Wednesday

17th Jan 2018

Greece to sell water, energy firms under EU deal

  • Greek voters said No to austerity in a referendum last month (Photo: Christopher Rose)

Greek privatisations under the EU bailout are set to include water companies, leading energy firms, and swathes of infrastructure.

The list, compiled by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, and agreed with creditors on 30 July, was published on Wednesday (19 August) by German Green MEP Sven Giegold.

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He said the Greek public “hardly knows” what will be sold off and has “the right” to more “transparency”.

Two potentially controversial assets include Eyath and Eydap, which provide water and sewage services to the Thessaloniki and greater Athens regions.

But the 27-page document notes the Greek Council of State has declined to sell majority stakes to private operators, with just 23 percent of Eyath and 11 percent of Eydap up for grabs.

In the energy sector, the list includes: 66 percent of Desfa, a gas distribution and liquid gas processing firm, to be sold to Azerbaijan; up to 35 percent of oil refinery and petrol distribution firm Helpe; 17 percent of electricity distributor PPC; and up to 65 percent of gas distributor Depa.

The infrastructure portfolio is the largest.

It covers: 14 regional airports, to be sold to German firm Fraport for €1.2 billion plus investment obligations by March 2016; Hellinikion, a former Athens Airport; 67 percent of the Piraeus Port Authority to a list of potential buyers which includes a Chinese firm; and 67 percent of the Thessaloniki Port Authority, potentially to Russian Railways.

It also covers: 100 percent of national rail and bus service providers, Trainose and Eessty, potentially to Russian Railways; 30 percent of Athens International Airport; and a 648 km-long motorway, which connects northern Greece to Turkey.

Other assets to go under the hammer include: up to 90 percent of Elta, the Greek postal service, and OTE, the Greek phone service provider, which is already 40 percent-owned by Deutsche Telekom.

The money raised, together with the shares of EU-recapitalised Greek banks, will go into a new privatisation fund to be worth up to €50 billion and to be up-and-running by the end of the year.

Use of the income is to be monitored by the “troika” of Greek creditors: the European Commission; the European Central Bank; and the International Monetary Fund.

The sale of the regional airports to Fraport has already hit a snag, with the Greek government, in a statement published on Wednesday, saying it’s unhappy with the German firm’s request to renegotiate terms.

Local authorities also don’t like it.

“This deal would seriously impact the economy of our region. The possible increase in landing fees will put off low-cost and charter flights and have negative effects on tourism”, Theodoros Galiatsatos, the governor of the Ionian Islands, which host some of the airports, told Greek daily Kathimerini.

Galiatsatos was appointed with the support of Greek PM Alexis Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party.

Tsipras, who did a U-turn on reforms under pressure from creditors, has won praise from EU institutions and from Germany.

But Galiatsatos' complaint is one more sign of the split inside Syriza, not least due to the return of the troika, which Tsipras had promised to abolish in his election campaign.

The Greek PM, on Wednesday, wrote to European Parliament chief Martin Schulz asking for MEPs to join the troika structure for the sake of democratic oversight.

But Kathimerini, citing government sources, says the Syriza split is likely to see Tsipras call snap elections on 20 or 27 September, or, at the latest, on 11 October.

The new poll would create political uncertainty on the bailout deal.

But creditors say the EU package has broad support in the Greek parliament, including from opposition parties.

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Merkel and Schulz clear the first hurdle of coalition talks, but the SPD's full membership backing is still needed. The likely coalition parties express support for Macron's eurozone reform ideas, but remain cautious.

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