The Greek Parliament passed a new law amending the legal framework of the environmental licensing procedure of projects and activities and the system of environmental controls, notably by amending provisions of the Law 1650/1986 about the protection of the environment.

Specifically, the law classifies the public and private projects and activities in two categories (A and B), and each category is divided in subcategories according to the potential environmental impact. In this respect, projects and activities of category A, which includes projects and activities that may cause very significant (sub-category A1), or significant (sub-category A2) environmental effects, are subject to the environmental permitting procedure and are required to conduct an environmental impact assessment and obtain a decision approving the environmental conditions. The preliminary environmental assessment becomes optional and is called preliminary determination of the environmental requirements. Those projects and activities which cause only local environmental effects are listed in category B and are exempted from the environmental impact assessment procedure. Instead, the aforementioned projects and activities are subject to general specifications, conditions and restrictions, which are automatically granted by the competent authority based on the operator’s declaration. For example, a 200-bed hotel located within the urban plan is classified in category B and therefore falls under the standard environmental conditions and no environmental impact assessment is required, whereas the same property located outside the urban plan is classified in category A2 and needs an environmental impact assessment. A concrete classification of the projects and activities listed in the subcategories will be provided by the Minister’s decision, issued within a month from the publication of the law, in order to make the environmental impact assessment obligatory to those projects prescribed in Directive 85/337/EEC. Moreover, projects and activities planned in the Natura protected areas are required to conduct an additional ecological study.

Regarding the projects and activities of category A, which are subject to the permitting procedure, this procedure should be concluded within 6-12 for the projects of subcategory A1 which obtain the permit from the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, and within 4 months for those projects obtaining the permit from the decentralized administration. Additionally, the new law opens the assessment procedure to certified individuals, which will present to the competent authorities the draft decision approving the environmental conditions.

The main objective of the adopted regulation is to reduce both the time needed for the licensing procedure and the number of projects for which an environmental permit is required, in order to accelerate investments especially in the field of renewable energy, according to the statement of the Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change in the presentation of the project ‘Helios’, concerning the production of solar energy and its exportation abroad.

Edited by Tina Koutsopoulou