Finance Minister Haris Georgiades appealed for sense and calm to prevail on Monday in order for the privatisation bill to pass through parliament by next week and Cyprus to secure its next tranche of 234 mln euros in international aid.
But revolting electricity authority employees were adamant in not giving up their perks and privileges and were eager to take on the state, as an angry mob clashed with police in front of parliament and blocked all exits. They also threw fruit, bottles and sharp items at the police, that seemed incapable of containing the workers, injuring two people who were hospitalised.
Parliament’s front glass doors and windows were smashed as some tried to enter the House of Representatives where the privatisation bill for the island’s main semi-government organisations was being debated in the Finance Committee.
Violating the law on essential services, the Electricity Authority workers took matters in their own hands and started indiscriminately enforcing power cuts which will go into full effect on Tuesday, cutting supplies nationwide.
During their demonstrations, they took control and shut down a power generator at the House, forcing all services to come to a halt, while Attorney General Costas Clerides could not enter the building. Power was restored an hour later.
EAC employees said they will go on strike again on Tuesday, including power production personnel. All EAC offices and customer service points will remain closed. The necessary staff for security reasons will be working to avoid public inconvenience, they said.
In late March 2013 the Cypriot authorities agreed with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, collectively known as the Troika, on a €10 bln bailout.
One of the bailout’s preconditions was the implementation of a privatisations plan covering the disposal of Cyprus Telecommunications Authority and the Cyprus Ports Authority by 2016 and the Cyprus Electricity Authority by 2018 to generate €1.4 bln in order to restore public debt sustainability.
Financing the economy by the Troika of international lenders is the only option available at the moment and not approving the bill on privatisations or even watering down the bill could jeopardise and possibly halt the financing to the government, Finance Minister Georgiades warned.
The Minister said that Monday’s incidents at the House of Representatives was a blow to democracy, and threats to cut off electricity to homes and businesses were unacceptable and would lead the economy into further chaos.
Referring to the EAC employees demonstrating outside the House of Representatives, Georgiades said that "the final decisions will be taken in four years from now", adding that in the meantime there would be specialised studies and possibly the restructuring of the organisation.
He said the House Finance Committee would continue the discussion on Tuesday and pointed out that the labour and pension issues were not affected by the bill, which dealt solely with the process of privatisation.
The privatisation bill should be approved by March 5 in time for approval by the next meeting of the Eurogroup of Eurozone finance ministers.
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