Athens Digest 14.05.2019

• Government rushes handout package to parliament

• Greece urges EU to counter Turkey drilling threat

• Green Deal: EIB funds EUR 178 million agreement for undersea power link to Crete

# The government has submitted a series of 2019 handouts to parliament as draft legislation less than two weeks before European and local government elections. The measures were announced by the prime minister last week and include cuts in VAT rates for food and catering and the return of some pension benefits axed during bailout programmes. Payment of the so-called 13th pension will be made in full for those earning less than EUR 500 a month, with returns of a 70, 50 or 30 percent for those receiving higher monthly amounts. Officials from creditor institutions have reacted cautiously to the plan funded by the primary budget surplus target excess.

# George Katrougalos, the foreign minister, said Greece was coordinating actions with Cyprus and would use “all available means at its disposal” to counter Turkey’s intention to drill for natural gas in an area of the east Mediterranean where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. Katrougalos said he raised the issue at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels. “In my presentation, I stated that the legal question has already been set out in the March 2018 decision of the European Council, which clearly demands that Turkey does not proceed with unlawful actions and unilateral own interpretations of maritime law,” Katrougalos said. “This is an obvious matter of solidarity.” His action follows statements by European leaders at a meeting in Romania last week backing EU-member Cyprus over its dispute with Turkey.

# Greece’s independent grid operator and the European Investment Bank have reached a EUR 178 million loan deal to build a power link between Crete and the mainland. The 20-year agreement would allow a 132-kilometer submarine power-and-telecom connection to be set up and become operational next year, running from the Malea peninsula in the Peloponnese to Kissamos Bay in Crete. The connection would cover more than a third of the island’s power needs, giving it access to electricity produced renewable sources and reduce the local reliance on imported oil to produce electricity on the island. “The new interconnector will stimulate development of the wind power sector and hybrid renewable energy in Crete and allow the strong and regular winds on the island to provide clean power for the rest of the country,” the EIB said.

On our Radar: Pro-EU majority solid in Greece despite rise of populist parties
Greece is set to elect a majority of pro-EU lawmakers in the upcoming European elections but Eurosceptic parties across the bloc are expected to consolidate gains made in recent years, according to a study by the think-tank Open Europe. A report by the organisation based in London and Brussels noted that “Greece’s Syriza and Spain’s Podemos, have moderated their rhetoric in recent years.” Greece is one of five EU countries that will also hold national elections in 2019 along with Belgium, Denmark, Poland, and Portugal. The conclusions are consistent with polling analysis of EU countries carried out by several organisations including the Vienna-based Europe Elects. According to the projections for Greece, New Democracy will get 9-10 seats, Syriza 6 seats, Movement for Change 2 seats, Golden Dawn 2 seats, and KKE 1-2 seats.