Athens Digest 23.04.2019

• Greece officially requests early IMF loan repayment

• Poll gives ND strong lead for both European and general election

• Doctors lose compensation case

• Britons taking pre-Brexit holidays, helps Greek tourism figures

# According to MinFin sources, Greece submitted an official request to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) for the repayment of part of its IMF loans. Reportedly, Greece wants to repay about EUR 3.7 bn in expensive Fund’s loans. As announced earlier this month, the Greek authorities’ intention is “to use part of the cash reserves accumulated due to the fiscal overachievement of the last four years for the early repayment of the most expensive segment of Greece’s official sector debt.”

# European election campaigns officially got underway in Greece yesterday and a poll for Skai television gave Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party a 9-point lead for the May 26 ballot. The Pulse survey, measuring voter intention, found: New Democracy 31 percent, Syriza 22 percent, Golden Dawn 7.5 percent, Movement for Change 7.5 percent, and the Communist KKE 5.5 percent. The conservative’s advantage increased to 9.5 percent when gauging voter intention for a general election. That margin remains almost unchanged; a month ago, Pulse’s poll gave the conservatives a 10-point lead in a projected general election vote.

# The Council of State has rejected a claim by 4,673 National Health Service doctors to receive compensation for salary cuts dating back to August 2012. The action was taken after four of their colleagues were awarded the compensation in a separate ruling. The high court has ruled that the bailout-era cuts were illegal but issued a supplementary decision specifying that compensation would only be provided after that ruling was published.

# The number of Britons travelling to Greece on holiday more than doubled on the year in February, helping the push up the country’s balance of travel services to EUR 51 million. The surplus stood at EUR 19 million in February 2018, according to Bank of Greece data. Travel receipts for January and February were up 41.1 percent from the previous year. Passenger traffic from the United Kingdom increased by a whopping 118.7 percent to 54 thousand. The number of travellers from Germany was down 14.2 percent to 40 thousand, while France increased by 30.9 percent to 14 thousand. From outside the EU, a 12 percent decrease was seen in traffic from Russia, while US travel traffic rose by 52.6 percent.

On our Radar: US – Author of East Med security overhaul plan visits Athens
US Senator Bob Menendez has travelled to Greece to meet President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and other officials after introducing the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act aimed at overhauling US military policy in the region. The visit took place amid an ongoing standoff between the United States and Turkey over the country’s intention to purchase and install the Russian S-400 air defence system. Last week, Greek Defence Minister Evangelos Apostolakis conceded that Athens was concerned by the S-400 purchase, warning that it would “totally change” conditions in the Aegean Sea and require a significant upgrade of Greece’s own air defences.