The European Commission didn’t play a role in the process that saw Russian giant OAO Gazprom withdraw its bid for Greece’s natural-gas monopoly DEPA, a European Union spokesman said on June 11, amid speculation that the United States was unhappy over growing Russian interest in Europe’s energy needs and could have taken control of Greece’s gas company.
Greece failed to receive a single bid for DEPA before the deadline expired on June 10. Greek officials blamed the EU for derailing the deal over concerns about Moscow’s already tight grip on the European market.
“Regarding the sale of DEPA, the Commission had no influence in the process and did not have any contact with Gazprom on this issue,” the spokesman said.
“The privatization process in Greece is the responsibility of the Greek authorities and is managed by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund. The procedures and decisions on the privatization process are taken by the Board of HRADF in compliance with existing Greek and EU legislation,” he said.
Gazprom supplies about one-quarter of the EU’s natural gas via a network of pipelines, although exports to Europe have slipped in recent years amid weaker demand and tougher competition.
But in the past several years, the EU has sought to reduce its reliance on Russia for gas after supplies were disrupted in 2006 and 2009 when Moscow clashed with Ukraine, the main transit route, over alleged nonpayment and price. Russia has bristled at EU attempts to liberalize the bloc’s energy market, saying the rules harm Gazprom and consumers.
Greece is under growing pressure from its international lenders to speed the pace of privatizations but took a big hit with the failure to get even one bidder for DEPA and only one for the gas distribution arm, DESFA, that being from Azerbaijian’s SOCAR.