Athens Digest 23.03.2018

• Putin invites Tsipras to Moscow but Russia weighs on EU leaders

• Greek official flies to Skopje for first time in 12 years

• Thessaloniki port sale nears completion

• Tax values on property set for increase, says minister

# Prime Minister Tsipras has been invited to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, while EU leaders in Brussels agreed with the United Kingdom government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible for the recent attack in Salisbury..A Kremlin statement said Tsipras received the invitation while speaking with Putin on the telephone to congratulate him on his weekend re-election. Tsipras, it said, had been informed of Russia’s position on the poison attack in Britain against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Tsipras has previously argued that his government, while abiding by EU decisions, is concentrating its efforts on mending ties between Russia and western European nations.

# Nikos Kotzias, the foreign minister, became the first Greek official to fly to Skopje in 12 years, in the latest effort to break the decades-old deadlock between the two countries. Kotzias arrived for talks on name compromise proposals that include renaming the Balkan republic as “Gorna Makedonija,” or Upper Macedonia.
Yesterday’s flight went ahead after FYROM agreed to change the name of its main airport to Skopje International Airport, dropping the name Alexander the Great. In Athens, a session of parliament was suspended and MP Yiannis Lagos of the extreme right Golden Dawn party was expelled after an outburst, calling colleagues “traitors” and “sellouts” due to the proposed name compromise. Speaker Nikos Voutsis said Golden Dawn’s parliamentary group of 16 MPs was facing a possible suspension over the incident.

# Successful bidders for a majority stake in the Thessaloniki Port Authority are concluding the landmark privatisation deal after reportedly transferring the agreed sum of EUR232 million to a government agency. The 67 percent stake in the port will be formally transferred to the South Europe Gateway consortium, after the deal signed in December was recently ratified by parliament. The consortium is comprised of Deutsche Invest Equity Partners GmbH, Terminal Link SAS, and Belterra Investments, controlled by Greek-Russian businessman Ivan Savvidis. The sale was held by the state privatisation agency HDRAF.

# Official tax values for property are set to increase in 60 percent of the country, a senior finance official said, in a change that could impact property taxes this year.
Katerina Papanatsiou, the deputy finance minister, said the new scales used to levy taxes for annual payments as well as for property sales and inheritance were nearing completion. Noting a recent improvement in the Greek property market, she said 60 percent of residential areas would see an increase, 23 percent would be lowered, and the remainder left unchanged. Despite the impact of the financial crisis, Papanatsiou insisted that tax values had remained broadly below commercial prices.

On our Radar: Fosun eyes second chance
Chinese investment giant Fosun International says it could make a new offer to buy Greece’s Ethniki Insurance if the current winning bid fails. Fosun executive director Kang Lan told Bloomberg that the Chinese firm maintained an interest in the National Bank of Greece’s insurance unit. But she said Fosun would need to re-evaluate the state of the Greek firm before making a new offer.
The EUR 718 million sale of a 75 percent stake in Ethniki was thrown into doubt following a dispute between the two companies in the winning consortium, Exin Financial Services and Calamos Family Partners.