Athens Digest 05.09.2018

• Post-bailout inspection has a new priority: Pension cuts

• Income contributions too high, says Mitsotakis

• Greece and Turkey: Good will and barbs

• Ferries back at sea, unions gear up for fight

# European officials are seeking more details from Greece on government efforts to avoid imposing pension cuts next year. A senior Commission official said creditors were looking for greater clarity from Athens ahead of the first post-bailout monitoring mission next week. In the wake of last week’s Cabinet reshuffle, Greek officials have openly stated they are hoping to pull off a U-turn on the pre-legislated pension cuts slated for 2019.

# Kyriakos Mitsotakis says a New Democracy government would axe income contributions by up to 20 percent over four years _ firing a shot at the government ahead of Prime Minister’s keynote speech at the weekend. The opposition leader appeared on Alpha Television’s evening news programme and insisted his party’s tax-cut plan had been properly costed. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is due to outline his post-bailout strategy at the weekend in Thessaloniki at the annual trade fair. His speech, Mitsotakis maintained, “will contain various promises that will never be honoured.” Despite the heavyweight campaigning for a “yes” vote in FYROM’s referendum this month, Mitsotakis reiterated that his party will not back the name-change deal. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are both visiting Skopje this week, reportedly, to support the “yes” campaign.

# The foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey say they will continue to work towards improving ties despite the recent spike in tension. Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu joined Nikos Kotzias at the inauguration of the newly renovated Greek consulate in Izmir. Despite “difficult spells” calm always prevails, Cavusoglu said. But he added: “Turkey does not offer shelter to coup plotters”_ referring to eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece after the coup attempt two years ago. Kotzias responded: “We have stood by and continue to stand by Turkey against any kind of putschists.”

# Ferry workers ended their strike after reaching a pay deal with employers, stopping a two-day protest that had cut off goods and tourists from the islands. The PNO union ordered a return to work after accepting a 2-percent pay increase. The union had initially demanded a 5 percent hike to compensate for an eight-year freeze during the bailout years. Greece’s largest trade union, meanwhile, said it was planning to join anti-government demonstrations at the weekend in Thessaloniki, where PM Tsipras will deliver a speech on the government’s post-bailout strategy. The ‘GSEE’ union launched Internet ad campaign ahead of the protests under the slogan: “Our rights, our gains, our life: We want them back.”

On our Radar: Wine Respite
The Council of State has ruled in favour of Greek winemakers and canceled a bailout-linked supplementary sales tax. Yesterday’s ruling by the top administrative court effectively scraps the Special Consumer Tax that was imposed in 2016 and triggered the legal battle. “What we achieved is for the good of the entire industry,” said Greek Wine Federation chairman Giorgos Skouras.