NEWS

Papandreou insists no land will be sold

Prime Minister George Papandreou made it clear on Monday that Greece would not be selling any public land as part of a privatization program to raise 50 billion euros, and backed his under-fire Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou as PASOK came in for heavy criticism from opposition parties, which accused it of caving in to pressure from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Government sources let it be known that Papandreou told his ministers during a Cabinet meeting that there was no way the government would accept having to sell real estate to private investors. Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis later insisted that any privatizations of state assets would happen on PASOK’s terms, not that of its lenders.

«The aim of raising 50 billion euros is a decision of the Greek government,» he said. «We are not talking about sales or auctioning things off, but about commercially exploiting public property.»

The government became embroiled in a public spat with the representatives of the EU-IMF team, or troika, over the weekend as it objected to the fact that visiting officials announced Greece had to raise money from privatizations before Greek officials had discussed the idea publicly.

New Democracy accused the government of staging its dispute with the troika to elicit public support. The Conservatives pointed to the fact that Papandreou had spoken about a privatization program. «The troika has made its calculations in an unacceptable way but I think the government’s position is hypocritical because it knew about everything that would be proposed,» said ND deputy Simos Kedikoglou.

However, ND leader Antonis Samaras had also suggested last July that Greece should privatize some its state assets and suggested that 50 billion euros was a realistic target.

Some of the strongest criticism of the troika came from within the government’s ranks. «The behavior of the troika’s commissars was unacceptable,» said Socialist MP Christos Magoufis. «Greeks’ pride cannot be given away, nor can it be snatched or be insulted.»

Another PASOK deputy, Petros Economou, referred to European Commission representative Servaas Deroose as an «imported hooligan.» «His presence in Greece is undesirable; we already have enough of our own hooligans,» said the lawmaker.