Athens Digest 17.10.2018

• Tsipras calls for unity among his ministers as U.S. piles pressure on Skopje

• Heating subsidies to counterbalance oil price increase

• Green energy targets could hit electricity prices

• Piraeus Bank to finance transit hub at Thriassio

# Defence Minister Panos Kammenos has reportedly been lambasted by Nikos Kotzias, the foreign minister, during a cabinet meeting following his return from a controversial trip to the United States. Kotzias, according to multiple reports, accused his colleague of undermining the country’s foreign policy for party political gain ahead of next year’s general election. After meeting U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon, Kammenos backed an alternative to the Macedonia-name agreement that involved a series of regional security agreements among Balkan countries.

# The deepening row prompted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to issue a call for unity among his ministers and urged them to resist efforts by the opposition to topple the government over the Macedonia issue. Lawmakers in FYROM, meanwhile, continued a debate on the name-agreement in the wake of the September 30 referendum that saw two-thirds of voters abstain. The United States kept up pressure to push the deal through.

# The possibility of strengthening the budget for the heating subsidies based on the fiscal over performance in order to counterbalance the oil price increase will be considered by the Finance Ministry. This was decided at a meeting, yesterday, held under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

# Energy Minister George Stathakis says it’s still not clear whether the need to provide more energy from renewable energy sources in Greece will lead to price hikes for consumers in the short term. Stathakis said the country’s new energy strategy is expected to be ready by the end of the month, outlining how Greece will reduce coal-dependence and meet 2030 international energy targets. The EU wants to set a renewable energy target to 32 percent across the bloc in 12 years, with efficiency target reaching 32.5 percent. Greece also faces a more pressing clean energy target of 18 percent in 2020.

# Piraeus Bank has announced plans to finance development of the Thriassio Transit Center _ a major rail hub project west of Athens set to launch in 2024 and create up to 5,000 jobs over the next decade. The facility will be run under a 60-year concession agreement and will promote Greece as a major freight hub in the trans-European transport network. EU Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cretu, visited the site earlier this month.

On our Radar: Persisting Poverty
Some 112 million people out of the European Union’s 508 million population are poor, according to an update from Eurostat, with the worst rates still in Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece. In 2017, 34.8 percent of Greeks were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, while 21.1 percent had severe material deprivation. The respective EU averages were 22.5 percent and 6.9 percent.