Athens Digest 13.02.2018

• Tsipras requests Novartis probe against ex-PM, others

• Opposition leader says rule of law under attack

• Post-bailout credit line is needed, Stournaras, the Bank of Greece governor, insists

• Anarchists disrupt post-bailout debate on credit line

• Tsipras: Name compromise will include the term ‘Macedonia’


# The government formally requested that parliament investigate former prime minister Antonis Samaras and nine other senior politicians over allegations of involvement in a major medical bribery scandal. In an 11-page notice signed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and eight other lawmakers, the request was made to set up a committee to investigate alleged bribes paid by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis. Opposition parties said they would back the investigation, either in support of a potential prosecution or to clear the names of the accused who include EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras. Parliamentary officials said lawmakers were expected to vote on the government proposal by the end of the month.

# Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the opposition leader, maintained attacks on the government, accusing Prime Minister Tsipras of heading a conspiracy of false allegations to try and discredit political opponents. “The rule of law is violently disturbed by the tactics of the government of Mr Tsipras,” he said on the island of Evia while continuing a tour of regional towns seen as part of his party’s preparations to be prepared for a snap election.
A clothing business run by Mitsotakis’ wife, Mareva Grabowski, was targeted in an arson attack in central Athens. In a statement, she said she believed the attack had been politically motivated.

# Yannis Stournaras, the Bank of Greece governor, has renewed his support for a post-bailout precautionary credit line from creditors, in defiance of the government which has ruled out the idea. Stournaras argued that possibility should remain open, arguing that Greece still face important hurdles in returning to full financial independence: The country’s low credit rating, high level of non-performing loans, weak international investment, and huge national debt.
Across town, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was arguing in a speech that Greece had made sufficient progress to hope for a “clean exit” in August. But the event was interrupted by members of the anarchist group Rubicon who hurled pamphlets at the audience with a message against the banks and bailout lenders. Twenty people were detained by police but later released. Rubicon, has recently stepped up its anti-bailout activism, against a backdrop of growing protests against property foreclosures by banks.

# The foreign ministers of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have resumed talks to try and resolve their long-standing name dispute. Nikos Kotzias of Greece met Nikola Dimitrov in Vienna, and the two men will have a second meeting today, joined by United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz.
In Athens, Prime Minister Tsipras confirmed that a compromise solution would include the word ‘Macedonia’ and a modifier. “There is no other option other than to continue negotiating with our neighbours in order to find a mutually acceptable solution,” he told MPs from his Syriza party.


On our Radar: Wieser unforgiving on Syriza’s record
Thomas Wieser, the economist who played a major role in monitoring Greece’s bailout compliance, has sharply criticized Greece’s left-wing government for deepening the country’s crisis when it took power three years ago. Wieser, who stepped down as head of the Euro-Working Group this year told the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant that the first six months of the Tsipras government cost the country far in excess of 100 billion euros. “To be honest, I think it was more than double that amount when you consider the economic contraction, distrust by investors, and the damage to the Greek banks.”
Tsipras eventually signed a third bailout agreement for Greece after a confrontation with creditor demands led by his combative finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. Wieser said of the minister: “This is not only about Varoufakis. The whole Greek government bears this responsibility.”