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Decision by new culture ministry com’t dissolve major obstacle to Helleniko privatization

Another obstacle lying before the iconic Helleniko privatization went by the wayside on Wednesday, as a new composition of members of the influential Central Archaeological Council (KAS) unanimously approved of a change in a ministerial decision – taken by the previous SYRIZA government – loosening previously Draconian licensing procedures.  

Specifically, the unanimous decision scraps the requirement that every study and construction plan at the Helleniko property development project also receive approval by the culture ministry’s archaeological service. The consortium that won an international tender to develop the site, with a budget estimated at near eight billion euros in the initial phase, heatedly protested, saying the condition added a significant layer of “red tape” to the privatization.

The coastal southeast Athens site for decades hosted Athens’ commercial airport, along with an airbase, which at one point included a USAF perimeter, along with other auxiliary facilities. Several disused 2004 Athens Olympics facilities also dot the landscape today. Most of the site today is covered by concrete, abandoned terminals and arid, weed-covered fields.

Conversely, the decision maintains the provisions for protection of the antiquities found at the site, mostly ancient grave sites, and within a distance of 20 meters.

The property development includes the coastal Aghios Kosmas sports park.

The current Mitsotakis government has invested heavily in getting the privatization off the ground, repeatedly referring to the Helleniko investment in the campaign period before the July 7 election and liberally bashing the previous leftist government for its alleged foot-dragging.

Institutional creditors and would-be foreign investors are also keenly watching how the project will materialize.