Almost 13 years after cremations were legalized in Greece, Environment and Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis signed a decision to allow the construction of the much anticipated cremation facilicity in Athens.
The Minister’s decision determines the place and the conditions under which the facility will operate and as designed and proposed by Mayor of Athens, Giorgos Kaminis.
“We passed over thousands waves through an incomplete legislative framework but we eventually did it,” Kaminis tweeted. Noting that the crematorium creation was his commitment since 2014, the mayor added that now the state will be able fulfill its commitment to “upholding citizens’ rudimentary rights.”
Neither the Minister, nor the Mayor gave any information about when construction works would begin or when the project will be finished.
The ministerial decision is about the construction of a crematorium in a city-owned plot in the Athens area of Elaionas, along with a park and sports facilities surrounding the crematorium.
The announcement comes two years after the government said it was moving fast to allow and facilitate cremation in Greece and bring the country in line with European legislation.
Greek lawmakers have passed the bill for cremations and the crematoria in 2006, but many years of delays followed mainly due to objections from the Greek Orthodox Church.
The Church has been saying that cremation would not be allowed for those of the Greek Orthodox faith, the vast majority in the country.
From time to time, local authorities report that permission and construction works are proceeding but so far, March 2019, no facility has been ready.
A year ago, local authorities in Thessaloniki were optimistic that the first cremations in the city could take place in first half of 2019. The crematorium in Patras was imminent too.
Also, a year ago, business owners near the Elaionas crematorium in Athens turned to Supreme Court against the cremations claiming they were against the Constitution.
Bodies of Greeks who had prior death expressed wish to be cremated had to be transported to neighboring Bulgaria at a cost of estimated 3,000-6,000 euros.
Cremation would solve the problem of full graveyards in the country’s big municipalities, but also relief survivors from paying expensive fees burials and grave maintenance.
The cost of cremation is estimated at 600-700 euros compared to the funeral/grave cost accumulating at at least 1,500 euros.
The Greek Orthodox Church has warned that it will not hold religious funeral services for those choosing cremation over the burial tradition.