OPINION

How would PASOK handle Emporiki?

So what would George Papandreou’s Socialist party do with Emporiki Bank, which was earlier this week sold to France’s Credit Agricole? Would he appoint a Bank of Greece commissioner as the late Constantine Karamanlis did after he nationalized Emporiki, the biggest private bank at the time, which was owned by Stratis Andreadis? Or would he, out of respect for free market principles, propose to the French agro-capitalists to return their newly acquired shares to Greek hands? Nothing can be done in Greece, it seems, without at least a little political bludgeoning. PASOK must have long been seeking ways to oust Yiannos Papantoniou, Greece’s former economy tsar who was recently ejected from the Socialist camp for criticizing PASOK’s opposition to the French takeover. The reasons must have little to do with the offer of the French giant and more with Papantoniou’s so-far unproved involvement in not-so-transparent arms procurements under the Socialist administration. The Socialists left Papantoniou all alone to deal with the French defense group Thales, which fired a range of accusations against him. The Athens deputy then had to defend himself in French court. Money is king these days. Economic power helps impose one’s business decisions. That’s what Credit Agricole did when, let down by the stand of Emporiki Bank and the government’s economic officials, it showed its teeth, that is it offered shareholders 25 euros a share to get at least 40 percent of Emporiki. It became painfully obvious that Emporiki was not worth anything more than that – and, fortunately, not less than that. Emporiki had the biggest deficit in its social insurance funds.