Athens Digest 04.09.2019

• Mitsotakis gives nod to deficit proposal, after meeting Dutch PM Rutte in The Hague

• PPC urged to start axing lignite plants

• Green light for gold miners 

# PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis has indicated that Greece will ask lenders to include returned bond profits in budget balance calculations but stressed that Greece will honour its target commitments in 2019 and 2020. Mitsotakis, who traveled to The Netherlands to meet Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, told reporters: “The Eurogroup’s conclusions in the past have referred to the way this money can be used so as to support growth. Greece will meet the (primary surplus) target for 2019 and 2020. In 2020, having regained credibility, we will raise the issue of primary surpluses.” Athens wants returned central bank profits on Greek bonds to be included in the budget balance calculations _ a proposal that lenders are expected to consider.

# Visiting The Hague, Mitsotakis completed his first tour in European capitals. As in Paris and Berlin, the new Greek PM told that his government is determined to shift Greece’s growth model from one based on borrow to an investment-driven strategy. Investments, bilateral economic cooperation (especially in the agro sector and innovative technology) and migration were in the agenda, yesterday. “We discussed about migration, but also talked about how we could boost growth, investment opportunities, climate change, green growth and jobs,” said the Dutch premier Mark Rutte. He stressed that the trade between the two countries reaches EUR 3bn.

# Greece should begin decommissioning the Public Power Corporation’s loss-making lignite plants with the financial and environmental cost of their continued operation likely to remain unchanged or even worsen in the coming years, a report has found. The Athens-based environmental think tank Green Tank said lignite operations has cost PPC an estimated nearly EUR 700 million in losses since 2016 with the figure set to reach EUR 1.3 billion by 2023. “In addition to protecting the climate, nature and public health, the retirement of lignite units is also dictated by purely financial reasoning in the context of salvaging PPC, the largest publicly owned company in Greece, which currently finds itself in the worst financial state of its history,” the think tank said.

# Canadian mining firm Eldorado Gold announced last night that it has received long-sought installation permits for its sites at Skouries and Olympias in northern Greece from Greece’s Energy and Environment Ministry. The Vancouver, Canada-based firm halted Greek operations in late 2017, after accusing the previous government of foot-dragging permit procedures. After the July general election, the new conservative Greek government set up a joint committee of experts with the gold mining company Eldorado to try and revive the investment.

On our Radar: Prison Move? 
According to reports, Greece’s Public Order Ministry is considering a proposal to move the capital’s high-security prison further out of the city, following a recommendation by an expert committee set up by the government. The committee has put forward the proposal to replace the current site at Korydallos, in western Athens, to an old NATO base in the Aspropyrgos area, west of the capital. The government has said it wants to move the prison away from the densely inhabited area. The prison move is one of several major projects promised by the government which says the facility would be demolished to build a park and sporting facilities.