At a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras last week, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises’ (SEV) new board reportedly focused on the pressing issue of industrial policy and energy costs. A ministerial meeting on the matter followed on Thursday and the two developments indicate that SEV is determined to tackle high energy costs and their repercussions on the country’s industrial competitiveness in a systematic manner.
The federation’s new president, Theodoros Fessas, has had to reconcile conflicting views and interests among SEV members on the issue of energy costs, as SEV represents the big industrial power consumers, the independent electricity producers and the Public Power Corporation (PPC) itself at the same time. The first round of contacts with the prime minister and the responsible ministers opened with an agenda focused mainly on the implementation of measures that the government had already announced in February and did not carry the risk of internal conflicts.
SEV is pressing the argument that drastically reducing Greek power and natural gas costs down to the average European level is a key condition for the survival of Greek industry. The government has delayed its response in order to figure out how not to get tripped up by European competition regulations.
SEV has also asked that the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) returns to enterprises profits of 50 million euros which the government promised in February. However, the European Commission has presented Athens with a host of questions aiming to clarify whether the reimbursement constitutes state aid.
According to SEV, when announced, the government’s plan did not take into account Community legislation and was based on assumptions that risked its rejection. To everyone’s surprise, Development Minister Nikos Dendias even announced after the ministerial meeting that the government would proceed to implement the two measures, ignoring the EU.
SEV also pressed ministers on the issue of reducing taxation on natural gas consumed by industry and power production which is tenfold the minimum level allowed in Europe. Another issue was that of various surcharges which industry pays through electricity bills.