Athens Digest 07.12.2018

• EU envoy in Athens to finalize talks on budget implementation

• Casino rules shake-up addresses delays at Hellenikon

• Parties inch towards agreement on presidential vote?

• Business sounds warning over population decline

# Declan Costello, the EU Commission representative and a key figure in the Greek adjustment programme, reoportedly, paid a 24-hours visit to Athens. Greek Authorities and the Commission are finalizing talks on the implementation of 2018 budget. The government is also racing to finalize talks to update mortgage protection rules. Moreover, creditors press the government to forge ahead with a list of non-fiscal reforms considered by creditors to be crucial to keep the country modernizing its economy. Eurozone officials have highlighted delays in the privatization programme as their main concern, along with arrears clearance, and additional market reforms. Greece’s post bailout exit commitments are expected to be discussed in the Eurogroup meetings, in early 2019.

# Operating restrictions for casinos are set to be relaxed in an initiative that coincides with efforts to overcome delays at Athens’ coastal development project at Hellenikon. In a legislative amendment submitted to parliament together with updated guidelines proposed by a gaming regulator, licenses would be separated into two categories. A standard license would allow casinos to be created at more sites, including hotels, and a premium license _ like one needed at Hellenikon _ would let casinos be part of broader recreational facilities. Current gaps in the operating framework for casinos are considered to be one reason for the delays at Hellenikon.

# Rival political parties are in agreement that a parliamentary vote for Greek President should be prevented from triggering early elections. Under the Constitution (articles 28-49), a supermajority of at least 180 votes is needed to elect the president, and parliament is dissolved after three deadlocked rounds of voting. At a lawmakers’ committee currently examining constitutional revision proposals, there is an agreement _ in principle_ that the rules should be changed to protect governments from collapsing. Discussions in the Parliamentary Committee for the constitutional revision will resume on Tuesday.

# The Hellenic Federation of Enterprises is urging the government to shift social policy to halt Greece’s decline in population _ that continues for the first time since World War II. The business group recommended a series of steps including protection of the employment of women and changes in parental leave laws to address the decline which it warned could have serious consequences for production in the coming decades. The population decline started in 2011, exacerbated by the financial crisis.

On our Radar: Frigate… Philanthropy
Donations for national defence? Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said he plans to appeal to businesses and the public to join a donation drive in the new year to purchase new navy frigates. The minister said he would deposit his own January salary into a special account to be set up for the campaign, which said was needed to help the country keep pace with rival Turkey. He made the announcement during an event for St Nicholas, patron saint of the navy and seafarers.