Bill moving state assets into privatization fund approved

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (c) talks with ministers during the debate on the omnibus bill for prior actions demanded by Greece's creditors, in the Greek Parliament in Athens, Tuesday.

TAGS: Politics

MPs voted late on Tuesday to approve a new raft of so-called prior actions, including the transfer of several state organizations into the portfolio of a controversial privatization fund.

The multi-bill passed with 152 votes to 141 following a tense debate in the House. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis did not address Parliament but are expected to cross swords Wednesday during a scheduled debate about education.

Earlier Tuesday, there had been fears that certain coalition MPs might defect from the government line on the reforms, potentially putting the stability of the coalition at risk.

Two SYRIZA MPs, Yiannis Tsironis and Giorgos Dimaras, expressed their intense opposition to the privatization of the country’s water boards, declaring that water should remain free.

Interventions by Tsipras and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos managed to win the two lawmakers around a few hours before the vote.

The organizations that have been moved into the privatization fund’s portfolio include the Public Power Corporation, the Athens and Thessaloniki water and sewerage companies (EYDAP and EYATH respectively), the Hellenic Vehicle Industry (ELBO) and Attiko Metro.

Although Tsakalotos and other government officials have insisted that the assets will be subject to lease rather than sale, legislation approved earlier this year allows for the organizations to be exploited in a number of ways including via their sale or lease to third parties.

In order to clinch the release of another 2.8 billion euros in rescue loans from Greece’s creditors, the government must take a number of administrative actions in addition to the legislation approved on Tuesday.

Those actions include appointing three members of a five-member supervisory board to the new fund.

A representative of the European Commission on Tuesday confirmed that Brussels has endorsed the three officials proposed by Athens.

There had been reservations expressed by officials at the Commission at the outset, particularly over the choice of Olga Haritou, who is a banking sector official and is married to a SYRIZA lawmaker, but those objections were eventually appeased.

Still, a few administrative actions remain to be undertaken by the government so it appears unlikely that Thursday’s Euro Working Group will approve the 2.8-billion-euro tranche.

A scheduled Eurogroup meeting on October 10 is expected to give the green light for the disbursement of the latest slice of funding from the country’s third bailout.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of workers gathered outside Parliament to protest the new measures in a small but vehement demonstration.

Many of the protesters were from state organizations that are to be transferred to the privatization fund, including PPC, EYDAP and EYATH.