Athens Digest 11.02.2019

• New Democracy maintains lead ahead of European elections

• PPC’s divestment process stalled after fruitless tender of lignite plants

• House ratifies FYROM’s NATO accession after acrimonious debate

# New Democracy (ND) has a 4.1-percent lead over ruling SYRIZA, according to a survey of voter intentions ahead of European Parliament elections in May. The poll, conducted by Kapa Research and published yesterday in the Ethnos paper, showed that five parties will enter EP. ND received 24.3-percent against 20.2-percent for SYIZA. Extreme right Golden Dawn were in third place with 8.1-percent, ahead of the centrist alliance KINAL with 5.5-percent and communist KKE on 5-percent. The previous survey by Kapa Research regarding national elections gave ND a 4.7 lead. Another survey of voter intentions ahead of national elections by the Prorata polling company for the leftist Efimerida ton Syntakton paper on Saturday gave ND a 5.5 point lead over SYRIZA, with 30-percent and 24.5-percent. Recent polls have shown leads for ND ranging between 4.1 to 12.5-percent.

# The Greek Power Corporation’s divestment process with the sale of four coal-fired power production units in Florina and in Megalopoli was further stalled on Friday after its board rejected a EUR 25 million bid by Mytilineos SA for the Florina unit. An EUR 103 million offer by the Greek-Czech consortium Seven Energy-GEK Terna consortium for all the units that are for sale was also rejected as it didn’t follow the tender’s terms. PPC chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis said a new tender will be launched before elections in May but it is now seen almost certain that this particular  reform – one of Greece’s commitments to international creditors- will probably be passed on to the next government. Reportedly, the government fears that delays in the divestment process will increase creditor pressure to also include the sale of its hydroelectric plants in the tender which is considered as a “red line” for the Ministry of Energy.

# Greek Parliament ratified the NATO accession protocol for FYROM on Friday after an acrimonious debate with erstwhile coalition partners Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos crossing swords. Greece will send a diplomatic notification today to FYROM of its ratification of the Prespes Agreement and its NATO Accession Protocol, Alternate Foreign Minister George Katrougalos said yesterday. This will open the way for FYROM to be called North Macedonia.

On Our Radar: Hitman of N17 terror group granted another furlough
The jailed hitman of the now defunct leftist November 17 terror group Dimitris Koufodinas was reportedly granted prison leave by the prison council on Saturday after his December furlough. His furlough from the minimum security prison in Volos, central Greece, is set begin on February 28 and last for six days. Greek law states that prisoners serving life sentences that have good behaviour are allowed to apply for furlough every two months. His prior furloughs were met with criticism at home and abroad, including the US and UK whose diplomats were targeted  by N17. The former gunman is serving multiple life sentences for carrying out 11 assassinations for the group which killed 23 people over a period of almost three decades. Targets included politicians, businessmen, publishers, as well as foreign diplomats and officials.