Athens Digest 07.05.2019

• Ahead of election test, parties set up confrontation in parliament

• Surveillance inspection resumes in Athens with brief but busy timetable

• Greek judges call for state protection after threats from anarchist group


# The government has called a confidence vote for two weeks before European and local government elections, countering a censure motion backed by New Democracy against Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis. Yannis Dragasakis, the deputy prime minister, announced the response for the government, setting up the vote that is expected late on Friday. The confrontation _ expected to focus voters’ attention on the two largest parties _ was triggered by remarks made by Polakis, against a disabled conservative candidate for the European Parliament, suggesting that he exploited fair-employment rules to secure a public sector job.

# Mission chiefs from the European institutions and the IMF have returned to Athens to prepare the Commission’s third enhanced surveillance report for the Greek economy. Talks today are expected to focus on the progress of pledged reforms and the country’s fiscal outlook and the banking sector. The new report is expected in June. IMF officials are due to visit Athens in late June as part of their Article IV procedures. The talks in Athens started yesterday as the government went ahead with plans to submit draft legislation to parliament to extend installment schemes (for up to 120 monthly payments) to settle outstanding debts to tax authorities and pension funds (draft law in Greek, here).

# Greek judges have called for additional state protection citing threats from a prominent anarchist group over a jailed terrorist gunmen who has gone on hunger strike after being denied prison leave. Dimitris Koufodinas, a leading member of the armed far-left group November 17, is serving 11 life sentences of murder and went on hunger strike last week. A leading member of the anarchist group Rubicon warned that “everything will turn red” if a panel of judges fails to grant him leave at a hearing on Thursday. The national Association of Judges and Public Prosecutors called the comments an “insult to democracy” and saw them as a “serious threat to judicial officials.”



On our Radar: No Fans at Final
The government’s top sports official says fans will be banned from Saturday’s Greek Cup Final as AEK Athens and champions PAOK face each other for a third successive season. Giorgos Vassiliadis, the deputy minister for sport, said police had briefed him on plans by supporters’ groups from both teams to stage a violent confrontation in an around the Olympic Stadium in Athens. Greek authorities have tried to curb violence at matches this season, using overseas referees for important games. A video assistant referee, or VAR, system will be launched at Saturday’s game before being rolled out at league matches next season.