Athens Digest 10.10.2019

• Negative yield at T-Bill sale

Greece slips further behind other euro zone members in competitiveness

Greek minister: EU, US oppose mass returns of Syrians to “safe zone”

Visiting its birthplace, Tusk voices concern over the future Democracy

A day after a historically low-yield bond auction, Greece’s T-Bill rate has turned negative. The Public Debt Management Agency announced the EUR 487.5 million sale of 13-week treasury bills with a yield of -0.02 percent, down from 0.095 percent in August. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the sale was the latest positive signal from investors for Greece. The new government is hoping to inch the country back to investment grade as soon as possible. The next major ratings announcement is expected from S&P on October 25.

Greece, now in 59th place globally, remains the least competitive economy in the euro zone, falling two places from last year. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report scored Greece poorly on innovation capacity, its financial system, and its public institutions as well as its product and labor markets. The top 10 countries were: Singapore in first place followed by the United States, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom, and Denmark. The bottom 10 were: Madagascar, Venezuela, Mauritania, Burundi, Angola, Mozambique, Haiti, DR Congo, Yemen, and Chad in last place.

Greece’s minister for migration says the European Union and the U.S. could agree to a limited number of Syrian refugees being returned to the north of the country where Turkey has launched military operations but would strongly oppose mass returns. “Neither the European Union nor the United States is willing to accept the scale and scope of operations that Turkey is planning in the region,” Giorgos Koumoutsakos told private One TV. “They could accept the possibility of the return of Syrians who are from that area. That would be a limited number … which would not alter the composition of the population in that region in relation to the Kurdish element. This is something that is being discussed by the United States and the Europeans.”

With only weeks left in office, European Council President Donald Tusk has warned that politics based on animosity is threatening democracy and its vital institutions in Europe and globally. “Politics, from being the art of coexistence of different ideas and communities, is turning into the ability to deal brutally with opponents, competitors, misfits or strangers,” Tusk said speaking at the Athens Democracy Forum. “Violence, lies, hate speech, myths, and resentment: These are the tools of today’s politics.” Politicians, he said, should heed warnings made by the historian Thucydides concerning leaders who appeal to emotion over reason. He said: “I am curious how Thucydides would diagnose the situation in the United States under the administration of President Trump, in the United Kingdom in the time of Brexit and permanent parliamentary crisis, in some countries in eastern and central Europe where the foundations of liberal democracy and the rule of law are being undermined, and on the border of Russia and Ukraine.” Earlier, Tusk held separate meetings with Prime Minister Mitsotakis and opposition leader Tsipras.

On our Radar: Mayor Honoured 
New Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis will present the Democracy Award of the City of Athens to the Magdalena Adamowicz, widow of the murdered mayor of Gdansk Pawel Adamowicz who was stabbed and fatally injured while on stage at an outdoor charity event in January. Bakoyannis’ father, Pavlos Bakoyannis, the late conservative politician, was shot dead in 1989 by the armed far-left group November 17, whose members were jailed for life 14 years later.