Athens Digest 05.04.2018

• Kammenos calls Turkey a provocative “enemy” boosts island forces

• Increased migratory flows from Turkey raise concerns

• Stournaras sues Novartis informants

• Conclusion of Hellinikon lease expected around the end of the year says HRADF’s executive chairman

• Hellenic Petroleum owners ready privatization deal

• Piraeus Bank completes round 4 of e-auctions

# Defence Minister Panos Kammenos branded Turkey as an “enemy” of Greece and announced island and border troop increases, sharpening rhetoric in the war of words with Ankara, despite a plea for calm by Prime Minister Tsipras. Kammenos attended a reservist exercise on the island of Ikaria. “Let them dare to challenge one centimetre of our territory, if they have the guts,” he said. “United, the Greeks will crush them.” The remarks followed PM Tsipras’ televised address to his cabinet on Tuesday, when he said the country would not be baited by Ankara but would continue to seek the return of the two Greek soldiers arrested in Turkey while on a border patrol.

# A steep increase in refugee and migratory flows to the Greek islands,especially Chios, from the Turkish coasts has been observed in recent days, according to Kathimerini print edition this morning. Only between Tuesday night and Wednesday 244 people arrived from the Turkish coasts. The sudden increase in refugee flows raises concerns by the Greek authorities that Turkey is once again using the refugee issue as leverage for its wider pursuits.

# Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras has filed a lawsuit against two confidential witnesses in the alleged Novartis bribery scandal. A statement issued by the central bank said Stournaras had filed the suits for slander and false testimony against the witnesses given the names Maximos Sarafis and Katerina Kelesi. Several other politicians implicated in the scandal have taken similar action, including former prime minister Antonis Samaras.

# Action by a plethora of players was needed for the conclusion of the 99-year lease of a vast seaside property at the disused former Hellenikon airport to a consortium led by Lamda Development, as HRADF’s executive chairman Aris Xenofos told Reuters. Greece has agreed with its creditors to meet a deadline by June but Xenofos said that “the most realistic scenario is around the end of the year.” He also claimed that progress in key privatisations by June will determine whether Greece will meet its bailout target to raise EUR 2 billion this year.

# Latsis Group subsidiary Paneuropean Oil and the government and have agreed to make a combined stake of 50.1 percent of Hellenic Petroleum available for sale in a potential landmark privatization deal. The state holds 35.5 percent of Hellenic Petroleum, Greece’s biggest oil refiner, while Paneuropean holds 45.5 percent. The sale would satisfy conditions set by bailout lenders, which are pressing Athens post-bailout commitments to privatisation and administrative reform.

# Piraeus Bank, in cooperation with Piraeus Real Estate, completed its fourth e-auction on March 20-21. The Bank approved bids for 33 properties, with the overall sale price for these properties totaling EUR3.8 million. The success of the latest e-auction has resulted in the total number of approved sales reaching EUR17.2m since the bank launched its innovative e-auction site in June last year. More than 460 individuals and legal entities expressed an interest in participating in the fourth open electronic auction. Domestic and foreign investors from China, Germany, Canada, Serbia and the United Kingdom submitted bids and in some cases bid on several properties. Throughout its open e-auctions, Piraeus Bank offers financing to interested buyers.

On our radar: Government says will respect ruling on gold plant
The government says it will respect a decision by an arbitration panel in favour of Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold in an environmental dispute over a metallurgical plant. The ruling sent the company’s shares soaring on the Toronto Stock Exchange. “We believe this decision provides a foundation to allow us to advance dialogue with the Greek government in order to define a mutually agreeable and clear path forward,” Eldorado CEO George Burns said. Greece’s government has been at odds with Eldorado since taking power in 2015, arguing the deal was too generous to the company and did not provide sufficient environmental guarantees. The company has also been targeted by local campaigners in northern Greece who argue the investment will hurt the region’s tourism.