Athens Digest 16.04.2018

• Stress tests didn’t stress Greek banks, report says

• Greece and creditors to step up efforts; a 25 percent of GDP mid term debt relief measures expected, says Syriza MEP Papadimoulis

• PM urges decisive EU action after Syria attacks

• NATO chief urges Greece, Turkey to resolve differences in “spirit of good relations”

• US ambassador says Greek-American relations never been better

• Anti-establishment group continues Athens raids

# Greek banks are passing their stress tests banishing doubts expressed by analysts over the large volume of non-performing loans (NPL), according to a report in the Sunday edition of Kathimerini. Citing credit sector sources, the paper said that National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank and Eurobank will not need new capital, even in the worst scenario. The positive assessment was confirmed after a round of contacts between bank executives and the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) last week. A clear picture of the figures is expected to emerge in the next few days. The role of the Bank of Greece was seen as pivotal due to a special task force it created which monitored the process and worked closely with the ECB. The positive performance of Piraeus Bank, the country’s largest creditor was noted in particular, given the concerns over its NPL level. The paper said the decisive initiatives undertaken in a short period of time by the bank’s new management under CEO Christos Megalou to tackle its bad loans were key to the outcome. Piraeus Bank is expected to soon submit a capital strengthening plan.

# Commenting on Friday’s meeting between Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and his German counterpart Olaf Scholz, Syriza MEP and European Parliament Vice President Dimitris Papadimoulis told Athens Radio that Greece must expedite procedures to complete its bailout review and its growth plan, while its partners must also proceed with debt relief measures and decide on the country’s post-bailout supervision. He also added that the medium term debt relief measures will amount to 25-30% of GDP. Despite the cordial meeting Tsakalotos and Scholz, Berlin made it clear on Friday that debt relief will only be discussed after Greece’s bailout program ends. Scholz reiterated to yesterday’s issue of the Frankfurter Allgemeine that aid to Greece goes hand in hand with reforms.

# In the wake of the military strikes by the US, France and UK, against chemical weapons sites in Syria, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says the EU must take decisive action to secure a peaceful resolution. In a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, Tsipras condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria but said Greece would not become involved in military operations in the war-torn country.

# Amid the recent spike in tensions between Greece and Turkey, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday that he expects Athens and Ankara to resolve their “differences on certain issues in the spirit of good relations.” In an interview to Turkey’s Anadolu agency, Stoltenberg described both countries as “two highly valued NATO allies that contribute to collective security” and stressed that Greek-Turkish differences in the Aegean are “not an issue for NATO.” Stoltenberg lauded the efforts of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim to defuse tensions. “I welcome that the PMs of both countries have recently held a phone conversation and that they have agreed to resolve these differences through dialogue.”

# Greek-American relations have never been better according to US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt. The American diplomat made his remarks speaking to at least 350 American tourist agents in Athens at the Herodion ancient amphitheater in the Greek capital.

# The Rouvikonas anti-establishment group continued its attacks on targets in Athens early yesterday morning when its members vandalized a building housing a paper packaging company in the northern suburb of Kifisia. Rouvikonas has claimed responsibility for a long string of attacks against public buildings, companies, banks, embassies and public transport infrastructure. Meanwhile, self-styled anarchists again attacked a riot police unit in the Exarchia district in central Athens late Saturday night.

On our Radar: Shutdown rates of stores in central Athens dropping
There are less registered closed stores in central Athens, according to the latest survey by the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Enterprises (INEMY-ESEE). More specifically, the survey showed that there has been a significant rise in entrepreneurship in the center of Athens with shutdown rates dropping by 1.2% compared to the previous six month period and 1.4% compared to the previous year. Moreover, the survey said that in March the percentage of registered closed stores was at 24.9%, the lowest since 2012.