Athens Digest 06.06.2018

• Govt eyes targeted tax breaks from high surpluses

• Pension cuts to proceed as planned, says MinFin. 15 percent of the ‘ENFIA’ property tax payers will be charged more

• Public gas company DEPA to be split for privatisation

• Protest rallies centred around birthplace of Alexander the Great

# Lawmakers and senior officials in the governing Syriza party have been told the government is planning to spend excess money from budget surpluses on targeted tax breaks for Greeks most affected by the financial crisis. Party officials said the commitment was made by Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and his deputy George Chouliarakis at party meetings called before the omnibus bill implementing a final round of bailout measures is submitted to parliament. The Hellenic Fiscal Council, a budget monitor, yesterday said it expected primary surpluses to remain above the 3.5-percent target through 2022, hitting a high of 5.2 percent.

# Finance Minister Tsakalotos has refused to discuss amending pension cuts planned for next year, during his meetings with party officials and MPs. Tsakalotos did, however, note that the recalculation of annual property taxes, known from the Greek acronym Enfia, would leave roughly two-thirds of households with an unchanged bill, while about 15 percent would be charged more, and the remainder be given a modest reduction. Government officials said the omnibus bill was to be submitted on Friday and voted on June 14.

# Public Gas Corporation, DEPA, is to be split into two companies _ commercial and infrastructure _ as part of the privatisation process due to be completed early next year. Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis told state TV that the state would retain control of the infrastructure firm that includes the distribution network, and a small stake in the commercial company. The process is due to start in September, he said. The sell-off structure of DEPA would give shareholder Hellenic Petroleum broader options in determining its future stake in the two companies.

# Campaigners in at least 24 Greek cities and towns are expected to organise protest rallies today against a proposed compromise on the Macedonia-name issue. The protests will be centered at Pella, birthplace of Alexander the Great, in northern Greece. Many of the rallies have received backing from the local diocese of the Orthodox Church _ but not directly from Archbishop Ieronymos. Despite repeated setbacks in talks between Athens and Skopje, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said he believed key differences could be resolved “in the coming days.”

On our Radar: Green Cruise
The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, is leading a conference in Greece aimed at aligning the aims of the church with those of leading international climate change experts. The three-day events launched last night at the Acropolis Museum and will include trips to the islands of Spetses and Hydra. Dubbed the “Green Patriarch,” Bartholomew led the effort to create a religious environmental movement, following his election in 1991 to the become of the head of the Istanbul-based patriarchate.