Athens Digest 18.07.2018

• Opponents of Macedonia name-deal lose round in court

• Efforts to lower tension with Russia after the expulsion of two diplomats; Russian response is expected today

• Despite pressure, Greek soldiers kept in prison custody in Turkey

• Political polarization gets personal

• Mylonas tipped for CEO at NBG

# A coalition of Greek protest groups opposed to the Macedonia name-deal has failed in its first attempt to fight the deal in court. In a preliminary ruling, the Council of State rejected the claim that the June 12 agreement was in violation of the Greek Constitution. The groups based in Greece and overseas had argued that the agreement had needed parliamentary approval before being signed and that the current ratification requirement by lawmakers was not sufficient. The full case is expected to be heard in early December.

# The Greek authorities have tried to lower tension with Russia after the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Greece for meddling in the FYROM name deal by supporting protests. “We are currently considering the issue over,” the government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said on Real FM private radio. But today, announcements are expected from the Russian embassy in Greece.

# At the same time, in a message to Russia, FYROM PM Zoran Zaev said his country had “no alternative” other than to seek membership of NATO and the European Union. Zaev made the remarks as the EU launched its accession screening process in Skopje with a visit by Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn. Echoing allegations made earlier in Greece, Zaev last week cited allegations of Russia-backed payments made to local protest groups.

# A court in western Turkey has again rejected a petition to release Greek border guards Angelos Mitrotodis and Dimitris Kouklatzis, despite renewed calls for their return made by the Greek government at last week’s NATO summit. The issue was also pressed at a meeting on the sidelines of the summit between Prime Minister Tsipras and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. The two soldiers were arrested and detained in early March after crossing into Turkish territory and are being held in prison custody in the border city of Edirne. Greek officials say that soldiers patrolling the border, on both sides, routinely cross the frontier unintentionally and are returned without arrest.

# The New Democracy party presented documents to back up claims that a company managed by relatives of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras used fake tax document in order to secure a public project. Tsipras’ family side has featured the corresponding publications as defamatory and stressed that it would move in court.

# The Hellenic Financial Stability Fund’s executive committee and general council have backed the nomination of veteran bank executive Pavlos Mylonas to become the new CEO of the National Bank of Greece. The nomination will now be submitted to NBG’s board of directors for consideration and approval. A meeting is expected on July 26. Mylonas was named as acting CEO two and a half months ago, following the departure of Leonidas Fragiadakis who had completed his three-year term at the post.

On our Radar: Greece falling behind in renewables
Greece has slipped in a global renewables ranking published by Ernst & Young’s annual Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI). Greece fell by one place to 34th, level with South Africa in the 2018 rankings _ owing to delays in modernizing legislation, weak international investment in renewable projects, and sluggish progress in reaching the European Union’s 2020 targets. China led the index for a third consecutive year, while the United States improved to take the No 2 spot, pushing India to fourth place behind Germany. RECAI ranks the top 40 countries.