Athens Digest 29.10.2018

• Italy President attends parade marking Greece’s entry to WWII in symbolic move

• Decision on pension cuts to be taken in November, EU official says

• Conservative leader Mitsotakis insists ND will not back Macedonia name deal

• New Democracy maintains double-digit lead over SYRIZA in opinion poll

# Italian President Sergio Matterella and his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos attended yesterday’s military parade in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki marking the day in 1940 when Greece refused to accept an ultimatum by Italy’s fascist leader Benito Mussolini and entered World War II. Both men also paid tribute to Italian troops that were killed on the island of Kefalonia after their refusal to surrender their arms to the Nazis. Greek and Italian media referred to the symbolism of Matterella’s presence saying that the peace that has been built must continue to be preserved and built through the European Union.

# A senior EU official said on Friday that the decision on whether Greece will have to implement pre-agreed pension cuts in January will, possibly, be taken in November, before the country’s final budget receives Parliament approval. The official stressed to reporters that the two most important priorities for EU member states is that the targets of 3.5-percent GDP primary surplus are not compromised and that the Greek government’s reform plans will include growth-fostering measures. Such narrative will have to be presented to the Eurogroup by the Greek minister.

# Opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has reiterated that his party, New Democracy, will not support the Macedonia name deal signed between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Speaking in Thessaloniki, the capital of Greece’s own province of Macedonia, Mitsotakis said the deal is not in Greece’s national interest as it acknowledges the existence of a Macedonian language and identity. His remarks were made ahead of the second Parliament vote in FYROM to revise its constitution as part of the name deal. Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos insisted in an interview to Real News paper on Saturday that he has “no doubt” the deal will be passed when its goes to Greek Parliament by March.

# New Democracy holds an 11.2 point lead over ruling SYRIZA, according to a new survey of voting intentions conducted by the MARC polling firm and published in Proto Thema newspaper. More specifically, ND would garner 31.2 percent of the vote if elections were held today, against 20-percent in favor of SYRIZA. The center-left Movement for Change would get 7.1-percent, ahead of far-right Golden Dawn with 6.5-percent and the Communist Party KKE with 6.2-percent. A Marc poll last month gave ND a 10.9 point lead over SYRIZA. Moreover, the poll also showed that 64.5-percent of Greeks do not want the Macedonia name deal to be ratified by Greek Parliament.

On Our Radar: November 17 hitman granted another furlough, sparking reactions
Dimitris Koufodinas, the jailed hitman of the disbanded November 17 terror group, left prison in the central town of Volos yesterday on a six-day furlough. It was the fourth furlough granted to the 60-year-old who is serving several life sentences for his role in the group and the assassination of 11 people. His release drew an angry response from ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis who vowed yesterday in a tweet that his government will stop granting furloughs to “unrepentant assassins.” His comment was retweeted by US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt. Koufodinas’ transfer in August from Attica’s high-security Korydallos Prison to an agricultural jail in Volos sparked angry reactions from the political opposition and relatives of the terrorist group’s victims.