Athens Digest 20.06.2018

• Lowered debt relief expectations but hopes for an overall agreement on eve of Eurogroup

• Detained soldiers denied release in Turkey

• U.S. condemns terror group gunman’s furlough

• Thomas Cook expansion see EUR 150 million in Greek investment

# Expectations in Athens over the terms of debt relief have been lowered on the eve of tomorrow’s landmark Eurogroup meeting. Sources said there was strong resistance in late negotiations to extending loan maturities beyond 10 years _ a provision that would require approval by the German and other European parliaments. There was growing optimism, however, that Athens and creditors were in reach of a comprehensive agreement, including a substantial fiscal buffer,, as the government has completed more 90 percent of requested prior actions. After meeting the French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the Eurogroup could take the “final step” in concluding the Greek programme.

# Agreement between Athens and Skopje would not affect export labeling from Greece’s Macedonia region, owing in large part to Greece’s EU membership since 1981, Environment and Energy Minister George Stathakis claimed. Meanwhile; lawmakers in Skopje are expected to ratify the country’s agreement with Greece on the name dispute after it was approved at committee level last night.

# A court in Turkey has again rejected a request for the release of detained Greek border guards Angelos Mitrotodis and Dimitris Kouklatzis who remain in custody without charge for nearly four months. The two soldiers were arrested after straying into Turkish territory while on a border patrol _ further souring Greek-Turkish relations. The two men have the right under Turkish law to request a review of their custody every month. Their release has been denied on the grounds that they remain a flight risk, despite assurances that have been given by their lawyers.

# The United States has condemned the release on furlough of November 17 terror group gunmen Dimitris Koufodinas. He was granted a two-day leave after going on hunger strike to demand that his right to leave not be interrupted.‏ “The U.S. Embassy in Athens has conveyed our serious concerns about this decision to the Greek government,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “Terrorists should not get a vacation from jail.”

# Travel firm Thomas Cook says it will invest more than EUR 150 million in the Greek market and bring more than 3 million customers to Greece this year – an increase of more than a third from 2016. The announcement coincided with the launch of the company’s new hotel brand, Cook’s Club; in Crete. The 2018 expansion would make it the largest vacation company operating in Greece.

On our Radar: Income slip
Greek GDP per capita in 2017 slipped further to 67 percent of the European Union average, according to Eurostat. The figure dropped by one percentage point from the previous year, while gap has widened by a whopping 26 percentage points over the last nine years during the finance crisis. GDP per capita ranged from 49 percent in Bulgaria to 253 percent in Luxembourg relative to the EU average.