Athens Digest 30.10.2018

• Markets can wait, says FinMin

• Athens urges calm after deadly South Albania shooting

• Defence Minister: Russia remains “strategic partner”

• Ombudsman finds tax confiscation system riddled with mistakes

# Italy-linked market turmoil has delayed Greece’s plans to return to markets, but Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos says the country’s wait remains stress free. He told Reuters that the bailout cash buffer could keep Greece funded for 2-½ years, adding: “We’re comfortable that we can wait since we have the buffer, but that doesn’t mean we won’t go when the time is right.” A spike in Italian borrowing rates triggered by the populist government’s budget row with the EU has held Greece’s 10-year bond yields above 4 percent. Tsakalotos said he believed the market view of Greece had become more sophisticated, recognizing the bulk of successful reforms. The country’s Public Debt Management Agency, he said, remained tasked with identifying an optimal time to return to bond markets.

# Greece’s government has appealed for calm after an ethnic Greek man was shot dead in southern Albania at the weekend, during celebrations in the area of a Greek national holiday. Albanian authorities said 35-year-old Constantinos Katsifas was shot and killed by police officers returning fire in the village of Bularat. In Athens, the Albanian ambassador in Athens was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to relay a request to her government to provide further details of the incident. Posts by Katsifas on social media included ones in support of a shadowy Greek militant group in the mid-1990s that claimed to be waging an armed struggle for ethnic Greeks in southern Albania.

# Defence Minister Panos Kammenos described Russia as “strategic partner” on a visit to Moscow, despite growing tension between Moscow and western countries and a recent spat with Athens. Kammenos met Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu and said he wished existing military cooperation between the two countries to continue. Kammenos traveled to Russia after a high-profile visit earlier this month to the United States where he discussed expanding the U.S. military presence at Greek bases. Shoigu said NATO’s military activity was as its highest level since the since the Cold War, and warned Europe could face “serious consequences” over the U.S. planned withdrawal from an international key nuclear arms.

# Greek taxpayers are poorly protected under an expanded bailout-era confiscation system introduced to boost compliance, a report by the Greek Ombudsman has found. It said confiscation orders are frequently carried out with insufficient warning and come with weak legal protection when mistakes are made. The state, it said, typically does not return money mistakenly confiscated but counts the sum against tax obligations in the future. Total government arrears have reached a EUR 6 billion, according to a recent audit.



On Our Radar: The rise and rise of Airbnb
Vacation rentals have more than doubled in Athens, Crete, the Greek islands and other parts of the country in the past two years, according to a survey by a leading Greek research organization. The Centre for Planning and Economic Research said greater Athens remained the most popular destination for visitors using services like Airbnb and Booking.com’s short-term rentals. It is followed by the Southern Aegean island region, Crete and Central Macedonia (including Thessaloniki). During 2018, the number of properties nationwide available on the short-term market rose from 47,500 in January to nearly 80,000 in June.