Energy minister challenges privatizations

Greece’s new leftwing government will legally oppose a Canadian-run gold mine in northern Greece, its energy minister said on Tuesday, promising to protect workers at the mine.

“We are against the gold investment in Skouries and we will use all possible legal means to back our position,” Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis told Parliament.

“In any case we will support all workers at the mines.”

The Skouries gold mine operated by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold Corp. in northern Greece was the flagship project of the last government’s foreign investment drive and considered a test case that would reveal whether Greece could protect foreign investors despite local opposition.

Lafazanis also said the government plans to reexamine the sale of a prime seaside property at the old Athens airport of Hellenikon, aiming to cancel it.

“The plans for developing Hellenikon are extremely destructive to the environment,” Lafazanis told lawmakers. “We will review this scandalous purchase with the aim to cancel it.”

The leftist minister further challenged the planned sale of Public Power Corporation (PPC), which, he said has seen its arrears rise to above 1.7 billion euros. He added that the government will try to impose a reduction in electricity rates of between 20-40 percent. He also heralded a halt to the planned privatization of gas firm DEPA and the Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE).

Lafazanis also said the government aims to boost Greek industry by reviving its ship building and repairs sector, as well as supporting collective agriculture.