Thousands of property owners across Greece have for years been hostage to state or local authorities that have ordered their assets expropriated, as in the often case with the Culture Ministry, which ties down properties for the protection of antiquities.
The issue lies not only in the fact that millions of square meters around the country that could have been used as a springboard for economic growth and job creation are tied down. There is also the problem that many authorities which have expropriated privately owned asset either cannot reimburse the owners or have no intention of utilizing the property for the purpose they originally claimed.
Owners consequently find themselves in a seemingly endless judicial battle to claim the compensation owed to them – sometimes for decades – while the majority of local authorities rarely cancel the expropriation order as required by law.
Existing legislation dictates that assets should be returned to their original owner if 18 months elapse after the price of the expropriation is set and the owner is not paid. Property market professionals, however, report that in practice as soon as the 18-month period passes the local authorities will expropriate the same asset again, thereby tying it down for another 18 months, and so on.