By Alexandra Kassimi
Russian interest in investing in Greece has grown significantly over the last few days, as, following news that Gazprom was among the bidders for the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and gas network operator DESFA, officials from Russian Railways (RZD) have visited Athens to discuss a possible investment in the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE).
It appears that the agreement between Hewlett Packard and Cosco for the US firmís use of the Chinese companyís dock in Piraeus as its transit center for central European and the Mediterranean has reawakened Russian interest in the Greek rail company.
RZD officials traveled to Greece this week in order to inspect OSEís infrastructure and its railway service operating subsidiary TRAINOSE.
Russian Railways had also expressed an interest in OSE in the past, but that had remained in theory. A meeting was held a few months ago between Russian officials and the Greek Development Ministry regarding the planned privatization of TRAINOSE, which plans foresee being sold in its entirety.
Previous government efforts to sell a 49 percent stake in the company failed, while the lukewarm investment interest in it was discouraged further by the minority stake on sale.
However, things are different now.
The inspection of the OSE network was deemed necessary by the RZD representatives as it is vital for the smooth operation of TRAINOSE. On Thursday they visited the companyís technical base and factories in Athens. It is no secret, however, that the OSE network is suffering problems and delays in the modernization projects it needs, which have led to a series of malfunctions and disruptions.
At the same time the Russian side has turned its attention to the interconnection of the railway network with the countryís main ports. The deal between HP, Cosco and TRAINOSE, which includes the completion of the extension of the railway line to the Piraeus suburb of Ikonio, will constitute a turning point for OSE as it will play a key role in the transport of goods following the linkís completion.
Last week the Russian officials visited northern Greece, as a planned railway link with the ports of Macedonia and Thrace, such as Alexandroupoli and Kavala, would provide easy access to the networks of Eastern Europe as well.