Thursday

19th Apr 2018

Brussels: Outside agency for Greek sell-off would threaten sovereignty

  • Tardio: 'International authorities taking control of the privatisation process - I don't think you can do that in a sovereign country' (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The European Commission has warned that an international body taking charge of Greece's €50 billion privatisation programme - an idea that is being pushed by the Netherlands and Luxembourg - would threaten the country's sovereignty.

The EU executive's economy spokesman, Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio told reporters on Monday (30 May) that while the commission would be happy to offer technical assistance to support Greece in the task, it should remain under the management of the Greek government.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"The commission would like to recall that we in the past have offered international technical assistance to Greece, notably in the reshaping of the statistics office," he told reporters in Brussels. "But we have not received any request from the Greek authorities and there would have to be a request from them before any technical assistance could be offered."

He emphasised that the commission preferred to offer "technical assistance" rather than the Dutch proposal for international oversight "because international authorities taking control of the privatisation process - I don't think you can do that in a sovereign country."

He highlighted that Athens had already achieved success in reducing the government deficit by five percent this year and its transformation of the Greek statistical agency "into a completely new office that provides accurate statistics for the first time." He added: "We trust the Greeks to perform the privatisation themselves."

The comments were made in relation to a call issued on Thursday by Dutch finance minister Jan Kees de Jager in an interview with the FT Deutschland business daily.

De Jager said that the privatisation process should be taken out of Greek hands and placed under international supervision. The scheme would be modelled on the German Treuhandanstalt, or Trust Agency, the independent body that carried out the privatisation of the former East Germany's state property after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The privatisation assets placed in such a Greek agency "should be used as collateral for the loans," De Jager said, referring to a potential €60-70 billion second bail-out of the country currently in discussion.

He conceded that such a move would face significant domestic opposition. "The Greek parliament will not like it but I think you such sensitivities no longer matter," he said. "The Greek government and parliament must be clear that a renewed rescue package creates political costs This is the same in the Netherlands and Germany."

An EU diplomat familiar with the proposal told EUobserver: "The idea is not a Dutch idea per se, but they are spearheading it ... It's not so much that the Greeks cannot be trusted. It's just that they are clearly having so much trouble pushing these sorts of things through."

The contact added: "In a way, it can be seen as giving them a helping hand. Independent outside experts will be much more able to push through the tough measures than domestic politicians."

The source noted that it is premature to be discussing which countries or institutional actors would be represented in the agency.

The Dutch have an ally in Jean-Claude Juncker, the chair of the eurogroup of states, who is also taking a hard line on the question of taking the privatisation process out of Greek hands.

"I would welcome it very much if our Greek friends found a privatization agency independent of the government and modeled after Germany's Treuhandanstalt," he said in an interview with newsweekly Der Spiegel last week. "Henceforth, the European Union will escort Greece's privatization program as if we were conducting it ourselves." Juncker added Greece should sell off more than the €50 billion originally planned.

The troika of the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank estimate Greece to have at its disposal a total of €500 billion in wealth between its financial assets, public enterprises and real estate holdings.

Germany however is thought to want to wait for the report back from troika inspectors on the state of Greek finances and its performance in implementing austerity, structural adjustment and privatisation measures.

The assessment is due by the end of the this week or the beginning of next week at the latest.

EU watchdogs to protect farmers

The European Commission is due to unveil a legislative proposal that will should help farmers get paid on time for their products.

EU raids Murdoch firm in sport 'cartel' probe

EU commission launched dawn raids in several member states in anti-trust probe into sports rights media firms. One of those hit, in London, was owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

EU rejects US trade 'gun to the head'

EU leaders demanded a permanent exemption from US tariffs on steel and aluminium - and ruled out any bilateral trade talks within the 1 May deadline set by Donald Trump.

News in Brief

  1. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  2. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  3. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  4. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  5. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  6. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit
  7. Merkel and Macron meet to finetune eurozone reform plans
  8. Turkey snap elections set for 24 June

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  2. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  3. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  4. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  5. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  7. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  8. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  9. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  12. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies

Latest News

  1. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  2. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists
  3. Getting secret EU trilogue documents: a case study
  4. Selmayr case scars Parliament and Commission
  5. Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties
  6. 'Flobert' guns - Europe's latest terror loophole
  7. EU investment bank confirms secrecy of VW fraud report
  8. More commitment to renewables from Council, please

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  2. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?