By T. Igoumenidi
Another deadline associated with the delayed Helleniko property development project appears to have fallen by the wayside, with the first 300-million-euro installment of a would-be casino concession license for the site bumped to the last quarter of 2019.
The date is cited in the introductory report for the draft 2019 Greek budget, which revises the previous timetable, as the installment was to have been disbursed into state coffers in the first quarter of 2019.
Essentially, the development foretells yet another delay for one of Greece’s most important privatizations, billed as one of the most important real estate development projects in Europe.
The seven-billion-euro Helleniko project has been plagued by numerous legal challenges as well as proverbial modern Greek bureaucratic foot-dragging and “red tape”. Among others, a regional forestry service director used 1930s-era photographs of foliage to designate a large swath of the one-time commercial airport site as land for reforestation; the central archaeological service wanted to zone off other areas, mostly barren fields, as entailing “archaeological interest”, while another culture ministry service declared a handful of disused airport facilities, such as hangars, as preserved architectural structures.
Ruling SYRIZA party, when it was in the opposition, was also a virulent opponent of the privatization, which is specifically cited in memorandum bailout obligations.
In an announcement on Monday, Athens-based Lamda Development, the lead partner in the international consortium that has won the tender to exploit the site, dismissed recent reports that “bulldozers will soon begin work” at the coastal southeast Athens site.
“Regarding repeated public statements that Lamda Development could immediately begin the development of the Hellinikon project, and in order not to create misperceptions to the general public, the following should be clarified:
These statements do not take into consideration neither the general legislation nor the contractual preconditions, as they arise from the contracts between the Company and the State. The development of the Hellinikon project will commence with the fulfillment of all contractual pending terms, which are a prerequisite for the transfer of the “Hellinikon S.A.” shares from the State to the Company.”