Elliniko project gets kiss of life

State Au­dit Coun­cil al­lows for the ma­jor de­vel­op­ment project to start, re­ject­ing ear­lier decision to block it

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY EVA KARAMANOLI & VAN­GE­LIS MANDRAVELIS

The Sixth Sec­tion of the State Au­dit Coun­cil yes­ter­day breathed new life into a project to de­velop the plot of Athens’s old in­ter­na­tional air­port at Elliniko, deem­ing that the ten­der process which saw a con­sor­tium led by Lamda De­vel­op­ment land the con­tract was le­git­i­mate.

The court ef­fec­tively up­held the ap­peal by state sell-off fund TAIPED against the ver­dict of another sec­tion of the coun­cil in Septem­ber which had frozen the process for the sale of 100 per­cent of the shares of spe­cial pur­pose company Ellinikon SA.

The ver­dict deemed that the in­vest­ment should pro­ceed as the draft con­tract be­tween TAIPED and Lamda De­vel­op­ment for the sale of the company was con­sid­ered to be le­gal. The orig­i­nal decision had sug­gested that the ten­der should not have been re­stricted to com­pa­nies bid­ding for the con­tract, and ex­tended to in­di­vid­u­als in­stead, but the Sixth Sec­tion re­jected that.

TAIPED greeted yes­ter­day’s ver­dict with re­lief. Fol­low­ing the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s re­cent decision to sub­ject gas grid op­er­a­tor DESFA’s trans­fer to Socar to close scru­tiny, the last thing the fund’s man­age­ment needed was to hear that the big­gest pri­va­ti­za­tion project it has at­tempted would fall through.

Mar­ket pro­fes­sion­als noted a few days ago that if the Elliniko de­vel­op­ment project were to be can­celed, it would be on po­lit­i­cal rather than le­gal cri­te­ria. They said the rea­son cited for the orig­i­nal re­jec­tion of the ten­der’s le­git­i­macy claim was “at least po­lit­i­cal, if noth­ing else.” That ap­pears to be the case be­cause no sin­gle per­son could have guar­an­teed the in­vest­ment for a pe­riod of 99 years and amount­ing to sev­eral bil­lion euros.

The de­vel­op­ment of the Elliniko plot is seen as a ma­jor project that could help growth in the At­tica re­gion, boost em­ploy­ment and tourism, and add to the mod­ern character of Athens, as well as the coun­try’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. A re­cent survey showed the project could lead to the cre­ation of up to 70,000 jobs in the long term.

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