Greek lawmakers ratified on Wednesday evening four contracts for hydrocarbon exploration off Crete and in the Ionian Sea.
Voting for the concessions were MPs of ruling New Democracy, KINAL and Greek Solution, while the main opposition SYRIZA expressed reservations. The Communist Party and MeRA25 voted against them.
The contracts include the sea area designated "Ionian Sea" (Spain-based consortium Repsol Exploracion/Hellenic Petroleum or HELPE); "Block 10 Ionian Sea" in the Gulf of Kyparissia, SW Peloponnese (HELPE); and the maritime areas "West of Crete" and "Southwest of Crete" (consortium of Total, ExxonMobil and HELPE).
Provisions of the contracts for the Cretan and Ionian beds include an 8-year limit on exploration, and a 25-year limit on exploitation. If hydrocarbons are found, the state stands to gain 40 pct of the total investment revenues, broken down as follows: 20 pct as income tax plus 5 pct as regional tax, with the rest being income on royalties based on a rising scale linked to hydrocarbon volume.
In addition, the contracts include strict regulations on environmental protection and reduction of environmental threats at both exploration and exploitation stages.
Deputy Environment and Energy Minister Gerassimos Thomas acknowledged that the SYRIZA government had negotiated the contracts, and the current government "recognizes that provisions of Greek and EU legislation have been fulfilled."
He said that environmental issues will be constantly monitored and that every monitoring ship will include observers on board who will be able to intervene when necessary.
SYRIZA rapporteur Sokratis Famellos said that his party expressed reservations because the government has already expressed its intention to give up the state's stake in the projects, as expressed through HELPE.
"If this is confirmed, then it will constitute a decision to sell off natural resources and hydrocarbon opportunities, and act as a waiver of the environmental obligations Greece has assumed." This selloff, he said, "is done directly through the private sector, without any tenders and with loss to public revenue."