Athens Digest 26.11.2018

• Moscovici: Scrapping of pension cuts was not a gift to the government

• Polls show opposition New Democracy maintains steady lead

• Expansion of Revithoussa LNG terminal puts Greece on track to become regional hub

# European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici insisted that the EC’s approval of Greece’s request to scrap pension cuts planned for 2019 is “not a pre-election bonus for anyone.” In an interview to the Real News newspaper, Moscovici stressed: “You should not see me as a government supporter, nor as a government opponent, I am only in favor of Greece (…) We can be friends of the Greek people, have good cooperation with the Greek government, without being subjective or supporting one party or the other.”

# Three opinion polls last week showed that conservative opposition New Democracy maintains a steady lead over ruling SYRIZA. In the latest poll on Saturday by Metron Analysis for Ta Nea newspaper, ND holds a lead of 10.9 points over SYRIZA, with 37.8 percent against 26.9. Extreme right Golden Dawn was third with 7.2 percent ahead of the centre-left Movement for Change with 6.9-percent. Two other polls by Public Issue and Pulse published on Thursday gave conservatives respective leads of 16.5 points and 9 points.

# Greece has launched an expanded LNG tank at Revithoussa terminal in Attica, west of Athens. With the new upgrade, the terminal’s total annual capacity will amount to 7 billion cubic meters- of which 5 billion will be transported to the Balkans and 2 billion to the Greek market. The EU’s Cohesion Policy Fund provided EUR 40mn to help the completion of the upgrade. “Thanks to this Cohesion Policy project, Greece confirms its position as a gate for natural gas supply within a secure and interconnected European energy market,” said Commissioner for regional policy, Corina Cretu. Full activation of the Vertical Corridor is interlinked with the progress of Revithoussa upgrade, because further LNG capacity will contribute to the familiarization of all concerned countries with spot gas trading, a thus far neglected alternative, because of the prevailing situation of long-term piped gas contracts in the region.

On Our Radar: After continuous rises, payments with cards level off
Payment cards were used in transactions worth EUR 29.4 bn in the first six months of 2018, down by 1.7 bn (-5,5 percent) compared to second half of 2017, according to the Bank of Greece. Despite the slight drop – the first drop after five six-month periods – payment cards are being increasingly used to pay for smaller amounts. Furthermore, the total number of payment cards rose by 535,000 (+3 percent) in the first half of 2018 compared to the second half of 2017 and amounted to 16.8 million cards. The increase is due to the issuance of new debit cards, with an additional 686 thousand cards (+5 percent) issued compared to the second half of 2017. Credit cards decreased by 150 thousand (-5 percent).