Athens to seek talks on law

Athens is to write to the European Commission tomorrow seeking a speedy start to negotiations on amending Greece’s controversial new law on public tenders, government sources said yesterday, adding that new legislation will be passed to stay the law’s implementation. In a «reasoned opinion» last week, the last warning before taking a member state to court, Brussels formally demanded changes to the law, which it says runs against EU regulations on public procurement, «as well as the exercise of almost all the fundamental freedoms acknowledged by the EC treaty.» This followed up on a severe threat, voiced a fortnight ago, to freeze all EU funding for major public works in Greece after the end of May unless the law is changed. The controversial anti-graft legislation, passed on January 20 but due for implementation on June 14, bars media barons from bidding for state tenders worth over a million euros through their other business interests. Yesterday, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who drafted the law, met Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to discuss the problem. Sources said the letter to Brussels will express a desire for immediate negotiations with the Commission – which has expressed willingness to «work with Greek authorities» on the matter – to seek what Karamanlis has termed «common ground.» The government is also expected to make known its intention to postpone the law’s implementation, through a legislative amendment to be tabled in Parliament – possibly within the next few days, as an addendum to a draft law on immigration. Initially, the ruling conservatives had labeled as «defeatist» the idea of amending the law, which is their single proudest achievement during their first 13 months in power.