Athens Digest 14.09.2018

• Mission chiefs wrap up meetings today as decisions deferred to November

• ECB lowers ELA ceiling for Greek banks

• FYROM name deal to be approved in February or March, national elections in May the earliest, says President of the Parliament

• Social insurance contributions of self-employed professionals will drop, says Labor Minister

# Mission chiefs from the European institutions and the IMF will today wrap up their first round of meetings which began on Monday, with government officials. According to a government source, the decisions on the crucial issue of pension cuts and the relief measures will be taken at a later date, most likely in November. This will be followed by a political agreement at the Eurogroup, either the one in November or December. Reportedly, non implementation of pension cuts is on the table. The fiscal space, the minimum wage, structural reforms in banks and new NPEs reduction targets, e-auctions, privatizations, energy and out-of-court settlements were discussed.

# The Bank of Greece said yesterday that the European Central Bank lowered the ceiling on emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) that Greek banks can draw from the domestic central bank by EUR 3.2bn euros to EUR 5.2 bn. The BoG said the low ceiling indicates improved liquidity due to private sector deposit flows and the banks’ access to financial markets. The ceiling will be valid until October 9.

# The name deal signed by Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will be brought to Greek Parliament for ratification in February or March, according to the President of the Parliament Nikos Voutsis. Speaking to Alpha TV yesterday, Voutsis noted the ratification date will hinge on developments in FYROM. Panos Kammenos, the leader of the junior coalition partner, the Independent Greeks, has said he won’t back the deal. But Voutsis nonetheless, expressed “certainty” that the deal will be passed in Parliament. Given the position of Kammenos on the issue, ruling Syriza is reportedly sounding out lawmakers from other parties. Voutsis also ruled that elections may take place along with European and local election in May, the earliest.

# Labor Minister Effie Achtsioglou announced yesterday that the social security contributions of some 250, 000 self-employed professionals, doctors, farmers engineers and lawyers will be significantly slashed as of January 1, 2019. She claimed that the social security system has become “viable” and that around 1.250,000 non-salaried workers are already paying less than previously. She added that the reductions have been made possible because of Greece’s fiscal performance and the surplus of the EFKA social security fund

On Our Radar: Turkish court rejects request to convert Hagia Sophia monument in Istanbul
The bid by a Turkish religious group to convert the Hagia Sophia monument in Istanbul has been rejected by Turkey’s highest court. The issue has been a source of indignation in Greece which has a special relationship with the monument given that it was a former Orthodox cathedral constructed during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor in the 6th century. It was later converted into a mosque by the Ottoman Turks after the fall of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) in 1453 before it was turned into a museum in 1935. However the Islamic government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come under increasing pressure in recent years to convert the monument into a mosque.