Athens Digest 17.01.2019

• Tsipras survives by a single vote, closes in on Macedonia deal ratification

• Moscovici: Reforms agreed with creditors should be implemented

• APS needed to tackle NPLs says Stournaras

• Piraeus Bank presented the “Principles for Responsible Banking” following its UNEP FI commitment

# By a single-vote margin, Prime Minister Tsipras won a vote of confidence last night, bringing Greece a step closer to ratifying the Macedonia name deal. 151 lawmakers voted 151 in favour of Tsipras following a bad-tempered debate. Six opposition and independent MPs backed the government, four from the newly-departed Independent Greeks. The prime minister described the result as “a vote of confidence in the effort to recover the country’s international credibility.” He challenged opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis to a televised debate on the Macedonia question, accusing him of lacking true conviction on the issue. Mitsotakis claimed Tsipras had only been kept alive by attracting a small group of “political hucksters.”

The arithmetic surrounding the vote on Macedonia may be improving for the government. While three of its new supporters might not back the deal, the Socialist Movement for Change is expected to allow its 20 MPs a free vote, and the centrist Potami has not opposed the Prespa Agreement after losing one of its lawmakers to the government. A reported effort to fast-track the ratification through parliament is now seen as unlikely, with new public demonstrations planned for Sunday. Tsipras announced in parliament last night that Greece has received a formal notice from FYROM that it has completed its ratification procedure.

# EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici came to Greece with a message that the country (the current and the next government as well) should stick to the reforms agreed with its creditors and that _ despite a return to growth and the end of the bailout era _  the economy still faces major challenges. Speaking at an event organised by the French-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, the Commissioner noted that 16 reforms agreed last June are yet to be completed and are a condition for the March payout of EUR 750 million in ECB bond profit returns. The main challenges for Greece, he said, remain improving the business environment, banking sector recovery to restore the credit supply, and modernizing public administration. Moscovici met with the prime minister and key cabinet ministers while in Athens.

# Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras has publicly backed the international Responsible Banking initiative, represented in Greece by Piraeus Bank and aimed at aligning business with global sustainability goals. Stournaras also repeated that NPLs should be tackled via an Asset Protection Scheme.
Piraeus Bank is part of a network of twenty-eight major banks from around the world involved in the undertaking, outlined at a meeting in Paris last November and presenting for the first time in Greece yesterday. “The Principles show how the financial industry can lead the way toward a more sustainable society at a global level,” George Handjinicolaou, the Piraeus Bank Chairman, said. “We believe the adoption of the Principles for Responsible Banking is a competitive advantage.”

On our Radar: ‘Lesvos grandmother’ dies at 90
Maritsa Mavapidou, a Lesvos grandmother, who became known internationally after being photographed in 2015 helping a newborn refugee, has died at the age of 90. Mavapidou was pictured in the iconic scene by photographer Lefteris Partsalis, together with two other elderly women at Skala on the north coast of Lesvos where hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees landed. The photograph became a symbol of tolerance, and Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas yesterday described Mavapidou as a “heroine of solidarity.”