Athens Digest 18.06.2019

• Amid escalating East Med tension, Greek and Turkish armed forces hold talks to reduce strain

• Bloomberg: EU May Freeze Customs Union Talks With Turkey Over Drilling

• Long queue for drug innovation

• Debating the cost of the first six months

# As European officials express growing concern over Turkey’s natural gas exploration near Cyprus, Greek military officials are heading to Turkey in an effort to ease tension in the east Mediterranean. The Defence Ministry said the aim of the five-day trip was “to prevent and avoid any unjustifiable points of tension during the conduct of military activities.” European Union officials are expected to caution Turkey over the gas dispute at a meeting today of the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg.

# Bloomberg reported that the EU is set to threaten Ankara with suspending negotiations to update its customs union agreement. Meanwhile, yesterday, Manfred Weber of the European People’s Party tweeted: “Turkey cannot be allowed to violate the sovereignty of an EU member state. Turkey must stop any illegal activities within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone. The people of Cyprus can rely on our support and solidarity.”

# A creditor-mandated programme to assess new drugs and treatments for the Greek market has failed to start functioning properly despite being legislated for two years ago, according industry assessments cited in news media reports. The creation of a Health. Technology Assessment committee _ aimed at setting up an HTA centre _ was legislated in a 2017 omnibus bill. The lag affects the availability of innovative treatments that have already cleared the evaluation process in other EU countries, as well as for other medicines.

On our Radar: Check Please
The argument over the cost to the Greek economy of Syriza’s first six months in government continues to rage as the country approaches elections. The head of the European Stability Mechanism Klaus Regling famously put the price at EUR 100 billion _ an estimate that drew an angry response from Finance Minister Tsakalotos. “If he were my student, I would have failed him,” Tsakalotos said, calling the estimate “nonsense.” But respected Greek economist, prof. Panos Tsakloglou _former country’s representative at the EWG_ argued the number may have been even higher, closer to EUR 180 billion. “I don’t know if I would have failed Mr Regling, but if I had, it would be not for estimating too high, but too low,” he wrote in the Athens daily Ta Nea. In a Tweet, Tsakalotos implied the comment had been politically motivated, insisting that the estimates relied on “arbitrary methodology.” Nevertheless, he provided no estimation about what was the cost of “Varoufakis era” after all.