Parliament on Wednesday approved a bill endorsing the concession of a large plot of the former Athens airport at Elliniko to a real estate consortium but the debate preceding the vote exposed divisions within the leftist-led coalition over the privatization project.
The bill, described as “a compromise” by Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, passed into law with the support of all parties in Parliament except neo-Nazi Golden Dawn and the Communists.
Culture Minister Aristides Baltas used much stronger language, describing the concession of the plot at Elliniko as “a defeat” on SYRIZA’s “democratic road to socialism” and indicated that the coalition will shift stance on the project again. “We want a different type of investment in Elliniko,” he said.
Alternate Environment Minister Yiannis Tsironis struck a polemic tone too, noting that there “is still concern” about Elliniko and calling on activists to “to do their job.”
The vice president of conservative New Democracy, Adonis Georgiadis, said his party supported the legislation “so the country can go forward,” noting that the government had originally railed against such business-friendly initiatives.
Meanwhile a clash intensified between the government and ND over state-backed lender Attica Bank, which is alleged to have issued more than 100 million euros in loans to a leftist construction magnate who clinched a TV license in a recent auction.
In a bid to deflect attention to the opposition, the government released a statement linking 13 million euros in bad loans issued by the state-backed lender to ND and PASOK and asked when and how the parties planned to return the money.
Attention will likely return to Parliament on Thursday when the government is expected to submit a new multi-bill with the next set of prior actions demanded by Greece’s creditors.
The measures, which include the abolition of all remaining exemptions in health contributions for pensions, the inclusion of a series of state organizations in a privatization fund and the liberalization of the electricity sector, are tied to 2.8 billion euros in loans.
The money will be available to Greece until the end of next month but authorities hope to get approval at the next Eurogroup meeting on October 10.
In comments on Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund’s envoy to Greece, Delia Velculescu, called for the continuation of reforms and debt relief.
Speaking to reporters after talks with representatives of the General Confederation of Greek Workers, the country’s largest private sector workers’ union, Velculescu also admitted that the Greek adjustment program has had “a disproportionate impact” on workers and pensioners.