Brussels sounded on tender law

A Greek government delegation was pleased about the outcome of talks with European Commission officials yesterday over whether a new law banning media barons from access to state contracts was compatible with EU legislation, sources said. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos met in Brussels with Alexander Schaub, the internal market director-general of the European Commission. Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Christos Folias also attended the talks. The team of ministers is understood to have argued that the new law does not contravene EU regulations and that the Greek Constitution demanded there be laws in place to ensure transparency. They also claimed the law would not be deleterious to business or competitiveness in the Greek market. The law was passed on January 20 and is aimed at preventing contractors from using their media influence to force governments into awarding them lucrative deals. Its key article forbids anyone holding 1 percent or more of a media company’s share capital to bid for state contracts worth over a million euros. The Socialist opposition PASOK party has argued that the law contravenes EU rules. Its arguments appeared to be strengthened when it was revealed in December that the Commission had written to the government expressing fears that the then-pending law might conflict with EU legislation. During yesterday’s meeting, Schaub is said to have asked for further details about the law, which the government will have to supply within two weeks. Government sources, however, denied that Schaub intended to order changes to certain elements of the law. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who was also in Brussels for a NATO and EU leaders’ summit, expressed confidence that the law would remain unchanged. However, in response to a question from PASOK MEP Nikos Sifounakis, EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Charlie McCreevy said that the Commission was aware of compatibility problems with the new law and was looking into a number of complaints before it is expected to arrive at a final decision on the law’s suitability.

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