Monday, March 30, 2015

Greece sells Piraeus Port to China?

Hafen von Piräus: Kehrtwende beim Privatisierungsprojekt

Greece's creditors seem to be successful in pushing the government of Alexis Tsipras to yet go ahead with further privatising its largest port, Piraeus, while two months ago it still had announced it would maintain state control of Piraeus Port. The Greek government is expected to sell its majority stake of 67 percent to the Chinese company Cosco which already owns two container terminals of the partly privatised port. This is what Greek deputy prime minister Yannis Dragasakis told China's official Xinhua news agency on March 28, 2015. (The picture above is from Der Spiegel of 28 March and the caption says: Port of Piraeus: U-turn in privatisation project.)

According to Wall Street Journal of 29 March, Greece expects to raise at least 500 million euros from the sale of Piraeus Port. Greek officials also told creditors they will seek to privatise operating concessions at 14 regional airports, said Wall Street Journal.

Greece's creditors - European countries, ECB and IMF - are putting pressure on the Tsipras government to stick to 'reforms' agreed by the previous Greek governments with the Troika. 

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, has insisted his government will not carry out any recessionary measures to cut wages, jobs or pensions. But it seems that Greece's creditors insist Tsipras should stick as well to 'reforms' earlier agreed with respect to labour and pensions.

In reading this and other news about Greece it was ironic that another article I read this morning, about damage caused in Greece by Nazi Germany during the second world war, carried a picture of Piraeus as illustration. Below I copy that picture and the first part of the article, titled "Greece: debt and memory of war", written by Conn Hallinan.

Greece: debt and memory of war

Conn Hallinan
Damage from the German bombing of Piraeus, Greece, on April 6, 1941. Australian War Memorial Image/Wikimedia

March 23 2015

Memory is selective and therein lies an explanation for some of the deep animosity between Berlin and Athens in the current debt crisis that has shaken the European Union (EU) to its foundations.
For German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble, "memory" goes back to 2007 when Greece was caught up in the worldwide financial conflagration touched off by American and European speculators. Berlin was a major donor in the 240 billion euro "bailout" - 89 percent of which went to pay off the gambling debts of German, French, Dutch and British banks. Schauble wants that debt repaid.
Millions of Greeks are concerned about unpaid debts as well, although their memories stretch back a little further.
In July 1943 Wehrmacht General Hubert Lanz, commander of the First Mountain Division, was annoyed because two of his officers had been threatened by civilians in the western Greek town of Kommeno. It was dangerous to irritate a German commander during the 1941-45 occupation of Greece.
Lanz first murdered 153 men, women and children - ages one to 75 - in Mousiotitsas, then surrounded Kommeno, where his troops systematically killed 317 people, including 172 women. Thirteen were one year old, and 38 people were burned alive in their houses. After the massacre, the soldiers ate their lunch in the village square, surrounded by the bodies of the dead, and then pushed on to other villages, killing more than 200 civilians.
It was not the first, nor the last massacre of Greeks, and most people in that country can recite them like the beads on a rosary: Kondomari (60 killed); Kardanos (180 killed); Alikianos (118 killed); Viannos (over 500 killed); Amari (164 killed); Kalavryta (over 700 killed); Distomo (214 killed). All in all, the Germans destroyed more than 460 villages, executed 130,000 civilians, and murdered virtually the entire Jewish population - 60,000 - during the occupation.
On top of that, Athens was forced to "lend" Germany 475 million reichsmarks - estimated today at 14 billion euros - to pay for the occupation. Adding interest to the loan makes that figure somewhere around 95 billion euros.
Greece's public debt is currently 315 billion euros.
The Greeks "remember" a few other things about those massacres. Gen. Kurtl Student, the butcher of Kondomari, Kardanos, and Alikianos, was sentenced to five years after the war, but got out early on medical grounds. The beast of Mousiotitsas and Kommeno, Gen. Lanz, was sentenced to 12 years, served three, and became a major military and security advisor to the German Free Democratic Party. In 1954 he wrote a book about his exploits and died in bed in 1982. Gen. Karl von Le Suire of Kalavryta fame was not so lucky. Captured by the Soviets, he died in a Stalingrad POW camp in 1954. Lt. Gen. Friedrich-Wilhelm Muller, who ordered the Viannos massacre, was tried and executed by the Greeks in 1947.
It is not hard to see why many Greeks see a certain relationship between what the Germans did to Greece during the occupation and what is being done to it today. There are no massacres - although suicide rates are through the ceiling - and no mass starvation, but 44 percent of the Greek people are now below the poverty line, the economy is shattered, and Greeks feel they no longer control their country. Up until the last election, they didn't. The Troika - the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund - dictated the price of the loan: layoffs, wage and pension reductions, and huge cutbacks in health care. True, their occupiers did not wear the double thunderbolts of the SS or the field green of the Wehrmacht, but armies in pinstripes and silk ties can inflict a lot of damage.

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