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Greece offers residence to foreign investors

A woman walks down steps to go for a swim at the Faliron coastal zone near Athens on April 18, 2013. Greece will be offering residence to non-EU investors purchasing or renting property over 250,000 euros ($326,000), in a bid to revive its moribund real estate industry, officials said on Monday, April 22, 2013. The tourism ministry also announced plans to increase the flow of so-called senior tourists, in response to an aging worldwide population. AP PHOTO/PETROS GIANNAKOURIS

ATHENS—Greece will be offering residence to non-EU investors purchasing or renting property over 250,000 euros ($326,000), in a bid to revive its moribund real estate industry, officials said on Monday.

The initiative, voted into law by parliament last week, comes in response to strong demand from Arab, Chinese and Russian investors, the officials from the interior ministry and property groups told a news conference.

Valid for five years and open to renewal, the residence plan follows similar measures adopted by Hungary, Spain and Portugal in the past.

“Finally, the property market can move out of its paralysis a little,” Stratos Paradias, head of the confederation of Greek home owners, told AFP.

The permits will enable the holders, their spouses and children under the age of 18 to freely travel—though not work—in the Schengen area for three consecutive months at a time.

The recession gripping Greece for a sixth straight year and heavy taxation has crippled the country’s construction industry that was previously one of the pillars of the economy.

The Greek crisis has put half a million sector staff out of work and sidelined 12,000 companies, Dimitris Kapsimalis, chairman of the confederation of construction firms, told journalists.

Under the terms of the multi-billion EU-IMF bailout that saved its economy from bankruptcy, the Greek state itself must raise 2.6 billion euros through asset sales this year.

In addition to controlling stakes in state enterprises, a large number of state real estate has been put up for lease or sale, including ministry buildings and consulate buildings abroad.

Also on Monday, the tourism ministry announced plans to increase the flow of so-called senior tourists, in response to an aging worldwide population.

“We have to upgrade our services and form a specific policy aiming at the increase of senior tourism,” said Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni.

“Greek tourism so far mainly addresses youths,” she added.

While tourism numbers look promising for this summer, Greece remains lacking in facilities catering to the over-55s, a fast-growing sector of the population that has different needs and interests.

The Hellenic chamber of hotels said senior tourists will make up 24 percent of the global market in 2030.

But only 9.5 percent of Greek hotels currently appeal to that age group by offering appropriate activities and services, the chamber said.


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