Brussels to demand action

As the government insisted yesterday that it would ensure Greece did not lose «a single euro» in European Union funding as a result of its fight with the Commission over the controversial new law on state tenders, Brussels is expected next week to launch the second stage of the infringement process against Athens. In a letter made public on Wednesday, the Commission threatened to freeze EU funding for major public works in Greece from May 31 unless Athens amends the law, which bars media moguls from access to lucrative state contracts through their other company holdings. Yesterday, sources in Brussels said the Commission will probably settle on Wednesday on the text of a «reasoned opinion» – the last warning stage before the Commission takes an EU member state to court – that is to be sent to Athens. This will probably state that Greek contingency plans, announced on Wednesday, to defer implementation of the law will not suffice, and that the legislation must be radically amended. Athens will probably be given three weeks in which to respond. The bill was passed on January 20, but will come into effect in late June or early July. Yesterday, government sources said Athens is planning to hire the services of a law firm in Brussels to help with its legal defense, both at the current stage and if the case goes to court. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that «even if we cannot find common ground [with the Commission], we will ensure that not a single euro in EU subsidies is lost.» Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who drafted the law, claimed that Greece had been singled out by dark international interests. «Some people fear that this effort of ours will be imitated elsewhere,» he said. Both ministers denied plans to resign. During a debate in Parliament yesterday, PASOK MP and former House Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis described Pavlopoulos as «an amiable Don Quixote who now claims he is tilting at entangled interests in Brussels.» Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Alekos Alavanos dismissed the government’s handling of the affair as «amateur,» while accusing PASOK of acting as «a crusader for the Berlusconi model of government, in which financial, media and political power are interlinked.»

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