Epic Fire Sale: Russian Oligarchs Snatch Up Greek Real Estate and Energy Assets

At his home in Moscow, the 53-year-old is probably the most influential Russian Greek origin. A businessman from Rostov, who has in the eighties by the workers highly worked in a tobacco factory to the chairman of the Agrokom group. Today, tobacco and meat company of his wife, and Mr. Sawidis focuses on the policy and its foreign business.

For Russians, the Hellenic crisis is a great opportunity. in nearby Cyprus they have been around for nearly 20 years, large investors, they now turn to the neighboring country, where rows of factories and homes for sale. For the investor Sawidis is Greece “a highly emotional affair,” a country that wants to help it to become profitable again. The sun-drenched state in the south, also offer him the perfect “balance between business and salvation.” He has invested not only in football, but also for example in the restoration of some churches.

Engagement with tradition

It is a commitment to tradition. In modern times, the Orthodox Russia saw itself as the protector of the Orthodox Greeks against the all-powerful Ottoman Empire. The first president of independent Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias, was foreign policy before 1827 in the service of State of the Tsar. In Athens, there was a “Russian party”, which lobbied for a close alignment with Saint Petersburg. Greeks emigrated to Russia and made careers.

Ivan Sawidis, the Greek Russian sat for many years for the United Russia party of Vladimir Putin in the Duma. He knows good and criticized the Russian president that all decisions would be made today about Greece in the EU. And since determine Germany. “That’s what Greece” very hurt, he says. Russia, however, wanted to protect Greece, says Sawidis. And Russia have much to offer.

What? »Snow and frost,” he says, smiling. “These oil and gas and a lot of money.”

In Greece, the state-owned energy industry is for sale. Under pressure from the EU, the government their majority in the Greek gas company Depa, the gas network operator DESFA and participation in the oil company Hellenic Petroleum (Elpe) sell. The Russians are in addition to Japanese, Italians and Azerbaijanis to the main bidders.

Gazprom has long been in the Greek business. There were Russians who built the gas pipeline from Bulgaria south to Athens. Today, the Russian monopoly supplies three quarters of Greek natural gas imports.

Now threatens the Russian share of imports from Azerbaijan and northern Iraq to be reduced. The Gazprom could only by a takeover of Depa and possibly also prevent the gas network in time.

Here is Europe’s problem: On the one hand want EU and ECB rapid privatization of Greek state companies to deleverage the Athenian household. On the other hand, the Europeans would be able to deliver the Greek energy industry Russian control. Then would come a new Russian offshore park, a second Cyprus.

The EU Commission has for some time against Gazprom’s expansion strategy in Europe. They determined from the summer to the continued abuse of market power by Gazprom in Eastern Central Europe.

In this process, the European Commission imposed severe penalties or even block the purchase of other European energy companies. Gazprom has so carefully maneuver. A solution to the Russians could be an alliance with European energy companies. Against common investments as of Italians and Russians could not object more Brussels.

The consequences would extend far beyond Greece. If Azerbaijan natural gas over the Turkey and Italy to Europe would provide the Greek gas network would be a part of this export route. Gazprom sitting there somewhere in between gladly. Suspected gas reserves in the Mediterranean around Greece to promise big income in the future. Before the Ionian islands is already drilled. Even before Crete and the eastern Mediterranean, further gas fields. A prime for foreign bidder Hellenic Petroleum. The oil company controlled about two-thirds of the Greek refining capacity and 15 percent of the gas stations. Greek refineries supply Mediterranean countries such as Libya have indeed crude oil, but not enough refineries, and the fleets of NATO states.

How fast can strike the Russians, they show these days on the Halkidiki peninsula in northern Greece. Unlike in Spain or Italy, in Greece, many beaches are not barricaded with multistory concrete fortresses. It has built here less – or not at all.

On the highway from Thessaloniki to Chalkidiki large advertising posters available exclusively in Russian: “Your cottage by the sea! Russian-speaking agents and notaries are available to you. “The ride takes you past pine forests, wheat fields and breathtaking coastlines. Greek brokers know that there is still a lot can be built and sold.

“The Russians have a crush on Halkidiki,” says the broker George Varelas of the company Remax. “The monk Mount Athos is situated just around the corner, with his Russian monastery. This is like a home for them. “Many Russians are coming as tourists. The number of Russian visitors Greece has quadrupled since 2005, to a million a year.

Russians buy hotels

The holiday makes you want more than just a bed & breakfast. Rich Russians would buy beach villas and palaces, says Varela. And Larger: Recently, the Potidea Palace Hotel for 13 million euros to a Russian investor had gone. Portes Beach Hotel has cost another only 10 million Russians. In Greece there are currently around 1,200 hotels for sale.

Beaches, hotels, energy companies, gas networks, the state railways, ports, airports former – so much Greece was never worn to market.

Added to this is the time pressure to privatize state-owned enterprises in order to relieve the budget quickly. The Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had at the beginning of a successful appearance in Moscow: He was received as a friend. The Russians felt that the former Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou, who speaks English better than Greek, as always too pro-American, especially in pipeline issues.

Easy it is to Samaras but are not: He studied in America and has Angela Merkel in his short tenure already met twice, in Berlin and Athens. A new meeting with Putin is overdue from a Russian perspective.

Greeks generally see positive Russian investments in their country. The number of Russian students increases. Currently fills the film God Loves Caviar theaters: This a Russian count with Greek roots plays named Ivan Varvakis one giving variables Black Sea Hero.

After the football game speaks Ivan Sawidis from a few warnings to the Greeks: Beware of the EU! No one could keep up with the high-tech country Germany. Especially not the Greeks. With the cuts imposed in recent years, the EU has committed in Greece “crime”. Sawidis says he has asked President Putin, currently in the crisis and avert to visit Greece. Putin to be faithful and orthodox. “He can not help but love Greece.”