European Commission uncertainties are reportedly holding up a deal for Greece to sell a controlling stake in its natural gas transmission network operator DESFA to the Azerbaijan natural gas company SOCAR.
Greece’s privatization fund, TAIPED, accepted a 400-million-euro ($543.7 milliion) offer from SOCAR last summer for 66 percent of DESFA but since then the agreement has been delayed by European Union officials in Brussels.
The newspaper Kathimerini said it was told by diplomatic sources it didn’t identify that the EU has reservations about the deal that are holding up finalization.
The European Commission asked SOCAR to sign individual agreements with each of the 28 EU member states, declaring that it accepted the EU’s legal and regulatory framework on natural gas.
The process would have prohibitively cumbersome and time-consuming because it would have had to have been debated by each Parliament so the EU suggested a direct deal with Azerbaijan which the Azeris also rejected.
Then the Commission asked SOCAR to reduce its holding in DESFA to below 50 percent by selling 17 percent of the company to a third party.
The Azeris refused, wanting to keep a controlling stake, prompting the EU to hold off approval, saying that was the only way for the agreement to meet regulations on the security of gas supply.
Greece has reportedly decided to try to force the EU to act by having the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) approve DESFA as an independent energy operator while recognizing SOCAR as the majority shareholder.
The certificate has been sent to the Commission for its approval. EU regulations require that Brussels respond within two months. If it does not reply, it is deemed to have accepted this development.