French firms eye local projects

French companies are showing interest in investing in local infrastructure and transport projects as the Greek government tries to draw investors who could help to ease the country’s economic strain. French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau met with his Greek counterpart Dimitris Reppas in Athens yesterday where they spoke about French companies investing in the Greek railway network, the Kasteli airport on Crete and an upgrade of air-traffic control systems. «These talks are on a very good path, which we hope will bear fruit soon,» the French minister told reporters, according to a statement released by the Transport Ministry. Greece is eager to privatize loss-making railway organization OSE, which is putting enormous pressure on the state budget at a time when the government is trying to slash the deficit. Sources have indicated that the sale of OSE could involve the government selling off parts of the company or throwing in some of its property portfolio in bid to draw investors. In May, Reppas met with senior Chinese officials over the possible sale of OSE, which is likely to top the government’s yet-to-be announced privatization agenda this year. «Programs that we are drawing up regarding new roads in the Athens area, the new metro line and smaller-scale projects are drawing the interest of the French government,» said Reppas. The country’s budgetary woes have started causing problems for state transport companies which have been struggling to pay employees on time. Drivers at blue bus company ETHEL walked off the job yesterday, for half a day, due to a two-day delay in the receipt of their monthly salary. OSE informed its employees that they would receive their summer bonus on July 16, rather than July 1 as originally promised. The Socialist government is planning to submit to Parliament in «the coming days» a draft bill clearing the way for private investors to take part in Greek projects, added Reppas.

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