Even as Greece opens up its energy market, it has sought to strengthen its presence in the neighboring Balkan countries as part of a strategy of becoming a power hub for the region, Dimitris Kaloudiotis, the secretary-general at the Development Ministry, said yesterday. Addressing the 6th National Greek Energy Conference in Athens, he said It must be made clear that Greece can play a leading role in southeastern Europe. He said the broader approach will ensure that the deregulated domestic market functions successfully. Kaloudiotis said that part of this pan-European strategy includes entering into alliances with Balkan countries, either via state-controlled electricity utility Public Power Corporation, Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) or petroleum product company Hellenic Petroleum. With concerns over the security of supply heightened following the events of September 11, link-ups with other countries will help ensure a steady flow of power from a diverse number of sources. The issue is the long-term security of Greece’s energy supply, he stressed. Referring to the deregulation of the domestic energy market, part of which was opened up on February 19, Kaloudiotis said the State has already issued power generation and supply permits. The State has also put in 175 billion drachmas out of the 365 billion drachmas invested by the private sector for renewable energy plants. DEPA Managing Director Aristides Vakirlis said that a free energy market will be defined by whether consumers have easy and reliable access to energy at the lowest possible price. It will also be determined by how well the private sector performs without the aid of state subsidies. Vakirlis also called for the lifting of technical and institutional barriers to allow more suppliers to enter the market and offer competitive prices. DEPA in turn is currently preparing a new price tariff for the transport of natural gas, helping to offset complaints about high rates. A few months ago, the pharmaceutical company Glaxo sited this as reason for refusing to supply wholesalers, who sought recourse with the Competition Commission. The Commission is about to reach a verdict which, according to sources, defends the freedom of intra-EU trade. The existing pricing system was judged as illegal, as there is no relevant legislative authorization. However, its annulment does not necessarily mean a return to the system that was applicable before 1997, which took into account the three lowest prices in Europe.