PM backs Venizelos on 2010 submarine deal before policy talks

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday sought to express his support for his coalition partner, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, heading off an assault by the main leftist opposition SYRIZA regarding Venizelos’s handling of a submarine deal when the latter was defense minister in 2010 that some fear could cause a rift between the two coalition parties.

The premier’s statement, issued via his spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, noted that “Venizelos’s interventions in this affair during his term at the Defense Ministry were carried out in conditions of full transparency.”

SYRIZA insisted that it would submit in Parliament next week its proposal for the establishment of an investigative committee to scrutinize a deal signed by Venizelos in 2010 with the Abu Dhabi Mar holding company to build four submarines for the Hellenic Navy at the Skaramangas shipyards, west of Athens.

Government sources responded that the deal – which is essentially an extension of a submarine purchase approved by another former defense minister, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, in 2001 – does not need to be submitted to further scrutiny as a probe was held in 2011 and led to the indictment of Tsochatzopoulos (who was earlier this month sentenced to 20 years in jail for money laundering).

Venizelos, for his part, told reporters on Tuesday that he felt no need for Samaras to back him on the Skaramangas affair. The PASOK chief, who is also Samaras’s deputy, also sought to underline that the two men saw eye to eye on a policy blueprint being drawn up between New Democracy and PASOK to set out the government’s “red lines” ahead of a new round of negotiations with troika officials.

New “horizontal cuts” would undermine the Greek economy and growth, Venizelos told a press conference. Samaras and Venizelos are expected to sign off on the blueprint in a meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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