Samaras rules out more austerity measures to make up for gas privatization failure

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras ruled out on Tuesday any possibility of the government adopting new austerity measures to make up for its failure to sell gas firm DEPA.

Samaras was speaking after a meeting Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker in Athens. Both men commented on claims that the European Commission had intervened in the privatization process.

Russian energy giant Gazprom withdrew its interest for DEPA ahead of Monday’s deadline for binding bids.

The Russian firm was expected to bid more than 900 million euros for the Greek gas firm. The government has said it will launch a new tender but there are concerns about what the lack of revenues could mean for its fiscal adjustment program.

“The plans for privatizations will continue,” said Samaras. “Whatever problems arise will be overcome.”

“Claims that new measures will be required are absurdities,” he said.

Amid speculation that the European Commission had blocked Gazprom’s bid for DEPA, Samaras said that the procedure for the privatization was “correct” and attributed the collapse of the sell-off to reasons that are “beyond” Greece.

Juncker said he could “neither confirm, nor deny” that Brussels had played a part but said that if the European Commission had prevented the sale of DEPA taking place, it should “face its responsibilities.”

European Commission sources told Kathimerini’s Brussels correspondent Nikos Chrysoloras that the privatisation process in Greece is the responsibility of the Greek authorities and is managed by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) and that the procedures and decisions on the privatisation process are taken by the Board of HRADF in compliance with existing Greek and EU legislation. Regarding the sale of DEPA, the Commission had no influence in the process and did not have any contact with Gazprom on this issue, the sources said.

Meanwhile, Juncker is to receive Greece’s highest honor, the Grand Cross of Order of the Redeemer, and Samaras referred to him as “one of us” as he completed his two-day visit to Athens.