Samaras asks Putin to help lower gas prices

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin, it emerged on Monday, to ask for gas giant Gazprom to reduce the price at which it supplies Greece, which pays roughly 30 percent more than the European average for its natural gas.

Sources said that in his letter, which was sent a few weeks ago, Samaras stressed the importance of energy prices in helping Greece become more competitive. Greece’s current contract with Gazprom runs through 2016.

In January, the Russian company supplied Greece at a price of 35.34 euros per megawatt hour, which was the highest in Europe, when Bulgaria, which receives the second-dearest gas, was paying 29.94 euros. Samaras set the Bulgarian price as a benchmark, urging Gazprom to at least match the price it has agreed with Sofia.

The Hellenic Union of Industrial Consumers of Energy (EBIKEN) says the price of natural gas for industry has increased by 80 percent over the last four years and that Greek firms pay 40 percent above the European average.

Gazprom was expected to submit a successful bid for Greece’s natural gas firm DEPA in June but withdrew its interest at the last minute. The European Commission denied it played any role in deterring the Russians. The government is due to launch a new tender next year. It is not yet clear if Gazprom will renew its interest.