Athens Digest 03.04.2018

• Privatisation fund executives again face trial

• EU funding for refugees in Greece reaches EUR1.5 billion

• Greece, FYROM take talks to opposition parties

• Business confidence rattled, survey shows

# A panel of appeals court judges has reopened legal proceedings against six former executives of the Greek privatisation fund HRADF over 2013-14 property deals. The six executives include three overseas appointments made as part of terms agreed under Greece’s rescue programmes. Although the six were not directly responsible for the decision, they again face charges on lesser counts of breach of duty over the sale and leaseback of 28 publicly-owned properties. The case has been closely monitored by Greece’s creditors, along with recurring legal action that has been taken against former Greek statistics chief Andreas Georgiou.

# The European Commission has pledged an additional EUR180 million euros to support housing and aid programmes for refugees in Greece _ bringing the total amount of funding to more than EUR 1.5 billion. Christos Stylianides, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, met with Prime Minister Tsipras in Athens and said the bulk of the money would be spent on an accommodation scheme to help refugees move out of camp and into rented apartments. An additional 2,000 subsidized places would also be made available on the Greek islands, he said, where the problems are “well known.”

# Nikos Kotzias, the foreign minister, has begun briefing Greek opposition parties on talks aimed at resolving the Macedonia-name dispute, following the latest round of negotiations in Vienna. Kotzias visited the headquarters of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) where he was once a central committee member, and met party leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas. In Skopje, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said he could hold a meeting of political party leaders as early as next week. “I have been briefed on the details and I am in the fortunate position to inform you that there have been positive developments in the negotiations,” Zaev said.

# Business confidence in Greece suffered an unexpected setback in March, according to a respected monthly survey. The Athens-based Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said the shift appeared to display “correction of perhaps overly optimistic expectations that were recorded in recent months.” The data contrasted with improving consumer confidence and a recovering demand for goods and services. IOBE’s Economic Sentiment Indicator fell to 99.8 points from 104.3 in February. The government was encouraged by continued strong PMI data, at 55.0 in March from 56.1. A Finance Ministry statement said the numbers were the latest demonstration of Greece’s recovery.

On our Radar: Erdogan “gone totally mad”
The remarks were not made on camera, but were reported word for word by state-TV and drew renewed calls for his resignation. Panos Kammenos, the defence minister, told reporters he believed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had “gone totally mad” and described Turkey as a country where court often operate at “the command of the Sultan.” He compared the arrest and detention of the two Greek border patrolmen to the 1978 prison drama “Midnight Express.” Greek opposition parties swiftly criticized the reported remarks, maintaining that PM Tsipras should remove him. The war of words between Greece and Turkey, meanwhile, continues to escalate: “Greek authorities have started to increasingly lower the level of discourse against Turkey,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement in English, adding: “these remarks, which are not in line with governmental responsibility, cause great concern.”