Samaras meeting with Gazprom CEO paves way for gas privatization

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras insisted on Tuesday that attracting foreign investment to Greece was the country’s best hope of overcoming its devastating unemployment problem, as he met with officials from Russian giant Gazprom, which is in pole position to acquire the country’s sole retail gas distributor, DEPA.

Ahead of his meeting with Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller in Athens, Samaras briefed President Karolos Papoulias on his recent visit to China and Azerbaijan.

Samaras told Papoulias that the government’s strategy of regaining investors’ confidence and attracting foreign capital was the correct one for resuscitating the country’s economy.

“We stabilized the country’s position in Europe and now we are stabilizing it on the world map,” said Samaras. “Opportunities to be outward-looking and to attract investment are the only way to fight and beat unemployment, which is our country’s biggest problem.”

The prime minister then met with Miller and other Gazprom officials to discuss the sale of DEPA. This was Miller’s third visit to Athens in just over two months. The CEO of Greece’s privatization agency, Yiannis Emiris, also took part in the talks.

Binding bids for DEPA are due to be submitted by May 29 and it appears that the two sides settled a couple of concerns that Gazprom had about the deal. Sources said that Samaras agreed that the Russian firm should have to deposit 10 percent rather than 20 percent of the purchase price as a guarantee before the sale gets European Union approval.

The Greek side committed to gradually paying off the public sector’s debts to DEPA.

There was also a discussion about Gazprom reducing its supply prices once its current contract with DEPA expires in 2016

“The parties highly praised the Russian-Greek cooperation in the gas sector and expressed their mutual interest to continue the fruitful partnership,” Gazprom said in a statement.

Samaras is due in Brussels for a European Union leaders’ summit on Wednesday and will welcome Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in Athens on Thursday.