From top: The Acropilis, Athens; Julien Mercille
The vultures are circling.
The looting of Greece has begun.
Everything must go.
Dr Julien Mercille writes:
The new agreement of 12th July between Greece and European authorities robs Greece of its sovereignty and confines it to a neo-colonial status, i.e., a protectorate of the troika.
The agreement requires Greece: to repeal all progressive legislation it had passed since coming to power six months ago; to seek approval from the troika before enacting important pieces of legislation; to commit to automated austerity by introducing “quasi-automatic spending cuts” in case primary surplus targets are not met; to expedite foreclosures, evictions and liquidation of businesses and homes that cannot repay their debts; and to ensure that collective bargaining is weakened or not allowed.
But perhaps the most humiliating clause is that Greece is required to privatise a mind-boggling €50 billion of public assets. These will be sold off to private investors, many of which will be foreigners.
In short, the vultures are coming, and they’re hungry.
The funds raised will be used to pay back debt and recapitalise banks, and there’s also a mention that some of the proceeds will be used for investment in Greece, but it remains to be seen how much monies will end up fulfilling that purpose.
The deal has been described as “a desperate yard sale of whatever Greece can find”. One adviser to the Greek government summarised it thus: “It’s basically saying sell the memory of your ancestors, sell your history”.
In particular, the agreement states explicitly that the electricity transmission network operator (ADMIE) must be privatised, likely to be sold off to overseas interests.
The body that will manage the privatisation process will be located in Greece, but in practice, it will be controlled by the troika.
This is not the first time European authorities attempt to drive through such a deal. In 2011, Athens had also agreed with the troika to raise €50bn in privatisation proceeds, but didn’t achieve this—it only privatised €3.2bn of assets, falling well short of the target.
Therefore, in practice, it is unlikely that the €50bn mark will be reached this time, but it is still very revealing of European authorities’ intentions.
It seems unlikely that archeological treasures like the Acropolis will go, due to the furore it would provoke. However, two German politicians recently suggested that even that should be included in the fire sale, so who knows. Less important ruins, however, could well be sold.
In order to understand how rapacious the deal is, one can look at what exactly could be included in it.
A good place to start is the website of the privatisation agency set up in 2011 to handle the previous €50bn privatisation program. It’s called the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) and its fascinating website lists just about everything Greece can sell, with pictures, maps, and descriptions.
It is a real flea market where one can find monuments, beaches, airports, ports, postal services, utilities, and so on. And the site is in English: after all, global investors have to understand what they’re going to buy.
Here is a sample. Prices are not displayed but I include descriptions of the assets from the website.
The property has the potential to be developed into a large scale integrated tourism, leisure, residential project around the existing golf course on a well established vacation destination such as Rhodes.
Castello Bibelli is a property of significant historical and cultural value. The main building “CASTELLO” of 1.968 m2 built area, is of neo-Gothic style, made from stone with tile roofs and its distinctive feature are the two turrets and patio. The property also includes other four auxiliary buildings, with a total built area of 457 m2. Built at the beginning of the century by Italian Admiral Bibelli, in a wooded hillside, within an area of 77 acres.
3. Thermal Springs
Greece is endowed with natural mineral springs and geothermal waters which form an integral part of the country’s national wealth. Their therapeutic properties are well recognized since ancient times, offering treatment opportunities for various ailments in a natural way (hydrotherapy).
The Peace and Friendship Stadium is a characteristic example of the last 20 years of the 20th century architectural style and a worldwide well-known building, having hosted multiple international and national sporting and cultural events.
The Greek state portfolio contains 12 ports, including the ports of Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Volos, Rafina, Igoumenitsa, Patras, Alexandroupoli, Iraklio, Elefsina, Lavrio, Corfu and Kavala.
6. Athens water supply and sewerage company
The Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company has the exclusive right to offer water and sewerage services in the Greater Attica Area. The term of this right, as well as its renewal, is regulated by a a 20-year Agreement.
7. Olympic assets
This includes the Schinia Rowing Center, Markopoulo Equestrian Centre and Galatsi Olympic Center.
In short, the message is clear: start shopping quickly—or you risk losing the prize. Conversely, progressives must organise resistance without any delay, or Greece will be looted.
Julien Mercille is a member of the Irish Greek Solidarity Committee. His new book, Deepening Neoliberalism, Austerity, and Crisis: Europe’s Treasure Ireland (Palgrave) is out this week. Follow him on twitter: @JulienMercille