Athens Digest 24.01.2018

• Greece faces strict inspections after bailout, cautions Regling

• Foreclosures: Government says no deal for 130K auctions

• Military loan ‘bailout’ scheme angers opposition

• In race to reform, pharmacy licences to be overhauled

# The head of the eurozone’s bailout fund said Greece will face strict monitoring after its rescue programme ends in August, and argued that favourable market conditions had been produced by Athens’ improved implementation of reforms.
Klaus Regling, managing director of the European Stability Mechanism, cautioned that Greece could receive stricter inspections than other post-bailout nations like Ireland and Portugal. “Greece will be subject to post-programme monitoring. That’s normal, that’s the normal process, (and) that’s more important in this case because Greece received more money from the ESM than any of the other countries,” Regling said in an interview with Greece’s private Skai TV.
Asked about improved Greek bond yields and a recent sovereign upgrade, he said: “It’s very good that developments in the market have been favourable. I think that’s a result of a good implementation of the programme.”
Regling made the remarks after eurozone ministers backed the latest bailout loan disbursement to Greece, to total EUR6.7 billion, paving the way for the fourth and final bailout review.

# The government has denied reports of an agreement with bailout lenders to help assist in the auction of 130,000 homes over the next four years. Greek news media quoted the figure, cited in leaked extracts of a bailout compliance report. But a Finance Ministry official, in an email briefing, insisted that any figure quoted in the report was not binding and there is no such reference in the agreement (sMoU) which has already been published.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ left-wing government has angered a large section of its voting base with its decision to press ahead with the auctions.
The auctions are set to resume today, with police guards to be posted outside notary public offices. At the same time, according an announcement of their Union, policemen say that they should not be used for such mission. “We are not going to be the ones to throw Greeks out of their homes”, they claim.

# As Greece heads towards the end of its bailout programmes, the country’s Defence Minister is promising to provide a rescue net for uniformed personnel.
Panos Kammenos said his ministry is working on a plan to buy up loans of military service members and civilian staff, to offer them easier repayment terms.
If the scheme is implemented, he said, priority would be given to mortgage holders in distress.
Roughly half of Greece’s loans for property, businesses, and consumers are considered to be non-performing, and the government has promised to roll back protection for mortgage holders.
New Democracy, the main opposition party, called the proposal “impossible, unlawful, and unconstitutional”.

# In a race to comply with bailout commitments, the government is pushing ahead with plans to liberalize licensing rule for pharmacies over the next three years. A draft executive order was submitted to a high court for a legal compliance review. The changes would phase out current restrictions, opening up the market to other EU citizens as well as people who are not qualified pharmacologists. Proposed licensing changes in the past caused fierce protests, including store strikes.

On our radar: Church hierarchy to meet on Macedonia issue

Greece’s Orthodox Church leader Archbishop Ieronymos has summoned senior clergy to an emergency meeting on Friday to try and resolve a dispute over the Macedonia issue. Defying the leadership’s wishes, several metropolitan bishops attended a rally on Sunday against a proposed compromise between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Ieronymos, who is also opposed to the compromise has instructed bishops not to take part in rallies, viewing participation as a political action.
The row broke out as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras prepared to meet Zoran Zaev, his counterpart in Skopje, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland later today.