Greece is still being battered by the 2008 global credit crisis that led to the enforced sale of much of the nation’s infrastructure. One of the largest privatizations, covering 880 km of highways across the northern region, is reaching a critical point with binding offers due this April.

The Egnatia Odos motorway runs for 658 kilometers between Igoumenitsa, on the northwest coast, and the Turkish border at Kipi. Three linking highways, totaling 225 km, are included in the privatization. The main route was completed in phases until 2009 by a special-purpose government company, Egnatia Odos S.A., with substantial funding from the European Union’s bank.

Egnatia Odos is currently owned by the state’s Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund S.A. (HRADF), which was created in 2011 to manage the government’s privatization program.

Burdened by crippling debt, the Greek government sought to sell off state assets to raise some $61 billion, with roughly a third coming from infrastructure, according to Andreas Taprantzis, HRADF's executive director. Of all the country’s highways, Egnatia Odos had the greatest potential to raise cash, he said in 2012.

The pressure to privatize intensified with the 2015 debt bailout imposed on a reluctant government by the “troika” of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

“All of Greek public assets … water … roads, the Parthenon … all belongs to the troika,” said Yanis Varoufakis in a recent online talk. As the Greek finance minster at the time, he unsuccessfully resisted the troika’s demand for government spending cuts and privatizations. Greece is now “in a condition of permanent debt bondage,” he claimed.

In late 2017, HRADF invited expressions of interest in a contract to finance, operate, maintain and develop the motorway and its three linking roads for up to 40 years. It shortlisted seven groups in 2018, with two reaching the final bid stage set for April.

One is a team of France-based Vinci Group companies, with local EPC contractors Mytilineos S.A. Also competing is ROADIS Transportation Holding S.L.U., which is owned by Canada’s public sector pension fund PSP Investments, in joint venture with locally based contractor Aktor Concessions S.A.