Athens Digest 13.04.2018

• Greece, Turkey reach for reset button as pilot dies on patrol

• Ahead of April’s Eurogroup meeting, Tsakalotos meets Scholz in Berlin

• Mitsotakis says will not be “bound” by terms of growth strategy

• Greece, FYROM still aiming for solution by mid-summer

• Greek to peel oil-and-gas rights away from refiner privatization

# Fighter pilot Giorgos Baltadoros died in a crash yesterday following a patrol in the eastern Aegean. His Mirage 2000-5 plunged into the sea before returning to base on the island of Skyros. As navy vessels and army helicopters searched for the wreckage, stories about what had gone wrong emerged faster than the facts. There were reports saying that “Greece fighter jet crashes in dogfight with Turkey plane.” But defence officials in both countries soon noted that there had been no interception before the crash. And the death of the 34-year-old airman prompted a pause in the escalating tension between Greece and Turkey. Turkish PM Benali Yildirim telephoned Greece’s Alexis Tsipras to express his government’s condolences, as the two sides appeared concerned about the risk of a military confrontation triggered by an accident.

# Opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis says he will not be bound by the terms of Greece’s post-bailout agreement with creditors, arguing that he would back more extensive reforms and privatisation deals if elected prime minister. Speaking to foreign correspondents in Athens, the New Democracy leader argued that government plans currently being drawn up were “based on outdated ideas.” He made the remarks as Greece began discussions in earnest on its so-called growth strategy at a Euroworking Group session, on the eve of talks between Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Germany’s Olaf Scholz and ahead of April 27th Eurogroup meeting.

# Greece and FYROM say they remain on track to resolve the name dispute by mid-summer, but that differences on several key issues remain. Foreign Ministers Nikola Dimitrov of FYROM and Nikos Kotzias of Greece met in Ohrid, and both men reported progress. “The talks were characterized by understanding. No one was acting smart,” Dimitrov said. “We covered all the key issues. There was progress on some, differences on others.” Kotzias said that two more meetings were planned in Greece in May. Though neither minister gave any details about the sticking points, Kotzias stressed that the “issue of irredentism” remains important for the Greek side.

# The government will retain a 36.25 percent public stake in oil-and-gas rights held by Hellenic Petroleum despite the company’s planned privatisation. The financial news website reported that the rights were to be moved to a holding company as part of the agreement reached last week between the government and Latsis Group subsidiary Paneuropean Oil to make a combined stake of 50.1 percent of ELPE available for sale.

# Banking officials say 71 out of 123 e-auctions of foreclosed properties planned for this week have been concluded successfully _ signalling an improvement in the rate of auctions despite ongoing protests outside notary offices in Greek cities. Fourteen auctions were postponed, and no bids were received for 38 auctions, the officials said. Greece’s bailout lenders have been pressing authorities to speed up e-auctions to ease stress on banks caused by alarmingly high levels of non-performing loans. Online property auctions to recover debts to the state are due to start later this month.

On our Radar: Balkan Power Play
Board members from Greece’s Public Power Corporation are to consider finalizing a deal to acquire power trading company EDS in FYROM as part of plans to expand the company’s presence in the Balkan region. The proposed purchase is seen as being in response to plans to further deregulate the Greek energy market. A six-year-old firm, EDS has subsidiaries in several Balkan countries.