Is Greece In Danger Of Losing Treasured Sites?

Greece is hoping to raise tens of billions of dollars by selling off state assets, mostly real estate, to help keep it from defaulting on its international sovereign debt. The sell-off was part of an agreement reached with the European Union and International Monetary Fund in exchange for better repayment terms on loans. Some German politicians say Greece should sell the Acropolis or even some Aegean islands to get cash, but the Greek government says that's never going to happen. Yet some Greeks still worry the debt crisis could put national treasures at risk.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The government of Greece needs to raise tens of billions of dollars to avoid defaulting on its debt. It's going to raise most of it by selling real estate, and that has some Greeks worried the deal could turn into a fire sale of Greece's national treasures.

Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens.

JOANNA KAKISSIS: It's a spring evening, and the tree-lined walkway below the Acropolis is filled with people. One is Eleni Moscha, a 22-year-old university student. She's heard that German politicians want Greece to sell the Acropolis and some islands to pay off more than $400 billion in debt.

Ms. ELENI MOSCHA: I don't think that we should sell things like our islands or ancient stuff, because this is our national inheritance and it's really important for tourism, as well. Because if we sell this, we have nothing, practically.

KAKISSIS: Economist Yannis Stournaras calls talk of an Acropolis sale silly, bad-taste humor. He's been promoting selling less controversial land for years. Lots of it is ripe for investment, he says.

Mr. YANNIS STOURNARAS (Economist): We talk about real estate in certain parts of the country, either close to the sea or in mountains or in cities, which is totally underdeveloped now. It stays idle.

KAKISSIS: Polls show Greeks are divided about selling state assets. The government cut spending and hiked taxes in exchange for international loans last year to avoid default. But the cost-cutting has also worsened the recession and increased unemployment.

For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis, in Athens.

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