Athens Digest 24.04.2018

• Budget news boosts Tsipras’ perseverance pitch to lawmakers

• Public funds keeping IOUs shelved in early 2018

• Migrant protests end in violence in wake of high court ruling

• Vodafone set to take over Cyta’s Greek division

# Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addressed MPs in his Syriza party with positive news to accompany a pitch to stay on the course or reform. The primary surplus for 2017 came in at 4 percent (4.2 percent in programme terms), the return to growth was confirmed, and the national debt edged back from a high of 180 percent of GDP in 2016. Commissioners Valdis Dombrovskis and Pierre Moscovici publicly praised the government’s performance. Tsipras said the data was proof his administration had succeeded where the three previous three had failed: to end the bailout with a clean exit. The prime minister faced strong party reluctance over privatisation of the energy market (that has triggered ongoing power workers’ strikes) and pension cuts in 2019, an election year.

# Arrears payments by the State to Hospitals, EOPYY (Greek Healthcare Provider) and state-backed enterprises in the first two months of the year slowing close to a standstill. The Finance Ministry said the arrears stock jumped by EUR 237 million in February to reach EUR 3.39 billion. Creditors, however, want Athens to speed up arrears clearance in the coming months.

# A five-day protest by refugees and migrants on the island of Lesvos ended in violence after Greek demonstrators attacked the sit-in and police struggled to restore order. A crowd believed to include extreme right activists hurled flares and firecrackers at the migrants who had been camped out on the seafront of Lesvos’ capital. Police eventually cleared the site but several dozen people required medical treatment. More than 100 migrants were arrested. The ugly scenes of violence occurred amid renewed tension on the islands triggered by a recent high court decision that bans restriction for new arrivals and essentially creates a two-tier asylum system.

# Greek regulators have approved the proposed full acquisition of mobile, internet and Pay-TV provider Cyta Hellas by Vodafone Greece. Further review is pending from telecoms regulator EETT regarding multiple play services and bundled telecommunication services.

On our Radar: EU poll reveals Greek sadness
On a day of good news for the economy, an EU-wide poll revealed that Greeks are among the most unhappy people on the continent following the years of financial crisis. A Eurobarometer survey of the European Union’s wellbeing found that only 13 percent of Greek strong agreed that they were generally, compared to 59 percent in Denmark and 56 percent in Sweden. Forty-three percent of Greek feel lonely, compared to 31 percent across the EU.