A meeting on Tuesday between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Russian President Vladimir Putin, their first in more than two years, presented the Greek leader with a chance to discuss the high cost of natural gas and to reaffirm interest from Russia in the sale of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) and Thessaloniki port.
The two men met in Brussels after Samaras addressed a Business Europe conference and Putin had met with European Union officials.
The cost of natural gas was a key item on the agenda of talks between Samaras and Putin as the meeting came amid discussions between Russian gas giant Gazprom and Greece’s Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) about the same issue. The Greek government is thought to have ordered DEPA officials to reject any price of more than $400 per 1,000 cubic meters.
Sources said that Putin did not make any binding commitments on the matter but indicated that he would examine the issue. In his comments after the meeting, Samaras drove home the point that Greece could not afford to keep paying natural gas prices that are about 30 percent above the European average. “My country is currently coming out of a six-year recession and low energy prices from Russia are crucial to our recovery,” he said.
On the issue of OSE, Putin made it known that there is Russian interest and asked whether Athens would be able to package the railways and Thessaloniki port into a single privatization tender. The government, however, will be unable to comply with this request.
Samaras extended an invitation to Putin to make an official visit to Greece soon.
Meanwhile in Athens leftist SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras lashed out at the imposition of austerity reforms over the past few years, claiming that the troika-imposed measures violated the Greek Constitution. “For three years now, the Constitution and the procedures that it dictates have been violated, on the orders of our lenders,” Tsipras said after talks with Sotiris Rizos, the president of the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court.
Tsipras subsequently met with Eleni Raikou, the capital’s top corruption prosecutor, for a briefing on the progress of the graft probes she is overseeing. “Whoever stole public money must return it,” he said.