Kathimerini English - - Focus -

fla­tion rate picked up in Jan­uary, with the reading com­ing in above mar­ket ex­pec­ta­tions, hit­ting al­most a five-year high. The reading in Jan­uary was 1.5 per­cent from 0.3 per­cent in De­cem­ber. Con­sumer prices were led higher by trans­port, hous­ing, tele­coms, al­co­holic bev­er­ages and to­bacco costs. Economists polled by Reuters were fore­cast­ing a 0.4 per­cent print in Jan­uary. For years an in­fla­tion out­lier in the eurozone, Greece had been in a pro­tracted de­fla­tion mode since March 2013 based on its head­line in­dex, as wage and pen­sion cuts and a multi-year re­ces­sion took a heavy toll on Greek house­hold in­comes.

Gazprom’s bid to tap into a pipe­line meant to wean Europe off Rus­sian gas threat­ens to un­der­mine a pil­lar of Euro­pean en­ergy pol­icy and slow plans to de­velop ri­val de­posits in the east Mediter­ranean. As the Euro­pean Union strug­gles against the “iron em­brace” of Rus­sian pipe­lines, it has made open­ing a new South­ern Gas Cor­ri­dor to carry gas from Azer­bai­jan by 2020 a pri­or­ity. The 10 bil­lion cu­bic me­ter (bcm)-ca­pac­ity Trans Adri­atic Pipe­line (TAP) is the pro­ject’s end piece, join­ing up with the Trans Ana­to­lian Pipe­line at the Turk­ish bor­der, then cross­ing Greece and Al­ba­nia to reach Italy. Con­struc­tion work on TAP gives EU of­fi­cials the first non-Rus­sian gas pipe­line to sup­ply Europe since Al­ge­ria’s Medgaz link nearly a decade ago, pav­ing the way for di­lut­ing Gazprom’s large one-third share of Europe’s gas mar­ket. That at least was the plan, un­til Gazprom’s deputy head Alexan­der Medvedev last month said the com­pany was con­sid­er­ing pump­ing gas through the link un­der an auc­tion sys­tem giv­ing equal ac­cess to any would-be sup­plier. Medvedev ques­tioned Azer­bai­jan’s abil­ity to fill the pipe­line, say­ing Rus­sia could step in to plug any short falls once the link is ex­panded.

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