Athens Digest 24.05.2018

• Parties locked in campaign-style confrontation on economy

• MinFin Tsakalotos backs HCAP role ahead of Eurogroup meeting

• Law-and-order debate dominates party politics

• Name talks resume in wake of ‘Ilinden Macedonia’ proposal

• High court backs asylum request for Turkish serviceman

# Ahead of today’s Eurogroup meeting, political parties clashed for several hours in parliament over the legacy of Greece’s grueling bailout, but appeared to be in tacit agreement over at least one central issue. New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his party did not support a precautionary credit line but described the country’s course back to markets as a “minefield.” For the prime minister, Greece’s path to a so-called clean exit was now irreversible. The election-style rhetoric in government and opposition speeches was clear. Nevertheless, PM Tsipras insisted his government would see out its full four-year term.

# Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos has backed the role of Greece’s new privatisation and investment fund ahead of his trip to Brussels to brief the Eurogroup. Taking on opposition party critics in parliament, he said: “You don’t see all the changes that have been made… Now there is an umbrella fund which is aimed at restructuring (public) enterprises. That will have multiple benefits for the Greek economy.” The minister was referring to HCAP, the Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations, which has the stated mission of “maximizing value” of Greek public assets.

# The debate in parliament was dominated by law-and-order issues following the weekend assault of Thessaloniki mayor Yiannis Boutaris and an attack on a high court (Council of State) by the anarchist group Rubicon. Tsipras accused New Democracy of pandering to the far right by failing to adequately condemn the attack against Boutaris, who was punched and kicked by an angry mob at the weekend. Opposition leader Mitsotakis countered that the government had failed to stop anarchist violence and had benefited politically from violent street protests before taking office. In a new Internet post yesterday, Rubicon threatened Mitsotakis, vowing to deliver a response “up close and very soon.”

# Foreign ministers Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov of Greece and FYROM resume talks today at the United Nations in New York. U.N. Mediator Matthew Nimetz will host the talks that are expected to focus on Skopje’s proposal to rename republic as Ilinden Macedonia _ a suggestion that has caused consternation in Athens. Greece is pressing for a return to a list of suggested names made by Nimetz with so-called temporal and geographical modifiers (New, North of Upper Macedonia) Reportedly, since the previous Kotzias-Dimitrov meeting on May 11, the United States and Germany have taken a more active interest in the name dispute, pressing for a swift resolution and NATO membership for the landlocked republic.

# Greece’s highest court has reportedly backed granting asylum to one of eight Turkish servicemen wanted by Ankara for alleged involvement in the failed 2016 coup. The final decision by the Council of State, according to judicial officials, was made despite fierce opposition from Turkey which has repeatedly demanded their return. Extradition has been denied by courts on the grounds they may not face a fair trial. The eight officers fled Turkey in a military helicopter and landed in the Greek border town of Alexandroupolis.

On our Radar: Probe into power bill delays
A public prosecutor has ordered an investigation into reports that Greece’s Postal Service delayed payments to the Public Power Corporation, withholding millions of euros received from electricity bills. The action followed hundreds of complaints from PPC customers who in some cases had even been disconnected despite having paid their bill at the post office. Regulators have also called for an investigation.