ECONOMY

More islands for sale

More than 60 private Greek islands are reportedly on sale across the country, drawing the interest of domestic and foreign investors as well as international tourism groups. The owners of those small islands have realized the assets they have in hand and are rushing to make the most of them. A typical example is Skyropoula island, right next to Skyros, which until recently belonged to the Antoniadis family. Its 4 square kilometers are said to have been recently bought for nearly 6 million euros by one or more members of the Haji-Ioannou family of shipowners. The most prominent member of this family is Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of easyGroup, whose holdings include easyJet, easyCruise, easyCinema and recently easyHotel. Other sources suggest the wife of painter Pablo Picasso has obtained her own little paradise buying a small island in the Ionian Sea. Two other islands are proceeding with tourism investment plans. One is Alatas in the Pagasitikos Gulf, located close to Volos in central Greece and covering a surface of 0.5 square kilometers. Sources say the islet has been leased for the next 50 years by United Five Development from Cyprus, which is expected to invest more than 50 million euros in building a major hotel unit of 900 beds with restaurants, recreation spaces, tennis courts and swimming pools. The other is Arkoudi island, north of Cephalonia. In the works is an investment of 100 million euros that will create 300 jobs. The project will cover 4 square kilometers comprising 140 super-luxury accommodation units, a marina, a thalassotherapy center and an 18-hole golf course as well as many other sports facilities. Entrepreneur Giorgos Stavropoulos is in charge of this tourism investment. A tiny island on sale but with clear title deeds is Smaragdonissi, just one nautical mile off the coast of Itea, in Central Greece. It covers just 10,000 square meters. The investor set to buy it will build a stone house of up to 500 square meters on it, or, in case of touristic development, a structure of some 2,000 square meters. This island is full of olive trees and bushes.Patroklos island next to Cape Sounion off the southern coast of Attica has attracted the most interest. The 4.2-square kilometer isle has come to the forefront as it can be turned into a proper tourism resort. Israelis, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, have been involved in its possible purchase from the family of lawyers who own it, although the deal has now definitely been abandoned and interest is turning to a foreign tourism group. Experts believe the price tag on the island is expected to exceed 100 million euros by far. Setting a price «The price of each island on sale depends on many factors,» explains Mike Vassiliou, president of the Greek branch of FIABCI, the International Real Estate Federation. «The closer an island is to the shore, the more its price rises as this facilitates access to it. No private island has infrastructures such as connection with utility networks (electricity, water, telephone) so it is important that it is close to shore,» he said. «Other factors are whether an island has water underground and the quality of its beaches and harbors so that it is accessible by boat.» But, he adds, «the main thing is for an island to have the certificates required so that it can be transferred.» These certificates take up to 12 months to be issued, since many authorities, including the ministries of defense, environment and culture, are involved. For an island to be sold, it must have a certificate by the Archaeological Agency confirming it does not have any antiquities and another from the Forest Authority saying it doesn’t hold any land characterized as forest. An island on sale also requires a certificate by the National Defense and Merchant Marine ministries (through the navy) that it has no national security commitments. This raises obstacles for the sale of islands near Turkey. There are also problems with the Ehinades islands in the Ionian Sea, as the area is protected by the Natura 2000 program of the European Union. More confusing is the inclusion of all Greek islands in the border regions. The state maintains the right to buy back any island if it wishes so, and if the island changes owners the state can buy it back it from the new owner within one year. Island-owners Most of the owners of islands on sale have inherited them from their ancestors, who in turn obtained them after the Ottoman occupation in the 19th century. The investors interested in buying any of those islands have to be particularly careful about the title deeds and the certificates required. Still, Vassiliou notes, most islands on sale come with complete sets of documents. Over the years several people have purchased a private island mostly for their own use. The most widely known case is Skorpios, bought by Aristotelis Onassis, who turned it into a hot spot for the international jet set. Today it is completely abandoned and reports recently suggested that Athina Onassis intended to sell it, although this was officially dismissed. Stavros Niarchos bought Spetsopoula, off Spetses, following the example of Onassis and Skorpios. Dolly Goulandri bought Revmatonissi near Paros, Petros Livanos bought the 12-square kilometer island of Dokos, and Panayiotis Tsakos bought Atokos island. The Valaoritis family owns an island that shares its name.