Athens Digest 18.03.2019

• Gov’t aiming for agreement with creditors on first residence protection by March 25

• PPC receives six initial expressions of interest for lignite units

Bank of Greece governor says there must be no let up in reforms and privatizations

Authorities investigating visits possible Greek connection of terrorist behind deadly NZ attacks

The negotiations on the legal framework that will replace the Katseli law for the protection of the primary residence of debtors are entering the final stretch this week with the government aiming to strike a deal with the institutions before the EWG on March 25. Athens is seeking the approval for the disbursement of ECB profit returns on Greek bonds According to reports, the aim is for the profits to be used to repay IMF loans with high interest rates.

Six investors expressed interest on Friday in the lignite units that Greece’s Public Power Corp (PPC) is selling as part of its divestment plan. The initial expressions of interest for the coal-fired plants at Melitis in northern Greece and Megalopoli in the south came from Beijing Guohua and Damco Energy, China Western Power Industrial, Sev.En Energy and Indoverse Coal Investments, Gek Terna, ElvalChalkor and the Mytilinaios Group.  PPC said in a statement that its consultants will assess which of the candidate investors meet the eligibility criteria to proceed to the next phase of the tender.  Interested investors must declare their participation by March 19. This will be followed by a 20-day consultation on the terms of the sale and purchase agreement (SPA). The PPC wants to complete the tender by May.

Bank of Greece Governor Yiannis Stournaras insisted on Friday there are four keys to keep the economy’s recovery on track. Speaking to industrialists in northern Greece, he said growth will continue as long reforms and privatizations move ahead, the volume of the country’s NPLs is reduced and tax rates are slashed. According to Stournaras, the greatest challenges to the economy are the high public debt, the high NPL stock, weak investment, the negative current account balance, high unemployment and the low growth rate potential – due to the migration of skilled labor during the crisis and the aging population. The recent rise in the minimum wage was also listed as a possible threat to growth.

According to several reports, the man who killed 50 people in Friday’s terror attack in New Zealand had been in Greece three times in 2016- twice on transit flights in November and December and once in March on a flight from Istanbul when he stayed on the Greek islands of Crete and Santorini. An investigation into his connections to Greece was also prompted by the words Tourkofagos (Turk slayer in Greek) and Lepanto (the Greek town of Nafpaktos) inscribed on the weapon he used. International security authorities are meticulously examining the 28-year-old’s visits to the Balkans as they believe he could have made contacts in the region with extreme right and Islamophobic groups. He reportedly visited Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Turkey between 2016 and 2018.

On Our Radar: In talk about May elections, EC’s Schinas outlines five EU goals over next five years 
Even though European elections are around two months away, the public debate in Greece has been dominated by issues pertaining more to national elections. Indeed, the government has yet to undertake the necessary legal actions in view of  European Parliament elections. However, in a bid to launch a European pre-election  debate,the  Hellenic Association of Political Scientists invited the EC Spokesperson Margaritis Schinas to attend a discussion in Athens on the necessity of taking part in European elections. The Greek official set five basic goals for the EU over the next five-year period: the completion of the EMU,  a comprehensive EU immigration policy, an EU funding policy – including further support for the Juncker Plan-, strengthening the EU’s role in the world on issues ranging from international trade to defense and security, as well as the intensification of the public debate about the EU itself