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Immediate compensation for fire-afflicted areas, reforestation, flood protection key priorities

The measures to support the recovery of households and businesses after the devastating fires that broke out on August 3 were outlined by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday, in a public address during an ongoing cabinet meeting.

He said details would be provided in presentations later by the inisters of Economy and Environment, and in briefings by the ministries of Interior, Labor, Agricultural Development, and Education.

Mitsotakis said the specific measures expected to be approved by the cabinet are trifold: a) Immediate compensation for everyone affected by the fires, and a suspension of their obligations, b) restoration of losses, and c) medium- and long-term planning for the restoration of productivity, especially in northern Evia.

Some of the measures he mentioned in detail for afflicted homes and businesses included the following: compensation for 70% of losses for businesses and farmers, with 20% of that paid in advance; a platform to declare losses, at (as of Aug. 18); cancellation of property taxes and a suspension of insurance and taxes, as well as forfeiture auctions; rent subsidies until homes are rebuilt; and a 4,000-euro additional compensation for farmers who lost their cultivations.

Following the fires of Evia and those of northern Attica, Ilia, and Mani, he said, the priorities are immediately relief to the afflicted, restoration of destroyed areas, and antiflooding protection.

Special provisions for Evia
Exceptionally for northern Evia, where the fire is still raging, Mitsotakis said, the measures will take in all residents of the Mantoudi and Istiea townships, regardless of whether they had losses in the fire zones.

Also for Evia, the prime minister said that a special committee for the long term was being set up chaired by Stavros Benos, who was responsible among others for the restoration Kalamata after its devastating earthquakes of 1986 as mayor and has experience in local government to lead this effort.

Change in forestry management
A legal act expected to be signed on Wednesday, he said, will include a series of innovations, including the rule that every forestland burned is to be reforested. In addition, forestry services would come collectively under the ministry of the Enviroment instead of local governments, with the aim of issuing needed decisions within 30 days.

Mitsotakis also stressed that civil society should also be actively involved in the plans, through the insitution of adoption of a forest, while foundations, private donors, businesses and associations could assume at their own cost the restoration of areas and forests.

Funding for restoration, Civil Protection, flood works
The European Investments Bank in January approved a loan of 585 million euros for Civil Protection, which has already received 150 million, while the EU Recovery Fund has allocated nearly 16 billion euros for green policies and climate change over the next seven years, he said; 1.7 billion of these would go to reformulating civil protection. The government has so far provided nearly 1.1 billion euros for other natural disasters, especially of the Ianos weather phenomenon, while on Monday he had mentioned a Finance ministry a proposal for the approval of 500 million euros from the supplementary state budget for the afflicted areas.

He added that opposition parties are welcome to table their proposals as well. Referring to main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras (Syriza), Mitsotakis said, “I’ve heard Mr. Tsipras formulate some general proposals with which one could hardly disagree – some of which, as you can see, are becoming reality. It is therefore obvious that representatives of the opposition are welcome in all these initiatives. After all, as I noted yesterday, the present duty may belong to the elected government, but that of the future belongs to all. Therefore, any positive contribution, wherever it comes from, is welcome.”