Athens Digest 05.10.2018

• Banks end losing spree

• Report: Greece mulls new off-load options for NPL pile

• Deadline until the end of the month for the Hellenic Red Cross, says government

# Banks clawed back losses on the Athens Stock Exchange and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos defended lenders’ fundamentals, insisting they had weathered the crisis. Bank sector shares snapped back by 8.31 percent. In parliament, Tsakalotos took on critics who said Greek banks remained in serious trouble. “All the banks have met their targets on red (non-performing) loans, they have gone through the stress-test process, they are adequately capitalised, and deposits are returning,” Tsakalotos said.

# The government and Greek banks are considering the use of special off-load mechanisms to speed up the reduction of non-performing loans and address market jitters, according to a report by Bloomberg. The so-called special-purpose vehicles to peel off NPLs from bank balance sheets could come with a state guarantee, the report said.

# A senior public health official says the government has done “everything possible” to prevent the Hellenic Red Cross (HRC) from being expelled byits parent international organization (ICRC). Yiannis Baskozos, general secretary at the Health Ministry, said the Greek branch had been given till the end of the month to resolve differences with the Geneva, Switzerland-based ICRC. The HRC yesterday denied news reports it had already effectively been expelled, insisting that current issues stemmed from a crisis in relations with Geneva in 2013.

On our Radar: Press Freedom Concern
Yesterday, the European Commission proposed the mobilisation of EUR 2.3 million from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) to help 550 workers made redundant in the publishing sector in Attica (broader Athens region). At the same time the Greek left-wing MEP Kostas Chrysogonos has filed a question to the European Commission to raise the issue of the monthly Athens Review of Books magazine, which has had its assets frozen after losing a libel case brought by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias. The magazine is facing the threat of closure as a result of the action taken after publishing a letter critical of Kotzias’ record as former senior Communist Party official, describing him as a “true gauleiter of Stalinism.” Chrysogonos asked: “Does the Commission consider there to be a lack of protection of the freedom of the press in this case?”