Athens Digest 08.11.2018

• T-Bill rate edges up at auction

• Bill returning retroactive deductions to military cadres submitted

• Church deal could ‘free up’ 10,000 state jobs, says government spokesperson

• Mitsotakis promises to beat Tsipras’ populists at European conservatives’ meeting

# The rate of Greece’s 13-week treasury bill edged up to 0.71 percent in the latest auction that raised EUR 812.5 million. The Public Debt Management Agency said the previous rate at an October 10 auction was 0.65 percent. T-Bill auctions have come under greater attention as Greece has vowed to wait out the market turmoil caused by the budget crisis in Italy and the financial crisis in Turkey. The yield on Greece’s 10-year bond remains stuck above 4 percent.

# A long-expected draft law was submitted in the parliament, providing a retroactive payment of EUR 820 million (or EUR 1.4 billion including social contributions) to military cadres but also to other groups such as doctors, academics, judges. “It is our choice to proceed in the restoration of an injustice. It is not a question of compliance with court decisions,” PM Tsipras said attending an event of the Hellenic Air force.

# The proposed deal between the government and Greek Orthodox Church could create 10,000 new jobs in the public sector, the government said. Under the terms of the proposed deal, the 10.000 priests will not be considered as civil servants although they will still be paid through public funding. The government spokesman, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, said the arrangement could “free up some 10,000 public sector positions.” The new positions he said could allow for additional hirings in healthcare and public education over several years, supplementing the ‘one-in, one-out’ hiring rule currently in effect and agreed between Greece and its bailout institutions.

# New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised European conservatives that he would deliver them victory over the Tsipras government at the next election, accusing the Greek prime minister of stifling the recovery and posing “a real threat to the rule of law and the quality of our democracy.” Mitsotakis spoke at the EPP meetings in Helsinki. He said European leaders had to listen to the “legitimate concerns” of their citizens regarding the disruptive effects of technology and mass illegal immigration.

On our Radar: Friendship Tested
The possible release of convicted terror group bomber Savvas Xiros is likely to test close ties between the United States and the Tsipras government, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Xiros was arrested during a botched bomb attack in 2002 that left him seriously injured. The incident led to the arrest and eventual conviction of members of the armed extreme left group November 17, whose victims included diplomats and military officials from the United States, Britain and Turkey. Xiros is seeking release from prison on health grounds _ a move strongly opposed by the United States, which has also protested against regular leaves granted to fellow 17N member Dimitris Koufodinas.