Athens Digest 15.04.2019

• Tsakalotos briefs Lagarde on plan for early repayment of IMF loans

Thomsen insists on need for tax reform and NPL reduction

Jordan, Greece, Cyprus commit to regional stability at 2nd Trilateral Summit

Greece becomes 17th European member of trade initiative with China

Transport Commissioner highlights benefits to Greece from projects linked to Orient-East-Corridor

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos conveyed Greece’s intention to repay some of its expensive IMF loans during a meeting with Christine Lagarde on the sidelines of the Spring Meetings of the Washington-based lender and the World Bank. The IMF received the Greek request for an early payoff positively and, according to Tsakalotos, it will “soon be submitted officially” to the ESM. Greece’s repayment will hinge on the role the IMF will play in monitoring the Greek economy. It is currently engaged in a post program monitoring and takes part in all four of missions to Greece annually by the European Institutions.

Meanwhile, the IMF’s European Department chief, Poul Thomsen, who also met with Tsakalotos, insisted at a press briefing on Friday that Greece must proceed with the implementation of tax reform and tackle NPLs. Asked about the planned reduction of the tax threshold in 2020, he said  “tax and pension reforms are critically important, not (so as) to allow Greece meet deficit targets,… but to free up resources that allow Greece to modernize its economy, to invest and to allow it to restore public spending that has been compressed to exceptionally low levels.”

The leaders of Cyprus, Greece and Jordan pledged to work for regional peace and stability at their 2nd Trilateral Meeting in Amman which was concluded yesterday with the signing of two tripartite memorandums of cooperation in education and investment promotion.  “The cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Jordan strengthens the strategy for the prospect of peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said, while King Abdullah thanked Greece and Cyprus for their help as members of the EU, stressing their common objectives for peace and stability in the East Med. He placed particular emphasis on the need to maintain the status quo of the Holy Land in Jerusalem and insisted that a commitment must be made to protect the rights of Christians and Muslims.

Greece was welcomed on Friday as the 17th member of the trade initiative of central and eastern European countries plus China at a summit held in Dubrovnik under the title “Building Bridges of Openness, Innovation and Partnership.” Speaking from the Croatian capital, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras described Greece’s inclusion as “a very significant development” while government officials said it will boost Greece’s economy and further consolidate its role as a regional hub.

Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said on Friday that the benefits to Greece from projects linked to the Orient-East Med -Corridor network that traverses the country will amount to “705,000 job opportunities between 2017 and 2030 and EUR 1.7bn in additional GDP.” “This is a very clear message to those of you working on the preparation or completion of any of the projects linked to this corridor: it is well worth making every effort to complete these projects on time – the benefits to the region will be significant,” she told the Economist Conference on Transportation in Athens last week.

On Our Radar: Schinas tells Turkey EU doors are open but “hinges must work”
Referring to calls for a suspension of Turkey’s EU negotiations, the bloc’s spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said the doors are open to Ankara on the condition that the rule of law and democracy are upheld.  “The doors of the European Union are open and remain open but the hinges must work for the doors to remain open,” he told the Anadolu Agency. “The hinges are reform, the rule of law, and democracy. If we get this part right, together with everything else that is on the table on Turkey’s pre-accession, the door will remain open,” he added, stressing the importance of cooperation between Turkey and EU on a wide range of issues including the fight against terrorism, immigration, intelligence, trade, transport, and energy. “The recently announced economic reform program is also a positive step,” Schinas added.