ECONOMY

No leap in relations with Russia

The leap forward in Greek-Russian relations that the government had been hoping for did not happen on Tuesday during Gazprom chief Alexey Miller’s visit to Athens.

On the contrary, his statements showed that Russia had chosen Athens as the location from which it would send a message to Brussels regarding a case the European Commission is set to bring against the Russian energy giant on Wednesday regarding a violation of competition regulations. Gazprom will try to avoid a 10-billion-euro fine by offering the incentive of having a European partner in its Turkish Stream plans – that being Greece.

What was decided during the four-hour talks between Miller and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis in Athens concerned the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline and its extension to Greece: There is a preliminary agreement for the establishment of a consortium for the construction of the Greek stretch of the pipeline, but it will mainly be foreign companies participating in it, Miller stated.

Miller made no mention of a consortium between Gazprom and Greece’s Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), although the Greek side said it had come up in the talks.

He did stress that Greece has expressed its support for the pipeline’s implementation but noted that “any deal that to be signed will be based on European Union law.” He added that the pipeline will transmit 47 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe per annum, while Greece will enjoy multiple benefits.

On the issue of the 5-billion-euro deposit to Greece that Lafazanis had referred to in recent days, Miller stated that this would be associated with the construction of the pipeline: “This is an EU decision and we will adhere to EU law,” he said, while adding that “doubtlessly such a transmission volume will allow Greece to obtain commercial credit for the implementation of other plans.”

“We did not sign anything today,” said Lafazanis, “but the talks are at a good point and we hope they will soon be completed in a way that will be beneficial to the Greek economy.”