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Short chronicle of lawsuits against EQOS

The Environmental Quality Observatory of Syros (EQOS) was established in July 2020. The reason for the establishment of the observatory was the concern of the residents of Syros, as expressed in social media, about the very frequent incidents of pollution on the sea surface of the port, the dust cloud that often hovered over the wider area of the shipyard, the dust collected on their balconies and the noise coming from the shipyard 24 hours a day. 

In February 2020, the “Aegean Rebreath” sampling results were published in Kathimerini newspaper, identifying the existence of toxic heavy metals in the port of Ermoupolis and specifically in the area of Karnagio. This upset the local community even more. In the same month, the Municipal Council of Syros, in a particularly heated meeting, decided to set up an inter-party monitoring committee in order to carry out a thorough study in cooperation with the competent state research institute, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), which had already submitted a comprehensive proposal for a study of the port, in order to establish in the most appropriate scientific way whether there is pollution and, if so, what were its causes. 

At the same time, on the initiative of MP Kriton Arsenis, the findings of the analysis of the Aegean Rebreath sample by the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) were discussed in Parliament, and the then Deputy Minister of Environment, D. Economou, pledged that a more extensive investigation will be carried out on the initiative of the State, in order “to draw safer conclusions and take the necessary measures”.    

In November 2020, and while no initiative had been taken to carry out the study, the EQOS asked the Municipal and Regional Authorities what had happened to this study, without ever getting a substantive response. In December 2020, the EQOS submitted the relevant request  to the Minister of Environment, trying to pressure the authorities to do what they had already announced. Shortly after this request, which like all previous documents was published on our Facebook page, we received a lawsuit from the ONEX Group, responsible for managing the shipyard, with a claim against us for €1.000.000 in damages for defamation, loss of profits and non-material damages. 

After the first lawsuit and while the local media refused to publish the relevant Press Releases that we sent them, the issue received a lot of publicity in the national media. In this context, one of our members gave a radio interview to National Radio talking about the first lawsuit against us, only to receive a new lawsuit with a claim of another €1,000.000. This was followed by other radio interviews on Sto Kokkino and RadioMeragiven by the President of the EQOS in order to talk about the two lawsuits against us, resulting in a third lawsuit against him for a further €1,000,000. In total, the ONEX Group has so far claimed more than €3,000,000 in compensation. 

Reports have been published in several national media (indicatively EfSynAvgiThe Press ProjectTVXS, Kosmodromio, as well as ΤPPαlterthessNostimon imarEpochiPandora’s BoxInfowar and Katiousa while an extensive report was also published in Liberation (in Greek here).

The three lawsuits were heard by the Syros Court of First Instance on 10 December 2021, which in its decision (no. 42/2022) ruled that the actions of the Environmental Quality Observatory of Syros to date, in its effort to highlight the issue of environmental pollution and the threat to public health, are entirely legitimate, reasonable, justified, documented, without any ulterior motives, and was carried out in the context of our constitutionally guaranteed individual and collective rights and that no damage (non-material or material) has been caused to the company by the actions of the Observatory. As a result, the Court also rejected any claim for damages to the company, which in total claimed €3 million from the Observatory and its defendant members.

Finally, after many setbacks, the notorious study was carried out, only it was not implemented according to the original ministerial announcement, but with a direct award and a contract between ONEX and HCMR. What is particularly worrying is that, even under these conditions, the study records very serious pollution in the area, with values much worse than those identified by the initial sampling, but, so far, the competent authorities (Region, Municipality, Coast Guard) do not seem willing to protect public health and the natural environment of our island.