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Athens Digest 22.05.2018

PM Tsipras sets… ‘World Cup’ deadline for prior actions

Greece rejects Ilinden solution

Anarchist group Rubicon attacks high court

Mayor of Thessaloniki says ‘organized fascists’ behind assault

Binding bid for the leading private hospital “Hygeia” by CVC Partners

Government ministers must help complete prior actions over the next three weeks _ by the start of the World Cup on June 14 _ Prime Minister Tsipras told his cabinet. In a televised speech, he said Greece’s post-bailout plans would concentrate on rebuilding workers’ rights including the right to set wages through collective bargaining. Across town, Greece’s largest labour union, the GSEE, hosted union leaders from across Europe who called on Tsipras to make good on his promises to raise the minimum wage.

FYROM PM Zoran Zaev said his government is ready to back a solution which would rename the country as Ilinden Macedonia, but Greek officials appeared cool to the idea. “I appeal to everyone in Greece to consider it,” Zaev said. Ilinden refers to the 1903 Ilinden Uprising against the Ottoman Empire. Officials in Athens appeared concerned that the term would be dropped in common usage. Greek officials have indicated their preference for the modifier to be ‘New’, ‘Upper’, or ‘Northern’ either translated or maintained in the Slavic form. Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said it was a “positive development” that Zaev’s government had accepted in principle that the country’s new name would be used domestically and internationally.

Several dozen members of the anarchist group Rubicon staged an attack at the Council of State, damaging courtrooms, offices, and splashing black paint on the front steps and facade of the building. No arrests were reported in the evening attack, the latest in a string of invasions that recently included the vandalising the offices of a notary public and the Greek branch of the UK charity Oxfam. In an online post, the group said it was responding to news reports that Council of State judges were set to rule that legislation to slash pensions next year (part of Greece’s bailout commitments) was not in violation of the constitution. New Democracy accused the government of tolerating Rubicon’s actions out of tactic ideological sympathy _ an assertion the ruling Syriza party swiftly rejected.

Four men have been charged with assault following the videotaped attack on Thessaloniki mayor Yiannis Boutaris during a ceremony on Sunday to the mark mass killings of Pontic (Black Sea) Greeks in Turkey nearly a century ago. Boutaris, 76, spoke of the attack at a city council meeting yesterday. “Those who attacked me had nothing to do with the Pontic Day. I was attacked by organized fascists, not as an individual but as the mayor,” he said. The suspects are aged between 17 and 36. “Thessaloniki madea pan-European news story for the wrong reasons. The attack on Mayors Boutari was shameless and unethical,” said Margaritis Schinas, EC chief spokesperson who comes from Thessaloniki.

Marfin Investment Group (MIG) announced that it has received a binding bid of EUR197.97 million for its stake in the “Hygeia” Group (70.38 percent) by Hellenic Healthcare, a subsidiary of the CVC Partners Fund. Hygeia has been a leader in the private hospitals sector in Greece. Reportedly, the Executive Board and the Board of Directors of MIG decided to give an exclusivity period to complete the agreement by June 30. Hellenic Healthcare has already proceed in the acquisition of another two leading hospitals, Metropolitan and Iaso General.

On our radar: In the digital dust?
Greece is one of the least advanced digital economies in the European Union. An annual survey of the 28 member states found Greece in second last position in the so-called Digital Economy and Society Index, or DESI, with Romania ranked last. Greece’s position was unchanged from 2017. The survey found a slow transition to high-speed broadband, with poor integration of sophisticated digital technologies and use in public services. Hurt by the crisis-related brain drain, Greeks are also falling behind on the acquisition of digital skills.