Athens Digest 02.07.2018

• Polls: New Democracy increases lead over ruling Syriza

• Junior partner is not ruling out leaving governing coalition over the Macedonia name deal when “the time comes”

• ‘Potami’ parts ways with center left Movement for Change

• German ambassador dismisses speculation of an “exchange” between Athens and Berlin

• IGB gas pipeline connecting Greece and Bulgaria receives boost

• Piraeus Bank completes sale of its subsidiary in Romania

# Two polls showed this weekend that main opposition New Democracy has increased its lead over ruling Syriza. More specifically, according to ALCO polling company, ND have a lead of 7.2 points, tallying 26.4% compared to 19.2% for Syriza. In the same poll by Alco last month, ND had a 5.5 point lead. A different poll by Metro Analysis on Saturday gave ND 36.7% against 22.6% for Syriza- a 14.1 point lead. New Democracy led by 13 points in the same poll by Metron Analysis in April, garnering 36,3% against 23,3% for Syriza. Polls were conducted after Eurogroup’s decision on the Greek debt as well as after the name deal between Greece and FYROM. They showed that junior coalition partner the Independent Greeks (ANEL) is sliding in popularity, gaining just 1.2%-way below the 3% threshold in Parliament.

# The leader of the Independent Greeks (ANEL) Panos Kammenos is not ruling out his party’s withdrawal from the governing coalition with leftist Syriza when then name deal signed between Greece and FYROM needs ratification by the Parliament. Since the name deal, the ruling coalition’s majority in Parliament has shrunk to 152 (in the 300-seat Parliament) after two ANEL left the party over the deal.

# ‘Potami’ party announced yesterday it is dropping out of the center left Movement for Change (KINAL). Party members and representatives voted overwhelmingly to leave in a closed meeting. Its party leader Stavros Theodorakis said that KINAL – a political alliance of center left parties – had failed to expand the center-left base. The cooperation of the two parties, which began a few months ago, was marred by rifts, including the name deal struck by Greece and FYROM. Theodorakis refuted rumors that his party is considering the possibility of an alliance with Syriza, if the ruling coalition with the Independent Greeks falls apart.

# German Ambassador to Greece Jens Ploetner has dismissed as “baseless” the recent speculation that the name deal signed between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the agreement on migrant returns and the economy were the result of an exchange between Athens and Berlin. “Each of these issues is too serious to be used as a negotiating card,” he told Kathimerini newspaper.

# Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Borissov signed a political agreement of support on Friday for the Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB Pipeline) that will connect the two countries. In a joint declaration they said construction would begin by the end of 2018 and completed in 2020. Key agreements regarding the financing of the IGB project (including with €110M by the EIB), as well as its connection permit with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), were also signed during the meeting of the CESEC group.

# Last Friday, Piraeus Bank completed the sale of its subsidiary Piraeus Bank Romania to J.C. Flowers & Co. At the same day, it also held the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of its shareholders. All proposed resolutions were passed with the required majority. CEO Christos Megalou, referred to the bank’s strategic plan, “Agenda 2020,” which is based on NPLs and NPEs reduction. According to the plan, Piraeus Bank by the end of 2020 will have approximately EUR65-70 billion in assets. The bank aims to achieve an annual target of EUR 5 billion in new loans by 2020, from EUR 2.7 billion in 2017.

On our radar: Commissioner Moscovici (once more) in Athens
Following up on the Eurogroup deal on June 21, the EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici arrives in Athens today for a two-day visit. Moscovisi is expected to highlight the importance of the decision on the Greek debt and stress the need for a calm climate and a political agreement for Greece to remain on the path of reforms. He will meet with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, as well as New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.