Athens set for compromise on gas market’s liberalization

The recently elected Greek government is ready to compromise on the gas market’s liberalization – a condition agreed to by the country’s previous administration with creditors – in ongoing talks with the Brussels Group for a new bail-out agreement.

Sources said Athens is preparing to yield to pressure being applied by lenders for the gas market’s liberalization, which effectively means a draft bill that was prepared by the previous administration but not ratified as a result of the January 25 snap elections will now reemerge in one way or another.

European law requires competition in the retail gas market. Subsequently, monopolies maintained by Greece’s three (EPA) gas supply companies in the wider Athens area, Thessaloniki, and Thessalia, in the mid-northeast, will need to be broken up. These monopolies, concerning supply and distribution, currently stand as an exception to EU law. Compensation claims made by the EPA shareholders, which include Shell and ENI, in exchange for the premature end of their respective monopolies that were agreed to in 2000, is an issue that will need to be dealt with.

Although new issues and financially related gaps are continuing to emerge amid the government’s negotiations with lenders, overall developments indicate that a deal will be struck, even if at the last moment, or before the next scheduled board meeting at the European Central Bank, which will either provide solutions for the Greek economy’s finances or deprive the country of needed support and further increase the risk of a default.

Although the Brussels Group has no authority over the decision to approve 3.1 billion euros of European Central Bank aid for Greece, it has played a key role in solving pivotal issues in negotiations.