Athens Digest 25.09.2018

• Draghi keeps clear of Greek pension debate

• Decisions on budget set for December

• Journalist arrests draw beyond-border fire

• Love thy neighbour?

# European Central Bank President Mario Draghi says the ECB will not make any public comment on reforms in post-bailout Greece, refusing to be drawn into the ongoing debate on Greek pension cuts. Draghi spoke at the European Parliament’s Committee for Economic and Monetary Affairs: “The ECB will not say anything any longer about pensions, about structural reforms, about privatisations, about lots of the things that the ECB _ admittedly as a junior partner _ had (previously) said something.” The ECB will proceed in its own assessment of the Greek adjustment programme and focus on the macro financial aspect of the economy (VIDEO – time: 1.11.40)

# European creditors are unlikely to make any decisions on Greece’s 2019 budget until December, according to a senior Eurozone official, as lenders continue to struggle with the issue of pension reform. The Tsipras government has framed the question as a fiscal issue and not a structural reform and has been highlighting policy disagreements between the IMF and the Europeans. Greece is obliged to issue its draft budget by mid-October but a report by creditors on their first post-bailout surveillance mission is not expected until a month afterward.

# European conservatives as well as Liberals and Democrats have led criticism of the weekend arrest and brief detention of three Greek journalists who reported on allegations of mismanagement of EU funds for refugees. Manfred Weber, the EPP leader, described the arrests as “appalling and against European values.” The European leader of Liberals and Democrats, Guy Verhofstadt, tweeted: “Instead of jailing critical journalists, the Greek government should explain what happened to the EU funds.” And Mina Andreeva, the EU Commission spokeswoman, while avoiding comment on specifics of the case, quoted Jean-Claude Juncker as saying: “There is no democracy without a free press.” In Athens, Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, who filed the complaint against the journalists, strongly denied the mismanagement claims.

# Greeks remain deeply distrustful of people they consider to be outsiders, a survey has found. The study by the Research and Policy Institute, diaNEOsis, found that 9 out of 10 respondents disagree with the statement that ‘Most people are trustworthy’ _ with the level falling off dramatically for people outside the respondent’s close environment. More than 80 percent trust family members, but just 20 percent trust foreigners. While more than 90 percent back the importance of democracy, faith in Greece’s democratic institutions is barely above 40 percent. Also: 1 in 3 Greeks would not like to have a gay neighbour, 1 in 4 would not want a migrant, and 1 in 5 say they would not want someone of a “different religion.”

On our Radar: Welcome, Tax Drones
Drones, by now, have a well established track-record of being used to hunt terror suspects, and are rapidly moving into areas like agriculture and medicine delivery for remote areas. In Greece, they also have made their debut as flying tax inspectors, starting on the holiday island of Santorini. The Independent Authority for Public Revenue says drones were used last week to track luxury cruise boats used for popular tours of the caldera. Operators of nine vessels didn’t bother issuing receipts, the authority said, running up a bill of unpaid taxes worth EUR 25,000 in a single day.