Athens Digest 29.01.2018

• FYROM: Tsipras faces negotiations with no home consensus

• ESM’s Regling warns debt relief will come at a price

• Property auctions facing further delays in Thessaloniki

• Afghan man questioned by anti-terror division

# The government failed to gain backing from Greek opposition parties in its effort to reach a compromise with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). U.N. envoy Matthew Nimetz is due in Athens on Tuesday before flying onto Skopje for meetings there the following day.
With his own coalition split on the issue, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with opposition party leaders on Saturday, seeking consensus. But he was publicly rebuked by all four leaders for failing to consult them before he launched the initiative to seek a swift compromise.
Tsipras’ coalition partner, Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, remains opposed to a compromise on the name issue but has summoned MPs of his Independent Greeks party to a meeting today.

# Eurozone bailout fund chief Klaus Regling said that additional debt relief will only be provided if creditors receive assurances that Athens will abide by its strict fiscal commitments. “If Greece wants additional debt relief, which means for creditor countries to grant something extra, there is the legitimate question that creditor countries would want to make sure that agreed policies are implemented,” Regling, managing director of the European Stability Mechanism, told Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper in an interview. So there must be “no backtracking, on promises in relation to the primary surplus for instance, on future tax policies and on privatisations, or on the reduction of non-performing loans.”
His remarks followed a meeting between Prime Minister Tsipras and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, at which he pressed for a faster debt relief timetable. Regling said full IMF involvement in the third bailout would send a positive signal to markets.

# Despite growing optimism around a Greek recovery, analysts remain cautious given the country’s massive national debt. “If the debt relief is not sufficient and Greece returns to the markets, I see significant risks; in a few years from now another (bailout) program will be necessary”, Zsolt Darvas, a senior fellow at the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel told Athens Digest’s John Papageorgiou in an interview with Athens Municipal Radio.

# A notary public association in Thessaloniki has extended a strike until March 4, further delaying property auctions in Greece’s second largest city. The action was decided despite warning from Greece’s creditors, as well the ECB’s Mario Draghi, that the country needed to urgently speed up auctions to reduce risk from the huge volume of non-performing loans at banks. Auctions have restarted in Athens and several other parts of the country, while many regional notary association strikes due to formally end on Wednesday.

# Anti-terrorism division officers are questioning an Afghan man arrested in central Athens at the weekend with electronic detonators found in his backpack. The suspect, who has not been named, was arrested in an upscale area of the capital and was also allegedly carrying false identity papers.

On our radar: Property tax reform headache
Authorities are facing reported difficulties in updating their record of property values used to set annual rates. Property taxes are currently based largely on pre-crisis prices. The property tax, now officially called the Unified Tax on Property Ownership, or Enfia, remains deeply unpopular in Greece, introduced at the height of the recession and initially added to household electricity bills.