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Outcry halts beach bill

Tide of opposition forces temporary government retreat over 'development' plans

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras says decision on controversial shoreline bill must wait until after European Parliament elections

A man reads a book at a beach in Glyfada, southeast of Athens (Photo: Reuters) A man reads a book at a beach in Glyfada, southeast of Athens (Photo: Reuters) Campaigners have welcomed an announcement from the government that it is postponing consultations on a controversial coastal development bill that would allow more construction and business activity along its coastline.

On Tuesday, State Minister Dimitris Stamatis said that the prime minister had ordered the extension of the public consultation process on the bill until after the May 25 European Parliament elections.

"The prime minister wants a thorough and essential consultation so that all aspects of the issue be explored. He also asked that the government be briefed, after the European Parliament elections, on the results and conclusions of the consultation in order to form its final position," Stamatis said.

The plans have sparked uproar, with petitions in Greek and English gathering more than 135,000 signatures. Environmentalists said the bill would "degrade" the country's natural heritage and "harm the tourist sector".

The bill, which was drafted by the finance ministry, was originally open for online public consultation until May 13.

The government's decision to backtrack on the bill comes a day after environment ministry officials expressed their serious concerns about the proposed legislation. They said they had not been sufficiently briefed about the finance ministry's intentions and had misgivings about a series of articles included in the proposals.

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Antonis Samaras