ATHENS – An expert committee appointed by the Greek government said the long-delayed 8-billion euro ($9.43 billion) development of the old Hellenikon International Airport site should begin immediately despite fierce resistance within the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA.
The project slated for the site was supposed to become the largest urban park in Europe before Greece’s crushing economic crisis led to proposals for high-end commercial development, including luxury homes, offices, yacht docking and a casino among other lucrative ideas.
While Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is eagerly wooing foreign investors, hardcore elements in his party don’t want any foreign business in Greece based on their far-left philosophies and want Hellenikon stopped in its tracks.
The delays have created a kind of chilling effect among foreign investors fearful of being blocked as well, along with an avalanche of tax hikes imposed by Tsipras as he keeps reneging on anti-austerity promises.
Tsipras also is pushing privatizations he said he would bar, conceding to the country’s international creditors who want state assets sold off as fast as possible after frequent foot-dragging by governments during a more than 7 ½-year long economic crisis.
The recommendation by the government’s own panel said the project should start based on a development plan submitted by Greece’s Lamda Development, which is a partnership with China’s Fosun and an Abu Dhabi company.
That contradicts objections from SYRIZA ministers who said the plan wasn’t ready and should be revised as more roadblocks keep being put up by government agencies despite Tsipras’ promises he wants to fast-track big deals.
The panel said the development should proceed “without further delays and indecisiveness over the plan,” referring to SYRIZA and its junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL), the business newspaper Naftemporiki reported.
The recommendation noted that the plan could be improved, particularly concerning traffic management in areas around the project on Athens’ coast, revisions to the seaport scheme and better public access to a far smaller park.