Athens Digest 16.05.2018

• Mission chiefs back to negotiations

• Mission implausible? Greece “braces” for exit without IMF

• Athens plots breakthrough scenario for name talks

• 90-day target set for island refugee camps

# Mission chiefs join negotiations in Athens this morning with privatisation, energy and public administration on the agenda. The IMF’s Poul Thomsen noted that next week’s Eurogroup meeting would probably provide the last chance for agreement needed for the fund to activate its Greece program. Greek officials say that deadline could be pushed to June 1 but appear to be bracing for an exit without the IMF.

# “Non-participation would not be a catastrophe” and would not affect the August bailout exit, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters at a briefing. Meanwhile, a few blocks away, a top Finance Ministry official was asked that will happen to the politically costly pension cuts due to kick in at the beginning of 2019 if the IMF leaves. “It is not the time to discuss that”, he replied.

# Officials in Athens were cautiously optimistic last night that a pre-summer breakthrough could be reached in Macedonia-name negotiations. Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev of FYROM meet tomorrow at a Western Balkans summit in Sofia, amid growing anticipation that Skopje could consider a constitutional amendment to incorporate its new name to secure its universal use. Greek officials say the deal would unlock their objections to FYROM’s NATO accession. They noted that the process would require ratification by member-state parliaments _ including Greece’s _ providing a guarantee that the terms of the agreement would be adhered to.

# Faster asylum procedures could reduce time spent at island refugee camps by asylum seekers to as little as 90-days, under a policy overhaul approved by parliament last night. Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas said faster application processing would help cut the number of people at the camps on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros by more than half (counting new arrivals) to under 10,000 over the next four months. Greece, Vitsas said, was still in consultation with the European Union to work out details of how migrants could be brought to the mainland while their applications are being examined.

On our Radar: “…under Georgiou’s leadership and beyond”
European Union officials have expressed renewed support for former Greek statistics chief Andreas Georgiou after it emerged that he again faces trial over 2009 deficit figures. One European official in Athens said: “We have said on many occasions that we have full confidence in the reliability and accuracy of the (Greek agency) data for the period of 2010-2015 which was under the leadership of Mr Georgiou, and beyond.” Georgiou faces a possible trial on allegations of making false statements regarding the country’s 2009 budget deficit _ in a case that has seen multiple legal reversals. Georgiou has strongly protested his innocence and has been publicly supported by EU officials.