Athens Digest 19.07.2018

• Centeno: Reforms should be resilient across economic and political cycle

• Greece tops EU investment initiative ranking

• Relations with Russia hit new low over ‘dirty tricks’ claim

• Legislated pension cuts included in 2019 budget plans

• Piraeus Bank signs cooperation protocol with Enterprise Greece

• And then there were 2. HELPE bidders named for final stage

# As Greece has entered in a pre-election period, Mario Centeno, the Eurogroup president, says that “the success of the bailout exit depends on the post programme period” and reforms process should be “resilient across economic and political cycle.” In an interview with France 24, Centeno added: “I think the Greek economy and Greek society now have the instruments _ they implement the reforms that they allow Greek economy to grow on a sustainable path and the Greek authorities to take full ownership of the future.” You may watch the interview here.

# Greece has topped the ranking of EU countries in a major investment initiative worth more than EUR 300 billion. Updated results of the European Fund for Strategic Investments, or EFSI, showed Greece has received the highest amount relative to GDP _ EUR 2.7 billion which is projected to generate EUR 10.6 billion in investments. Funded ventures include a wind farm in central Greece, an olive oil manufacturer in the southern Peloponnese, and a high-speed broadband project. The Commission said the investment scheme had helped countries like Greece and Ireland that are emerging from financial crisis and that, overall, the three-year-old project was expected to mobilise EUR 335 billion in investment, beating the target of EUR 315 billion.

# A budget ceiling of EUR 25.4 billion in pensions, including an 1 percent of the GDP cut, is foreseen in a note of Alternate Finance Minister George Houliarakis, which was sent to all government institutions, ahead of the 2019 budget drafting.

# Greece’s Foreign Ministry has reacted with indignation to allegations that it has joined an international dirty tricks campaign against Russia. “The constant disrespect for Greece must stop. No one can or has the right to interfere in Greece’s domestic affairs,” the ministry said in a statement last night. Greek-Russian relations sank to a new low in the wake of last week’s expulsion of two Russian diplomats in Athens, accused of funding nationalist protest against the Macedonia-name deal. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, described claims made in Athens as “false and absurd” and accused Greece of giving in to NATO pressure.

# Piraeus Bank the largest Greek lender and Enterprise Greece, the public institution which supports foreign investors and enterprises to do business in Greece, signed a cooperation protocol. The aim of the cooperation is to finance export – oriented companies, attract investments in energy, infrastructure and processing industry, participate in co-financing of strategic projects, finance start-ups and support the ‘Greek Visa” programme for non-Greeks. “Piraeus Bank is ready to finance the Greek economy. We have both the liquidity and the capability and the willingness to really help all Greek businesses, especially those engaged in foreign exports. We are dedicated to our goal, which in 2018 is to generate new financing amounting to EUR 3 billion” told Athens News Agency, Christos Megalou, Piraeus Bank CEO.

# As expected, after the exclusion of three other candidates, Glencore Energy UK LTD and Vitol BV have been selected as final-stage bidders for a controlling stake in Hellenic Petroleum. Privatization agency HRADF said the companies were selected from five potential bidders for a 50.1 percent stake in HELPE. Regarding information about Glencore’s summons from the US Ministry of Justice, it has been reported –attributed to ‘HRADF sources’- that this does not affect the tender.

On our Radar: Dutch objections to MFF
The Netherlands Ambassador to Greece, Caspar Veldkamp, has outlined his objections to post-Brexit EU budget proposals in an article in the Greek financial daily Naftemporiki. “The new MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework) should be future-proof, financially sustainable and flexible,” Veldcamp wrote. “The proposals that the European Commission published last May are unbalanced, in the sense that they: Are not financially sustainable; lead to unfair burden sharing among member states; and should be more ambitious in reforming the substance of the budget. We need substantially lower budget ceilings and a fair burden-sharing amongst the member states, coupled to a much more ambitious modernisation of the budget.” And he added: “Voters and parliamentarians in my country are continuously fearing a ‘transfer union’, in which their taxpayers’ money will flow to southern Europe without the south sufficiently reforming itself”.