Athens Digest 07.11.2018

• Church and State: Tsipras eases rift with Orthodox leadership

• Mitsotakis says constitution should protect public finances

• Centeno: Good exchange of views with Tsakalotos

• Post-bailout mortgage protection rules to change

• With a new LNG pitch, U.S. eyes Greece as energy hub

# Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reached an agreement with the Church Leader Archbishop Ieronymos ahead of proposed plans to revise the Greek Constitution. Under the arrangement, the Orthodox Church would officially remain the country’s prevailing religion, priests would no longer be considered as public servants. Nevertheless, they will continue being paid by the state through a grant which will follow public servants’ payment rules.

# New Democracy is backing a plan to safeguard a balanced budget in the Constitution as part of an ongoing debate on its revision. The opposition leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, told MPs from his conservative party that proposals also included allowing privately-run universities, and changing rules to elect the Greek President to avoid a deadlocked vote in parliament triggering early elections.

# On the sidelines of Ecofin meeting and as talks on the fiscal space of the 2019 Greek budget continue, the president of the Eurogroup Mario Centeno met Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos in Brussels, yesterday. “(We had) a good exchange of views on Eurogroup agenda topics,” Centeno tweeted.

# Mortgage protection rules that safeguarded troubled borrowers throughout the financial crisis are due to be scrapped and replaced in the next few months. Giving no details, Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis said the current rules _ known as the Katselis Law after the former Socialist Minister Louka Katseli _ needed to be amended to take into account borrowers’ ability to pay as well as to adapt to the post-bailout environment.

# Greece is well positioned to take advantage of a rapidly changing global energy market, acting as a regional hub, the country’s U.S. ambassador said, adding that he hoped future Greek imports will include American liquefied natural gas (LNG). “Greece finds itself in a critical geostrategic area, where its positive actions in achieving diversity of energy sources to Europe also ensures its leadership role in the region, and both the U.S. and the EU strongly support Greece in taking on this role,” Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said, speaking at an event organized by the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce. He also praised progress on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline to transport natural gas from the Caspian Sea across Greece to western Europe by 2020.

On our Radar: Portugal’s quiet success
Greece, famously beat Portugal in the opening match and again in the final of Euro 2004 to dispose of the hosts and become shock winners of the European Championships. But in the decade that followed, Portugal had a lesson for Greece, facing down financial crisis more effectively than in the other corner of Southern Europe. In a new report, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises listed some key reasons why: Portugal is more export-oriented, it has more stable financial policies, and it’s better adapted to the shift towards a high tech economy. Most importantly, the report notes, policy makers in Lisbon swiftly took ownership of the reforms during the first and only international bailout. For Greece, it took three attempts.