Step made on Hellinikon project but long winding road ahead

Progress made on Hellinikon but long winding road ahead

Greece's eight billion euro Hellinikon complex overcame a key obstacle this week, raising hopes that construction of the project will take place sooner, rather than later.

In the run up to Greece's national elections in July, conservatives New Democracy campaigned heavily on the quick implementation of the project, saying that it would be kick started immediately to help create jobs.

In a meeting held on Wednesday, Greece's archaeologists agreed to drop a demand requiring their approval on all construction plans on the site at the former Athens international airport. Instead, archaeologists will only need to sign off on building site plans located close to ancient ruins.

A tussle over this demand had turned it into a make-or-break term for the investment.

Lamda Development, which leads a group of international investors on Hellinikon, had threatened to pull out of the deal if this obligation was not lifted, saying that it creates unnecessary delays and large amounts of red tape.

Following the decision from the archaeologists, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis, said the state will have completed its commitments on the project by the end of the year, allowing for construction work to start immediately after.

Government promises on when building will commence at Hellinikon have repeatedly come and gone since the privatisation deal was signed in 2014. New Democracy has provided a renewed sense of emergency to its execution but questions remain as to how quickly the recently elected government can move through the laybyrinth of state regulations and court decisions holding back the investment.

The deadline for the tender of the casino at Hellinikon has been set for September 30, according to the minister. Greek press reports that there are two companies interested in the casino: (1) Hard Rock Casino and Hotels and (2) Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment.

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