the whole planet because Greece is the only country in Europe that doesn’t have a cadastre,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“We still don’t know what is mountain, what is forest and what is a building or a house.”

About two-thirds of Greeks lived in the countryside until the 1960s, when a massive rural exodus began. Now more than half live in the cities of Athens, Thessaloniki and Heraklion.

Vlahakis, who says he has built two illegal houses, one for himself and his wife, the other for his daughter, was invited to Athens four years ago to address lawmakers and ministers in parliament on the need to adapt town planning to reality.

“They haven’t done it since the mid-1980s despite the fact that Irakleio city has more than tripled in terms of houses and land since then,” he said, describing an upside-down urban development process.

“In Greece we build the houses first, then the roads, after that the infrastructure – waste system, electricity and water network – and at the end the sidewalks.”

Politicians, real estate developers and construction firms had all sabotaged the cadastre project to protect their interests, Vlahakis said.

According to Dimitris Rokos, director of planning and investment at the National Cadastre and Mapping Agency, just 25.3 percent of the country has been completely mapped, another 22 percent is in the works and contracts have yet to be awarded for just over 50 percent.

The agency has lost key staff such as the IT director and top legal experts to the private sector due to steep pay cuts under austerity measures imposed by Greece’s lenders. It also endured long months without a budget in the last five years.

It remains shackled by being a public utility company under the authority of the environment ministry, even though it is partly self-financing. The chairmanship has changed four times in as many years, mirroring successive governments, including twice this year when a hard left minister was appointed, then sacked.

Originally due to have been completed in 2008, the cadastre has an overall budget of 1.2 billion euros and is now supposed to be completed in 2020.

That seems wildly optimistic, but Rokos said the deadline could still be achieved if the agency were given greater financial and management autonomy to run more efficiently.

“It is still realistic if the government takes some basic strategic decisions by the end of the year,” he said.

European officials who have been involved in trying to help speed up the job say it is impossible to tell when it will be finished and have urged a radical simplification.

“It is so complex that no one dares to say ‘let’s make it simple’,” said Rik Wouters, a veteran Dutch cadastre official who led the European team that tried to help Greece between 2011 and late 2014, when an EU Task Force was withdrawn.

Wouters, managing director of the European Land Information Service, said in a telephone interview he had recommended the project be streamlined using tax records and old land registers to identify property holders and produce an index map locating land parcels rather than the more cumbersome delineation of boundaries to the centimeter.

Some of the problems are the legacy of history. Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries until 1830 and has since been scarred by wars, occupation and mass migration.

Most land transaction records in this nation of 11 million people, sprawling over 132,000 square km, are still handwritten in ledgers held by local registrars.

There are no title deeds for land in some parts of the country, and any area for which documents proving private ownership are not available from 1883 onward is deemed to be state land, causing endless legal disputes.

Compounding the problem, resolving business disputes through the courts takes nearly three times as long in Greece as the average in members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a rich countries’ club.

The Greek Orthodox Church has no central land registry, forcing the state cadastre agency to deal with individual monasteries or diocese to try to establish land ownership and delineate boundaries.

Documents may be two centuries old and define the limits of properties with reference to landmarks that no longer exist, or using fuzzy phrases such as “500 paces from the olive tree” or “five stone throws in this direction.”

Roughly 60 percent of the country is officially designated as forest, protected by the Greek constitution from economic exploitation. The perimeters of forests are largely delineated by aerial photographs taken shortly after World War Two.

Areas that have since been deforested, including several of the Cyclades islands, remain registered as forest even though they may not have a single tree. Much of suburban Athens is still officially forest, since the city expanded massively in the 20th century with no equivalent changes in land zoning.

Attempts to change the status quo, whether for economic development or practical purposes such as creating a cemetery to bury the dead, encounter often fierce resistance that can lead to years of litigation.

“Clearly, if you’re an illegal owner in Greece, you don’t want this cadastre project ever to be finished,” said George Papaconstantinou, who tried to speed up the exercise as environment minister in 2011 but ran into a wall of opposition.

“There is also a lot of resistance from other vested interests – surveyors, local notaries, property registrars – who could be out of a job once the project is finished. They put lots of legal and bureaucratic obstacles in the way.”

The fact that many local authorities have no master plan for land usage, and that residents or campaigners can use slow-motion litigation to wreck investment projects, compounds the problem, Papaconstantinou said.

He cited the example of a consortium that wanted to invest several hundred million euros to build an eco-friendly luxury hotel on the Aegean island of Milos.

After a five-year wait, the project was denied planning permission because it was deemed to threaten the natural habitat of a rare species of venomous snake present on only four Greek islands.

“They offered to build a special reservation for the vipers, but I couldn’t help. Even if I had approved the plan, the Council of State (Greece’s supreme administrative court) would have unraveled it,” Papaconstantinou said.

References:

http://www.ekathimerini.com/202622/article/ekathimerini/business/typically-greek-delayed-land-register-is-never-ending-epic

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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Erdogan accepts Syria DMZ off-ramp, in deal with Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 111.

Alex Christoforou

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The deal struck in Sochi averts a large scale Syria’s offensive on Idlib, as Turkey gives it guarantee to monitor what will effectively become a demilitarized zone.

According to the agreement, troops from Russia and Turkey will enforce a new demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Idlib, from which ISIS/Al Qaeda rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of next month.

Speaking alongside Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the 15 to 20 km-wide zone would be established by October 15th. The DMZ would require a complete “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib, including the rebranded Al-Qaeda affiliated Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

Putin also noted that heavy weapons would be withdrawn from the DMZ by all opposition forces by October 10th, which is a move supported by the Syrian government.

The Russian President described the agreement as a “serious result” further saying that “Russia and Turkey have confirmed their determination to counter terrorism in Syria in all its forms”.

Erdogan said both his country and Russia would carry out coordinated patrols in the demilitarized zone:

“We decided on the establishment of a region that is cleaned of weapons between the areas which are under the control of the opposition and the regime.”

“In return, we will ensure that radical groups, which we will designate together with Russia, won’t be active in the relevant area.”

According to Al Jazeera Iran’s foreign minister has hailed an agreement between Turkey and Russia to avert an assault on the Syrian rebel-held Idlib province, as an example of “responsible diplomacy”.

An agreement to halt plans for an offensive on the last major rebel-held stronghold was announced in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday after a meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On his Twitter account, Zarif wrote: “Intensive responsible diplomacy over the last few weeks-pursued in my visits to Ankara & Damascus, followed by the Iran-Russia-Turkey Summit in Tehran and the meeting (in) Sochi-is succeeding to avert war in #Idlib with a firm commitment to fight extremist terror. Diplomacy works.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the agreement reached in Sochi, which for now avoids full scale conflict in Idlib, Syria. Who won, who lost, and which interests were met with the DMZ agreement?

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel

Via Xinhuanet

An anticipated Syrian military offensive on the northwestern province of Idlib is on hold after Turkey and Russia reached a deal following Ankara’s guarantee on behalf of the rebel groups, experts said.

The deal was reached Monday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, as the two sides agreed to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, the last rebel stronghold.

This agreement brings Turkey to a position of giving a guarantee on behalf of the rebel groups, the experts said.

“Moscow is convinced that it would not be able to handle the burden of a humanitarian tragedy in case of a military offensive in Idlib,” said Metin Gurcan, a Turkish security analyst with the Istanbul Policy Center of Sabanci University.

Russia has also secured its airbases in northern Syria, including its airbase in Hmeymim as a guarantee by Turkey under the Sochi agreement, he said.

Gurcan recalled a trilateral summit of Turkey, Iran and Russia held in Iranian capital Tehran early September, which ended without agreement as Erdogan’s call for a ceasefire in Idlib was rejected by Moscow and Tehran.

Erdogan’s proposal for a ceasefire by all parties in Idlib was rejected by Putin on the grounds that those groups were not represented at the table there, he said.

“Now Turkey has given a guarantee on behalf of radical groups which Putin earlier said that ceasefire cannot be discussed because they were not represented at Tehran meeting,” Gurcan said.

Now everyone is curious how Turkey has given guarantee to Moscow and how will those radical groups accept a proposal for demilitarization by surrendering heavy weapons and withdrawing from the demilitarized zone, Gurcan noted.

“Ankara has given this promise relying on its military power on the ground and on its capacity to convince armed opposition groups,” he said.

Turkish army has reinforced its presence in Idlib in the past few months, and Turkey has 12 military outposts with 1,200-1,300 troops on the border line of the province separating the rebel stronghold from the pro-Iran militia-controlled South of Aleppo and the government-controlled southeast, Gurcan said.

Rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army, in the region are gathered with Turkish backing under the banner of the “National Front for Liberation.”

Putin and Erdogan agreed on Monday in Sochi to create a 15-20 km buffer zone along the line of contact between rebels and regime troops by Oct. 15.

The agreement entails the “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib as well as “heavy weaponry from this zone,” Putin said at the joint press conference after signing the deal with Erdogan.

By the end of the year, transportation routes between the key port of Latakia and Aleppo as well as the city of Hama must be restored, Putin added.

The Russian leader also said all heavy weapons had to be withdrawn from the zone by Oct. 10, according to Erdogan’s proposal.

Ankara has been warning against any military offensive by Russia-backed Syrian regime forces in Idlib, warning that it would lead to a humanitarian crisis and refugee influx to the Turkish border.

Turkey and Russia, along with Iran, are guarantors of the Astana deal which declared ceasefire in four de-escalation zones in Syria, including Idlib.

Turkey will deploy more troops in Idlib province after the Sochi deal, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

“We will need extra troop reinforcements. Turkey and Russia will patrol on the border areas. Civilians and moderate (opposition) will stay here,” Cavusoglu said.

Another outcome of the Sochi deal is that Turkey and Russia prevented a possible attack by the United States in Idlib, Naim Baburoglu from Aydin University said.

He recalled that the U.S. was giving signals that it wanted to intervene in the situation in Idlib, if Syrian government troops launch an assault on the rebel stronghold.

Washington recently threatened to take swift and decisive actions against any use of chemical weapons in Idlib.

“This agreement showed that the U.S. has room for maneuver only in the east of Euphrates and Manbij region,” Baburoglu said.

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Pat Buchanan: “The Late Hit” On Judge Kavanaugh

Wha exactly is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org:


Upon the memory and truthfulness of Christine Blasey Ford hangs the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his reputation and possibly his career on the nation’s second-highest court.

And much more. If Kavanaugh is voted down or forced to withdraw, the Republican Party and conservative movement could lose their last best hope for recapturing the high court for constitutionalism.

No new nominee could be vetted and approved in six weeks. And the November election could bring in a Democratic Senate, an insuperable obstacle to the elevation of a new strict constructionist like Kavanaugh.

The stakes are thus historic and huge.

And what is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

When she was 15 in the summer of ’82, she went to a beer party with four boys in Montgomery County, Maryland, in a home where the parents were away.

She says she was dragged into a bedroom by Brett Kavanaugh, a 17-year-old at Georgetown Prep, who jumped her, groped her, tried to tear off her clothes and cupped her mouth with his hand to stop her screams.

Only when Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, laughing “maniacally,” piled on and they all tumbled off the bed, did she escape and lock herself in a bathroom as the “stumbling drunks” went downstairs. She fled the house and told no one of the alleged rape attempt.

Not until 30 years later in 2012 did Ford, now a clinical psychologist in California, relate, in a couples therapy session with her husband, what happened. She says she named Kavanaugh as her assailant, but the therapist’s notes of the session make no mention of Kavanaugh.

During the assault, says Ford, she was traumatized. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me.”

Here the story grows vague. She does not remember who drove her to the party. She does not say how much she drank. She does not remember whose house it was. She does not recall who, if anyone, drove her home. She does not recall what day it was.

She did not tell her parents, Ford says, as she did not want them to know she had been drinking. She did not tell any friend or family member of this traumatic event that has so adversely affected her life.

Said Kavanaugh in response, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Mark Judge says it never happened.

Given the seriousness of the charges, Ford must be heard out. But she also needs to be cross-examined and have her story and character probed as Kavanaugh’s has been by FBI investigators as an attorney for the Ken Starr impeachment investigation of Bill Clinton, a White House aide to George Bush, a U.S. appellate judge and a Supreme Court nominee.

During the many investigations of Kavanaugh’s background, nothing was unearthed to suggest something like this was in character.

Some 65 women who grew up in the Chevy Chase and Bethesda area and knew Kavanaugh in his high school days have come out and spoken highly of his treatment of girls and women.

Moreover, the way in which all of this arose, at five minutes to midnight in the long confirmation process, suggests that this is political hardball, if not dirt ball.

When Ford, a Democrat, sent a letter detailing her accusations against Kavanaugh to her California congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, Ford insisted that her name not be revealed as the accuser.

She seemingly sought to damage or destroy the judge’s career behind a cloak of anonymity. Eshoo sent the letter on to Sen. Diane Feinstein, who held it for two months.

Excising Ford’s name, Feinstein then sent it to the FBI, who sent it to the White House, who sent it on to the Senate to be included in the background material on the judge.

Thus, Ford’s explosive charge, along with her name, did not surface until this weekend.

What is being done here stinks. It is a transparently late hit, a kill shot to assassinate a nominee who, before the weekend, was all but certain to be confirmed and whose elevation to the Supreme Court is a result of victories in free elections by President Trump and the Republican Party.

Palpable here is the desperation of the left to derail Kavanaugh, lest his elevation to the high court imperil their agenda and the social revolution that the Warren Court and its progeny have been able to impose upon the nation.

If Kavanaugh is elevated, the judicial dictatorship of decades past, going back to the salad days of Earl Warren, William Brennan, Hugo Black and “Wild Bill” Douglas, will have reached its end. A new era will have begun.

That is what is at stake.

The Republican Senate should continue with its calendar to confirm Kavanaugh before Oct. 1, while giving Ford some way to be heard, and then Kavanaugh the right to refute. Then let the senators decide.

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