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Athens Digest 23.05.2018

PM pitches growth plan to parliament

Eurogroup: IMF programme participation in the balance

Turkey: Greek soldiers remain in custody despite international campaign

The tourism boom is set to continue, says minister

At a debate
on the bailout exit negotiations demanded by the Socialist opposition, Prime Minister Tsipras will outline his government’s Growth Strategy for the Future in parliament this morning. The post-bailout roadmap commits Greece to pledges made to creditors, based on agreed high primary surpluses and growth averaging 2 percent in the medium term. The detailed policy document includes plans to further digitize bureaucratic transactions with the public agencies, and complete pipeline and other major energy projects, as well as restore the wage bargaining process between unions and employers, but omits any specifics on promised minimum wage hikes. For their part, the Conservatives as well as the Socialists are expected to once again call for early elections

Meanwhile, MinFIn Euclid Tsakalotos and the institutions’ representatives, will brief Eurogroup members tomorrow on the staff-level agreement reached with creditors at the weekend. The IMF, meanwhile, is looking for greater clarity from the European lenders on its debt relief plans for Greece _ in what could be the last chance for it to activate its -in principle- Greek programme.

Judicial authorities in Turkey have rejected a petition for the conditional release of two Greek soldiers detained at the border and held in prison custody since March 1.  Angelos Mitrotodis and Dimitris Kouklatzis were denied release pending trial for a third time, despite a high-profile campaign by Greece seeking help on the issue from other governments and international organizations. The latest effort was made by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias in Washington at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Kotzias said he has raised the issue during talks that focused on regional stability in the Balkans and east Mediterranean.

An additional 3 million people are expected to visit Greece this year using the country’s airports. Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura briefed members of the European Parliament’s left-wing GUE-NGL group, noting that Greece was now an economy boosted by 30-plus million visitors per year. A 25 percent increase in numbers over three years, she said, was helped by extending the tourism season by two months, from March to November, and promoting the country as a year-round destination. The Bank of Greece yesterday said first-quarter arrivals had jumped by 13.8 percent on the year, and revenue was up by 14 percent.

On our Radar: A viral hit before the Internet
Long before online videos and household computers, Greece celebrated successive viral hits by a comedian whose means of mass communication was the audio cassette. Harry Klynn, the irrepressible comedian, singer, mimic and social satirist entertained Greeks as the country emerged from the dictatorship and was flung into the heated political confrontation between Socialists and conservatives. He poked fun at state TV (there were only two channels in the late 1970s and one was run by the army), pompous actors in ancient plays, politicians thickening their regional accents while on constituency visits, and the rapid rediscovery of clientele politics with budgets that mocked arithmetic. Harry Klynn, born Vassilis Triantafyllidis, died at age 78 this week. His funeral will be held on Friday at his northern hometown of Kalamaria, outside Thessaloniki.