Athens Digest 31.10.2018

• PM Tsipras: Robust fiscal performance will allow pension U-turn

• We are discussing cancelation not postponement of pension cuts, says labour minister

• Financial sentiment falling for a third straight month

• EU-Arab cooperation vital, says chief EC spokesman Schinas

• Motor Oil shakes up Greek media with Alpha deal

# The prime minister has told MPs from his Syriza party he expects to cancel pension cuts, as the planned reductions are now just two months away. “Our fiscal performance is (strong) enough not only to make the pension measures unnecessary but will also provide us with the option to grant tax relief and social support,” Alexis Tsipras told a meeting of party lawmakers. The issue has come under fresh scrutiny from creditors after renewed signs of weak tax collection last month. Effie Achtsioglou, the labour minister, said in a private TV interview: “What we are discussing is the cancelation of the measure, not its postponement.”

# The Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research think-tank, or IOBE, has found financial sentiment falling for a third straight month. Weak numbers in retail and industry pulled the index lower. Services and construction showed marginal gains _ but overall showed that Greece’s market has yet to register the benefit of the bailout exit.

# The European Commission Chief Spokesman Margaritis Schinas says the EU should strengthen cooperation with Arab countries to effectively combat problems facing the broader region. Speaking at an EU-Arab summit in Greece, he said: “We are facing some unpreceded situations and share the same challenges and opportunities whether on security, terrorism, irregular migration, climate change or economic development and trade.” Schinas referred to three frameworks for EU- Arab cooperation: the Union for the Mediterranean, the strategic dialogue between the EU and the Arab League and the European Neighbourhood Policy.

# Further shaking up Greece’s news media landscape, a subsidiary of Greek oil refiner Motor Oil has brought a controlling stake in national broadcaster Alpha Television. The EUR 21.5 million deal, through the company’s Seilla Enterprises subsidiary, is expected to increase the influence on the news media of the powerful shipowning Vardinogiannis family, whose companies currently control private Star television. The news of the Alpha sale follows the relaunch of a national broadcaster linked to Greek-Russian businessman Ivan Savvidis as Open TV.

On our Radar: Flight link to Skopje follows airport name-change
Skopje may be the closest foreign capital to Athens (just beating Tirana) but there hasn’t been a direct commercial flight between the two countries for 12 years. Aegean Airlines will start regular flights there tomorrow, as Greece and FYROM seek to continue to improve long-troubled relations. The service is being resumed after FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev agreed to rename his country’s main airport from ‘Alexander the Great’ to ‘Skopje International’ earlier this. The 75-minute flights will be scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays.