SEV chief hits out at state over ‘cartels’

The head of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), Dimitris Daskalopoulos, yesterday hit back at what he called the «demonization» of private companies in the wake of recent allegations about cartels and claimed that state intervention was costing consumers up to 3 billion euros a year. Daskalopoulos was speaking at a press conference where he gave his views on the government’s 2007 budget and reacted to a series of allegations about price fixing following the Competition Commission’s investigating into an alleged cartel among dairy firms. «Those who have recently been demonizing private companies as a whole forget the existence of a strange state cartel,» said Daskalopoulos. «It is the biggest malignancy of the Greek economy and Greek society.» The head of SEV said that the problem lay in part with some 50 state firms that operate like monopolies in some sectors and are a heavy burden on the public budget. He was equally critical of public committees, state bureaucracy and a complicated set of laws. Daskalopoulos claimed that in 2006, state-run firms cost the country 2.5 billion euros and that direct and indirect state intervention in setting prices had led to consumers paying up to 3 billion euros more than they should have. His outburst coincided with the three-day visit to Athens of European Union Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes. Her trip comes in the wake of the former director of Greece’s Competition Commission, Panayiotis Adamopoulos, being accused of trying to blackmail the Mevgal dairy firm. «There is the impression that cartels have been uncovered everywhere, including in the most competitive sectors of the economy,» Daskalopoulos said. Daskalopoulos is also president of Vivartia, a market leader in the Greek food and dairy market. «It is certain that cartels exist. Greek competition authorities have handed down many fines in the past few years,» he added. «But there are very specific laws on what constitutes a cartel.»