Gov’t U-turn af­ter Cosco fiasco

Ahead of PM’s trip to China, of­fi­cials re­voke changes to port deal amid ac­cu­sa­tions of in­com­pe­tence

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras heads off for a state visit to China to­day af­ter his gov­ern­ment tried fran­ti­cally yes­ter­day to put out a fire that started when Chi­nese ship­ping gi­ant Cosco raised ob­jec­tions to “uni­lat­eral” changes to the agree­ment for the sale of a ma­jor­ity stake in Pi­raeus Port Au­thor­ity (OLP) that was sub­mit­ted for rat­i­fi­ca­tion to Par­lia­ment on Tues­day.

Fear­ing that the lat­est fiasco would cast a shadow over the Bei­jing visit – which Tsipras hopes will help pave the way for fur­ther deals and in­vest­ments – the gov­ern­ment back­tracked yes­ter­day on the changes it made to the agree- ment that had an­gered the Chi­nese com­pany.

Cosco had ac­cused the gov­ern­ment and the coun­try’s pri­va­ti­za­tion agency, TAIPED, of re­vers­ing what was agreed in the deal be­tween the two sides on April 8, warn­ing it would not ac­cept any changes, send­ing shock waves that the agree­ment – un­der which Cosco would buy a 67 per­cent ma­jor­ity stake in OLP – would un­ravel at the eleventh hour.

More than strictly a fall­out over a busi­ness deal, the gov­ern­ment was re­port­edly con­cerned that the com­pli­ca­tion would fur­ther dam­age the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional stand­ing at a time when it is try­ing to sig­nal to in­ter­na­tional mar­kets and in­vestors that Greece has em­barked on a new course and is do­ing what must be done to lure des­per­ately needed for­eign cap­i­tal to kick-start the coun­try’s debt-rid­den econ­omy.

The gov­ern­ment in­sisted yes­ter­day that the whole is­sue had been blown out of pro­por­tion,while se­nior of­fi­cials al­leged that the main con­cerns of some of Cosco’s Greek ex­ec­u­tives were not the com­pany’s best in­ter­ests but rather play­ing po­lit­i­cal games against the gov­ern­ment.

How­ever, the par­ties of the op­po­si­tion called the is­sue a “fiasco,” and held it up as yet more proof that the gov­ern­ment is in­ca­pable of push­ing through pri­va­ti­za­tions.

“Never in the his­tory of Par­lia­ment has a gov­ern­ment gone back on its sig­na­ture on a bi­lat­eral agree­ment,” New Democ­racy leader Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis told the House, hold­ing Tsipras re­spon­si­ble for the gov­ern­ment’s “er­ratic” poli­cies. Con­ser­va­tive spokesman Gior­gos Koumout­sakos echoed the same sen­ti­ment, say­ing, “Er­ratic poli­cies on in­vest­ments and pri­va­ti­za­tions kill any pos­si­bil­ity of economic growth.In­com­pe­tence and un­re­li­a­bil­ity drive away in­vest­ments.”

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