Athens Digest 18.01.2019

• Prespa agreement: Potami allows free vote; Socialist leader says party’s position against the government should be respected

• Timeline set for Greek inspection

• Banks, government close in on compromise for property protection

• Round 6 for Piraeus Bank e-auctions

# Fearing division within the party, the centrist Potami says it will grant its MPs a free vote on the Macedonia agreement _ tilting the process in favour of the government. Potami’s governing Political Council last night decided the vote would not be subject to party discipline, after it was not able to reconcile differences on the issue, and with just 5 MPs, is on the brink of disappearance as a parliamentary group.

# Fofi Gennimata, the Socialist leader who also faces party division, told private Alpha television that her party’s lawmakers could vote their conscience but the official position remained opposed to the Prespa Agreement. “No one should allow Mr. Tsipras to use a bad agreement against our progressive party. Different approaches are respected but when the critical time comes nobody should hurt the unity. There is no discipline vote but obviously there will be consequences,” she said.

# Creditors have set out a seven-week timeline for Greece to qualify for new debt relief measures, with the deadlines starting on Monday when institution representatives are due back in Athens to start their second post-bailout inspection. A senior EU official said the inspectors would be ready to report their initial findings by the end of the month, and the Commission would publish its next report on Greece on February 27 _ allowing the March 11 Eurogroup to take decisions on whether Greece would qualify to receive ECB bond-profit returns as part of its promised debt relief package. The IMF participates in next week’s mission and it will release its first post programme report on Greece.

# The government and banks are close to reaching a compromise on a keenly awaited new property protection scheme. According to reports in the Greek news media, the two sides will egree on a protection threshold of EUR 120,000 for the official value (set by the tax office) of the property. The government had wanted to lower the number from the current 180,000 to 150,000, but banks had sought to make the number EUR 100,000. The issue will be discussed at a meeting planned for today at the Finance Ministry to be attended by government officials involved in negotiations with the institutions.

# Piraeus Bank has completed a sixth round in e-bidding, approving the sale of 16 properties this month, worth EUR 1.8 million. The bank’s open e-auctions are conducted using the platform, and the latest round attracted interest from more than 148 individuals and legal entities. The bank along with Piraeus Real Estate is currently preparing its next property e-auction round, but dates have not yet been announced.

On our Radar: Citi Sees Polls as Positive
Early elections could ease investor uncertainty and limit the effects of an expected growth slowdown, Citigroup analysts have argued following the government’s narrow confidence vote victory. The U.S. bank says Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras could be forced to the polls early (before October) because of his weak majority following the coalition breakup. This, the bank argued, could in fact help Greece usher in more business-friendly measures and build on recent gains helped by improved trust between Athens and lenders and the prospect of debt relief. It warned, however, that the country’s shrinking population is likely to drag on development.