Greece Will Once Again Say No! (Oxi!) To German Economic Imperialism
Athens Faces Fight to Sell €50bn of Assets
Greece said on Tuesday it would appoint international advisers within the next two months to kickstart its ambitious €50bn ($72bn) privatisation programme, while the country’s most powerful trade union pledged to disrupt the plan.
The privatisations mark a last-ditch attempt by the Athens government to restore credibility with investors and to boost the country’s chances of averting debt restructuring.
But reform fatigue has set in almost a year after Greece was bailed out by its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund, making it hard to win popular support for “selling the family silver”.
“Reforms so far have been slower and shallower than expected,” said Theodore Pelagidis, a Piraeus University economics professor in Athens. “Now we are going into unknown territory with a privatisation programme not backed by a social consensus.”
Public sector unions led by Genop-DEH – which represents 24,000 workers at the state electricity utility – have vowed to oppose sales.
Nikos Fotopoulos, its president, said on Tuesday: “We will not allow our company to be sold to a private investor with interests that are not those of Greek consumers.”
The union, which has staged “boss-nappings” in the past, highlighted its stand by taking over the offices of PCC, the state electricity company, in the northern city of Thessaloniki on Monday, blocking access for several hours.
Greek unions have a record of foiling attempts to transfer equity stakes and management to private investors. Many privatisations to date have been partial, with minority stakes in state companies being listed on the Athens stock exchange and government appointing senior managers. Greece has attracted only one big strategic investor in the past two decades – Deutsche Telekom has a 30 per cent equity stake in Hellenic Telekom.
The finance ministry says this time will be different. It hopes to raise €15bn from disposals by 2013, the remaining €35bn to follow by 2015. A finance ministry official said on Tuesday that ODIE, a state organisation that runs Greece’s only commercial horse-race track, has attracted interest from Paris Mutuel Urbain, one of Europe’s largest gaming companies.
The first round of disposals includes the state-controlled gaming company, the loss-making state railways company, a nickel manufacturer, and minority stakes in the public telecoms operator, state-controlled gas and electricity utilities.
Several cabinet members also oppose privatisation, among them Tina Birbili, the energy minister, whose portfolio includes PPC.
The Racial Economy of Weltpolitik: Imperialist Expansion, Domestic Reform, and War in Pan-German Ideology, 1894-1918 Dennis Sweeney University of Alberta
In October, 1940, Italy, backed by Hitler, wanted to occupy Greece; Metaxas simply responded “Ochi!” – “No!” in Greek. It was a “No!” that brought Greece into the war on the Allied side; for a time, Greece was Britain’s only ally against Hitler.
Greece not only did not give Mussolini’s forces free passage, they seized the offensive and drove them back through most of Albania.
Had Metaxas not said “No!”, World War II might well have lasted considerably longer. One theory suggests that had Greece agreed to surrender without resistance, Hitler would have been able to invade Russia in spring, rather than making his disastrous attempt to take it in winter. Western nations, always happy to credit ancient Greece with the development of democracy, may owe modern Greece an equal but usually unrecognized debt for helping to preserve democracy against its enemies.
Some historians credit the Greeks’ fierce resistance to the later German paratrooper landings on the island of Crete with convincing Hitler that such attacks cost too many German lives. The from-the-air invasion of Crete was the last attempt by the Nazis to use this technique, and the extra resources required to subdue Greece drained and distracted the Third Reich from its efforts on other fronts.