Oil refineries, distributors and senior government officials agreed yesterday to tighten profit margins in the gasoline market in a bid to soften the impact of rising energy costs on consumers’ pockets. Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Salagoudis said that there was some room for companies to reduce profit margins, but did not give further details. He stressed that the state will aim to keep local petrol prices among the lowest in the European Union. «We had a very constructive meeting. We saw that there are considerable price deviations in the market and a number of these are unjustified,» the minister said. Oil prices hit $66 per barrel this week on international markets, leaving government officials to seek ways of minimizing the fallout it will have on consumers and their spending habits. Not everyone, however, is hurting from current tight market conditions. Hellenic Petroleum, the country’s largest petrol refinery, earlier this week reported a hefty, 78 percent jump in first-half net profit, thanks mainly to continuing high prices in crude oil. Greece is among the EU’s most oil- and gasoline-dependent countries since it has failed to develop alternative energy sources. The minister said that the state will step up checks on unnecessary price hikes at petrol stations as unleaded fuel at many service stations throughout the country exceeds the 1-euro mark. «In every case that we determine harmonized practices (e.g. price fixing) and dilution of gasoline, the fines and penalties will be tough,» Salagoudis stressed.