ATHENS – A consortium of developers trying to turn the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport site on the capital city’s coast into an $8 billion high-end area of shops, commercial space, residences, a casino, marina and park say the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA has made it it nearly impossible by dragging its feet on approvals.
That contradicts Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ crowing he wants more foreign investors and that he’s making it easier for them to develop in Greece, notoriously unfriendly to business and with a culture of corruption including officials seeking bribes for permits.
Hard-core elements in SYRIZA also don’t want any foreign investors in Greece despite its crushing economic crisis and are trying to stop them at any cost. Hellenikon has been years in delays with the current government putting up other obstacles, such as declaring part of the site protected for archaeological reasons and another part declared woodland even though there’s no trees there.
The developers, the Greece-based Lambda Development which built the unlawful Athens Mall and got away with it, as well as China’s Fosun and an Abu Dhabi partner have been continually frustrated and unable to start work.
The consortium, despite government assertions it will get the necessary requirement to go ahead – and as international creditors are pushing for more privatizations, said it is facing what it called a “practice of continually placing obstacles” before the investment.
These obstacles, Lamda officials told the business newspaper Naftemporiki, “… upset the necessary climate of trust, and at the same time, are intensely troubling in terms of implementing the Helleniko investment.”
The company said archaeological finds and places of interest were clearly delineated and presented to nine candidate investors when an international competition was declared in 2011.
Lambda said its overall planning took into account the archaeological maps as presented in 2011 but that the country’s archaeological council ignored that and arbitrarily declared new areas that should be protected. The government put out a statement putting the onus on the developers and called on the group “to enter into a good-faith cooperation, which is the only way to solve all problems, as has been demonstrated,” Greek media said.
The Hellenikon fiasco led the financial news agency Bloomberg to report that another key project, a gold mine near Thessaloniki in northern Greece, is also being undercut by the government.
“Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold Corp. announced that it’s taking legal action against Greece for its failure to issue the company permits needed for its Skouries project,” Bloomberg reported, while also citing a top financial consultant.
“In an otherwise positive economic environment, this is bad news for investors,” said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director of Eurasia Group, an advisory firm. “It again raises questions about the competence and objectives of this Syriza government.”