Greece’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, has green-lighted the temporary removal and repositioning of the antiquities unearthed during excavation work for the metro in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
The antiquities were discovered at the under-construction Venizelou metro station and debate over how to proceed has raised considerable controversy among archaeologists, local authorities and Attiko Metro, the company managing the project.
With a paper-thin margin of 13 out of 25 votes among the panel members, the court rejected all three appeals filed by scientists, professionals and nongovernmental groups against the Culture Ministry decision to move the antiquities to storage outside the city and place them back after the station’s construction.
The appeals were submitted in 2020 by the Hellenic Society of Environment and Culture together with the Christian Archaeological Society, by 26 Thessaloniki citizens, and by the Association of Greek Archaeologists together with another 10 institutions and Thessaloniki citizens.
The applicants requested the annulment of the decision of the Culture Ministry in 2020, which accepted the opinion of the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) and approved the proposal of Attiko Metro for the temporary removal of the antiquities and the relocation of 92% of them inside the station.
However, in its ruling on Tuesday, the court accepted the argument put forth by KAS that the temporary relocation of the antiquities is necessary in order to ensure their integrity and protection during the works as well as to prevent a risk to human health during the execution of the project.
The project is already many years behind schedule due to the discoveries.
The construction of the Thessaloniki metro was commissioned in 2003 and was initially expected to be completed by 2012.