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Athens Digest 21.05.2018

Eurogroup to ratify SLA on review on Thursday as IMF seeks more clarity on debt relief

Athens rejects ‘Ilinden Macedonia” name proposal as irredentist

Mayor of Thessaloniki kicked and punched in city center by right-wing extremists

MPs say they have no jurisdiction to investigate politicians named in alleged Novartis case

With next Thursday’s Eurogroup expected to ratify Saturday’s Staff Level Agreement (SLA) between Greece and its creditors – paving the way for its program exit – IMF officials say they expect the meeting to provide more clarity on debt relief. Moreover, pending fiscal and structural reforms must be agreed and implemented ahead of the June 21 Eurogroup, before the IMF can activate its program. “The agreement on the SLA paves the way for a smooth programme exit. The IMF involvement could positively contribute to the debt relief but it is up to the Fund to decide. Commissioner Moscovici is in contact with Managong Director Lagarde; next Thursday’s eurogroup will also be important for this issue,” says to Athens Digest Commissioner’s Advisor and former Head of EC Representation in Greece Panos Carvounis.

The Greek government has officially rejected “Republic of Ilinden Macedonia” as a candidate name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In a statement on Saturday, the PM’s office urged Skopje to work for a mutually acceptable solution, in accordance with proposals by UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz. The announcement followed the opposition of Greek political parties to the proposal made by FYROM’s PM Zoran Zaev. Greek leaders said the name projects irredentist claims to Greece’s northern province of Macedonia. Meanwhile, in a phone call with Tsipras, US Vice President Mike Pence reportedly insisted in taking advantage of a historic window of opportunity to resolve the name dispute and lauded the efforts of both Tsipras and Zaev.

Yiannis Boutaris, the mayor of Thessaloniki, the second largest Greek city, denounced the attack against him on Saturday as “despicable” but that he is well. The liberal-minded Boutaris was hospitalized on Saturday night with head, back and leg injuries after being attacked by a group of right-wing extremists at a flag-lowering ceremony in Thessaloniki, to commemorate the war dead of the Pontic Greek community. Two men were arrested yesterday.

Greek Parliament has ruled that it has no jurisdiction to investigate ten politicians, including two former PMs, who were named in a prosecutor’s report alleging they received bribes from Swiss drug giant Novartis. Lawmakers approved last month’s decision by a parliamentary panel to return the case to the judiciary. The charges have been dismissed by the ten politicians as a politically-motivated slander campaign, fabricated by the leftist-led government. Yiannis Stournaras, a former minister and current governor of the Bank of Greece denounced these “un-investigated slanders” as part of a “cheap political game.” The vote was boycotted by most opposition parties which accused the government of a smear campaign.

On Our Radar: Despite belt tightening, Greeks splashing more on technology
At a time of increased difficulty for many to purchase basics, Greek consumers spent EUR 497 million in the first quarter of the year to purchase electric and electronic products. According to the GFK market-research group, the technical consumer goods (TGG) market has grown by 7.3% compared to the same period in 2017. The categories with the largest sales rise where telecommunications at 20.8%, smart major domestic appliances (MDA) at 4% and consumer electronics (CE) with increased sales of 3.1%.