Athens Digest 19.09.2018

• Greece pitches recovery to London investors while inspectors are focusing on 2019 budget data

• Syriza closer to the leading Conservatives, new poll says

• New Democracy party opts for state TV boycott

• Pledge renewed to ease island camp overcrowding

• Eldorado Gold sends government whopping compensation bill

# Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos heads to London today for meetings with investors as Greece looks for its market return. The minister will attend roadshow events organized by the Athens Stock Exchange, and will hold additional meetings with investors tomorrow. At the same time, reportedly, institutions are focusing on critical aspects of 2019 budget. The underperformance of the public investments, the delay of the payments of new pensions and the once-off tax revenues affect the 2019 fiscal projections and therefore the efforts of the Greek government to avoid pension cuts as of January 1.

# Ruling Syriza has narrowed the margin with opposition New Democracy to 4.9-percent (from 5.5-percent in July), according to a poll by Kappa Research polling company which is published today in ‘Ethnos’ newspaper. The poll showed that 24.7-percent would vote for New Demovracy against 19.8-percent for Syriza. The extreme right Golden Dawn received 7.9-percent ahead of Movement for Change with 6.7-percent and Communist KKE on 4.5-percent.

# New Democracy has told its MPs and party officials to stop making appearances on state-run ERT television, accusing the broadcaster of “blatant” bias in its political coverage. The decision was taken after a commentator on a daily current affairs show likened the speech made by opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Thessaloniki International Fair to the writings of a prominent theoretician of Italian Fascism. “As I listened to the whole of his speech on Saturday, I thought I was listening to the theorist of Fascism, Sergio Panunzio, who introduced elements of nationalism in Italy to Mussolini,” the commentator said. Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, the government spokesman, recalled the decision by the previous conservative-led government to shut down ERT in 2013.

# The government has renewed a pledge to ease overcrowding at migrant camps on Lesvos and other eastern islands, responding to mounting concern over conditions at the facilities. Government spokesman Tzanakopoulos said 2,000 asylum-seekers would be moved to the mainland from the Moria camp on Lesvos _ which is currently three times over-capacity and has 9,000 inhabitants. The spokesman cautioned that Greece would be unable to deal with the overcrowding problem comprehensively as long as eastern EU members like Hungary and Poland refused to accept the bloc’s settlement quotas. In May, the Greek government had promised to slash the number of migrants and refugees on the islands from 15,000 to under 7,000, but the number has instead increased to more than 20,000.

# Canada’s Eldorado Gold has requested EUR 750 million in compensation from Greece in what it described as a “good faith attempt” to end a dispute over permits held up at a site in northern Greece. The Vancouver, BC-based firm said the action did not constitute the initiation of legal proceedings. In response, the Environment Ministry said it was examining the request, and stressed that it considered all of the company’s planned ventures in Greece to be a single investment. “Therefore, the essential prerequisite for the commencement and operation of the individual segments remains the presentation by the company of the necessary guarantees for the implementation of the obligation to produce pure metals,” a ministry statement said.

On our Radar: Marches and Molotovs
Marches have been held in cities around Greece to mark five years since the murder of rap singer Pavlos Fyssas. Violence broke out at three of the rallies as police tried to stop marchers reaching the local offices of the far-right Golden Dawn party. The clashes occurred in Piraeus, Patras, and Thessaloniki, where youths hurled petrol bombs at police cordons. The 2013 fatal stabbing of Fyssas, allegedly by a Golden Dawn volunteer, triggered the arrest and trial of the party’s leading members. Despite starting in 2015, the trial continues and legal observers estimate that only about two-thirds of the proceedings have been completed. Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and other senior members are accused of running a criminal organization. Golden Dawn has 15 MPs in the 300-seat parliament, and remains in third or fourth place in recent opinion polls.