The antiquities found during excavations for the upcoming Thessaloniki metro system can be removed, according to a court decision Tuesday.
The ruling comes from the highest administrative court in Greece, the Council of State, after a lengthy process.
Thessaloniki metro finds to be removed
During the construction of the Venizelos metro station in the northern city of Thessaloniki, artefacts were discovered which led to halting the works. This is a common occurrence in Greece, where such treasures are often unearthed during building construction.
The disruption of the metro construction led to issues and debate between many groups including archaeologists, local authorities and Attiko Metro. The northern city has been kept waiting for a functioning underground system for many years now.
On Tuesday, commuters and other city dwellers got a bit closer to getting the metro finalized following the court decision. It was a close call, with 13 out of 25 possible votes from panel members leading to the court’s choice to remove the artifacts.
This acts as a rejection to three appeals which had been filed by scientists, professionals and nongovernmental groups against the Ministry of Culture’s move to remove the finds and place them in storage outside the city while the work is completed.
The Ministry then plans on replacing the finds and displaying them in the completed metro station, as has been the case in a number of Athenian metro stations.
However, this plan has clearly been controversial.
The first of the three appeals was submitted in 2020 by the Hellenic Society of Environment and Culture together with the Christian Archaeological Society. The second was sent in by 26 Thessaloniki citizens, and the third by the Association of Greek Archaeologists together with another 10 institutions and Thessaloniki citizens.
These appeals requested that the Ministry of Culture decision be disregarded. The 2020 decision approved the Attiki Metro company’s request to move the antiquities, which had been endorsed by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS). The plan is to finish construction and then relocate 92 percent of the finds back into Venizelou station.
These discoveries have acted as just another set back for the already long delayed Thessaloniki metro. The system’s construction was agreed to in 2002 and was originally due to be completed by 2012 — now, almost ten years later, the metro is still not ready for use.
Minister vows subway will be ready by 2023
Last year, a government minister promised the metro will be complete and operational by 2023.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Kostas Karamanlis reiterated his pledge that the metro will be delivered in full, and in operational order, by April of that year.
“In April 2023, the Thessaloniki Metro will not operate partly; it will operate in full, with the Venizelos station, which is the main station. This is a reality that we will adhere to,” the Minister said in statements to the press during a visit to the construction site.