As we approach the summer period, which is rich in events and activities, it seems helpful to look back at the last two years to recall the content and meaning of our activity as a citizen association.
Beyond continuing to contribute to the renovation of the site of the temple of Apollo in Despotiko, our association and its members managed, thanks to their tenacity and persistence, to formalize, in full consultation with the local authorities and other associative actors, a structure allowing to launch the archaeological park of the ancient quarries of Marathi.
If this project succeeds, as we all hope it will, it will be an achievement of great importance. Thus, in the near future, there will be two archaeological parks (Despotiko and Marathi) that will increase our islands’ archaeological and cultural attractiveness.
After Easter, let us also mention the forthcoming publication of the first book in three languages of the collection “Friends of Paros and Antiparos” which presents the Cycladic culture and gastronomy. If this first book meets with the success it deserves, the adventure will continue with other titles related to the culture and activities of the inhabitants of Paros and Antiparos. This editorial effort will take up the torch of the journal of our friend Nikos Aliprantis, which opened the way to the writing of one or more histories of our islands.
In addition, the steady rapid increase of the number of tourists coming to our two islands questions the meaning and the dimension of its development. We are at a crossroads: the very rapid growth of tourist activities observed these years requires the formalization of strategic choices and plans. We cannot continue to develop more and more, as we have done until now
, by promoting all types of activities, at the same time, and in a thoughtless, even incoherent way.
From now on, choices will have to be made that concern principally the future of the local community, but also that of all the inhabitants of our islands, permanent or seasonal. In this respect, it is useful to recall the growing weight of the non-permanent inhabitants from the economic, cultural and social point of view, and to recognize their role as citizens. A large number of them exercise their right to vote. Hence the importance of public debates open to all, on all societal subjects, especially in terms of sustainable development
Consultative procedures are required by law, here as elsewhere in all developed countries. Let us use them, as much as necessary, on our islands. Let’s not waste this opportunity.
The public debate is far from over. Let’s admit that it is legitimate to discuss matters that concern us all on our islands, without animosity, without aggression and in a respectful manner, about the different options. This is a step forward that should be encouraged and amplified, as discussion is necessary to make wise decisions.
This is the lesson to be drawn from the recent judgment of the Council of State, pronounced at the beginning of April 2022, which annuls the urban plan of Paros of 2012, insofar as it provided for the extension of Parikia, Naoussa, Lefkes and other settlements, on the grounds that the “carrying capacity” of the island has already been exhausted by the increasing number of constructions and by the strong increase in tourism; the Council of State underlines that the only entrepreneurial interest of certain owners could not prevail over the general interest of the protection of the islands and their environment.
Ten years later, it is clear that the pursuit of unbridled economic development has led to the saturation of the real capacity of our islands. More than ever, today, discussion is essential in order to move forward in the consultation of stakeholders regarding the future of our islands. There is lack of strategic vision, combined with hasty steps insufficiently prepared and implemented that led to the recent ruling of the Council of State.
As for the new airport project, for example, it is not only the useful citizen debate about whether it is needed that has put it in danger, but rather, it seems, the lack of seriousness in the preparation of the call for tenders, the deficiencies of its environmental study established without consultation with the stakeholders concerned, and especially the appeals initiated by the competitors against the lowest bidder whose particularly low offer had not been duly scrutinized.
Our association will also undertake actions to raise funds to support our projects; we will come back to this shortly.
Finally, after 20 years of existence, it appears necessary to update our statutes; we will also come back to this.
Yorgos Vlandas Tassos Zacharas
Postscript : The Friends of Paros and Antiparos have not taken legal action against the Paros airport extension project, as is sometimes claimed in the local press.