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Politics

Greek Minister Backs Corfu Tourism Project Blasted by Wealthy Detractor

ATHENS – Reacting to scathing criticism from a British manufacturer who has a holiday villa on Corfu and doesn't want a 120-million euro ($140.87 million) resort built nearby, Greek Development and Investment Minister Adonis Georgiadis said it's not to attract “mass tourism.”

He was responding to Nathaniel Rothschild,  CEO of Volex, who said he is a Grecophile with a distinguished Greek step-grandfather and an almost 50-year association with Greece.

Rothschild was earlier criticized in Kathimerini, a paper which generally supports the ruling New Democracy government, after he said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was “foolish” to support the project.

The developmenthad been given the green light in 2018 by the former ruling anti-business Radical Left SYRIZA after it was held up for years, Mitsotakis now wanting to lure foreign investors to help accelerate recovery of an economy brought down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The luxury resort catering to the rich was launched in July and Georgiadis said that, “It's a good thing that there is dialogue. The idea that the investment is for mass tourism, with 90 rooms and villas and the lowest construction in all of Corfu, ie 7% is completely wrong,” he tweeted.

New York-based investment fund NCH Capital, which acquired ecured the 49-hectare site (121.08-acre) site in 2016, plans to build a 90-room five-star hotel, luxury residences and a marina.

In his opinion piece, Rothschild said the Kassiopi Project, which is situated in pine-forested Erimitis, “will …never work.”

“The regional infrastructure is not in place to cater for mass tourism in northeast Corfu and Erimitis is too far from the island’s small airport. Even the main arterial road to the north is single track in places. The developers have promised that the hotel will remain open all year around. No credible hotel operator will agree to this” he explained.

He said the government should take advantage of its success in halting the spread of COVID-19 to move away from “blanket support of mass tourism towards a greener and sustainable model that is infinitely better suited to the post COVID-19 era.”

That came after a piece in Kathimerini by Ilias Bellos who wrote that Rothschild's tweet was “rather surprising and definitely unseemly,” and had set off criticism of the manufacturer.

It also created a kind of cultural tug o' war between wealthy rivals, taking on the Mitsotakis family and with both sides generally favoring investments, the view of Rothschild's critics being it was okay unless in his backyard, which he rejected.

“Being interested in something that will be built in the vicinity of a property of his own is expected and justified. Rothschild has a holiday villa just 2.9 kilometers from the privatized plot,” the Kathimerini piece noted.

However, calling a Prime Minister 'foolish' in public because he champions an investment that five other governments before him have also supported and the country’s top courts have approved with repeated decisions, is out of the usual order for criticism, especially by people with his social and financial status,” the story added.

“Environmentally Erimitis is a total disaster, it takes Corfu back to 1970s style mass development and adds zero to the local economy. Mitsotakis is foolish to champion this project,” Rothschild's tweet said.

The story earlier also said that, “Interestingly Nat Rothschild is not the only major businessman to feel that his property and the privacy of his villa will be damaged by the development.

“At least three more wealthy individuals with land in the area are seen to have campaigned for canceling the investment in a hotel complex and a few dozen holiday homes,” it added.

That was said to include – unnamed – a top official of a major investment fund positioned in Greek assets, the head of a German group who even sent a letter to the Development Ministry for canceling the Kassiopi project, and another investor with a senior office in a Greek-listed firm.

Rothschild's retort said, “My criticism of the Erimitis development is not political, nor does it have anything to do with self-interest. It is based on trying to achieve what is best for the local people of this pristine area, many of whom I grew up alongside.”

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