ATHENS – Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis said he wants Greece to stop privatizations even though Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has reversed course and said he would let them continue, bowing to demands from international lenders.
“No privatization will go forward,” Lafazanis said in an interview with Ta Nea daily referring to the privatization package that the previous government set up for the country’s energy sector and which includes the Public Power Corporation (PPC), Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA).
“I am only repeating what I have already said,” Lafazanis, who is leader of the Radical Left SYRIZA’s so-called “left platform,” told the newspaper.
During his campaign ahead of the Jan. 25 snap elections he won on the back of promises to reverse austerity and reforms insisted upon by the lenders, Tsipras said he would also halt privatizations but reversed course almost as soon as taking office, breaking another vow.
Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who has overall responsibility for privatization, said Greek law allows the government to change the terms of sales that are underway and to examine their legality.
He said the government would not cancel state sales that have already been completed but wouldn’t sell them at bargain basement prices although he, too, earlier said he didn’t want them sold at all.
“We don’t want to sell the family silver of the Greek state at insultingly low prices,” Varoufakis told Real FM.
As part of accepting a four-month extension of bailouts, Greece’s new government gave lenders a laundry list of reforms it would complete, including continuing privatizations begun by former governments.
The English original of the list says the government will respect the tender process where it has been launched, whereas a Greek translation provided by a government official speaks of respecting the procedure “where the process of submitting bids has begun”.
Lafazanis told Reuters last month that the government was “absolutely” opposed to a mining project in northern Greece undertaken by Eldorado Gold Corp of Canada.
But a senior energy ministry official told the news agency Feb. 25 that the government would not block the mining operation, although it would review permits for a processing plant at the site, indicating that the government is both for and against privatizations and wants to stop them but will let them continue.
“The mining will not stop,” the official told reporters, adding: “As a ministry we have ordered some of the permits to be recalled to re-examine whether the activity of the company is the one described in the approved permits.”