Athens Digest 26.03.2018

• Drafting of Greek holistic growth plan in final stretch

• PM urges Ankara to respect international law as Kammenos ups the ante

• US drones to start operating out of central Greece in May

• Deutsche Telekom acquires another 5% of OTE

# The government is striving to have its holistic growth plan, outlining its vision for the Greek economy in the post-bailout era, ready by the Eurogroup on April 27 in Sofia. The aim is for the plan to be drafted before the Euro Working Group of April 11. Government officials are linking the plan with the midterm growth plan until 2022. However, concerns are running high in Athens as – apart from the 88 prior actions that must be implemented as part of the 4th review – the institutions and Greek authorities will proceed with an overall assessment of the Greek program. A PWC report has already been drafted which includes pending actions that were left behind and that must be implemented. This means that apart from the prior actions, creditors could ask Greece in the 11th hour to tie up loose ends (eg. obstacles to entrepreneurship) in the summer. At the same time, Greece is preparing its case with regard to fiscal targets. According to reports, the aim is for fiscal measures in 2019 – pension cuts as part of the pre-legislated package agreed between Greece and its creditors – to be accompanied by countermeasures benefiting pensioners.

# Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras yesterday reiterated his call to Turkey to stop its illegal activities in the Aegean and to respect international law while Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, again, raised the rhetoric a notch, warning that Greece will “crush whoever dares to question our national sovereignty.” Tension between the two countries has escalated in recent months over Ankara’s dispute of Greek sovereignty in the Aegean and the detention of two Greek soldiers in Turkey. Speaking on the occasion of the anniversary of Greece’s independence from Ottoman rule and a day before the EU-Turkey Summit in Varna, Tsipras said Greece has the capacity to safeguard its sovereign rights and territorial integrity and that the government is making every possible effort to ensure the swift return of two soldiers. For his part, Kammenos urged Greece’s “friends and allies” to help in the efforts for their release and also referred to financial sanctions that Greece’s friends should impose on Turkey after Varna’s Summit.

# Amid deteriorating relations between the US and Turkey, American unmanned drones are expected to begin operating out of a Greek military base in Larissa, central Greece in May, according to a report in yesterday’s issue of To Vima newspaper. In what is seen as another indication of strengthening military ties between Athens and Washington, the US MQ-9 Reapers will focus on information gathering, monitoring and recognition in very sensitive strategic areas, the paper said. The agreement for the deployment of the American drones came after consultations that dragged on since 2013, and is also linked to the talks held by US Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell with Greek officials during his recent visit to Athens. According to sources cited by the paper, Mitchell also raised the possibility that the US could, if the need arises, transfer a large part of its air base in Incirlik in Turkey to Greece.

# Deutsche Telekom AG will control 45% of dominant telecoms provider OTE after acquiring another 5% stake. The German company will pay Greece’s privatization agency HRADF the amount of EUR 284 million, providing a significant boost to revenues from privatizations in 2018. There had been no offers by the March 15 deadline, leaving Deutsche Telekom to express interest in the purchase within 60 days.

On our Radar: Greeks more favorably inclined to EU, survey shows
Greeks are reassessing their relationship with the European Union in a more positive way, according to the latest survey by the Dianeosis Research and Policy Institute. More specifically, the survey showed that 68% of Greeks are positively-inclined to the EU, compared to 53.5% in December 2016. Moreover, acceptance of the Euro is also gaining ground with 66 percent saying they are in favor of the currency as opposed to 60 percent at the end of 2016. More than 92% of respondents also said that the protracted crisis was down to Greece’s “own weaknesses” due to “inadequacies and corruption of Greek governments.” However, the survey also showed that a staggering 78% believes that the bailout memorandums Greece signed on to caused more harm than good to the country’s economic growth, while 71% said they believed the bailouts were concocted by Europeans to exploit Greece. The survey was conducted between January and February 2018.