Athens Digest 25.07.2019

• Moscovici: Mission chief for Greece position abolished

• Declan Costello appointed deputy director at the DG ECFIN

• Bank deposits up again, but credit stays flat

• Minister: EU-Turkey deal not suspended

• New government renews no-smoking resolution

# Pierre Moscovici, the outgoing EU Finance Commissioner, says the position of mission chief for Greece is being abolished. He told the Athens daily Ta Nea that the decision was the latest sign of the country’s return to normal. “This position is no longer needed,” he said. The announcement sees Declan Costello, who currently holds the mission chief post, set to move to a senior position. The Commission appointed him deputy director at the Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs. Paul Kutos, head of unit for Greece at DG ECFIN, will represent the Commission at quarterly visits in the country’s enhanced surveillance framework. Moscovici praised Costello’s role in negotiations with Greece, describing it as a “factor of success.”

# Bank deposits rose for the fourth successive month in June, the Bank of Greece said. Total deposits for households and businesses reached EUR  136.94 billion, up from EUR 135.28 billion the previous month. Deposits have returned to banks over the past three years as uncertainty eased over the country’s future in the euro area. Credit figures, however, continued to disappoint. In June, total credit extended to the domestic economy stood at -0.3 percent on an annual basis, from 0.1 percent in the previous month. The monthly net flow was negative at EUR 171 million, compared with a negative net flow of EUR 597 million in the previous month, the central bank said.

# A minister in charge of Greece’s migration policy says Ankara has not suspended the EU-Turkey agreement, arguing that recent remarks by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had been misinterpreted. Cavusoglu told Turkish television this week that a readmission agreement with Greece would be suspended on the European Union’s failure. But George Koumoutstakos said the remarks were referring to a 2014 bilateral deal and not the broader agreement reached with the EU two years later. The Greek minister reiterated the new government’s pledge that Athens would now follow the EU-Turkey agreement “to the letter.”

On our Radar: (This time) No Smoking
New Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias has vowed to strictly enforce long-ignored smoking restrictions, starting with checks at public buildings including Parliament and ministries. The minister met with PM Mitsotakis to discuss plans for a public information campaign to highlight the danger of cigarette use and second-hand smoke. In February, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, a Lithuanian heart surgeon, publicly criticised Pavlos Polakis, the former Greek alternate health minister, for smoking inside the ministry building. Greece and Bulgaria have highest smoking rates in the EU _ at roughly 27 percent _ but rates here are falling fast, a trend believed to be linked to the financial crisis.