More obstacles lying before the Hellinikon investment project have been lifted with two decisions by the influential Central Archaeological Council (KAS) and the Central Council of Contemporary Monuments. On Wednesday and Thursday, the councils approved a change in a SYRIZA ministerial decision thus loosening the previous strict licensing procedures.
Specifically, the unanimous decision scraps the requirement that every study and construction plan at the Hellinikon property development project also receive approval by the culture ministry’s archaeological service. The consortium that won an international tender to develop the site, with a budget estimated at near eight billion euros in the initial phase, heatedly protested, saying the condition added a significant layer of “red tape” to the privatization.
The Central Council of Contemporary Monuments on Thursday gave the go-ahead to the Hellinikon project, joining the Central Archaeological Council in a similar decision on Wednesday about earlier antiquities in the area.
The decision maintains the provisions for protection of the antiquities found at the site, mostly ancient grave sites, and within a distance of 20 meters.
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said the two council decisions, both taken unanimously, will be included in an act on Friday that will resolve the outstanding issues on the project of the former airport land.
“The presence and protection of cultural goods, both ancient and contemporary, found within the area of Hellinikon, contribute significant added value to this emblematic investment,” she said.
“At the same time, through the investment program, funds are being guaranteed for the conservation, show and promotion of this wealth of monuments which is turned over to the public,” she added.
“The Ministry of Culture guarantees the protection of Greek cultural heritage and also supports its developmental role to the benefit of the country and its people,” she noted.
The two councils are affiliated with the ministry as consulting bodies.
The coastal southeast Athens site for decades hosted Athens’ commercial airport, along with an airbase, which at one point included a USAF perimeter, along with other auxiliary facilities. Several disused 2004 Athens Olympics facilities also dot the landscape today. Most of the site today is covered by concrete, abandoned terminals and arid, weed-covered fields.
The property development includes the coastal Aghios Kosmas sports park.
The current Mitsotakis government has invested heavily in getting the privatization off the ground, repeatedly referring to the Helleniko investment in the campaign period before the July 7 election and liberally bashing the previous leftist government for its alleged foot-dragging.
Institutional creditors and would-be foreign investors are also keenly watching how the project will materialize. [ naftemporitki, amna]