Ex-PPC chief accuses state of catering to private interests

Ousted former Public Power Corporation (PPC) chairman Yiannis Paleokrassas swung at the government yesterday – specifically at Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas – by claiming the strategy followed to deregulate the energy market is playing into the hands of certain private interests. Paleokrassas made his remarks at a conference on «Europe After the Brussels Summit» organized by Panteion University’s Institute of International Relations. Paleokrassas attacked the Ministry of Development, private investors in the energy market, his former company and the PPC employees’ union GENOP, accusing them of delaying the opening of the market to real competition. He criticized the existing deregulation plans as «incomplete» and «carrying the seeds of self-destruction.» He said both the current conservative government and its Socialist predecessor followed the same policy «in some aspects going beyond the requirements (of EU Directives) and in others running counter to their spirit.» The main concern of both governments, he said, was to satisfy both the greed of the private investors to whom they were tightly connected and the interests of former electricity monopoly PPC and, especially, its unions. «Both (governments) walked this tightrope,» he said. Paleokrassas was especially critical of the subsidies provided to potential investors in order to guarantee certain income levels and of the insistence on using natural gas, instead of the cheaper (but more polluting and less efficient) lignite to power the private energy-producing units. «The so-called market the ministry is setting up is, at best, a regulated, interventionist, wholesalers’ minimarket, with the retail market stiflingly regulated by the ministry through an antiquated price structure,» he said. Paleokrassas – a former MP with ruling New Democracy and Finance Minister in the early 1990s, who also served as European Environment Commissioner from 1993-95 – returned from political retirement to contest and win a parliamentary seat at the March 2004 election. In an unusual move, he resigned his seat almost immediately to accept the chairmanship of PPC. Soon, he was having conflicts with the managing director, who was appointed by the previous PASOK government – a situation which forced his resignation earlier this year. But Paleokrassas also clashed with the new top manager and the board of directors, who were appointed by the new government. He insisted on uprooting «corruption» and sent a batch of contracts to a prosecutor to investigate, including, mistakenly, one he himself had approved. In the ensuing trial of former PPC managers, all the other board members, plus current top managers, turned out as defense witnesses. Paleokrassas also clashed with the board when he found himself in a minority of one concerning the appointment of two senior managers. That and his constant bickering with Sioufas negatively affected the PPC’s share price. His claims of continued corruption and too-close relationships with private interests aroused the ire of both Sioufas and Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, with the latter threatening to sue, forcing Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to take a stand and demand his resignation. In a letter to Karamanlis, Paleokrasas said the PM had given him a mandate to clean up the PPC and that he had tried to do exactly that.

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