Athens Digest 18.04.2019

• Dombrovskis supportive of early IMF repayment, cautious on tax hike U-turn

• Parliament backs renewed bid to seek German WWII reparations

• Mitsotakis tells Cosco Piraeus investment will proceed

• Second “Project Future” Circle launched by Piraeus Bank to support young Greeks

# Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission vice president, said Greece’s European creditors were supportive of its aim to repay IMF loans early but was cautious on the suggestions that planned tax hikes could be shelved. “We are open to this solution. In a sense it is relatively standard practice in post-programme countries,” he said referring to the proposed early repayment to clear higher-interest IMF loans. The former Latvian PM spoke to Greece’s financial news website euro2day before a row broke out between Greece’s two main political parties over the planned 2020 hike in taxable income. “The main issue is the sticking with … fiscal targets, and then we are open to discuss how one can spend any additional fiscal space on top of that,” he said.

# Parliament has backed a resolution to renew a demand from Germany to pay Greece billions in reparations for the World War II occupation _ with broad cross-party support for the motion. “This time we will insist” Prime Minister Tsipras said ahead of the vote. In 2016, a cross-party parliamentary committee estimated that WWII reparations from Germany totalled more than EUR 300 billion.

# Opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has promised to clear bureaucratic obstacles facing Chinese transport giant Cosco’s EUR 580 million development plan for the Piraeus Port Authority. The New Democracy leader visited the port and met with the authority’s Chinese CEO Fu Chengqiu. Earlier this month, a powerful public archaeological committee ruled against key elements of Cosco’s master plan for the port development, citing the need to protect antiquities in the area. But Mitsotakis said a conservative government would not allow “the protection of cultural heritage to be used as an alibi” to stop major investments.

# Piraeus bank starts the second circle of its “Project Future” programme, an initiative which contributes to bridge the gap between education and labour market. The scheme offers young graduates training in specialist disciplines like Java, Digital Marketing, Sales and Data Science. Upon training completion, the graduates will be offered a minimum of a six-month paid employment contract in major companies based in Greece. “Piraeus Bank is committed to running the Project every year as part of its mission to support the next generation of business professionals in Greece. Until now, more than 60% of the people that participated in the first cycle have been hired in major companies,” Piraeus Bank Chief Executive Officer, Christos Megalou said.

On our Radar: Alexander Statue ready for Unveiling
Hampered by torrential rain, municipal workers have installed a statue of Alexander the Great on horseback in central Athens following a three-decade delay in finding a suitable location for the bronze artwork. The City of Athens ended the search and picked a gore next to the ancient temple of Olympian Zeus to the place the 3.5-metre high statue created by the late Greek sculptor Yiannis Pappas. The statue was covered in black cloth for the unveiling ceremony planned for tomorrow. It follows the landmark agreement this year between Greece and North Macedonia to normalise relations following negotiations that included discussions on rival claims to Macedonian region’s ancienty heritage.