Athens Digest 09.04.2018

• Institutions want to scrap monthly tax installment, report says

• FM decries Turkey’s “arrogance”

• PM insists Greece has entered new era

• Self-styled anarchists mark Easter Sunday with attack against riot police

# The institutions want the government to scrap the payment of taxes in installments in favor of immediate payment in full, according to the main article of the Real News paper. More specifically, the report said that “the troika wants to abolish all installment arrangements as of January 1 in 2019.” Payments by installments will be approved only in exceptional cases, the paper said, and quoted a finance ministry official who said that the institutions want to expedite the payment of taxes “as is the case in other European countries where there is no concept of installments.” The issue, the paper added, was discussed during the last visit of creditor representatives to Greece and is expected to be on the agenda when they return in early May.

# Tensions between Greece and Turkey flared again at the weekend with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias accusing Ankara of “arrogance” to its neighbors and with Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Omer Celik calling Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos a “political comedian.” In an interview to Spiegel yesterday, Kotzias blamed the recent escalation on Recep Tayyip Erdogan and accused him of thinking he can do whatever he wants in the region. He also said Ankara should not mistake the diplomatic approach Athens has opted for as a sign of weakness.

# For his part, the Turkish minister called on the European Union to condemn the incendiary rhetoric aimed at Turkey by Kammenos. In a series of tweets Celik also slammed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for failing to rein in Kammenos and of essentially condoning his behavior by remaining silent. The EU, he added, cannot preach its principles but at the same time ignore Kammenos’ “constantly provocative” statements against Turkey. Last week, Kammenos warned Turkey that Greece will crush any challenge of its sovereignty and that 7,000 soldiers will be deployed to the islands and the border region to boost defenses. Kammenos’ stance has raised concerns within the leftist-led government which has opted for a milder approach to Turkey.

# This year’s Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations coincided with the post bailout programmes era, according to PM Alexis Tsipras. “After eight long years we are optimistic and have hope again,” he said in his Easter Sunday message. Greece will exit its bailout program in August and the government has insisted it will be a “clean exit” contrary to estimates that Greece may need a precautionary credit line to stay afloat. Referring to the two Greek soldiers that are being held in Turkey since last month, Tsipras said the government is doing everything it can to secure their release. For his part, opposition leader New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis also called for their release in his Easter message.

# As Greeks celebrated Easter at the weekend, self-styled anarchists went on a rampage again in Athens late Saturday and early Sunday morning launching a hail of molotov cocktails at a riot police unit stationed in the central district of Exarchia in an attack that lasted five hours. No arrests were reported. The latest clashes came on the heels of a recent spike in attacks by anti-establishment groups against public buildings, companies, banks, embassies and public transport infrastructure. Opposition parties have accused the leftist-led government of allegedly turning a blind eye to the lawlessness in the center of the capital.

On our Radar: Private labels still not popular in Greece
Sales of private label products in Greece have been slipping in recent years and remain among the lowest in Europe. According to a recent IRI survey of consumption in the first two months of this year, private label sales fell 4.3% to 16.5 percent compared to a year earlier (the EU average in 2016 was 31.4 percent according to a Nielsen research). Market experts say that the drop is mainly due to the collapse of supermarket operator Marinopoulos (former Carrefour franchisee) which had invested significantly in this slice of the market and due to increased competition from name brands that have sought to maintain their share of the market with campaigns and special offers.