NEWS

Elliniko sell-off deal getting closer

Greece hopes to launch a tender within the next couple of weeks for investors to take on the redevelopment of the old Athens airport in Elliniko, State Minister Haris Paboukis told a parliamentary committee on Thursday.

The massive site is a prime piece of real state as it is located next to the sea, has good transport connections and facilities that were built for the Athens 2004 Olympics.

The previous government had planned to turn it into Europe?s largest metropolitan park but this scheme never materialized. The current administration has sought to lease the land to private investors in a bid to raise money that would help reduce Greece?s massive public debt.

The government appeared to be close to a deal with Qatar earlier this year and Paboukis had flown to meet with potential investors in February, pledging to steer the deal, estimated to be worth up to 7 billion euros, through a new fast-track privatization process.

However, the bid to sell the 170 acres of land, which used to house the city?s international airport until 2001, has since stalled.

Paboukis said the Qataris may still be the ones who take on the project after the tender is launched. ?We have not decided what the next step will be,? Paboukis told Parliament?s environment committee.

?It will be a different picture if have one interested party or many. We want to see if there are more interested investors than just the Qataris.?

Environmentalists and local politicians have expressed concern about a large amount of construction taking place in Elliniko and have pressured the government to retain as much greenery as possible.

The head of the state company managing the Elliniko site, Spiro Pollalis, told the parliamentary committee that this is not the correct approach to the issue.

?When you start talking about a park or about how many square meters of greenery there are per Athenian, you get on the wrong track,? he said. ?We have to view Elliniko as a development project that will include a park.?