Protection of Antiquities
- Protection of Antiquities
Based on excavations that have been carried out in the past, a listed archaeological site exists on the property already since 1957 (Agios Kosmas). This listed area has been included in the international tender of 2011 and has been unquestionably taken into account in the plans submitted by the participants.
The site operated for many years as an airport, which was constantly expanding. Further on, Olympic facilities were build (courts, Canoe-Kayak sport facilities) while a number of other heavy infrastructure such as the TRAM depot and the METRO were constructed within the plot.
After the relocation of the airport and during the construction of the Olympic facilities there has been no new archaeological finding. In early 2015, the re-delimitation of the Agios Kosmas archaeological site took place.
Concluding, up until the conclusion of the tender no other delimitation of an archaeological zone was known to the participants, nor any new findings had been discovered since then.
As foreseen by the archaeological law, archaeologists will have full supervision of all works that will take place on the property. Furthermore, in June 2017 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between HELLINIKON S.A. and the Ministry of Culture. This MoU defines the procedure upon which possible new findings will be protected and highlighted, what measures will be taken to ensure their conservation, as well as all the necessary provisions for the long-term and constant supervision by the Archaeological Department – as is the case for all major projects.
Moreover, the Memorandum secures the funds for the necessary human resources, in collaboration with the relevant directorates of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, thus enabling them to immediately respond to any research or excavation needs that may arise during the course of the implementation of the project.
- Declaration of an archaeological site
The declaration of an archaeological site has the following consequences for a declared area:
To start with all activities are not allowed; they are allowed only after a positive recommendation from the competent archaeological agencies and a decision of the Minister of Culture.
The procedure for granting any permit, includes: a) the obligation to inform the archaeological agency prior to the commencement of any work or project, b) the submission of a dossier, c) the conducting of a possible autopsy, d) an opinion from the competent archaeological council, e) the possible modification of the study or the implementation of other terms, f) monitoring of any work by the archaeological agency, etc.
The above may cause considerable delays in the permit process and can be the cause of major obstacles to the implementation of the project.
Consequently, the declaration of an archaeological site in a property, directly affects its prospects. In any transfer, lease, assignment of rights and generally any contract relating to immovable property within an archaeological site, there are consequences and implications, even if no antiquities are found. The consequences are even more obvious in an undeveloped land area, such as the land of Hellinikon.
The process may become cumbersome, since third parties, for any legitimate or other ulterior motive, even for their own benefit without justification, have the right of appeal against any act or decision which, in their view, degrades or damages, directly or indirectly, the archaeological site. This process will certainly cause serious delays for every case of appeal.
All of the above result to changing unfavorably the status of the property as compared to the agreed one and alter eventually the value of the plot, which has been awarded through the international tender; the area is under the total control of the Ministry of Culture, not only upon completion and initial operation, but also throughout the duration of this declaration.
Most of the above apply not only to the properties that are located within an archaeological site but also to those that are “adjacent”. The term “adjacent” is interpreted by the ministry of culture on a case-by-case basis, considering either the proximity or the visual contact of the licensed work or activity with the archaeological site. Thus, the declaration of an archaeological site introduces a significant and unpredictable risk for all areas adjacent to the site.
Some practical examples:
Under the normal process (no declaration of an archeological site), the archaeological directorate intervenes only if excavations on a plot of land uncover antiquities.
In an area declared as archaeological site:
- The owner of a house must get approval from the archaeological directorate, even for specific garden projects no matter how many years have passed by, after the declaration.
- The owner of a store e.g. restaurant, café, must receive the approval of the archaeological service in order to operate.
- Any building requiring renovation or restoration (e.g. in order to paint its facades or its outer walls) must be granted approval by the archaeological agency.
- In all cases of innovative architectural designs (e.g. in high-rise buildings, landmarks), the permits are in risk of being challenged by anyone who thinks that the area of archeological interest is affected (i.e. height, volume, shape, color, etc.). This person has the right to appeal and cause suspension of works for an undefined period of time, with absolutely “subjective” allegations.
- Process followed in similar projects
In all major projects (e.g. Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center- SNFCC, Metro, Attiki Odos, Airport, etc.), when antiquities were discovered, they were fully protected by law. To that extend no large scale project’s sites had been proactively declared as an archaeological area.
- Status difference:
In view of the above, it is evident that:
- The declaration of a site as archaeological one does not provide any additional protection to any possible new findings that is not already provided by the Memorandum and the existing archaeological law. In the case of a declared site the major difference constitutes the introduction of tremendous bureaucratic procedures, which places a financial burden on the owners of the properties (plot or buildings) and multiplies the difficulties with all the relevant delays and consequences.
- The MoU make provisions for and requires the presence of the Archaeological Agency at all times and ensures the full protection, conservation and promotion of any new findings, while at the same time guarantees a stable environment, which is a prerequisite for attracting any new investment.
It should be noted that any new findings, which will in any case be protected and highlighted according to all the above mentioned provisions, will become a point of attraction for visitors and will definitely promote the project. This was the case for any other projects that combine cultural findings and modern constructions.
However, to achieve this, works must begin and excavations must be carried out in order to bring to light any findings that now remain underground.