Athens Digest 27.08.2018 (weekly brief)

• Tsipras bailout exit speech seen as election period rhetoric

• Government officials say relief measures are on the way

• Scholz insists agreements must be honored

• Thomas Wieser: In 2015, a costly game was played behind the backs of the Greek people

• KINAL rejects Syriza call to form progressive front

# Amid speculation of an imminent reshuffle, Premier Alexis Tsipras marked Greece’s bailout exit last week with a swipe at his predecessors in a televised divisive speech, which analysts said was pervaded by election period rhetoric. Despite himself signing a third bailout program in 2015, Tsipras said his government had achieved to “take the country out of the restrictions of the memorandums and endless austerity.” And he bemoaned a past when “bankers became prime ministers and prime ministers became bankers”- a comment seen to be aimed at Bank of Greece Governor and former Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras and Lucas Papademos, former ECB Vice President and Premier. “We will never forget the causes and the faces that led the country to the memorandums,” he added. With the government struggling at the polls, Tsipras is expected to announce handouts at the Thessaloniki International Fair on September 8 – ahead of the first post-bailout visit by the institutions on September 10.

# At the same time, ministers and government officials have insisted that relief measures are on the way, such as a rise in the minimum wage, a return of collective bargaining and a possible suspension of agreed pension cuts in January. “I am certain that pensions will not be cut,” as they are not necessary, Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos told Antenna TV. Deputy Social Security Minister Tasos Petropoulos echoed the same sentiment, saying that there is a surplus in the Social Security Entity (EFKA) that could allow the non-implementation of pension cuts. Moreover, Minister of State Christos Bernardakis claimed that the government will renegotiate some of its bailout commitments. “Leaving the memorandum means redesigning the productive reconstruction of the country without the constraints of loan agreements,” he said.

# Nonetheless, in an interview to ‘Ta Nea’ newspaper, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said agreements between Greece and its creditors must be honored even after the third bailout. “They form the basis for investors and entrepreneurs to regain confidence in Greece and invest in the country…and important in order for the country to enter into sustainable development and ensure the sustainability of debt.” He added that Greece has an opportunity to revive its economy “with a prudent and reliable fiscal and economic policy” and he refused “participating in speculations” about the possibility of suspending the legislated pension cuts. Meanwhile, in an interview to Kathimerini, ex EWG chief Thomas Wieser described the protracted bailout negotiations in 2015 as a “costly game behind the backs of the Greek people” which brought Greece closer to Grexit.

# KINAL, the alliance of socialists and center left parties, rejected a call last week by senior ministers (Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis and Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas) to join forces with ruling Syriza to form a “progressive front.” KINAL’s spokesperson said that “they cannot act as if they are center-left suitors,” adding that their deeds have shown they have nothing to do with progressive principles and values.

On Our Radar: Rubicon anarchist group resumes attacks
Rubicon anarchist group resumed its activity against embassies as well as companies premises in August, targeting the Italian (after the Austrian) embassy. Last Monday, police thwarted an attempt by around 15 suspected members of Rubicon to hold a rally outside the Italian embassy. Protesters hung a banner with a message on the collapse of the bridge in Genoa. On August 17, members of the group walked into the Austrian embassy in Athens and threw flyers to protest the approval of a 12-hour working day by lawmakers in Vienna. Rubicon members also launched an attack on Saturday night against the headquarters of the Mytilineos group (business group with activities in Metallurgy, EPC, Electric Power and Gas Trading) in northern Athens, using sledgehammers to smash a glass door and windows.