Greece for Sale: First Wave of Privatization Begins with Airport Buyout

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Greece for Sale: First Wave of Privatization Begins with Airport Buyout

'The purpose of the bailout has little to do with repaying debt and everything to do with creating a corporate paradise in the Mediterranean.'

After capitulating on one of the Syriza party's key promises, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced an internal rebellion and is expected to call a confidence vote this week. (Photo: Peter Guilliatt/cc/flickr)

After capitulating on one of the Syriza party's key promises, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced an internal rebellion and is expected to call a confidence vote this week. (Photo: Peter Guilliatt/cc/flickr)

Germany's approval of Greece's third bailout of €86 billion on Wednesday marked what critics of austerity warn is a new phase in the ongoing economic crisis: the privatization of the country's most valuable assets.

Under the terms of this latest agreement, Greece's Syriza government—backtracking on some of its key campaign promises—agreed to sell-off €50 billion in state property. 

In a letter to the Guardian published on Monday, Nick Dearden, director of the social justice organization Global Justice Now, charged that at this point in the crisis, "the purpose of the bailout has little to do with repaying debt and everything to do with creating a corporate paradise in the Mediterranean." 

"Greece is up for sale," Dearden continued. "From the national lottery to the port of Pireaus and swaths of Corfu, corporations are scrambling to get a piece of the action."

In the first wave of such buyouts, German airport operator Fraport purchased the right to operate 14 regional airports in Greece, many of which are located in popular tourist destinations, according to reports citing the German government’s official gazette. The €1.2 billion contract will last for 40 years.

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The group charged with overseeing these transactions, under the watchful eye of European lenders, is called the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund. In a column published at Common Dreams on Wednesday, Dearden laid out some of the other "goodies" (also available per this government document) currently on the table:

Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports are up for sale—the former case has caused the chief executive to resign and industrial action has begun. A gas transmission system looks likely to be sold to the government of Azerbaijan, but there’s still a power and electricity company, the postal service, a transport utility which allows trains and buses to run, the country’s main telecommunications company, a 648 km motorway, and a significant holding in the leading oil refiner, which covers approximately two-thirds of the country’s refining capacity.

Holdings in Thessaloniki and Athens water are both on sale—though public protest has ensured that 50% plus 1 share remains in state hands. Nonetheless, the sale will mean that market logic will dictate the future of these water and sewerage monopolies. Finally there are pockets of land, including tourist and sports developments, throughout Greece.

During the internal negotiations over the latest agreement, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras experienced another revolt from the Syriza party's left wing, which said the bailout fell "outside [the party's] values." Sources say Tsipras will call a confidence vote this week.

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