Athens Digest 18.02.2019

• Mini cabinet reshuffle announced prompting speculation of early elections

• Tsipras, Zaev receive Ewald von Kleist Award at Munich Security Conference

• Institutions to assess new plan to protect primary residence of debtors


# Amid renewed speculation of early elections in May, the government’s new cabinet members will be sworn in today after the announcement on Friday of a mini reshuffle. In a move widely seen as a bid to lure voters from the center-left alliance KINAL to SYRIZA, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras brought in two former deputy ministers of former socialist premier George Papandreou -Thanos Moraitis and Angelos Tolkas as deputy ministers at the Infrastructure and Transport Ministry and the Migration Ministry respectively. The reshuffle also saw Tsipras hand over his role as foreign minister to his deputy Giorgos Katrougalos.

# The Prime Ministers of Greece and North Macedonia, Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev, were presented on Saturday with the “Ewald von Kleist” award at the Munich Security Council for ending the decades-old name dispute between the two countries with the implementation of the Prespa Agreement. Addressing the conference, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas hailed both as “true European leaders” and deserved recipients of the award.

# Meanwhile, conservative New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis met in Munich with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new leader of the ruling CDU, who said that it is Germany’s duty to support Greece create conditions conducive to growth and new jobs. “That is why a courageous reform agenda is needed which the European People’s Party is seeking,” she said. Her remarks were seen in the Greek media as an indirect message of support to a future New Democracy government.

# The European institutions are expected this week to provide their evaluation of a new plan agreed by the government and the country’s systemic banks on Thursday for the protection of the main residence of debtors. If creditors grant their approval, the new protection framework, which will succeed the so-called Katseli law, will go to Parliament for a vote so it can be enforced on March 1. The new protection framework is one of the actions Greece has committed to implement. According to reports, Greece will soon submit a comprehensive plan dealing with NPLs to the Directorate-General for Competition (DG COMP).



On Our Radar: Juncker pays tribute to the baker of Kos 
The baker on the island of Kos who became a symbol of solidarity in 2015 for providing around 100 kilograms of bread each day to refugees at the height of the migrant crisis died on Saturday. He was 77. In a statement, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his condolences for the death of Dionissis Arvanitakis calling him an “exemplary European citizen for his rare generosity and sensitivity towards the hundreds of unfortunate immigrants.” “My Europe is the one Dionissis Arvanitakis symbolized,” he said. In 2016, Arvanitakis was awarded the Civil Society Prize by the European Economic and Social Committee.