Greece must speed up privatisation: EU official

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Greece must broaden and accelerate its privatisation programme, leading eurozone policy-maker Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday.

"Greece has to take new commitments. Greece has to enlarge the ambition of its privatisation programme," Juncker told journalists after a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Belgian counterpart Yves Leterme.

Initially announced in February, Greece's privatisation programme has seen little progress beyond the naming of financial advisors to assist the procedure.

On Monday, Greece pledged to speed up the programme to reduce its crushing debt load.

The Socialist government announced an "immediate" sale of lucrative state assets including OTE, the Balkans' largest telecoms operator, and the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki which rank among the busiest in the Mediterranean in terms of tourism and trade.

"We have a certain number requests which to a certain extent have been met by the Greek government yesterday," Juncker, who is also Luxembourg's prime minister, said regarding the proposals outlined in Athens Monday.

Last year Greece appealed to the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank for a 110 billion euro loan to save it from looming bankruptcy, a first for a eurozone country.

A quarterly audit of Greek finances by the creditors is heading into an unprecedented third week and has yet to approve the release of a fifth loan instalment worth 12 billion euros.

Greece will "most likely" go bankrupt without this money, Prime Minister George Papandreou admitted in a Sunday interview.

Athens is now trying to persuade the "troika" currently keeping Greece afloat -- the EU, IMF and ECB -- to maintain their funding.

"If the assessment of the so-called troika is positive then we can move to further steps, but it is too early to tell you what kind of next steps can be taken," Juncker said after Tuesday's meeting.

The head of the eurozone's council of finance ministers added that he is "strongly against a full restructuring" of Greece's debt but would consider "reprofiling," essentially giving Greece more time to repay, if the Athens satisfies "all the conditions" laid out by its creditors.

© 2011 AFP

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