Athens Digest 11.10.2018

• External factors hurting banks, says Stournaras

• Kammenos’ alternative stuns government

• NYT: Russian-Greek oligarch in dirty tricks campaigns against the FYROM deal

• No… hurry to clear IOUs

# Bank of Greece governor Yannis Stournaras says external factors are to blame for the ongoing sell-off of Greek banking shares that has dragged the Athens Stock Exchange general index towards 600 points. “The ongoing improvement of the liquidity situation of Greek banks reflects the improved condition of the Greek financial system,” Stournaras said in a statement. “The recent stock market developments in respect of the banking sector are not related to the soundness of Greek banks and are due to purely exogenous factors, such as rises in interest rates internationally and in Greece’s neighbouring countries in particular.”

# The government distanced itself from remarks made by coalition partner Panos Kammenos who told reporters covering his trip to the United States that alternatives could be found to the Prespa agreement. The Defence Minister proposed that a series of bilateral security agreements in the Balkans could stabilize the region without addressing the issue of FYROM’s name. Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis said he was “surprised” and “puzzled” by Kammenos’ remarks.

# At a Pentagon meeting with U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, the Greek Defence Minister also suggested that the U.S. military presence in Greece could be expanded from the island of Crete to three additional locations (Volos, Larissa, Alexandroupolis). According to an announcement by the US Ministry of Defence, “Secretary Mattis praised Kammenos on Greece’s commitment to 2 percent defense spending and recent signing of a $1.5 billion F-16 upgrade. He also thanked the Greek defense minister for his country’s recent actions to combat Russian malign activities in the region, and the two agreed to continue to hold Russia accountable.”

# An article in the New York Times has reported that one of Greece’s most powerful men, former member of the Russian Duma, Ivan Savvidis helped Russia meddle in campaigns north and south of the border to try and stop FYROM adopting the name-change agreement needed to join NATO. Quoting senior U.S. officials, the newspaper said the United States had handed Greece intercepts allegedly documenting the involvement of the Russian-Greek oligarch in dirty tricks campaigns against the FYROM deal in the run up to the September 30 referendum. The action prompted Athens to expel two Russian diplomats in July.

# State’s arrears have hit EUR 3 billion, as the government has shelved a commitment to swiftly settle debts after the bailout exit, leaving businesses short of cash. Reporting August figures, the Finance Ministry said just EUR 185.4 million was paid out from the EUR 922.6 million earmarked for debt repayment. The arrears total went up from EUR 2.73 billion in July to EUR 3.04 billion.

On our Radar: Tributes for Coast Guard Hero
Greek authorities have paid tribute to coast guard officer Kyriakos Papadopoulos who had been credited with assisting in the rescue of thousands of refugees off the coast of Lesvos at the height of the migration crisis in 2015. The 44-year-old father of two died of a heart attack. His efforts were highlighted in the 2016 Oscar-nominated documentary 4.1 Miles.