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Samaras Says Foreign Investors Saviors

samaras_maximosDays after returning from a trip to China to woo business, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said the way out of the country’s crushing economic crisis is for foreign companies to invest in the country, which means overcoming its reputation s unfriendly to business and problems such as labyrinthine bureaucratic delays, and frequent bribery requests that have scared off many.
Samaras has said he would end those problems but didn’t say how but insisted that attracting foreign investment to Greece was the country’s best hope of overcoming its devastating unemployment problem, as he met with officials from Russian giant Gazprom, the lone bidder to buy the country’s sole retail gas distributor, DEPA.
Ahead of his meeting with Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller in Athens, Samaras briefed President Karolos Papoulias on his recent visit to China and Azerbaijan. Samaras told Papoulias that the government’s strategy of regaining investors’ confidence and attracting foreign capital was the correct one for resuscitating the country’s economy.
“We stabilized the country’s position in Europe and now we are stabilizing it on the world map,” said Samaras. “Opportunities to be outward-looking and to attract investment are the only way to fight and beat unemployment, which is our country’s biggest problem.”
The prime minister then met with Miller and other Gazprom officials to discuss the sale of DEPA. This was Miller’s third visit to Athens in just over two months. The CEO of Greece’s privatization agency, Yiannis Emiris, also took part in the talks.
Binding bids for DEPA are due to be submitted by May 29. Samaras, eager to ease Gazprom, said the company would only have to pay a 10 percent down payment instead of 20 before the sale seeks European Union approval, and that Greece would insure the company’s debts would be taken care of.
There was also a discussion about Gazprom reducing its supply prices once its current contract with DEPA expires in 2016.  “The parties highly praised the Russian-Greek cooperation in the gas sector and expressed their mutual interest to continue the fruitful partnership,” Gazprom said in a statement.
Those talks come after Samaras made a sidestop on the way back from China to Azerbaijan to talk with President Ilham Aliyev. One of the main topics of conversation during the meeting was the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will natural gas from Azerbaijan to western Europe via Greece and Italy.
The economic think-tank IOBE estimates that the pipeline could bring 340 million euros ($439.6 million) of added value to the Greek economy each year. Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR is also one of the leading contenders for the purchase of Greece’s natural gas network operator, DESFA.

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