Athens Digest 26.04.2018

• Greece welcomes Juncker, adds asterisk to bailout timeline

• French-Greek defence talks could revive local industry, says minister

• FYROM talks were cordial but “intense,” UN mediator reports

• PPC lignite units sale approved by the Parliament

• Drug pricing reform meets with industry opposition

# European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is visiting Athens a day before Greece presents its long-awaited growth strategy to eurozone finance ministers in Sofia. Greek officials have welcomed the high-profile visit that will include a televised address to parliament as a sign of confidence from lenders that the country remains on track to complete the bailout on schedule. Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said Greece remains resolved to hammer out the agreement on post-programme surveillance and debt relief by the Eurogroup meeting of June 21 _ but added that a delay could push the date to a following meeting within the summer.

# Defence Minister Panos Kammenos says the Greek and French governments are exploring ways to expand military cooperation in a way that will benefit the recession-hit local industry _ adding that options have been discussed directly between Prime Minister Tsipras and French President Macron. Calling an unscheduled news conference, Kammenos addressed the conflicting statements made by government officials over the past week on the possible lease of two French frigates, maintaining that exploratory talks between Athens and Paris were ongoing. Reportedly, the German Liberals (FDP) oppose a possible Greek-French agreement on frigates.

# Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias meets NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels today after a new round of meetings on the FYROM – name negotiations. Kotzias traveled from Vienna where he again held talks with Nikola Dimitrov, his counterpart from the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. A U.N. mediator at the meeting, Matthew Nimetz, described the negotiations as cordial but “intense” and said that talks will continue over the next weeks. Government officials in Athens stayed quiet on details of what went on in Vienna, but spokesman Tzanakopoulos told reporters: “The Greek side has made concessions. Now it’s time for FYROM to take the steps that are necessary for an agreement.”

# A draft bill envisioning the sale of four lignite-fired power stations owned by the Public Power Corporation (PPC) was approved by the Greek Parliament. Liberilization of the energy market is considered a key committment of the country in its bailout programme.

# An influential drugmakers’ association in Greece has expressed opposition to a reported Health Ministry intention to introduce so-called closed budgets per treatment class. The Pharma Innovation Forum (PIF) argued the measure would not help reduce public spending on drugs in line with demands from bailout creditors. The association, which represents 23 International pharmaceutical companies operating in Greece, said that the Authorities should implement policies to achieve rational demand rather than techniques to conceal the significant excess of the pharmaceutical expenditure.

On our Radar: Varoufakis vs ECB
A 2017 lawsuit filed by former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis against the ECB has reached the European Union’s highest court. Varoufakis and a German MEP Fabio De Masi, have requested that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) orders the ECB to disclose a legal opinion that preceded its decision to freeze Greek bank funding in 2015. While Varoufakis was the Greek MinFin, the country lost access to the return of the Greek bond profits by the Central Banks and the ECB for two years. Varoufakis argues that revealing the contents of the document is in the public interest and outweighs ECB confidentiality concerns. ECJ announced that its normal legal procedure is being followed.