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Greece moves to remove investment obstacles from archaeological, forestry services

A bill recently submitted to parliament by Energy and Environment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis includes two regulations, which are seen as moving in the right direction. If they are implemented (a long-term problem of the Greek state), they will then be able to significantly accelerate licensing procedures.

An increase in the pace of investment permits being issued is expected to play a key role in freeing up the necessary capital needed to help the economy return to growth as soon as possible. This has been communicated both by those directly concerned, ie private investors, and by other social partners, and the government has realized this since it took over the reins of the country.

Today, however, and while the country is facing another recession, it seems that acceleration efforts are focusing on legislative work as well. A bill recently submitted to parliament by Energy and Environment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis includes two regulations, which are seen as moving in the right direction. If they are implemented (a long-term problem of the Greek state), they will then be able to significantly accelerate licensing procedures.

As stated in the bill, "in our country today environmental permitting lasts 6 to 8 years when in other EU countries it lasts from 100 to 150 days, something which has consequences on attracting investment and job creation. This law sets strict deadlines and stipulates that among other things, services such as the forestry and archaeology offices - which often delay the process - will be called upon to go to the Central Council for Environmental Licensing (with representatives from 7 ministries) to explain the delays when they occur. This way cases will wind up quickly - either positively or negatively - and investors will not suffer for years for no reason."

This is regulation comes on top of a corresponding one, which was legislated last fall, also by the Ministry of Environment. Based on this, it is stipulated that if an ancient site is found in a large investment, the Archaeological Service must, within a maximum of sixty days, clarify exactly how it will be protected, without stopping the project.

This way, a time limit was introduced and businesses ceased to be at the mercy of uncontrolled dates, something which is reinforced by the 45-day institution, which is the maximum period within which a service must issue an opinion on investments (if it fails to do this, the officials involved will be subject to administrative penalties). According to market officials, for this regulation to work, on the one hand, the public administration needs to be adequately staffed, on the other hand, investors will need to fully provide all necessary information in the files submitted.

Private evaluators

Another article included in the environmental bill under consideration concerns the participation of certified private appraisers in the licensing process. This regulation sets the framework for the involvement of private appraisers in the environmental licensing process so that further progress is achieved. This law will be followed by a presidential decree, which will determine their qualifications and controls applicable.

Meanwhile, at the end of March, following a joint ministerial decision, the Technical Chamber of Greece undertook another important reform, which was introduced in recent months: the Digital Map, an innovative institution, where the goal is to introduce in a single platform, where all the data available to the state on land is gathered.

This platform will be free to individuals and investors so that they can know in advance if an area of interest is forestland or of particular archaeological significance. The goal is that with the press of a button, and without needing to visit any relevant public services, those interested can be informed about data such as building conditions, land uses, settlement boundaries, forest areas, archeological sites, protected areas, etc.

The start will be made with the Hellinikon investment, which is estimated to enter a full implementation phase in the last quarter of the year. With the casino issue settled, which was one of the latest prerequisites for signing the contract between the Greek government and Lamda Development, the project's development is expected to accelerate. Some preliminary work has already begun in the area, which will be intensified in the coming months.

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