Greek energy minister to visit Moscow, hits out at Germany

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2015 11:35 AM

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis will meet his Russian counterpart and the CEO of energy giant Gazprom in Moscow on Monday, as he hit out at the EU and Germany for tightening a 'noose' around the Greek economy.

Outspoken Lafazanis, on the left wing of Greece's co-ruling Syriza party, will meet Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller as well as other senior government officials, the energy ministry said on Saturday.

But as Athens battles to have a list of reforms accepted by its EU partners in order to secure much-needed funds to stave off bankruptcy, Lafazanis criticized Berlin and said the government must not roll back on its commitments.

"No list should go over the will and sovereignty of the people," he told Kefalaio newspaper in an interview on Saturday.

"The Germanized European Union is literally choking our country and tightening week by week the noose around the economy," he said.

Greece will run out of money by April 20, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday, unless it manages to unlock aid by agreeing on a list of reforms with EU-IMF partners with Lafazanis opposed to several energy privatizations.

The previous center-right government had planned to accelerate the sale of a 65 percent stake in gas utility DEPA, after an initial attempt to sell to Gazprom in 2013 failed. Within days of Syriza taking power in January, Lafazanis said he would scrap the sale.

DEPA has previously negotiated with Gazprom in a bid to get cheaper gas supplies and was one of the first European companies to obtain a rebate in 2011.

Lafazanis' visit will come just over a week before Tsipras is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow although the Greek government has stressed it is not seeking funding from the Kremlin.

The two countries, which are both Orthodox Christian, have traditionally had good relations and Athens has never strongly supported sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

(Reporting By Costas Pitas; Editing by David Evans and Stephen Powell)