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Athens Digest 25.05.2018

Eurogroup: Greece upbeat despite no agreement with IMF

Deputy PM says bad spending habits have been broken

Macedonia-name talks back on track after ‘Ilinden’ option quietly dropped

Migrants block motorway as overcrowding spreads to mainland camps

Greek officials
sought out the positives from last night’s Eurogroup meeting which failed to bridge differences between European lenders and the IMF on the urgency and nature of debt relief. The positive atmosphere at the meetings, the officials said, and the determination to resolve the differences by the end of June were seen in Athens as a renewed commitment to debt relief. The lack of consensus, however, still makes it hard for the IMF to activate its programme with a late financial contribution, a move that Greece and its creditors had hoped for as a thumbs up to markets before August 20.

With pressure to complete the measures promised in the staff level agreement, Greece sought to reassure creditors that reforms would continue under the government’s post-bailout programme. “We must not return to the mistakes made in the past,” Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis to the French La Croix newspaper in an interview, “After the end of the programme in August, the government will continue reforms but it will not be austerity.” Dragasakis maintained that high primary surpluses in the coming years were achievable with growth expected to level off at 2 percent, giving the government greater “fiscal leeway.”

Talks at the United Nations appear to have eased strain between Greece and FYROM, with officials from both sides again declaring that they are again close to agreement. Foreign Ministers Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov met in New York with U.N. mediator Matthew Nimetz after a two-week break. Greek journalists accompanying Kotzias on the trip were told in a briefing that Skopje had agreed to drop a proposal to rename the republic as ‘Ilinden Macedonia’ and return to Nimetz proposals on variations of ‘New’ or ‘Upper’ as a modifier.

Several hundred migrants and refugees blocked a motorway outside Thessaloniki yesterday to protest conditions at a nearby camp _ as overcrowding at migrant camps was worsening on some parts of the mainland. The blockade ended peacefully and there were no arrests reported. While the figures were not confirmed by the government, aid groups say the Diavata migrant camp outside Thessaloniki is at over 200 percent capacity. The government has promised to move people from overcrowded island camps to the mainland, but a surge in arrivals this year at Greece’s land border with Turkey has complicated the issue.

On our Radar: Green light for gardens _ and mall
The Council of State has reportedly approved presidential decree to start commercial development of the Academy Gardens mall and green space in a run-down area of central Athens. The EUR 300 million project involving BlackRock subsidiary Artume, has been held up for nearly a decade. It takes its name from the proximity to Plato’s Academy in the Kolonos area of the capital. The venture had faced multiple planning and bureaucratic hurdles including a review by the Central Archaeological Council, a board of experts which assesses the archaeological importance of land slated for development. Construction at the 2.1-hectare site is due to start before the end of the year.