Athens Digest 11.06.2018

• Meeting between Merkel and Lagarde seen as final bid to bridge gap on debt

• Government submits prior actions bill as it scrambles to pass final review before Eurogroup

• Court upholds two-year sentence given to former statistics chief Georgiou

• Athens remains optimistic over name deal with Skopje but the ball remains in the FYROM’s court

• Chief of industrialists union slams the horizontal way wages are determined

# With the clock ticking, Athens awaits the outcome of today’s meeting in Berlin between IMF chief Christine Lagarde and Chancellor Angela Merkel, which is widely viewed as a last ditch effort to bridge the gap on the Greek debt issue before the June 21 Eurogroup. Μedia reports claim it is highly unlikely the IMF will participate in the Greek program with funding. Government Spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece’s credibility as it exits the program in August will not hinge on the participation or not of the IMF. Meanwhile, in what was seen as a veiled reference to Greece, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in a speech in Berlin that forcing a country to include surpluses in its budget is not enough to overcome a crisis.

# The Finance Ministry on Friday submitted to Parliament its fiscal plan for 2019-2022 and the multi-bill with the prior actions required by Greece’s creditors to complete the fourth and final program review. The bill includes reforms in the energy, pension and labor sectors, while the fiscal plan stipulates high primary surpluses reaching up to 5.19% in 2022. The government believes the high surpluses will provide the fiscal scope for counter measures in terms of benefits and tax reductions. The Syriza-led administration is seeking to secure the bill’s approval so that it can reach a comprehensive agreement on the last review, post-bailout supervision and the debt at the next Eurogroup on June 21.

# A two-year suspended prison sentence handed to the former chief of Greece’s statistics agency, ELSTAT, for a breach of duty has been upheld by the Supreme Court. Andreas Georgiou had been convicted in August 2017 after a lower court found him guilty of not securing the approval of ELSTAT’s board before he provided Greece’s deficit figures for 2009 to Eurostat, which has repeatedly defended him. He is also set to face charges, for a third time, for allegedly falsifying budget figures in order to justify Greece’s bailout. The Council of Appeals Court Judges has already twice cleared him of the charge.

# With Athens and Skopje racing the clock to reach a deal on the name dispute before the EU summit later in the month, Government Spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said on Saturday said he remains optimistic. He added that the ball remains in FYROM’s court as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias have “secured all the necessary safeguards to ensure that it will implement everything it agrees to.” For his part, New Democracy’s Shadow Foreign Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos said “delays” in the talks are not helpful as “our neighbors may return with new demands.”

# The President of the Hellenic Federation for Enterprises (SEV) Theodoros Fessas has expressed his opposition to the horizontal way in which wages are determined in various sectors and the “unilateral” system of arbitration to resolve labor disputes. “It’s irrational in 2018 for the minister to determine wages horizontally and not take into consideration the particularities of each sector, area or business and to bring the country back to a non-competitive way of determining wages, as was in the case in the 2000s,” he told Vradyni newspaper. He said the arbitration system will ultimately give party-controlled labor unions, “the right to unilaterally resort to arbitration and secure wage increases beyond the capabilities of a particular business.

On our radar: Death of emblematic businessman marks end of an era
Pavlos Giannakopoulos, the founder of Greek pharmaceutical firm Vianex and co-owner of basketball powerhouse Panathinaikos at the height of its glory (1987-2012), died yesterday morning at the age of 89. Giannakopoulos was viewed as an emblematic figure of the pharmaceutical industry and enjoyed popularity among Panathinaikos fans after leading the club to six Euroleague championships. His son, Dimitris is currently engaged in a public confrontation with the Euroleague, and has not ruled out withdrawing the team from the competition.