(Adds trade union warning of industrial action)
By Angeliki Koutantou
ATHENS, March 27 A Greek minister on Monday
accused international lenders of reneging on a 2015 bailout deal
by trying to force a fire-sale of its main electricity utility
PPC to serve domestic and foreign business interests.
Differences between Athens, the EU and the IMF over how
Public Power Corp (PPC) will relinquish its dominance of the
Greek market are a stumbling block to concluding a bailout
review that would unlock fresh loans for cash-strapped Greece.
The state controls 51 percent of PPC, the EU's
second-largest producer of coal-fired electricity. PPC commands
about 90 percent of the Greek retail electricity market and 60
percent of its wholesale market.
Under terms of Greece's 86 billion euro ($93.6 billion) 2015
bailout deal PPC is obliged to reduce both to less than 50
percent by 2020.
Although it is not clearly specified in the deal, lenders
want Greece to sell some of PPC's assets.
Greece last year launched power auctions to private
operators as a temporary mechanism and has proposed that PPC
teams up with private companies to help to achieve this target.
The lenders, however, doubt the effectiveness of the measure.
"What they want is that power production infrastructure of
up to 40 percent -- PPC's coal-fired production -- is sold. This
is what they want right now, which is beyond the (2015) deal,"
Interior Minister Panos Skourletis, a former energy minister,
told Greek state television.
Skourletis on Monday accused the lenders of pressing the
country to sell-off PPC units at a very low price to serve
European and domestic competitors.
"It is an assault which has set its sights on PPC's assets
to pass it on to specific European and domestic business
interests at a humiliating price," Skourletis said in an opinion
piece for the Efimerida Ton Syntakton daily.
Some members of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's leftist
ruling coalition and PPC's power unions have strongly resisted
the sale of PPC's coal-fired units.
The head of PPC's main labour union GENOP/DEH, which
represents the group's 18,000 workers, warned of industrial
action should the government sell PPC units.
"Once the government ... spells out what it wants to do and
seeks Greek parliament's approval, since the plan cannot go
ahead otherwise, then we will take appropriate action," union
leader George Adamidis told Reuters.
Another Greek minister said on Monday that the government
wants to keep PPC under state control and accused the IMF of
opening issues that had closed with Greece's first bailout
review last year.
"Our aim is self-evident, to have a state-owned PPC, not
because we have any kind of obsessions but because the state
must be able to continue having influence over the energy
sector," Greek deputy foreign minister George Katrougkalos told
($1 = 0.9189 euros)
(Editing by David Goodman and Keith Weir)