Privatization setback played down
In joint address with Juncker, Samaras rules out more austerity to offset lost revenue
Following the failure by Russia’s Gazprom to bid for Greece’s Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sought yesterday to put on a brave face as he declared during a press conference with Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker that the hiccup was temporary and that Athens would not take further austerity measures to plug the gap.
Samaras described as “absurdities” reports that his government would impose new measures because of the “temporary holdup” in the DEPA sell-off. “The plans for privatizations will continue,” the premier said. “Whatever problems arise will be overcome.” Asked whether the European Commission, which has been investigating Gazprom since last fall, had intervened to stop the Russian company from buying DEPA, Samaras avoided responding directly, noting that the procedure for the privatization was “correct” and attributing the collapse of the sell-off for reasons that are “beyond” Greece.
The premier hailed a bid by Azeri state energy firm Socar for DESFA, the gas transmission network operator, which he said strengthened Greece’s fu- ture bid to transport Caspian natural gas to Western Europe as part of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline.
Juncker, for his part, said he could “neither confirm, nor deny” that Brussels had played a part in stopping the DEPA sell-off but said that if it had, it should be “prepared to face the consequences of its decisions.”
Juncker, formerly chairman of the Eurogroup, reaffirmed his support for Greece and its tough economic reform effort, referring to Samaras as “a brother.” The Greek premier struck a similarly affectionate tone, calling Juncker “one of us.”