Athens Digest 17.04.2019

• Tax hikes in 2020 emerge as election battle line

Greek Federation of Enterprises warns of risks from pre-poll handouts

Reports: France’s ENGIE eyes Greek gas storage project

# Tax hikes promised in 2020 have emerged as a key election campaign issue, after the government said it would scrap the measure promised to creditors if the left-wing Syriza party is returned to power by Greek voters. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras late on Monday insisted that a Syriza government would not lower the tax threshold _ touching off a public spat between the country’s two main political parties. Sofia Zacharaki, the New Democracy spokeswoman, accused the prime minister of telling “full-blown lies” having recently re-committed his government to the tax hike during talks with bailout lenders. New Democracy, she said, did however want to negotiate the measure with lenders. “Our position is straightforward,” she said.”We will do our utmost to negotiate with our partners in order not to reduce the tax threshold.”

# Greek business leaders have warned that the country’s effort to boost investment is slipping and could fail to pull Greece out of an anemic recovery. In its monthly bulletin, the Greek Federation of Enterprises, SEV, pointed to a weakening of international competitiveness, the risks posed by election-year social spending increases, and deteriorating international conditions. SEV urged the government to the follow through on reform commitments to bailout lenders including faster privatisations and allowing increased competition in the energy market.

# French utility company ENGIE is reportedly finalising a partnership with Athens-based Energean Oil & Gas and local construction firm GEK Terna in a bid to develop an underground gas storage facility _ the country’s first. The site would use an existing gas field in the Gulf of Kavala, in northeast Greece, that is almost depleted. The facility with an estimated capacity of a billion cubic metres is seen an important component to Greek energy security. Energean currently exploits the South Kavala gas field.

On our Radar: Merci la Grèce
The French Ambassador to Greece, Christophe Chantepy, has thanked Greek officials and country’s people for solidarity expressed in the wake of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire that dominated world attention. Greece’s Culture Ministry offered to provide France restoration experts if needed, joining Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic and other countries in offering help from skilled technicians.