Athens Digest 28.09.2018

• Georgiou case reopened for… third time

• Finally dismantled, capital controls are almost gone

• Port profits: Piraeus buoyed by staff cuts, turnover rise

• Number check in Athens ahead of FYROM referendum

# BREAKING: Civil protection services have been placed on alert following warnings of severe weather likely to affect the Ionian islands, Crete, and the Peloponnese today, with force-10 gales expected in parts of the country and concerns that the low pressure system to the west of Greece could develop into a so-called Mediterranean cyclone. The Hellenic National Meteorological Service is posting regular updates.

# Andreas Georgiou, the former Greek statistics chief, is again facing trial on claims that the 2009 budget deficit figures were inflated _ after twice being cleared on the same allegations. An appeals court prosecutor has requested that the case against the 58-year-old former IMF economist be reopened. Georgiou led the Hellenic Statistical Authority, Elstat, between 2010 and 2015. He has been praised by the European Commission and creditor institutions for steering the Greek agency from disrepute to one that earned a full endorsement from Eurostat. International statistical agencies and EU institutions have repeatedly defended Georgiou throughout his legal troubles in Greece.

# Three years after first being introduced, Greece’s capital controls are finally on the way out. From October 1, limits on withdrawals from bank accounts in Greece will be lifted _ leaving only restrictions on depositors traveling abroad who will have a EUR 5,000 monthly withdrawal cap. The measures were announced by the Finance Ministry, which has steadily eased banking limits that started in the summer of 2015 with a daily EUR 60 limit that could not be carried over. Banks were closed for three weeks when the controls were first imposed, during the crisis that occurred before Greece finalised its third bailout agreement.

# The Piraeus Port Authority has announced its highest profits in more than a decade, citing a successful staff reduction programme and a boost in turnover for the improved numbers. The port, run by China’s shipping giant Cosco, reported EUR 18.7 million January-June profit (EUR 13.2 million net profit) _ roughly three times higher than in the first six months of 2017. The company said turnover was EUR 63.5 million euros, compared with EUR 52 million a year earlier.

# Voters in FYROM cast ballots Sunday in a landmark referendum to change the country’s name to North Macedonia. Approval would clear Greek objections to NATO membership. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev wrapped up campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote, while the country’s conservative President Gjorge Ivanov denounced the deal at the UN General Assembly _ tacitly urging countrymen to abstain and push the turnout below the required 50 percent minimum. In Athens, meanwhile, Greece’s leadership was making calculations of its own: How the ruling Syriza party can get the 151 votes it needs to ratify the agreement without the support of its right-wing coalition partner, the Independent Greeks. Syriza is five votes short of a majority and government officials say support will have to come from members of the Potami party (expected to vote their conscience) as well as independent MPs in the 300-seat assembly.

On our Radar: Sagging sentiment
Economic sentiment in Greece has sunk to its lowest level in six months. The European Commission index updated yesterday showed Greece dropping to 101.3 points this month, from 105.2 points in August. By sector, sentiment suffered in consumer confidence and construction, but improved in retail, and services, while industry was roughly unchanged.