EC rebuffs reports of foreign-controlled privatization of Greek assets

The European Commission, one of Greece’s three official international creditors, on Thursday appeared critical of reports suggesting that a company to be set up in Luxembourg would oversee the privatization of billions of euros’ worth of Greek state-owned real estate, with a spokesman insisting that Athens must retain “ownership” of its bid to sell state assets.

“The ownership of this program is, and absolutely must remain, in the hands of the Greek government,” said EC spokesman Simon O’Connor, referring to Greece’s privatization program. Reports suggesting otherwise “have absolutely not been endorsed by the Commission or by the Eurogroup in any way” and they “have absolutely no status whatsoever,” O’Connor added.

He was referring to an unofficial report compiled by the eurozone’s rescue fund known as the European Stability Mechanism. Sections of the report were leaked by the Financial Times Thursday, suggesting that eurozone officials are considering establishing a company in Luxembourg to manage the sale of some 20 billion euros in Greek state assets.

A well-placed source contested that such a company would be based in Luxembourg or that it would be a foreign firm.

An ESM spokesman told Kathimerini that the report was “a background paper that is supposed to feed the discussion on the occasion of the troika mission in Greece in September,” referring to Greece’s so-called troika of foreign lenders, the EC, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. “It is an internal paper as it has not been discussed or endorsed by the ESM governing bodies that represent the euro member states,” the spokesman said. The point of the report, he said, was “to maximize the value of state-owned real estate assets in Greece by making them more attractive for investors.”

O’Connor said the process of Greece’s privatization drive, and its efficiency, would be discussed during the next troika review and stressed the significance of privatization revenue for curbing Greece’s debt. His words were echoed later in the day by IMF spokesman Gerry Rice, who emphasized the importance of the program moving forward and Greece retaining its ownership.