Elliniko investment on the line as archaeological council confers


Concerns resurfaced about the outlook for a large investment on the site of the capital’s old international airport at Elliniko, southern Athens, on Tuesday as members of the Culture Ministry’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) convened until late into the night to determine whether any parts of the plot should be declared of archaeological interest, a decision that could scupper the project.

Members of KAS convened to discuss a plan for the development of the plot, which was conceded to a consortium of Greek, Chinese and Arab investors last year, and an independent study into the environmental impact of the project.

The council decided to discuss the matter even though an agreement between the Culture Ministry and Elliniko SA, the company set up to manage the project, has been approved by the Government Council for Economic Policy (KYSOIP). 

It remained unclear late on Tuesday night whether KAS would approve those agreements or deem that parts of the plot require protection due to potential archaeological interest.

Nevertheless, market experts indicated on Tuesday that a decision by KAS to declare the plot of archaeological interest could be the beginning of the end of the investment, a large project launched under previous administrations but dogged by obstacles and delays.

If KAS insists the plot is of archaeological interest, the investors may be forced to seek dozens of permits for each section of construction they wish to undertake on the site, experts say. 

The latest hiccup follows an upset in May when the Piraeus forestry authority deemed that a 3.7-hectare portion of the Elliniko plot is woodland and as such cannot be built on.

An objection was lodged against the forestry authority’s decision and a final ruling is expected later this month.

If all the current obstacles are surpassed, the state hopes that investors will pay the first tranche of the 915-million-euro investment, a sum of around 300 million euros.

Although Tsipras’s leftist-led SYRIZA party had originally opposed construction at Elliniko, his government is now keen to push forward with the project which, investors say, will create thousands of jobs and draw some 8 billion euros in revenue.