Athens Digest 08.01.2019

• Crunch time for property protection

• F-16 upgrade programme reaches parliament

• Government seeks approval for 15,000 new jobs in public education

• 10 detained over paint attack at U.S. Embassy

# The attention is on the Macedonia issue and the government’s prospects of survival but time is also pressing to reset Greece’s property protection rules as beleaguered borrowers and banks struggle to see off the crisis. Current protection measures _ under the so-called Katselis Law _ end on March 1 after a two-month extension. According to reports, that leaves roughly two weeks for replacement regulations to be hammered out before being submitted for lender and legislative approval, with the February 11 Eurogroup set as a key date on the calendar. The resulting solution is likely to include a mix of income criteria to qualify for settlement assistance and a bolstered out-of-court settlement process that would be a precondition before legal action could be taken.

# Draft legislation to fund the initial stages of a major Greek F-16 upgrade programme has been submitted to parliament. The four-year programme involves the overhaul of 85 fighter jets to F-16V or Viper aircraft, led by U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin. The overall cost of the fighter upgrade is expected to be some $1.5 billion. The programme was discussed at a meeting in October at the Pentagon between Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and top U.S. defence officials.

# In another legislative amendment, the government’s plan to hire 15,000 more staff in public education has been submitted for lawmaker approval. Under the plan, 4,500 new jobs will be created for special needs education programmes this year. And a further 5,250 new staff will be added in 2020 and again in 2021. The government is at odds with the conservatives who are pushing for constitutional changes that would allow private universities to operate _ a move they argue would put students in better alignment with the demands of the labour market. Tsipras government officials say that private universities would worsen income inequality experienced during the crisis.

# Ten people have been detained for questioning, and two of them arrested, after a group of protesters from the anarchist group Rubicon hurled red paint at the side entrance of the U.S. Embassy in central Athens. U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in a comment on Twitter called the action “silly and senseless vandalism.”

On our Radar: Refugee protest turns violent
At least two people were hurt in a brawl outside a refugee camp in northern Greece where dozens of asylum seekers staged a protest over winter living conditions. The protesters set fire to tyres and blocked traffic outside the Diavata camp _ which is currently operating at double its capacity _ and the fight broke out when a lorry driver tried to break through a roadblock. At least four people were detained by police. Greek authorities have struggled to cope with adverse camp conditions for a fourth consecutive winter, hampered by continuing arrivals from Turkey and the pressing need to ease high levels over overcrowding on Lesvos and other islands.