EU’s Rehn Says Greece Decided to Shut ERT in ‘Full Autonomy’

The European Commission sought to distance itself from Greece’s decision to shut down its public broadcaster, saying the government in Athens acted in “full autonomy.”

“The commission has taken note of the decision by the Greek authorities,” European Union Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told the European Parliament today in Strasbourg, France. “This has not been a commission decision.”

The government of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras decided yesterday to suspend the 2,600 jobs at public broadcaster ERT and create a new, smaller company. The signal for the three public television channels was switched off by the Greek finance ministry shortly before midnight.

The step drew criticism from Samaras’s coalition partners, heightening tensions in a year-old government that is seeking to pursue budget cuts to remain eligible for emergency international aid. As part of the conditions for the aid, Greece is required to reduce the number of workers on the state payroll by 15,000 by the end of 2014.

The commission, the EU’s regulatory arm, helps oversee the rescue program for Greece along with the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

“The commission has not sought the closure of ERT, but nor does the commission question the Greek government’s mandate to manage the public sector in Greece,” Rehn said. “The decision of the Greek authorities has been taken in the context of the major efforts that the authorities are taking to modernize the Greek economy.”

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