Athens Digest 23.01.2018

• Despite warning, Greece relieved by Eurogroup decision

• Greek Authorities seek ECB’s endorsement

• Leaders of Greece, FYROM to meet amid mounting protests

• Cosco releases its master plan for Piraeus port

# Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos warmly welcomed the Eurogroup’s decision last night signalling the end of the latest bailout review, despite a warning that outstanding reforms should be pushed through “as a matter of urgency”.
“This was a very good Eurogroup for Greece,” Tsakalotos told reporters in Brussels after the currency bloc’s finance ministers backed the disbursement of the next bailout tranche with EUR6.7 billion. Conditions for the two-step payout include the “continuous and unimpeded flow of electronic auctions” of properties in mortgage default, a measure that has triggered protests in Greece and angered pro-government voters. But Tsakalotos said his fellow ministers were in broad agreement with Greece’s overall plans to return to debt markets this year, that include building up cash buffers. “There obviously will be a discussion on the nature of the (bailout) exit,” he said.“I have to say that I do not see that the institutions have much appetite for a precautionary credit line.”
Tsakalotos stated that the upcoming “holistic growth strategy” may bring closer the European institutions and the IMF which do not share the same forecast regarding the growth of the Greek economy. The Greek Authorities are trying to avoid connecting the implementation of the growth strategy with the debt relief measures related to the agreed “French model”.

# ECB’s endorsement for the post bailout framework remains of high priority for the Greek government in order to keep the ‘waiver’ for the Greek banks. In this context, VP Dragasakis, MinFin Tsakalotos and Dep. MinFin Chouliarakis met ECB’s Governor Mario Draghi, as well as the Executive Board Member Benoit Coeuré and the Central bank’s representative to the institutions Francesco Drudi, yesterday, in Brussels. The representatives of the Greek government insisted on the option for an autonomous exit in the markets after the end of the current ESM programme, according to MinFin sources. As the scenario of a post-program credit line loses ground at this point, ECB’s position during the talks for the post-program period is crucial.

# The prime ministers of Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will meet this week, in face of mounting protests against a compromise between the two countries on the name dispute. Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev are due to meet in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum, in the wake of Sunday’s mass rally in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, against a compromise solution.
Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, the Greek government spokesman, defended the decision to press ahead with the talks, amid speculation of a possible follow-up meeting between the two leaders in early March. The spokesman accused opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis of deliberately dodging the essence of the issue, in expressing support for the rally but failing to take a clear position on a possible name compromise. Mitsotakis, he said, was being “dragged along by the far-right fringe of his party.”

# Piraeus Port Authority (PPA), managed by China’s Cosco Shipping Ports Limited, has presented its “Master Plan”; the time frame covers 2016-2021 period. The goal of PPA’s management is to gain the leading position on the cruise in the Mediterranean, attracting 580,000 passengers yearly. Development of a logistics center and construction of at least two hotel complexes are numbered among the plans of Cosco for the port.

On our radar: Pierre Moscovici meets Poul Thomsen
Today, in Brussels, Commissioner Moscovici will receive Poul Thomsen, Director of the European Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as Mahmood Pradhan, Deputy Director of the Europe Department and Head of the European Mission of the IMF. The agenda doesn’t include only Greece; but the meeting comes a few hours after Moscovici’s statements that it is preferable to have the IMF on board. “I feel quite confident we will get them with us. The attitude of the Fund was positive. I would say even very positive,” he claimed referring to the IMF participation in the third review of the current Greek program.
The IMF and the EU institutions will seek common ground for closer cooperation in the future. The continuation of the IMF involvement in Europe is reportedly a political decision of the Fund.