ATHENS – The long-delayed development of the old Hellenikon International Airport site that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is counting on – at the same time elements in his Radical Left SYRIZA want to stop it – now faces the challenge of a team lawsuit.
The $8 billion project by a consortium of Greek, Chinese and Abu Dhabi companies has faced repeated obstacles from the government, central archaeological council KAS, environmentalists and other opponents.
Now perhaps the most difficult comes with the suit brought by more than 500 plaintiffs and two environmental advocacy groups, an effort aimed to stop the project, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said, the linchpin for privatizations that Tsipras is trying to speed after swearing to stop them.
It has developed a few month after the country’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, upheld the legality of a Presidential decree opening the way for the project to begin – although it hasn’t and now won’t until the suit is cleared up.
The developers had earlier warned the whole plan was in jeopardy if delays kept occurring to turn the abandoned runways and space overrun with weeds and old buildings into a series of high-rise buildings, luxury resort spaces, a marina and casino and a small park for what was once envisioned as the largest urban green space in Europe.
That changed when the country’s economic crisis led successive governments to shelve the park idea in favor of commercial development. Now the high court will have to hear the new suit which argues that the Presidential decree is unconstitutional and unlawful pertaining to a 24.3 hectare (60 acre) protected area to be reforested.
The site, besides being the country’s international airport, contained buildings hosting state services and some 2004 Olympic venues now also abandoned and forgotten and is a forlorn picture of arid fields and decrepit buildings.