It is the Turn of Archaeologists to Put Hurdles on Hellinikon Investment

In the past few days, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras parades in companies and speaks of investments, growth and successful business practices. It is obvious that the premier is trying to change his rhetoric in order to appear friendly to the private initiative and attract foreign investors, even though his Marxist ideology forbids that.

This is why his investment-friendly statements sound rehearsed, and the Freudian slip that he made when he said that “profit should not be the aim of a business”, he tried to correct right away by saying that an entrepreneur should aim at other things as well, but without being able to elaborate on the “other things”.

But while the prime minister tries to appear as shedding the communist skin of his youth and pretends he understands the concept of free economy, or simply how the world works, his constituents seem to oppose all that talk about investments, growth, entrepreneurship and all the bad capitalist words. And proof of that is the latest hurdle on the biggest investment to take place in crisis-stricken Greece. An investment that would create dozens of thousands of jobs and bring millions of euros in state revenues. Furthermore, it would bring millions of euros from tourism on a regular, year-round basis.

The Hellinikon project, the vast plot of the former Athens airport in the seaside area of Hellinikon that is to be transformed into a seaside town with a metropolitan park, luxurious apartments, casino, children’s playgrounds, sports fields and so on, is a project that has become the target of leftists.

The project, work of the Lamda Development international consortium, has been approved by the Government Council for Economic Policy (KYSOIP). It has been agreed that the concession will bring 915 million euros to the Greek State.

Since the agreement, leftist groups fought against the privatization on the grounds that it should become a metropolitan park. The opponents of the project put legal hurdles, such as the upset in May when the Piraeus forestry authority deemed that 3.7 hectares of land in Hellinikon are woodland, therefore they cannot be built on.

In June, the Ministry of Culture put another obstacle on the Hellinikon development, claiming that three buildings of the former airport qualify as modern monuments that should be preserved. However, the buildings in question had been radically transformed in the 1960s and were no longer in their original shape when the airport was abandoned.

Now it is the archaeologists’ turn to fight against the site development on the grounds that parts of the plot are of archaeological interest. The Athens airport moved to Spata in 2001. Since then, the Ministry of Culture, the archaeologists, the forestry agencies never bothered with the site. New constructions were built on the plot to be used for the 2004 Athens Olympics, such as the baseball field and other sports facilities. Again, the Ministry of Culture and the Piraeus Forestry did not make any claims on the site.

Yet, their hypocrisy became evident when the abandoned, derelict airport was about to be privatized. All the above, along with self-professed environmentalists and “concerned” citizens of the municipality, rebelled against the development. Now it is the turn of archaeologists to fight against the Minister of Culture decision to not declare the area as having “archaeological interest”.

On Tuesday, members of the Culture Ministry’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) convened until late into the night to determine whether any parts of the plot should be declared of archaeological interest, a decision that could delay the project. No conclusion was reached and KAS will convene again.

The opponents of the project demonstrated during the KAS meeting and were allowed to enter the room to present their positions.

Of course, the “archaeological interest”, is not the issue here. The issue is leftist dogma that is against private initiative, especially when state property is involved. It is an issue of reactionary, regressive people who say no to anything new, anything that has to do with progress, anything that does not belong to their imaginary socialist paradise, anything that is not included in the Marxist books they read in their student years.

The particular archaeologists couldn’t care less about the possibility of antiquities being buried in the area. Otherwise they would have done something about it in the interim. The complete lack of interest on the continuation of the Amphipolis tomb research on their part is evidence that their motives to fight the Hellinikon project are other.

If indeed the members of KAS succumb to this inane pressure and decide that the plot is of archaeological interest, then Lamda Development will have to get countless special permits for each part of the plot in order to get the project started.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Minister of Environment and Energy Giorgos Stathakis was saying on television that the Hellinikon project will continue as planned with no hurdles, regardless of the KAS decision. Another example of an administration that is disconnected from its constituents, from the economic problems, from reality.