Athens Digest 18.06.2018

• Greece and FYROM sign deal to resolve 27 year-old name dispute

• Government survives no confidence motion

• Poll shows 7 in 10 Greeks against name agreement, ND increases lead over Syriza

• Tsipras reiterates there will be no retreat in pension reform

• DEPA on course to acquire of a 49% stake owned by Shell in Attica Gas Corporation

# Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia signed a deal yesterday to resolve the decades-old name dispute in a ceremony at the village of Psarades on Lake Prespes in northern Greece. The deal, which still must be ratified by both parliaments and by a referendum in FYROM, will pave the way for FYROM to join the EU and NATO as North Macedonia. The agreement was hailed by Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev, and welcomed by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn and UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, who attended the ceremony. The accord has been met with opposition in both countries, and riot police clashed with demonstrators who tried to approach yesterday’s ceremony.

# A day earlier, the Syriza-led government survived a no-confidence vote brought against it by New Democracy over the name deal. 153 out of 154 MPs (in the 300 seat Parliament) of the Syriza-ANEL coalition rejected the motion. Panos Kammenos, who heads coalition partner ANEL, said the vote was not about the name deal, insisting his party will vote against it when it goes to Parliament.

# Despite the confidence motion outcome, a poll gave New Democracy a 14.4 % lead over ruling Syriza and showed that a staggering 7 in 10 Greeks are opposed to the name deal. In the survey conducted by Marc for Proto Thema newspaper from Tuesday to Friday – when the deal and the economy were debated in Parliament – 30.6 % said they would vote for ND as opposed to 16.2% for Syriza while 50.4 said they want early elections. ND maintains its double digit lead which has increased compared to recent polls. As for the name deal, 68.3% said they were opposed. Interestingly, 49% of Syriza voters were also opposed.

# Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisted in an interview to Germany’s Die Welt that there will be no retreat in his government’s pension reform drive. With regard to debt relief, he said that it is a given that last year’s agreement with the Eurozone partners will be taken into account in order to secure that Greece will be able to stand firmly on its own feet and have permanent market access. He added that the details are being worked out for the best possible way to manage Greece’s future overdue debts, through the use of already promised European funds and the extension of repayment terms from 2022 onwards. Moreover, Alexis Tsipras praised chancellor Merkel for her refugee policy.

# The CEO of Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) Dimitris Tzortzis confirmed at the Economist Conference that discussions are continuing for the acquisition by DEPA of a 49% stake owned by Shell in Attica Gas Corporation (EPA). The acquisition is a key development in the privatization process of DEPA’s commercial arm, which is expected to start in September 2018 and is included in the prior actions of the bailout programme. DEPA manages projects included in the Commission’s Projects of Common Interest (PCI) such as IGB, IGI Poseidon, East Med and the LNG import facility in Alexandroupolis.

On Our Radar: Georgiou says he was acting within European framework as Eurogroup set to make announcement
Lawyers of ex statistics chief Andreas Georgiou have decried the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a two year suspended prison sentence for alleged breach of duty. Georgiou, who headed ELSTAT from 2010 to 2015, had been convicted last September by an Appeals Court for not getting approval from the agency’s board before transmitting the 2009 deficit figures to Eurostat. Lawyers said Thursday that he “was simply following the European legal framework.” Prior to the lawyers’ statement, EWG President Hans Vijlbrief said the Eurogroup plans to make an announcement on the case. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Die Welt that “no one is disputing the credibility of ELSTAT.”