13 September, 2005
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Monday confirmed that the European Commission's imminent decision concerning the national carrier Olympic Airlines would make the airline's position "exceptionally difficult" and stressed that the government was not prepared to put further burden's on Greek taxpayers "when there is no hope for OA".
At the same time, he pledged that the government would find a solution for OA's many thousand employees.
"Our first concern will be that the thousands of people working with OA and Olympic Airlines don't find themselves out on the street - we pledge to protect their rights. The prime minister's express statement is a guarantee for all the workforce," Roussopoulos said.
The spokesman also blamed the current impasse squarely on previous PASOK governments, saying that its current serious problems were due to mistaken handling over many years, which reached a peak with the two restructuring programs - which cost Greek citizens two billion euros and failed - and the four attempts to privatize the airline that also failed.
"The net result was that OA now costs Greek citizens €1.5 million a day," Roussopoulos added.
He said the processes now underway for the airline's sale or liquidation while in operation were time-consuming and that OA would continue to fly in the meantime.
According to Roussopoulos, the various efforts to restore OA's financial health from 1981 until 2003 - including the latest attempt to break up the previous national carrier Olympic Airways and set up the present flight company Olympic Airlines - had amassed accumulated losses of €1 billion, which meant that OA had actually cost Greek taxpayers more than €3 billion in total.
He also slammed previous PASOK governments for systematically ignoring the country's obligations toward the European Union and for flouting Community law and European Commission decisions, pointing out that this had led the Commission to take the matter to the European Court of Justice in 2003 and the ruling ordering OA to pay back financial support given illegally by Greek governments from 1994 until 2004 in order to keep it afloat.
"In this case, we now await the decision of the College of Commissioners in two days. It is clear that OA's case in total concerns political actions and omissions that occurred under previous PASOK governments. New Democracy, as soon as it came into power, declared the tender then in progress null and void and immediately organized a serious effort to privatize Olympic Airlines and the company's activities. The Commission was kept fully up to date on this process," Roussopoulos said.
He also asserted that significant progress had been made in the privatization process so far and that the European Commission had been sent a memorandum of the joint position signed by prospective buyers of Olympic Airlines.
"The decision expected from the Commission makes OA's position exceptionally difficult. The government is not prepared to allow Greek citizens to be burdened further, without there being any hope for OA. We have already examined alternative solutions for the day after," he said.
He also stressed that, regardless of the outcome, the government would ensure that the flight services to outlying and less busy Greek islands would continue.
Source: Athens News Agency