Athens Digest 07.06.2019

• Tsipras hits out at “ultra-conservatives” in Brussels in wake of Greece’s enhanced surveillance report

• Parliament to vote on scrapping of tax threshold reduction

• Greek jobless rate drops slightly to 18.1 percent in March

• BoG notes significant rise in prime office and retail prices in 2018

# Premier Alexis Tsipras yesterday rebuffed concerns expressed in Wednesday’s third surveillance report over the government’s recent handouts, suggesting that “ultra conservative officials in Brussels” were seeking to exploit the victory of conservative ND in recent European elections to undermine his policies. “The results of the elections whetted the appetite of the old political establishment in Greece and ultra-conservative circles in Brussels to question our political choices and obstruct our plans,” he said. Tsipras decried a call in the report for dismissals in the public sector. “Their appetite was whetted ever since (ND leader) Mitsotakis raised the issue of ‘one hiring for every five departures.’” He added that his government managed to secure a 1:1 ratio after tough negotiations.

# Commenting on the report, Mitsotakis said it highlighted “the massive laxity in the implementation of significant reforms for improving the efficiency of the state administration.” This intervention took a long time… The Greek people will not pay for the damages of the SYRIZA government,” he said.
Meanwhile, Parliament will vote today on an amendment submitted by the government to revoke a planned reduction in the tax-free threshold. The amendment is one of many the government has brought to parliament before it is dissolved for elections on July 7, with Mitsotakis saying the flurry of last minute amendments effectively “delegitimize” the House.

# Greece’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped in March to  18.1-percent  compared  the downward revised rate of 18.4-percent in February, according to the country’s statistics service, ELSTAT, yesterday.  More specifically, ELSTAT said the number of employed people in March was 3,848,269 while the number of unemployed amounted to 849,811. The number of inactive people was at 3,246,729. Overall the number of employed persons rose by 77,947 compared to March last year – a 2.1 percent increase and by 8,961 compared to February this year, signalling a 0.2-percent rise.

# The Bank of Greece said yesterday that, according to provisional data, nominal prime office prices in the country as a whole increased on average by 7-percent in 2018 compared to an increase of 1.8-percent in 2017. On a regional basis, nominal prime office prices rose in 2018 by 9-percent in Athens, 5.4-percent in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, and 5.1-percent in the rest of the country. With regard to prime retail prices, the BoG said that provisional data in 2018, showed an average increase of 4.3-percent relative to 2017 across the country. In 2017, the increase was 1.7-percent.

On Our Radar: Government changes definition of rape after coming under fire 
The government submitted an amendment yesterday changing the definition of rape in the new penal code that was tabled to Parliament on Monday after criticism from Amnesty International, women’s rights groups, the opposition and even some ruling SYRIZA MPs. Paragraph 5 of Article 336 was changed to state that “whoever attempts a sexual act without the consent of the victim is punished by imprisonment of up to 10 years.” The change means that rape remains a felony. The initial phrasing defined rape in terms of the physical threat it may present to a victim’s life and not on the basis of the absence of consent. However, the penal code, which goes into effect on July 1, has also stirred controversy because as according to judicial sources, it may lead to the release from jail of convicted terrorists serving multiple life sentences.