Shipping Minister Theodoros Dritsas’s insistence on the state having extensive control over Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) constitutes a clear and present danger for unexpected complications in the company’s privatization process.
A new draft law that Kathimerini has seen, which was sent to the European Commission for comments, again provides for the planned Piraeus Port Public Authority (DALP) to have controversial responsibilities. These go against the draft agreement that the country’s creditors presented to the government a few days ago, which Kathimerini has also seen.
The draft agreement provides for the full independence of the existing watchdog, the Regulatory Authority for Ports (RAL), which is a specific requirement for the completion of the first review of the country’s third bailout. It also dictates that RAL will have exclusive authority for monitoring the execution of the OLP concession contract.
Nevertheless, in its explanatory memorandum accompanying the bill, the ministry writes that “the creation of RAL does not adhere to European standards, and its competences and operational capacity could not guarantee the substantial exercise of state power, therefore they did not serve the public interest. A similar example of a regulatory authority is to be found only in South Africa.”
What the ministry does not say, and observers point out, is that issues of constitutional contravention arise from the bill proposed, as the clauses on the foundation and operation of RAL that refer to the competences given to the shipping minister are seen as directly opposing Article 101 of the Constitution.
Furthermore, the creation of DALP after the submission of the binding bid by Cosco for OLP in December violates the terms of the agreement for OLP’s sale, according to legal sources. Another legal expert goes further, arguing that the creation of DALP is not founded on sound legal explanations and contravenes public administration rules as its competences overlap with those of the authorities responsible for the sector, such as the ministries of Labor, Finance and Shipping, the General Secretariat for Ports, RAL, the Port Police and the Competition Commission. “In practice, this is an attempt to annul the OLP privatization process or undermine its operation,” the same legal source estimates.