NEWS

Piraeus unable to pay its debts

The mayor of Piraeus, Panayiotis Fasoulas, informed municipal employees yesterday that City Hall would be stopping all payments following a central government decision to stop funding the debt-ridden authority. Addressing a press conference, Fasoulas requested a meeting with government officials to find a solution that will allow the municipality to make good on its obligations - to citizens, employees and creditors. The mayor did not rule out the possibility of strike action - without determining what form this would take - to demand the monthly disbursement of some 1.6 million euros. Piraeus City Hall currently owes some 210 million euros in debts amassed over the past 20 years. Over the past three years, the government has withheld state grants from Piraeus municipal authorities. Fasoulas yesterday described the government's stance as «provocative,» noting that a total of 44 million euros had been spent on paying off municipal debts during his three years as mayor, while only 12 million euros had been spent during the eight years that his predecessor, Christos Agrapidis, had held the post. Fasoulas said his municipality was not seeking privileged treatment but wanted to renegotiate the payment of its debts, paying larger installments at a lower interest rate. In a related development on Wednesday, municipal workers on the Ionian island of Zakynthos launched an open-ended walkout to demand three months in outstanding wages they claim to have been denied by cash-strapped authorities. The employees handed over the keys to the regional office for the Ionian islands in a symbolic gesture and said they would not return to work until authorities paid their outstanding salaries. The protesters accused their superiors of «whiling away their time in chic cafes while hundreds of municipal employees struggle to make ends meet» and called on Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis to intervene and ensure they get paid. They also want the minister to order an audit of the municipality's finances for the last five years and punish any officials found to have been involved in mismanagement of funds.

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