Athens Digest 02.07.2019

• Top EU jobs: In Spain we trust

• Creditors prepare post-election reminder

• Bank of Greece: Growth, deficit set to miss 2019 targets

• TAP: Pipeline operations gauge supplier interest as completion nears

Government officials say Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will represent Greece in its choice for the next EU Commission president, as PM Tsipras returns home for the final days of election campaigning. EU leaders failed to hammer out a compromise and will continue the effort this morning. “We are close but we’re not there yet. We’ll get there,” Tsipras said before leaving Brussels to head for the island of Crete. Tsipras and Sanchez are both backing Dutch socialist and S&D lead candidate Frans Timmermans for the top EU job.

Greece will be reminded of its post-bailout commitments to creditors at July 8 Eurpgroup meeting, according to a European official in Brussels. The meeting will be held a day after the poll in Greece. Finance ministers are expected to discuss the findings of the third enhanced surveillance report as well as the recent CSR (Country Specific Recommendations) published by the European Commission.

The Bank of Greece says increased global uncertainty and weak commitment to reforms domestically are likely to see Greece miss its growth and budget targets this year. In its annual Report on Monetary Policy, the central bank warned that despite improvements, the economy continues to “face major challenges.” The bank said: “Economic activity is expected to increase by 1.9 percent in 2019, by 2.1 percent in 2020 and by 2.2 percent in 2021, mainly driven by private consumption, business investment, and exports … The primary surplus will come to 2.9 percent of GDP, against a target of 3.5 percent of GDP.”

The Trans Adriatic Pipeline has launched a market test, allowing gas shippers to express interest in the project ahead of its launch next year. The company said the successive non-binding and binding stage of the process would allow suppliers to secure long-term capacity in the pipeline that will cross Greece, Albania, and the Adriatic Sea to reach southern Italy. “TAP plans to initially transport approximately 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, bringing a new source of gas to Europe. Yet, TAP is able to double its capacity to 20bcm/a, therefore, with the project now being more than 88 percent complete, we aim to ensure that the pipeline can expand in line with the future demand to transport gas into Europe,” TAP Managing Director Luca Schieppati said. Market test is of significant importance for Greece as it may establish the country as an energy hub in SE Mediterranean. Market analysts also focus on whether US suppliers’ interest is going to be expressed.

On our Radar: Lonely Greeks
Greece has one of the highest levels of loneliness and social isolation in the European Union, according to a new survey by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. It found that 7 percent of adults frequently feel lonely, but the rate is 10 percent in Greece, along with Hungary, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, and France. The difference is more alarming when considering social isolation: Greece has the highest estimated level in the EU at 43 percent, only socialising with friends or family once a month or less. The EU average is 18 percent.