ATHENS Greece will soon define the boundaries of a site where investors plan to spend 7.9 billion euros ($8.5 billion) to build one of Europe’s biggest coastal resorts, the culture ministry said, in a sign the delayed project may eventually go ahead.
A consortium of Abu Dhabi and Chinese investors (0656.HK), led by Greece’s Lamda (LMDr.AT), signed a deal in 2014 for the 99-year lease of a sprawling area at the former Athens airport in Hellenikon and the development of a coastal town.
Greek lawmakers cleared the investment last summer and investors hoped excavation works could start in the first half of this year.
But the investment, a key part of Greece’s privatization drive under its latest international bailout, has been fraught with delays as the authorities dragged their feet in demarcating the area and providing the necessary licensing.
A group of 18 lawmakers from the ruling leftist Syriza party last month asked the culture ministry to put the plan under the supervision of its archaeological services to avert possible litigation and compensation demands from the consortium should antiquities be found at the site.
In a letter of reply published on the parliament’s website late on Wednesday, the ministry said it was at the final stage of determining the boundaries of the site.
But it added all planned works would be closely monitored by Greek archaeological experts before any permit was given and said construction work would stop for as long as needed for the authorities to evaluate, move or showcase any antiquities that may be found.
The former Athens airport in Hellenikon closed in 2001 and cash-strapped Greece has been trying for more than a decade to turn 170 acres of coastal land into something that can produce jobs and boost the economy.
($1 = 0.9276 euros)
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Mark Potter)