Greece to cancel gas utility sale, opposes Canadian gold mine


 Greece’s new left-wing government will cancel plans to sell the state natural gas utility and is firmly opposed to a Canadian gold mine that is among the biggest foreign investment projects in the country, the energy minister told Reuters on Friday.

The comments by Panagiotis Lafazanis further reinforces early signs that the government is sticking to campaign pledges that have chilled investment and unnerved financial markets.

The gold mine operated by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold in northern Greece was the flagship project of the last government’s foreign investment drive and considered a test case that would reveal whether Greece could protect foreign investors despite local opposition.

“We are absolutely against it and we will examine our next moves on it,” Lafazanis, the 63-year-old former Communist told Reuters at his new ministerial office, declining to say if the government would try to block the project from going ahead.

The new minister was even more categorical on gas utility DEPA, saying the planned sale of a 65 percent stake would be scrapped. “In no way will we privatise gas utility DEPA and sell it to anyone, no matter who the interested party is,” Lafazanis said.

But he struck a more moderate tone on the 400-million-euro ($452 million) sale of Greek natural gas grid operator DESFA to Azerbaijan’s state oil firm SOCAR, a deal agreed in 2013.

He said the government would act on the project only after the European Commission, which is investigating whether the deal violates competition rules, makes it decision later this year.

“We will wait for the EU Competition Commission’s decision and then we will decide our own moves,” he said.

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