Grecian isles are sought-after by foreigners but difficult to purchase, unless you have the means to help finance the country’s struggling economy.
Headlines were made this week when the Royal Family of Qatar was permitted to buy a handful of islands in Greece; however, this news doesn’t necessarily mean that the country has swung open its doors to welcome foreign land purchasers.
The Qatari Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, confirmed his purchase of Oxia, a 1,200 acre island in the Echinades archipelago, along with another five smaller islands in the chain. With Oxia at a price of £4.2 million, the entire deal has been estimated at £7.22 million by the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.
It was four years ago that the Emir fell in love with the beautiful islands of the Echinades, while on a yachting trip to nearby Ithaca. According to the Greek media, his aspiration is to have one island for each of his 24 children – six is, at least, getting off to a good start.
The transaction was not, however, without challenges. Acquiring Oxia was significantly delayed due to permit requirements for land use from the Greek forestry bureau, and more negotiations will likely need to happen for the Emir to be able to build anything substantial on any of the islands.
The German media has reported that the Emir’s plans for an elaborate summer home are already running into problems with local authorities – the current square footage allowance for building on an island is 250 square meters, which the Emir claims he needs for his bathroom alone, never mind space for his wife and 24 children.
Despite his hassles, though, his experience has been relatively easy. Heavy restrictions and endless bureaucratic red tape has made private island ownership a near impossibility for non-Greek nationals, a situation which has a profound irony. After all, in the 1960’s, it was on Greece’s sunny Ionian isle of Skorpios that the glamorous allure of the private island first took hold.
Owned by shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, paparazzi flocked to capture his wife Jackie as she sunned on the couple’s yacht and swam off Skorpios’ beach. In an instant, a paradise isle became a must-have status symbol for the international jet set, and film stars, tycoons, and royals followed suit.
This latest elite island purchase is notable for a number of reasons. For the Emir of Qatar, typical foreign-ownership restrictions were reportedly set aside – but it was a highly unusual circumstance. At the onset of Greece’s economic woes in 2009, the Emir pledged €5 billion to invest in state assets.
Hotels and an airport are reportedly on the list of potential Qatari investments in Greece – that is, if the Byzantine bureaucracy hasn’t soured the Emir on the deals. Ithaca’s mayor, Ioannis Kassianos, summed it up nicely: “When you buy an island, even if you are the emir of Qatar, it takes a year and a half for all the paperwork to go through.”
Read more about this story: Telegraph UK
Update on the Emir’s building plans: www.focus.de