NEWS

Germans want government to settle unpaid bills

Greece is coming under increasing pressure from Germany to settle its debts to German companies, including 7 million euros owed to a construction firm that took on the contract to look after sporting venues following the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Sources told Kathimerini that the German Embassy?s trade attache, Albert Graf, has held several meetings with Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis over the last few months to demand that the government take action to resolve the matter.

It is estimated that the Greek state owes German firms a combined total of some 1 billion euros but it appears that Graf has pressured Sachinidis particularly over the money owed for the maintenance of the Olympic properties.

In 2005, Hochtief, Germany?s largest construction firm, won a 21-million-euro contract to maintain and operate the sites used in the 2004 Games. Essen-based Hochtief had previous experience of doing business in Greece, as it was involved in the construction of Athens International Airport between 1996 and 2000.

However, the German firm ran into complications when it came to being paid for the work it was carrying out. German officials began to put pressure on the Greek government to pay its bills and during a visit to Athens in the summer of 2007, Chancellor Angela Merkel made reference to Hochtief in a speech.

Eventually, the government paid two-thirds of the outstanding amount but left 7 million euros unpaid. This amount has been outstanding since 2008 and Berlin made contact with the PASOK government shortly after it came to power in October 2009.

However, soon afterward, Greece was gripped by its debt crisis and had to turn to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund for assistance, so the issue was put on the back burner. Now, Athens is coming under renewed pressure to settle its bill with Hochtief and other German companies.