Athens Digest 21.03.2019

• Talks and leaks on household insolvency ahead of Monday’s EWG

Costello: Reforms vital to sustain recovery

Foreign Minister Katrougalos heads to Turkey after regional energy summit

Parliament backs new rules for EU election candidates

# European institutions are asking for clarity from the government on its proposals to overhaul foreclosure protection rules while according to leaks by government sources, draft legislation may be submitted to parliament without full agreement between the two sides. The bill could be tabled as early as tomorrow despite lenders’ legal concerns. In any case, the new legislation has to be approved by the DG Comp as its implementation requires a state contribution of some EUR 800 million over three years.

# Declan Costello, the EC mission chief for Greece, described outstanding issues in the negotiations to replace the so-called Katselis Law as technical details that remained to be ironed out _ stressing that new rules had to protect vulnerable borrowers while ensuring that balance-sheet loan entries would be reversed from red to green. He highlighted that problems caused by the implementation of Katselis law should be solved. He repeated that the overall picture of the Greek economy remains positive but continuation of programme-era reforms remains vital to sustain Greece’s recovery. Costello spoke at a conference organised by the European Commission in collaboration with Greece’s Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, IOBE.

# Foreign Minister George Katrougalos says Greece has no intention of trying to exclude Turkey from energy deals in the East Mediterranean.“How can one exclude Turkey from an area in which it has a coastal line of many kilometers?” Katrougalos told Anadolu Agency on the eve of his visit today to Turkey. Katrougalos, who is scheduled to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Antalya, said he was committed to working to de-escalate tension between the two neighbors. His trip follows yesterday’s meeting in Jerusalem by the leaders of Greece, Israel, and Cyprus along with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to boost energy cooperation in the region.

# Parliament has approved a proposal to let European Election candidates keep their seats in the national assembly. The rule change will help the government preserve its one-seat working majority. Two of the six independent MPs backing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras following the mid-January collapse of his coalition are expected to run in the May 26 European poll.

On our Radar: Novartis Denies Wrongdoing
Swiss drugmaker Novartis says it has found no evidence of wrongdoing in Greece following an internal investigation cited by Bloomberg. The probe, the company said, found no indication of “inappropriate payments” to government officials in Greece to gain preferential market access. The revelation came amid renewed political controversy in Greece over the alleged scandal that has seen accusations launched against two former prime ministers, Bank of Greece governor Yannis Stournaras, and others.