Athens Digest 18.05.2018

• IMF: “We are running out of time”

• Prior action mop-up bill expected in mid-June

• Tsipras: More ground to cover on Macedonia talks

• Poll boost for conservatives, small parties suffer

# The IMF has renewed a warning to Greece’s European lenders that “the time window is running out” to join the programme. Gerry Rice, the IMF spokesman, said: “We believe more needs to be done on the debt relief front.” In Athens, Greece’s representative at the IMF, Michail Psalidopoulos, told a parliamentary committee that the fund was awaiting “quantitative details” from the Europeans next week, at the May 24 Eurogroup meeting “or, okay, a little beyond that,” on Greek debt relief before making a final decision on whether to join the programme.

# Greek Authorities are expected to submit an omnibus bill to parliament by June 15 to cover dozens of pending prior actions, as negotiations with creditors in Athens appeared to be rapidly overcoming hurdles. A “to do” list for the draft legislation is currently being drawn up with the aim of finalizing the Greece deal with debt relief and post-programme commitments spelled out at the June 21 Eurogroup. Greek officials yesterday said the Athens talks are on track to conclude tomorrow with a draft Staff Level Agreement. Ahead of next Thursday’s Eurogroup meeting, differences have narrowed further, they said. Stumbling points still include labour reforms and methods to identify so-called strategic defaulters on mortgages and business loans.

# After her meeting with the institutions, Public Administration Minister Olga Gerovassili claimed that her ministry has no responsibility for the pending State General Secretaries appointments as it is the Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection (ASEP) which runs the procedure. General Secretaries at ministries are to be given fixed-term contracts as part of the institutions’ de-politicisation policy for public Greek administration. Gerovassili also said that Overall hiring numbers will be capped at replacement level through 2019.

# Greece and FYROM have covered “considerable ground” but have not yet reached overall agreement in name negotiations, Alexis Tsipras said after an hour-long meeting with Zoran Zaev in Sofia. The prime ministers of the two countries had also held longer informal talks the previous evening, but both refused to say where the differences still existed. Tsipras said no issue has been fully settled, including the name to be chosen by FYROM.

# New Democracy has gained a huge lead over Syriza according to new opinion poll data, and is eying a potential outright victory at the next election as smaller parties struggle to hold on to support. A ‘Public Issue’ poll put them at 39 percent or 19 points ahead _ up from a 16.5-point advantage in January. Also: Movement for Change 11 percent, Golden Dawn 8.5 percent, Greek Communist Party (KKE) 6.5 percent, Centrist Union 3.5. A separate survey for Skai television by ‘Pulse’ gave the conservatives a 10.5-point advantage (ND 32.0, Syriza 21.5 percent) slightly above the 10 percent gap which Pulse found in April.

On our Radar: Adding more sell-by dates
The head of the privatization fund HRADF has given creditors’ representatives a timeline of Greece’s planned denationalisation beyond the bailout exit. Aris Xenofos said construction on the long-awaited Hellenikon development project for Athens’ coastal area will start before the end of the year. Details were also given on a contract extension at Athens International Airport, plans to further develop the Egnatia tollway spanning northern Greece, as well as a programme to attract private investment at major regional ports. Xenofos’ remarks followed criticism of the privatisation agency by Infrastructure Minister Christos Spirtzis, who blamed it for delays.