Athens Digest 12.07.2018

• Defence Minister Kammenos breaks rank at NATO summit over FYROM invitation

• Detention of two Greek soldiers in Turkey is an open wound for the Alliance, says PM Tsipras to NATO leaders

• Russian meddling allegation prompts expulsions

• Commission announces the Enhanced Surveillance framework for Greece

• Anxiety spike: Hahn’s remark on borders

# As NATO leaders agreed to invite the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to join the alliance, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos appeared at odds with the Prime Minister’s position, insisting the name deal would fall through. “They may collect invitations and take photographs, but they will never join NATO as long as they use the term Macedonia,” he said on the sidelines of the summit. The invitation hinges on the successful ratification of the deal to rename the republic as North Macedonia.

# During the Summit, PM Alexis Tsipras once more referred to the issue of the detention of two Greek soldiers who have been imprisoned in Turkey, calling it “an open wound” for the Alliance. “The fact that two NATO soldiers have been detained by another NATO country for more than 4 months because they accidentally crossed into its territory, without even being charged, is an open wound for NATO,” Tsipras said.

# The expulsion of two Russian diplomats has been ordered over alleged meddling in the Macedonia-name issue. The issue was revealed by Kathimerini newspaper. Greek diplomatic source told Reuters Athens would expel two diplomats and bar two other Russians from entering the country due to concerns that they were involved in rallies in Greece against the deal with Macedonia and that they had attempted to offer money to Greek state officials.

# As expected, European Commission officials have announced the ‘Enhanced Surveillance’ framework for quarterly inspections of Greek public finances after the bailout ends. The Commission’s Valdis Dombrovskis and Pierre Moscovici made the announcement in Brussels. Dombrovskis said the Commission had no objection to additional budget savings being used for tax cuts and social programmes. Moscovici went further, telling the Athens daily Ethnos, when asked if changes could be made to planned pension cuts in 2019: “We will discuss that when the time comes.” Tomorrow, the ESM’s board of directors will meet to approve the disbursement of the EUR 15 billion loan tranche for debt servicing and building a cash buffer.

# Remarks by EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn touched off a political row that continued for hours until a follow-up statement was made by a Commission’s spokesperson. Speaking at a conference on the Western Balkans at Chatham House in London, Hahn said talks between Greece and Albania could lead to a “restructuring of borders.” New Democracy accused the government of carrying out secret diplomacy. Later, an official from Hahn’s office said the commissioner had not been referring to the Greek-Albanian land border but ongoing negotiations to delineate sea boundaries between the two countries.

On our Radar: Ronaldo’s deal sealed in Greece
Greeks have watched Croatia _ the country that beat them in qualification playoffs _ go all the way to the World Cup final. But meanwhile, there’s been some big sports news at home. Cristiano Ronaldo was on holiday in southern Greece when he finally agreed to move from Real Madrid to Juventus. Juventus president Andrea Agnelli travelled to Greece on Tuesday to meet the Portugal star and seal the EUR 112 million deal.