Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras claimed on Wednesday that the Greek economy will be growing again in six months but his environment minister was not able to reach any kind of compromise with Eldorado Gold over its decision to suspend work on a multi-million-euro project in northern Greece.
Speaking to French TV channel Canal+, Tsipras insisted that his government is on track and that the Greek economy, which fell back into recession last year, will soon recover.
“Anyone claiming that Greece is not moving forward is either doing so on purpose because they do not want the country to progress or they are not aware of the reality,” he said, adding that there is no danger of his government losing its three-seat majority.
“Six months from now the Greek economy will be growing,” said the premier.
However, the standoff over one of the biggest foreign investments in the country continued. A meeting between Environment Minister Panos Skourletis and Eldorado Gold CEO Paul Wright, in the wake of the firm’s decision to suspend some of its mining activity in northern Greece, failed to result in any progress.
“We had an honest discussion with Mr Wright,” said Skourletis, who is said to have been furious that the executive canceled a meeting the pair were supposed to have on Monday, before the company made its announcement regarding the suspension of activity.
“I told him that he has to realize that Greece is a modern European country, with rules and laws that have to be respected by all, including investors,” he added, referring to the fines imposed on the firm for environmental violations. “Clearly Greece is not a colony.”
Skourletis also said he asked the Eldorado official whether the company, which he accuses of not having paid any tax in Greece since 2007, wanted to withdraw because of the falling price of gold.
“We are here as investors and not to get involved in politics,” said Wright after the meeting, which is said to have taken place in a tense atmosphere. “We were given the chance to explain our decision.”
There was no indication from the firm that it plans to reverse its decision and a plan was being put in place from Tuesday for 500 workers to be dismissed. Miners protested outside the Environment Ministry. Skourletis pledged that the pending license for the mine in Olympias would be examined within a legally acceptable timetable.