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Piraeus port shareholders approve sale to COSCO

A buy-out of the Greek port by Chinese shipping giant COSCO is closer to completion, defying protest. Meanwhile, Germany, pleased by Greece's economic reforms, has given its stamp on new credit for its government.

Greece had already agreed in April to sell a 67 percent stake in Piraeus to COSCO for 368.5 million euros ($415.7 million). Now that shareholders have signed off on the deal, it heads to parliament and competition authorities for approval.

The sale of Piraeus and the country’s second state-owned seaport, Thessaloniki, have been key conditions for Greece to be able to unlock the next tranche of its 10.3 billion euro aid package from the European Stability Mechanism rescue fund.

Privatization hotly protested

But privatization remains a troublesome issue for many in Greece. On Friday, dozens of demonstrators blocked the entrance of Greece’s privatization agency to protest the sale. About 300 police officers were deployed outside the building.

"We don't have any basic assurances for the future of the workers both at Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports," the head of port workers union George Georgakopoulos said. "We will continue our fight and we will scale it up until the end."

Port workers have been on 48-hour rolling strikes since late May, demanding protection under privatization deals.

Griechenland Streik Hafenarbeiter

Piraeus workers don't want to see the port in private hands

Carrying through privatization measures are among the last “prior actions” that Greece has to fulfill in order to receive the aid, which German lawmakers acknowledged on Friday as having been mostly completed.

German parliament agrees to more credit for Greece

On Friday, the German parliament’s budget committee voted to unlock the next tranche of credit to Greece from the European Stability Mechanism rescue fund, amid consensus that the debt-stricken country had satisfied most of its preconditions.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble expressed similar sentiments later on Friday, in a conference hosted by Deutsche Bank.

"Greece has largely implemented the reforms," said Schäuble. "Greece can begin to stand on its feet again and regain access to financial markets."

Eurozone finance ministers are slated to meet next Thursday, where they may decide to release a first disbursement of 7.5 million euros, European Commission officials said this week.

jd/cjc (Reuters, dpa)

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