Athens Digest 25.02.2019

• Midterm fiscal plan for 2019-2013 forecasts growth, albeit at declining rate

• Enhanced surveillance report expected on Wednesday as time to crucial Eurogroup ticks away

• Energy Ministry, DG Comp reportedly close to deal for sale terms of lignite plants

• Outrage over BBC report referring to Macedonian minority in Greece

# The revised mid term fiscal plan for 2019-2023 that is being drafted by the Finance Ministry stipulates that GDP will recover above the EURO 200 billion level after 2020, and that it will have climbed to EUR 212 bln by 2023 at constant prices or to 223 billion euros at current prices. A positive but declining growth rate is forecast throughout the 5-year period while unemployment- starting from 19.8-percent -will steadily decline to 13.2-percent by 2023. In a circular issued to the competent state entities on Friday by Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Houliarakis, the growth forecast for 2019 is 2.5-percent (compared to 2.1-percent in 2018) and 2.3-percent for 2020. This figure will be confirmed or refuted in early March, when official figures are reported. Growth is projected to slow down to 2.3-percent in 2002, 2.1-percent in. 2021 and 1.8 percent in  2022 and in 2023.

# Greece’s second enhanced surveillance report is expected on Wednesday amid disagreements with the institutions over the legal framework that will replace the Katseli law, which expires on February 28, on the protection of the primary residence of debtors. The institutions have reportedly raised several objections to the agreement – seen as positive for borrowers, but leaving banks to some extent unprotected. The change of the Katseli law – with the consent of the institutions- is one of the 16 prior actions the government must implement to complete Greece’s second post-bailout assessment so that the March 11 Eurogroup disburses EUR 750 million from the profits eurozone central banks have made from holding Greek bonds (SMPs and ANFAs).

# The Energy Ministry is reportedly on the cusp of an agreement with the DG COMP for the new terms for the sale of the Public Power Corporation’s (PPC) lignite plants and the way Greece will divest about 40 percent of the PPC’s lignite capacity – one of 16 prior actions Greece must implement. According to reports, the meeting on Friday between representatives of  DG COMP and the Energy Ministry did not lead to a final agreement but there was convergence on many issues and that the new terms will be announced next week. Two changes were reportedly discussed. The first concerns the agreement between DGCOMP and the Greek government that the units are sold at a reasonable market price, taking into account recent corresponding sales internationally. The second concerns an agreement between the Greek State and DG COMP ensuring that terms for the sharing of profits and losses between the buyer and PPC are compatible with EU regulations.

# Just a few weeks after the Prespa Agreement between Greece and North Macedonia was ratified, Greek opposition parties reacted strongly to a report in the BBC referring to a Macedonian minority in Greece. New Democracy (ND), which had rejected the deal, called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to publicly clarify that no such minority exists in Greece.  “Not one month has passed since ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned in Parliament’s about the dangers of the Prespa Agreement,” the party said. The BBC report said that “ethnic Macedonians in Greece have been objects of suspicion and, at times, persecution, even as their presence has been denied by almost everyone.” The government had not issued an official response but foreign ministry sources cited in the media later yesterday said a letter will be sent to the BBC that will refute the “inaccurate and distorted” claims made in the report. The Prespa Agreement, the same sources said, does not allow any space for a minority issue to be raised.

On Our Radar: Anarchists launch fresh weekend attacks in Athens
Self-style anarchists launched two separate attacks with molotov cocktails against two riot police units in the central Exarchia district of Athens early Sunday morning. Police made one arrest. No injuries were reported. In a separate incident, also on Sunday morning, around 10 members of the Rubicon anti-establishment group used sledgehammers to smash the windows of a discount store on a central avenue of Athens. In a post on an anti-establishment website the group accused the store of promoting Sunday shopping hours. Police detained eight people.