Bank sale runs into opposition

The government has not decided yet on the terms of sale of the Postal Savings Bank, because the sale is being opposed by MPs and ministers of the ruling Socialists. Opponents of the sale, which are said to include Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis, fear the reaction of the powerful civil servants’ union ADEDY, many of whose top-level officials are also members of the ruling party. Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday had a two-hour meeting with Verelis and Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis to discuss the privatization of both the Postal Savings Bank and Olympic Airways. Verelis used to be responsible for the bank, which was, until this year, a Post Office subsidiary, but control over the bank has passed to Christodoulakis’s ministry. Verelis refused to comment on the bank sale, while Christodoulakis said that a final decision would be taken «in the next few days,» which most likely means next week. The government would prefer to sell a minority stake in the bank, plus the management, to minimize opposition. However, the likely bidders for the bank would prefer to gain majority control. Postal Savings Bank employees begin the first of three consecutive 24-strikes today. Tomorrow, they will stage a protest march to the Economy Ministry. In a statement issued on Monday, they claim Verelis and Christodoulakis had promised, in December 2002, to keep the bank under state control.