by Our Foreign Desk
EU FINANCE ministers are threatening to withhold a €2.8 billion (£2.4bn) wad of bailout cash from Greece for not selling off public assets fast enough.
The eurogroup, meeting in Bratislava, said that Greece’s Syriza government was stalling on 13 of 15 “milestones” it had agreed to last year in order to qualify for loans to repay its creditors.
Conditions demanded by the EU include cutting public spending, deregulating the energy market, raising the price of medicines and putting key assets into a “privatisation fund” outside government control, which would be responsible for selling them.
The fund is due to contain an estimated 70,000 real estate properties, urban transport companies and the water supply, among other assets.
Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem warned: “The pressure is back on. The summer is over. Pack up the camping gear, get back to work.”
But Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was holding a simultaneous meeting of southern EU leaders in Athens, seeking French and Italian support for an “anti-austerity front” designed to challenge Germany.
Years of privatisation and cuts have reduced the size of the Greek economy by more than a quarter and seen national debt soar — with a peak of 182.8 per cent of GDP expected this year.
Mr Tsipras appeared to criticise German leader Angela Merkel’s refusal to countenance a forgiveness of Greek debt, saying: “The recovery is slow, in part because we don’t see the necessary generosity from our partners on the issue of debt relief.”
But Greek communists warned that the summit would not challenge the EU-wide attacks on workers’ rights, but simply call for public cash to be used to shore up business.
“The governments of old and new social democracy in Europe use the slogan ‘no to austerity’ in a misleading way.
“This slogan has no relation to curbing or overturning the barbaric anti-worker measures. It is related to supporting business groups with additional money,” the secretariat of the Communist Initiative, a “pole” of communist parties allied to the Communist Party of Greece, announced.