Athens Digest 06.05.2019

• Legislation to settle tax, pension arrears goes to Parliament as mission chiefs arrive

• Greece’s credit rating upgraded by Canada-based DBRS

• Athens, Mogherini condemn Turkish drilling plans off Cyprus but Ankara defiant

• Political leaders bemoan crime without punishment in Marfin Bank tragedy

# The return of mission chiefs to Athens today, ahead of the publication of the third enhanced surveillance report for Greece, will coincide with the submission of draft legislation outlining new payment plans for millions of Greeks with outstanding debts to tax authorities and pension funds. The legislation, presented yesterday by  finance and labor ministers, Euclid Tsakalotos and Efi Achtsioglou, stipulates payment plans for taxpayers with outstanding debts accrued until December 2018 and do not include property criteria. In some cases payment can be made in 120 monthly installments. Achtsioglou said the programs for arrears to pension funds provide discounts on the original debt bearing in mind an 85-percent increase in fines and penalties for everyone. This, she said, will lead to a 65 percent decrease in arrears including surcharges. The program is expected to begin on May 14 for natural persons and May 16 for legal entities Tsakalotos also said that a fresh package of relief measures will be announced in the next few days. Mission chiefs will leave Athens on Wednesday.

# Greece’s credit rating was upgraded to BB (low) from B (high) by the Canada-base DBRS global rating agency which cited the  “successful conclusion” by Greece and the European Institutions of the first and second Enhanced Surveillance monitoring reviews. In its report on Friday, DBRS also changed its outlook for Greece from Positive to Stable reflecting “the likelihood that Greece will continue on its reform path including reducing banks’ non-performing exposures.” The report also said that DBRS anticipates continued positive assessments from the European institutions under the Enhanced Surveillance process, “that should again activate the policy-contingent debt measures and continue to shore up confidence in capital markets.”

# The Greek Foreign Ministry has called on Turkey to shelve plans to conduct hydrocarbon drilling activities off the western coast of  Cyprus and within its EEZ. In a statement, the ministry urged Turkey to respect Cyprus’ sovereign rights and to “desist from further actions that undermine stability of the region.”  For her part, EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said Turkey ought to “refrain from any such illegal action to which the European Union will respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus.” The Turkish foreign ministry claimed that it has “legitimate rights stemming from international law” to engage in hydrocarbon exploration activities.

# Greece marked nine years yesterday since the day three people and an unborn baby died while trapped inside the building housing Marfin Bank which was engulfed in flames after hooded agitators hurled molotov cocktails during a violent anti-austerity march in central Athens. Political leaders paid tribute to the victims and bemoaned the fact that the unknown culprits are still at large. New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis lamented that  “nine years have passed and justice has not been afforded.” At the same time, a leader of the anti-establishment Rouvikonas group threatened judges in a Facebook post not to reject a furlough request by convicted terrorist Dimitris Koufodinas otherwise, “everything will turn red.” Koufodinas, who went on hunger strike after his initial furlough request was denied, is serving multiple life sentences for carrying out 11 assassinations as a member of the now defunct November 17 terror group.

On Our Radar: Greek tennis makes statement with Tsitsipas and Sakkari 
In what was a first for the sport, two Greek tennis players won back to back titles at the weekend. World number 10 Stefanos Tsitsipas captured his third ATP title beating Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-3 7-6 at the Millennium Estoril Open while  Maria Sakkari lifted her first WTA trophy at the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco, overcoming Britain’s Johanna Konta in the final  2-6, 6-4, 6-1.