Athens Digest 16.10.2018

• 2019 budget sent to Brussels

• Migrants: Land crossings triple in 2018

• Police station attacked amid patrol boost

# Greece has submitted its first post-bailout budget to the European Commission, costing its request to cancel promised pension cuts. In the 18-page document, the estimated primary surplus is estimated at 3.6 percent of GDP _ just beating the target requirement. It also promised to make EUR 1.1 billion available in 2019 for so-called discretionary measures that include easing property taxes and corporate tax rates, as well as funding for various social programmes like special education teachers. If legislated pension cuts (1 percent of the GDP) are implemented the primary surplus will reach 4.2 percent of GDP.

# Greece’s government recorded a primary budget surplus of EUR 4.8 billion for January-September _ nearly double the targeted amount. Nevertheless, data show that EUR 1.2 bn of the surplus comes from the non-implemented public investments programme.

# Migrant and refugee arrivals in Greece have surged by more than 30 percent so far this year, with the number crossings the Evros land border more than three times higher than in 2017. Data released by the UN Refugee Agency revealed that 35,626 migrants arrived in the first nine months of the year, up from 23,783 in 2017. The number of people reaching the islands was only slightly higher (23,419 vs 20,005), but the overall increase was pushed by a surge in land crossings, from 3,778 in January-September 2017 to 12,207 so far this year. The overall number of arrivals since border closures in 2016 and the EU-Turkey agreement was introduced stood at 64,900.

# Four police officers were treated in hospital for cuts and breathing problems after a central Athens police station was attacked by several dozen youths believed to be members of anarchist groups. The youths hurled stones and petrol bombs at the Omonia Square police station, blocking traffic on a busy nearby street and damaging several parked cars. The attack occurred several hours after the Public Order Ministry launched a new street policing scheme that will boost patrolling in Athens and Thessaloniki and is aimed at speeding up response times to street crime. Police association members are planning a demonstration outside the attacked station this morning to protest severe equipment shortages.

On our Radar: Church Trouble
In a seismic event for the Orthodox Church, Russia has severed ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul after it recognised the independence of the Ukrainian Church. The decision _ while not unexpected _ presents some major complications for Greece. Relations between the Greek Church and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew have hit a low point in recent months over a property dispute being battled in court. The split also leaves a question mark over the monastic sanctuary of Mount Athos in northern Greece.