Turkey sends gas to Greece as EU slams gov’t in Athens

Turkey sends gas to Greece as EU slams gov’t in Athens

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey sends gas to Greece as EU slams gov’t in Athens

Hundreds demonstrate in Paris Feb. 18 in support of the Greek population badly hit by the crisis. ‘Solidarity does not come for free,’ says EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. AP photo

Turkey restarted natural gas transfers to Greece over the weekend after Greek Energy Minister George Papaconstantinou called to request supplies.

“My Greek colleague called to say they were in difficulty,” Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız told journalists during a ceremony in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri.

“I couldn’t disappoint him because we have been suffering the same [problems],” Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, Yıldız denied some media reports in the Turkish press which quoted him as saying that he felt “pity” about Greece and so decided to relaunch the gas flow.

“I am the energy minister of a strong country, and a strong country would not have used such offending wording,” said Yıldız.

“I see some reports quoting me with insulting language; I have never used such wording and would never do so,” he said. 

“My Greek counterpart called me and said they were facing a hard time, so I pitied them and relaunched the gas flow,” Turkish daily Sabah quoted Yıldız as saying yesterday. 

“The neighbor begs, we open valves,” read Sabah’s headline story.

“After meeting the natural gas demand of all our citizens and industrialists, we have started transferring the remaining to Greece,” Yıldız said yesterday, according to Doğan news agency. “After all, Turkey does not transfer gas [to Greece] for free, along with neighborhood ties, this is a trade relation.”

Turkey had cut gas to western neighbor Greece after disruptions to its own supplies from Azerbaijan and Iran over the past two weeks.

Turkey’s gas imports from Azerbaijan and Iran fell sharply starting Feb. 7 due to technical problems in both countries, according to Turkey’s Energy Ministry. Gas flow into Turkey from both countries dropped to a daily 6 million-7 million cubic meters (mcm) from a usual 40 million (mcm).

Due to harsh winter conditions, the demand in Greece peaked to the equivalent of between 230,000 and 250,000 megawatt hour a day, from a high of 180,000 in the same period last year according to a Feb. 17 statement from the state-controlled natural gas supplier Public Gas Cooperation (DEPA).

Many European countries are facing gas shortage due to the hard winter conditions as Russia’s Gazprom, the biggest supplier struggles to meet the demand. 

Analysts told Agence France-Presse yesterday that the shortage, during one of Europe’s coldest spells on record, points to supply inflexibility on the part of Gazprom that could spur the European Union’s bid to talk down the price of nearly a third of its total gas imports.

Nations stretching from Germany to Greece reported gas shortfalls that reached 28.9 percent in Italy and nearly forced cuts to some domestic clients.

“European clients of Gazprom have another strong argument for the price negotiation. The high prices of Russian gas did not guarantee the security of supply,” East European Gas Analysis chief Mikhail Korchemkin told the agency.

‘Solidarity not free,’ Europe tells Greece


Greece should stop looking for scapegoats abroad for its problems and work harder to get itself out of its economic mess, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said yesterday in an interview. “I wish the Greeks would concentrate on rebuilding their state rather than blaming scapegoats outside Greece for their plight,” Reding, who is also vice-president of the European Commission, said in an interview with Austrian daily Kurier. “It’s understandable that the (EU) finance ministers no longer want to stand by and watch as promises are not kept,” Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying.

“Solidarity does not come for free, Greece must also earn this help,” Reding said in the interview. Eurozone finance ministers are to meet in Brussels today to finalize a second Greek bailout to write off 100 billion euros of debt and provide a loan of 130 billion euros.

But patience is running thin in Europe with Greek reform delays, while in Athens tough austerity measures have been greeted with violent protests.

Greece’s cabinet approved the final set of austerity measures sought by the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Feb.18. 

The approval was largely a formality after Athens unveiled details of the extra budget and public sector wage cuts last week, according to yesterday’s Reuters report. Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters staged a rally in Athens yesterday to protest the budget cuts.

Hundreds of police were also out for the latest demonstration. “Poverty and Hunger Have No Nationality,” read one banner carried by demonstrators on Syntagma square outside Parliament. “We Are Greeks, Merkel and Sarkozy Are Freaks,” said another, referring to the German and French leaders.
Police put the number of protesters at 1,500.