Athens Digest 01.10.2018

• Greece pledges commitment to Macedonia name deal after yes vote victory in low turnout referendum

• Draft budget submissions start but decisions on pension cuts expected after mid November

• Ruling Syriza and socialists drifting further apart

• Anarchists scatter flyers outside US ambassador residence

• Greece in the eye of a storm, three missing

# The Greek foreign ministry said it remains committed to the name deal it signed with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia after yesterday’s referendum in the Balkan country. “Greece respects the choices of the citizens of FYROM,” it said. Late last night (not final) results showed that more than 90-percent voted in favor of the deal. However, the validity of the result was put into question due to the low turnout (approx. 35 percent). Panos Kammenos, Greek Defense Minister and leader of ANEL the junior coalition government partner, said that the referendum was “invalid” due to low turnout. FYROM’s Premier Zoran Zaev said “the decision of citizens cannot be ignored” and that the deal will now go Parliament.

# Government officials repeated during the weekend their arguments against the implementation of planned pension cuts, but the issue will not be on the agenda at today’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers. Further clarity on this is neither expected with the submission today to Parliament of the draft budget –which will include a scenario of no pension cuts. A clearer picture is expected to emerge with the publication in November of the Commission’s first quarterly enhanced surveillance report. Until then, Greece must move ahead with privatizations, uphold minimum wage agreements and tread a fine line with regard to VAT on the islands, whose hike exemption ends on 31/12.

# The scenario of an alliance between ruling leftist Syriza and socialists received another blow after Minister of State Christophoros Vernardakis said “there is no room for discussion” with KINAL party. In an interview to ‘Nea Selida’ newspaper, Vernardakis derided KINAL as “a food supplement” of conservative New Democracy. Given the frictions with its junior coalition partner ANEL, Syriza has been exploring potential alliances within the center-left spectrum.

# US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt was the latest target of the Rubicon anti-establishment group whose members scattered flyers outside his Athens residence yesterday in protest at Washington’s “imperialist foreign policy.”

# Rescue operations were underway yesterday for three people that were reported missing after a powerful storm swept across parts of Greece at the weekend. The storm, known as a Medicane type cyclone, started on Saturday and brought with it flash floods affecting the island of Evia and parts of southern Greece. Torrential rainfall and gale force winds flooded homes, trapped people in cars and downed scores of trees. Roads were closed to traffic in several parts of the country, including Attica. A state of emergency was declared in all areas hit by the storm. The bad weather front moved up to northern Greece late yesterday.

On Our Radar: Greece’s population getting older
A bleak demographic future lies ahead as Greece’s share of elderly people is set to soar in coming years, according to Eurostat. In its Population Structure and Ageing report, the agency said that the share of the population aged 65 years or over between 2007 and 2017 has increased from 17-percent to 19.4-percent in the EU and from 18.6-percent to 21.5-percent in Greece, where the aging rate of the population is above the EU average. According to projections, in 2030 25percent of Greeks will be over 65 – 31percent of this figure will be over 80. In 2050 one in three will be over 65 – 46percent of these will be over 80.