Athens Digest 25.09.2019

• Gap with institutions to be bridged Greek source says as there are only 15 days to go before budget is tabled to Parliament

Minister of Tourism: Damage to industry from Thomas Cook collapse manageable

PM outlines national energy and climate policy at the UN General Assembly

# The collection of taxes, the impact of relief measures to the tune of EUR 1.2 billion on the public revenue, as well as other measures to support revenue collection are the three pillars that Greece is relying on to back its positions regarding the 2020 budget, according to a Greek sources involved in the negotiations with institution  mission chiefs.  The same source said that the remaining differences between both sides are small, given that there are only 15 days to go before the budget is tabled to Parliament. Moreover, the same source said that the main emphasis of the institutions is on the reduction of arrears, the banking system and privatizations. Today will be the last day of contacts between the European institutions and Greek officials with energy, privatization, public administration, digital governance on the agenda. Talks with the IMF’s mission will continue until Friday, in the framework of the upcoming country’s Article IV.

# Referring to the estimate by Greece’s tourism confederation (SETE) that the economic losses for Greek businesses in the tourism industry from the collapse of British travel firm Thomas Cook are up to 500 million euros, Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis said yesterday that number is most likely smaller in the short term and the issue will have to be discussed in details. “It depends what this figure includes and what these losses entail…this is something we have to look at,” he told Athens Digest’s John Papageorgiou. He said that hotels hurt by Thomas Cook will not pay stay-over tax (that was also announced by the Ministry of Finance, yesterday) and that the funds that may be needed to support damages incurred by the tourism sector are “manageable” and most likely will not impact the 2019 and 2020 budgets. Meanwhile, the return of more than 30,000 people stranded in Greece, which began on Monday, is “smooth” he said,  thanks to the “very good cooperation” between the two countries, and that it will be completed in two weeks.

# Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis pledged yesterday that his government will adopt a new national energy and climate policy by the end of the year, with the full abolition of disposable plastics across the country as of  2021, the closure of lignite-fired power plants by 2028, and increase in renewable energy sources to 35-percent by 2030, the prime minister told a special UN climate conference.  He also said Greece intends to host a high-level summit in Athens in 2020 to secure the adoption of a declaration for the protection of cultural and natural heritage from the effects of climate change.

On our radar: Civil servants go on strike over growth bill, as Tsakalotos takes to the streets 
Greece’s public sector went on strike yesterday to protest against a growth bill the government is promoting that will include changes to rules governing strikes, collective working agreements.  It was the first mass walkout since the center right government took office in July. However, marches organized by labor unions were poorly attended. Former Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos took part in a march organized by the civil servants’ union (ADEDY). According to several media reports, Tsakalotos is opposed to a plan by SYRIZA’s leadership to move the party more to the center, insisting that it should retain a clear leftist character.