Athens Digest 23.04.2018

• Athens optimistic that comprehensive deal is within reach by June Eurogroup

• New poll shows New Democracy widening gap with ruling Syriza

• Government and opposition denounce Erdogan’s talk of soldiers’ exchange

• Anarchist group “Rubicon” attacks French Embassy

• Power chief insists labor rights at privatized plants must remain ‘intact’

# Finance ministry officials have expressed optimism that a comprehensive deal will be achieved at the June 21 Eurogroup after the meeting on Saturday in Washington between Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and IMF chief Christine Lagarde. A senior government official said Athens is aiming for a staff level agreement at the Eurogroup on May 24 which would pave the way for a political decision to complete the fourth bailout review at the June Eurogroup. The government is reportedly anticipating a deal that will conclude the final bailout program and outline additional debt relief measures, as well as the type of post program surveillance Greece will undergo. However, referring to the upcoming April 27 Eurogroup, he admitted that “it is not clear whether we can make an important step in Sofia.”

# Meanwhile, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said in an interview to Kathimerini newspaper that Greece must continue reforms and achieve its fiscal targets in the post-bailout period otherwise the confidence of the markets will diminish, making the financing of Greek debt more expensive.

# Conservative New Democracy has a 13% percent lead over ruling SYRIZA, according to the projected voter preferences of a new poll on behalf of Ta Nea newspaper. The poll conducted by Metron Analysis gave the conservatives 36.3% ahead of 23.3 for Syriza and showed that New Democracy has extended its lead compared to other recent polls. The socialists of the Movement for Change were third with 9% ahead of the extreme right Golden Dawn party on 7.1% while junior coalition partner Independent Greeks remained below the 3-percent threshold. Previous Metron Analysis poll in February gave ND a 9.7 point advantage over Syriza in its vote projection.

# The Greek government as well as the opposition parties lambasted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he said that his country will consider returning the two Greek soldiers who have been detained in Turkey if Athens extradites the eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece in 2016. The PM’s office said in a statement that talk of an exchange is unacceptable.” The position of Greece and the EU, the statement read, is that they must be released without conditions. New Democracy said “Turkey must finally understand what independent justice means in a state where there’s rule of law, like Greece”.

# French embassy in Athens, located opposite from the Greek Parliament, has been vandalized by members of the Greek anarchist group ‘Rubicon’. Yesterday afternoon, the anarchists threw paint on building, protesting against “the recent missile attack on a number of targets in Syria” as they claimed.

# The labor rights of workers at two of the lignite-power plants of the state-run Public Power Corporation (PPC) which will be put to tender by the end of May will remain intact, according to the company’s chief Manolis Panayiotakis. Speaking to the government-affiliated Avgi newspaper, Panayiotakis said it “it goes without saying that they (labor rights) must be kept intact.” The bill in its final form must be “absolutely clear” on this issue, he said. The “GENOP” union said that a series of 48-hour strikes will begin as of today and could lead to brief power cuts. The Parliament debate on the bill for the concession of the PPC’s lignite units at Meliti and Megalopoli began on Friday.

On our Radar: Industrialists propose scrapping of Enfia for new properties
The Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) has proposed the abolition of the highly unpopular Enfia property tax, an inheritance tax exemption and a significant reduction of transfer tax for new buildings up to 15 years old. It also proposes the replacement of financial aid via the Partnership Agreement for the Development Framework (ESPA) with interest free loans and tax credits. The proposals are among 50 submitted by SEV to expedite investments in the country and will be presented today and tomorrow at a conference entitled “Designing the Future with Investments”.