The first tourist monopoly in the Cyclades and the real estate party of strategic speculation of public limited companies subsidized by development laws from the money of Greek and European taxpayers • The first of the three major tourist investment plans included in the Strategic Investments is in the process of approval
We heard them for the first time after the signing of the 1st Memorandum. They were enacted in 2010 and started to be implemented in the period 2011-2012. We have remembered them more vividly for the last three years. They christened them tourism “strategic investments”, which would give breath and impetus to the Greek economy at national and local level with immediate results in the intensity of employment. Usually, their presentation was accompanied by spectacular words: productive reconstruction, promotion of natural and cultural environment, balanced, sustainable and fair development, green development and … green horses.
In fact, it is often a well-established real estate strategy party of corporations, subsidized by development laws with money from Greek and European taxpayers, with pharaonic plans bypassing a la carte urban and environmental legislation in favor of the private sector. The party serves a cocktail of tax breaks, government grants and photographic laws that deal with e.g. the coastal zone exclusively as a financial resource and not as a common good.
If there is one place in Greece that characteristically captures what has happened and especially what can follow, this is Ios, the first island where the tourist exploitation passes en masse, from the hands of the inhabitants, almost monopolistically into the hands of societes anonymes.
The Mitsotakis government with a series of legislations, such as the new spatial and urban planning law (Law 4759/2020) and the law on strategic investments (Law 4864/2021), left spatial and urban planning in the hands of private investors, after allows them to draw up individual spatial and urban plans in the areas of their real estate – obviously in their interests.
Taking a step further, with the provisions of article 7 of the recent Law 4864 / 2-12-2021, the government reaches the point of imposing even compulsory expropriations of real estate of other individuals, in order to serve the auxiliary and accompanying projects of the strategic investments! Here, of course, we are talking about five-star luxury and affordable budget hotels and accommodation and not about necessary public works where forced expropriation would make sense. How does all this relate to “the … Maldives of the Aegean”?
This is how they describe their … vision for Ios, the former Wall Street stockbroker Ag. Michalopoulos and his wife, Vasiliki Petridou. The two of them are founders and in essence today they manage “105 SA”, “Nero SA” with proxies (which we located in GEMI). and “Lucas SA”, three -connected companies-.
During the last 12 years, they have bought huge areas on the island, approaching 30% of its total area. The purchases were initially started by the offshore company Sharivan Limited with 99 purchase contracts. The lands were then transferred to the companies of common interest that were created and made other purchases (at least 171 contracts until the end of 2018), the companies “105 SA,” Nero SA “,” Lucas A.E. “, and in addition to “Lugia SA” for smaller markets. From the wallings of the areas, but also from the toponyms of the areas where the companies’ properties are located, it appears that these companies control the land areas around 18 beaches of Ios.
On July 17, 2020, the Interministerial Committee for Strategic Investments (DESE), consisting of the Ministers of Development and Investment, Adonis Georgiadis, Economy, Christos Staikouras, then Environment and Energy, Kostis Hatzidakis, Tourism Ch. three companies of the Michalopoulos – Petridou couple in the strategic investments of national importance.
The competent ministers insisted on the inclusion of the investment plans of these companies in the law of strategic investments, despite the environmental disasters, ascertained by the reports of the Public Administration inspectors, that these companies had caused in the environment of Ios. The competent ministers closed their eyes to the repeated publications of “Ef.Syn.” and in the remarks of the unions “Association of Veterans” and “Save Ios”, which in their letter had warned about the illegal actions of these companies.
Despite the questions that had been submitted to the Parliament on the same issue, many deputies proceeded, among whom was the current representative of the government, the Deputy Minister of Environment, George Amyras. The issue was returned to Parliament on April 5, with a question submitted by the SYRIZA MP, Nikos Syrmalenios, who stated that “in Ios for the past 15 years a great environmental disaster is gradually taking place by the businessman Mr. Michalopoulos who has bought about 30% of the island”.
He himself presented a document of the Decentralized Administration of the Aegean, which mentions heaps of violations and fines that have been charged, as well as the memos of the “Save Ios” union which, as he said, document the destruction by the continuing illegal and arbitrary acts of the companies. and which are co-signed by a number of environmental organizations: illegal excavations and leveling, illegal road construction, extensive damage to the natural environment, destruction of streams, wetlands and traditional paths, blocking the access of bathers and holidaymakers, deterioration of the natural environment.
Indicative of the above is the imposition of fines and the recent sentencing to 16 months in prison, of the joint representative and CEO of the three companies, by the Three-Member Misdemeanor Court of Naxos, for environmental damage in the area of Koumbara-Diakofto in the company’s properties “A. Ε »». The decision, which is at the disposal of “Ef.Syn.”, Speaks of violation of a number of environmental conditions, of arbitrary work without a permit, of alteration of the morphology of the seashore and the beach, of the degradation of the environment of the area, etc.
THE Bitter Water
The last act of the Ios drama revolves around the pristine Pikri Nero beach. The creation of a huge five-star Boutique Hotel and holiday homes on a 938-acre property of the company “Nero SA” has been foreseen as a strategic investment in this area of special natural beauty. “Only the settlement that Mr. Michalopoulos wants to build in Pikri Nero corresponds to an area of all the settlements that exist today in Ios”, pointed out to the Parliament the SYRIZA Cyclades MP, Nikos Syrmalenios.
Indeed, the study of the Special Plan for Spatial Development of Strategic Investment (ESCHASE) for the specific investment has already been prepared by the investor and submitted to the Ministry of Environment for approval. It is noted that, among other things, part of the property belongs to an approved Wildlife Refuge (Government Gazette B ‘600/1976) and in the entire coastal part is endemic the rare natural resource of the island, the Mediterranean Monk seal.
There is no road access in the area. There was only one old traditional path, narrow and with many uphills and downhills, suitable only for animals and walkers and the land access to the beach was through a stream. Until today, swimmers visit the beach only by boats or other boats. The company, in order to have access to its property, has opened a dirt road and is said to have destroyed parts of the traditional path and the stream that ended at the northern beach of Klima.
In the context of the public consultation for the above study ESCHASE, the association “Association of Veterans”, many environmental organizations, the association “Save Ios” with a technical report of its president, Dimitris Vagianos, professor of Finance at LSE, as well as the Hellenic Society Of Environment and Culture (ELET) of the late Costas Karras, submitted detailed memoranda of objection against this study, but also against the decision of the inter-ministerial committee for inclusion in the strategic investments of the three tourism investment plans in Ios, requesting its removal.
NATIONAL … INTEREST
Responding to the Parliament, the Deputy Minister of Environment, G. Amyras, stated for Pikri Nero that “the special spatial plan is under evaluation. It will be judged objectively, based on the existing National and Union Law and of course we will intervene “. The fact remains that the strategic occupation of Ios by public limited companies for the purpose of profit at the expense of the environment, should not be a strategic choice of the government.
The inclusion of investment plans in strategic investments, based on an unacceptable Greek legislation, was obtained without the consent of the local community and the municipal authority in violation of any concept of European Law, while ignoring both the special decree for the protection of the environment of Ios (P. .D. 587 FEK D ‘/ 1981), which is valid for all ordinary citizens on the island, as well as the proposals of spatial study of NTUA for Ios which was prepared on the initiative of the municipality.
What reasons of national expediency allow the concession for private exploitation of most of the beaches of a small island? Maybe they are the ones who block the access of the citizens to the beach Kalo Livadi in Mykonos.
Probably the same ones that lead to the recently announced “exploitation” of the Athenian Riviera, the entire coastline of the Saronic Gulf, from Piraeus as to Sounio, with urgent procedures, from the HRDH fund. The beaches belong to their buyers.
The gifts of the investors to the Authorities
It is also interesting the fact that, as stated in the ESHASE study for Bitter Water (IV Annex), the buyers of Ios, all these years have made significant donations to the security forces of the island. We read about a donation of a patrol to the Ios Police Department and a 9 meter Scorpion speedboat at the Port Authority, worth 75,000 euros in 2012, for a donation of office equipment to the Ios Police Department in 2015 worth 3,800 euros, to cover the cost of housing police officers from 2018 to 20 total value 10,000 euros etc.
Obviously, there is no illegality in these donations. However, when real estate contractors give gifts to auditors in the area of their business, they obviously raise questions and impress. Besides, the existing hotels of the same business interests have from time to time been hosted by vice-governors and deputies up to ministers, while in one of them the spectacular wedding of the island’s police commander for years has taken place. Coincidences.
165 MILLION EUROS HAVE ALREADY BEEN APPROVED
Of the total of eight strategic investments, totaling 1.1 billion euros, approved in 2020, three concern Ios and the same investors. It’s about:
. Complex tourist accommodation in the area of Koumbara-Diakofto and establishment of a 5-star hotel and tourist residences in the wider area, which will be implemented by the company “105 SA”, at a cost of 43 million euros.
. Construction of a luxury 5-star boutique hotel and holiday homes in the area of Pikri Nero (4.5 km from Chora) by the company “Nero SA”, with an investment cost of 45 million euros.
■ Two complex tourist accommodation and tourist residences in a large area in the southwest of the island by the company “Lucas A.E.”, with an investment cost of 77 million euros.