The Central Archaeological Council (KAS) failed to reach a decision on Tuesday as to whether all or part of the plot of Athens’s former airport at Elliniko constitutes an archaeological site. Now we are left wondering what this means for the future of an investment which, should it go ahead, will offer thousands of jobs and, should it be completed, will transform the entire southern coast of Athens. This is an investment that has already been put through the wringer; it has been opposed by bizarre non-institutional players and by state officials and has from the get-go met with negativity from this government’s ministers and officials.
Some see the postponement of KAS’s decision – which is not binding on the minister but will nevertheless create something of a climate – as indicative of the government’s ambivalence toward investments, despite Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s recent rhetoric to the opposite. They add that the government did not want a decision published before the Thessaloniki International Fair so as not to prompt any reactions inside SYRIZA ranks or outside them. Others argue that the postponement is due to the fact that KAS will likely conclude that the greatest part of the Elliniko plot contains archaeological finds and therefore proper procedure needs to be followed throughout construction work. Finally, there are also those who believe that the meeting did not reach a conclusion because of a difference of opinion in the Culture Ministry.
The question for us on the outside of these deliberations – people who for years have argued that Greece will never get back on its feet without private investments – is how a plot that once accommodated an airport can suddenly be disputed by archaeologists and environmentalists. Moreover, how and why is it that there are always these “sensitive” types who react – usually quite effectively and in spite of court rulings – to any attempt to develop public assets, even when measures are taken to protect the environment? We are seeing it at Elliniko now, but this has been the case with many other projects: Cassiope on Corfu, the buildings of the Crete Polytechnic in Hania, the university building in Volos, wind parks in Karystos and Makronisos etc.
It is unclear how and when the Elliniko affair will be resolved. It is abundantly clear, however, that those considering investing in Greece will need great will, patience and persistence. They will have to convince everyone that they are not enemies of the people, face a government that regards them with suspicion, clash with various loonies, wade through a lengthy bureaucratic process and a wedge of laws while facing an inept public administration. And still the outcome will be unclear.