Athens Digest 02.05.2018

• At May Day rallies, unions demand return to collective bargaining

• PM, Ministers head to Lesvos, protests planned

• Agreement on FYROM’s name unlikely till June says FM Kotzias

• Greece eyes ‘virtual pipelines’

# Thousands of protesters attended May Day rallies in central Athens, as unions renewed demands for a full return to a collective bargaining system shelved during the bailout years. Former Finance Minister Varoufakis was spotted in the crowd. Greece’s largest union, the GSEE, has planned a general strike for May 30. In their May Day messages, PM Tsipras promised Greeks an end to the bailout “without constraints,” while opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece needed a “fresh start” with a lower-tax and business-friendly environment which will create more and better jobs.

# Prime Minister Tsipras and several ministers are heading to the island of Lesvos today and tomorrow, where anti-government protests are being planned.
The visits to a regional development conference on the island have coincided with a surge in tension over the sharp rise in daily migrant arrivals as well as over fears that the government is planning to scrap the island’s VAT rate concessions. Health Minister Andreas Xanthos is scheduled to visit the migrant camp of Moria this morning, following repeated outbreaks of violence there and reports from non-governmental organizations that conditions are again steadily worsening.

# In a televised interview broadcast last night, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told Skai TV that it would be very difficult to reach a full agreement on FYROM’s name dispute until June. Kotzias highlighted that more time will be needed if FYROM decides to call a referendum.

# Authorities are reportedly working on a regulatory framework to allow gas grid operators to create compressed natural gas (CNG) networks -known as “virtual pipelines” – in Greece. As a newly privatized company, Greek gas transmission system operator DESFA wishes to boost Greece’s position as regional natural gas hub and to develop both LNG and CPG supplies in the country, Snam’s Marco Alvera said during last week’s meeting with PM Tsipras. The CEO of the majority shareholder in the winning consortium for the operator’s 66% stake highlighted his firm’s significant experience in the methane-based technology.

On our Radar: Ermou leads highstreet rebound
In ancient Greece, Ermis (Hermes) was the messenger of the Gods. In modern times, he’s bellwether of the capital’s commercial fortunes. Back in 2002, Ermou Street briefly made the top 10 of the world’s most expensive highstreets (counting the most expensive per country). Annual rents rose to above EUR 3,000 per square meter. But they plummeted during the crisis and Ermou dropped to 28th place in a survey of 44 countries, “Main Streets Across the World” by business consultants Cushman & Wakefield. In 2017, Ermou rose to the top 20 – taking 19th place with rents of EUR 2,640. The top three? New York’s Upper 5th Avenue at EUR 28,262, Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay at EUR 25,673 and New Bond Street in London at EUR 16,200.