Athens Digest 11.01.2019

• Ex-protester Tsipras, Merkel part as friends

• … But what about Kammenos?

• Alarm as powder-filled letters sent to universities across Greece

• Surge in Evros crossings swells migrant numbers


# Serving out her final term as Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel visited Greece to be greeted by the prime minister who rose to power as a protest candidate against her policies. But at her meeting in Athens with Alexis Tsipras, she paid tribute to the Greeks for the hardship they endured and the close working relationship the two leaders had developed over the last three years. “We built trust, were frank with each other, and never forgot that we needed to find a solution,” Merkel said. “The Greeks have gone through difficult times during the crisis and I am particularly pleased that Greece has overcome the problems, but it is not the end of the reforms, it is the beginning,” she added. Protests have banned during Merkel’s visit and efforts by demonstrators to break through the police cordon were violent but limited.

# Panos Kammenos reportedly said goodbye to staff at the Defence Ministry before his meeting today with the prime minister on the future of the government coalition. It was unclear whether he would continue to support the government after a withdrawal over the Macedonia issue or if members of his Independent Greeks party in government positions would follow him. For her part, Merkel openly supported the deal and repeatedly referred to FYROM as North Macedonia. She did not address opposition to the deal by New Democracy leader, noting that she would not get involved in Greek politics.

# More than a dozen people have been examined by doctors after letters from India filled with white powder were mailed to universities at multiple sites in Greece. A state lab analysis of the material in the first letter which was sent, found the powder was an industrial material used to strengthen adhesives that could cause breathing irritation but is not life-threatening. According to reports, the letters contained “Islamic material”. The letters _ many of them intercepted before reaching their destination _ were mostly sent to principals’ offices at a dozen university buildings across Greece, including campuses in Athens, Thessaloniki, and several mainland towns and islands.

# Migrants arriving across the land border with Turkey saw a huge rise in 2018, with nearly triple the number crossing the Evros River. Dimitris Vitsas, the migration minister, said some 32,115 migrants traveled to the islands from Turkey and 15,814 crossed at Evros. The arrivals swelled the number of migrants and refugees in Greece to 70,000, prompting authorities to redouble efforts to reduce overcrowding at island refugee camps.



On our Radar: Silk Road Streaming 
Chinese firms looking for acquisitions and access European markets include the online giant Alibaba which has set up a hub in Poland to expand its retail and cloud services. This week, Alibaba snapped up Berlin-based startup Data Artisan, co-founded by Greek computer scientist Kostas Tzoumas, that provides large-scale data streaming services to businesses. The EUR 90 million deal gives Alibaba control of the firm which has customers that include Uber, Netflix, and ING. Tzoumas and co-founder Stephan Ewen welcomed Alibaba involvement as well as its commitment to open source Big Data.