The Vultures Circling Greece Swoop In As New Fire-Sale Gets Underway
The first occupation of Greece began in April 1941 after Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany invaded Greece, and lasted until Germany and its satellite Bulgaria withdrew from mainland Greece in October 1944. German garrisons remained in control of Crete and other Aegean islands until after the end of World War II, surrendering to the Allies in May and June 1945.
Today, that axis has returned supported by more European nations and their corporate paymasters, ready to loot Greece for all it’s worth.
The appearance of For Sale and For Rent signs on everything from former Olympic venues to island locales, casinos, marinas and airports, has been met with unexpected acceptance by Greeks long given up it’s right to sovereignty. Athens alone owns around €300bn worth of state property, almost as much as the total Greek debt.
With the privatisation drive now seen as its last lifeline, the government is overrun with the super-rich, banking corporations and hedge-funds along with big sovereign wealth funds to strip away what remains of the Greek carcass. The vultures are swooping in.
If reports in the Portuguese press are to be believed, Cristiano Ronaldo even bought football agent Jorge Mendes a whole Greek island as a wedding present. He must have been important, Greece, not so.
In bail-out one – On 2 May 2010, the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Troika, responded by launching a €110 billion bailout loan to rescue Greece from sovereign default and cover its financial needs throughout May 2010 until June 2013, conditional on implementation of austerity measures, structural reforms, and privatization of government assets.
In bail-out two, the programme was ratified by all parties in February 2012, and by effect extended the first programme, meaning a total of €240 billion was to be transferred at regular tranches throughout the period of May 2010 to December 2014. Due to a worsened recession, the Troika agreed to provide Greece with a last round of significant cash, while the IMF extended its support with an extra €8.2bn of loans to be transferred during the period of January 2015 to March 2016. Greece has fully repaid the IMF every cent owed.
The Troika has since fallen apart. The IMF has not participated in the latest bail-out and said it won’t unless Germany and it’s partners in this rapacious corporate banquet is halted and investors take some losses on their failed investments.
Undeterred, Germany’s approval of Greece’s third bailout of €86 billion on Wednesday marked what critics of austerity warn is a new phase in the ongoing economic crisis: the privatisation of the country’s most valuable assets has now reached fever pitch.
Under the terms of this latest agreement, Greece’s Syriza government—backtracking on some of its key campaign promises—agreed to sell-off €50 billion in state property.
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After years of privatisations, the breakneck speed at which Athens has conducted sales – nearly one every 15 days at the starting gun of bail-out one, has raised fears that state jewels will be sold at new rock-bottom prices to quench the thirst of these capitalist pirates.
“In a buyer’s market our biggest concern is that this entire process will only serve to benefit the forces of capitalism and do nothing to create development”, said Yiannis Panagopoulos, president of the Confederation of Greek Workers, the country’s biggest labour grouping…and that was back in 2011. He was right.
In a letter to the Guardian published on Monday, Nick Dearden, director of the social justice organization Global Justice Now, charged that at this point in the crisis, “the purpose of the bailout has little to do with repaying debt and everything to do with creating a corporate paradise in the Mediterranean.”
“Greece is up for sale,” Dearden continued. “From the national lottery to the port of Pireaus and swaths of Corfu, corporations are scrambling to get a piece of the action.”
The package declares war on many: workers, small businesses and farmers. Gone will be laws protecting small business ownership, collective bargaining, the minimum wage and help for farmers.
What is being imposed is the establishment and micromanagement of radical “free-market” economics, far more extreme than exist in many of Greece’s creditor countries. This is not a solution to Greece’s debt crisis, but a solution to the lost profits of European capital.
It’s strange that the IMF and EU regard a future Greek public deficit of 200% as unsustainable; only if this debt is reduced to 120% is it regarded as sustainable; yet they express no concern about a German banking-sector deficit of 324% of GDP or a British banking-sector deficit of more than 400% of GDP.
14 regional airports have already been sold with a 40 year lease in the opening salvo of bail-out three.
Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports are up for sale—the former case has caused the chief executive to resign and industrial action has begun. A gas transmission system is to be sold to the government of Azerbaijan, but there’s still a power and electricity company, the postal service, a transport utility which allows trains and buses to run, the country’s main telecommunications company, a 648 km motorway, and a significant holding in the leading oil refiner, which covers approximately two-thirds of the country’s refining capacity. All up for sale.
Holdings in Thessaloniki and Athens water are both on sale as well —though public protest has ensured that 50% plus 1 share remains in state hands. Nonetheless, the sale will mean that market logic will dictate the future of these water and sewerage monopolies. There are pockets of land, including tourist and sports developments, throughout Greece.
Dozens of islands are up for sale, and British property agent Knight Frank is predicting a “fire sale” of Greek privately owned islands over the next few years. On Private Islands Online, some islands are going for as little as €3 million (£2.1 million, $3.3 million). That’s less than a house in an upmarket place in London like Chelsea.
The government of Greece naively relied on the good will of its EU “partners,” only to find that its “partners” had no good will. They did not understand that the only concern was the bottom line, or profits, of those who held the Greek debt.
Obviously, the Western world doesn’t want to help Greece. The West wants to loot Greece. The deal is that Greece gets new loans with which to repay existing loans in exchange for selling municipal water companies, railways, roads, air and sea ports to private investors only in exchange for Greek government revenues to plummet, thus making debt repayment even more difficult, and for other such “privatisations” such as selling the protected Greek islands to real estate developers – as is happening now.
Graham Vanbergen – TruePublica