Investor ombudsman makes positive start

MedNautilus, one of the world’s leading broadband Internet providers, owns a fiberoptic network of 6,000 kilometers and has a total investment of 150 million euros in Greece.

A few years ago it decided to create another data center in Greece that would also enjoy energy self-sufficiency. It proceeded with the acquisition of a plot worth 4 million euros close to its existing site in Metamorphosi in northern Athens. The Greek state, however, had different plans.

The plot was unexpectedly included in a group of residential zones that were to be included in a town plan and all construction activity related to the project was suspended. For it to proceed, authorities required a special application act to be passed. MedNautilus requested such legislation in November 2011. The act was not passed, however, until September this year and this only because the issue was addressed by the newly established Investors’ Ombudsman.

Unfortunately, this is not the only tale of an investment being scuppered by zoning issues. As Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis said on Thursday, the absence of a comprehensive zoning plan is the main obstacle investments face, especially those in the tourism sector.

In the six months since it was first established, the Investors’ Ombudsman has handled 36 cases, 26 of which have been resolved and 10 of which are still outstanding. Out of those 26 cases the vast majority (19) had a positive outcome for investors, with only seven concluded against them.

According to the chief executive officer of Invest in Greece (where the Investors’ Ombudsman belongs), Stefanos Isaias, even the negative conclusion of a case for the potential investor does not constitute a failure for the institution because it at least puts an end to the uncertainty felt by investors who don’t have answers or solutions to the problems they face and allows them to draw up alternative plans.

In most cases the ombudsman has managed to restore communication between the investor and the state, highlight the obstacle blocking the investment and help state agencies handle the issues in a more positive light, which accelerates the licensing process significantly.

Besides zoning issues, the Investors’ Ombudsman has also been asked to intervene in cases related to delays in the disbursement of investment incentives and to obstacles and delays to projects of renewable energy sources.

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