Olympic to be shielded

The government drafted a bill yesterday shielding Olympic Airlines (OA) from its creditors, in a move to help stabilize the national airline’s operations and keep it solvent at least over the next six months. The draft amendment will bar current or future creditors from taking any action against OA until the end of February, a government source said. The measure is also supposed to help the current privatization process continue after the government signed a preliminary agreement last month to sell Olympic to a consortium of Greek-American investors. On Wednesday the EU ordered Olympic to pay back more than 500 million euros in illegal state aid it received from the previous Socialist government. The state will be exempt from the new law so it can comply with European Union guidelines. Goverment spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the government is protecting the airline against suppliers or contractors who are considering terminating their services and leaving the airline in the lurch. The conservative government has been under mounting pressure to take steps to protect the national air carrier after the EU’s decision, which could spur its financial collapse. Opposition parties have been saying the state has not done enough to keep the airline flying. Sources said the amendment will help stabilize OA’s operations after passengers have been switching to other airlines fearing an immediate shutdown of the company. «It (the amendment) will help give the airline a breather,» said one industry source. «There is the impression in the market that the company is just about to close.» Olympic Airlines stressed after the EU decision that it is still business as usual.