Samaras brave-faced over DEPA let-down

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sought on Tuesday to put on a brave face following the failure by Russia’s Gazprom to bid for Greece’s Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), declaring during a joint press conference with Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker that the hiccup was a temporary one and that Athens would not take further austerity measures to plug the gap left by the non-sale of DEPA.

Samaras described as “absurdities” reports that his government would impose new measures because of the “temporary holdup” in the DEPA sell-off. “The plans for privatizations will continue,” the premier said. “Whatever problems arise will be overcome.” Asked whether the European Commission, which has been investigating Gazprom since last fall, had intervened to stop the Russian company from buying DEPA, Samaras avoided responding directly, noting that the procedure for the privatization was “correct” and attributing the collapse of the sell-off for reasons that are “beyond” Greece.

The premier hailed a bid by Azeri state energy firm Socar for DESFA, the gas transmission network operator, which he said strengthened Greece’s future bid to transport Caspian natural gas to Western Europe as part of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline.

Juncker, for his part, said he could “neither confirm, nor deny” that Brussels had played a part in stopping the DEPA sell-off but said that if it had, it should be “prepared to face the consequences of its decisions.”

Juncker, formerly chairman of the Eurogroup, reaffirmed his support for Greece and its tough economic reform effort, referring to Samaras as “a brother.” The Greek premier struck a similarly affectionate tone, calling Juncker “one of us.”