01-02-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

01-02-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Thursday, February 1, 2018

FYROM PM claims referendum would be guarantee for Greece

Ahead of Wednesday’s arrival in Skopje of United Nations special envoy Matthew Nimetz, the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Zoran Zaev, insisted that his country’s plans to hold a national referendum over the name dispute with Greece would not be an obstacle to a solution but rather will serve as a guarantee of its permanence.


Outgoing EWG chief Wieser: Only SYRIZA in 2017 took ‘possession’ of bailout program

Outgoing Euro Working Group chief Thomas Wieser on Wednesday, in summing up his tenure at the post, said no Greek government truly took “possession” of the bailout programs shepherded by international creditors over the years, with one exception: the SYRIZA government in 2017.


ND leader, ministry in row over spike in crime at universities

The Education Ministry clashed with conservative New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday over a recent spike in crime and lawlessness on Greek university campuses.


ND continues to field double-digit lead over ruling SYRIZA

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party continues to field a double-digit percentage point lead over ruling SYRIZA in the latest opinion poll results, which were released this week.


Supermarkets expect sales to increase in H1

Supermarket company officials expect sales to rise in the first half of the year, albeit marginally, after statistics showed a considerable decline in November.


ECB: Stress tests for 4 Greek systemic banks accelerated; results published in May

The four Greek banks directly supervised by the ECB will undergo the same stress test under the EBA scenario and methodology. However, in order to complete the test before the end of the third European Stability Mechanism stability support programme for Greece, the timetable will be accelerated and the results are expected to be published in May.


ATHEX: Benchmark rises 9.53 pct in January

The stress test parameters, which are more conducive to optimism than those of 2015, gave bank stocks a boost in Wednesday’s trading session at Athinon Avenue, taking the benchmark’s total gains for January to 9.53 percent – its best monthly performance in 20 months.







KATHIMERINI: Surviving on installments

ETHNOS: ‘Winds of provocation’ in the Aegean Sea

TA NEA: Reforms and supervision until 2028 for Greece

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The upcoming rally on the ‘Macedonian issue’ is going to be exploited by various players of the political spectrum

AVGI: Clean exit from the Memorandum-era with a Greece-owned program

RIZOSPASTIS: Farmers to stage massive rally in Thessaloniki on 3 February

KONTRA NEWS: Obvious treason by former PM Simitis [who allegedly signed a secret deal with the USA to hold back Greek war-ships from the islets of Imia]

TO PONTIKI: A valid agreement [on the ‘Macedonian issue’] could only occur through extended majority support

DIMOKRATIA: Discounts for fines linked to illegal constructions get extension

NAFTEMPORIKI: Real estate assets’ values are a thorn for Greek banks’ stress tests


2019 ELECTION — COMMISSION’S PRESIDENCY PRIMARY SYSTEM AT RISK: The Spitzenkandidat (lead candidate) process (first tested in 2014) awards the Commission presidency to the party that wins the most seats in the European Parliament election. Figures as senior as Angela Merkel took aim at the system in 2014, and as the countdown to the 2019 ballot gets under way, it’s under further fire. The outcome goes to the heart of the credibility and legitimacy of the EU: who and how to pick and trust for its leadership. POLITICO’s David M. Herszenhorn and Maïa de La Baume examine where the debate might land.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis backed the Spitzenkandidat system in remarks to reporters Tuesday. POLITICO’s Carmen Paun has more.

ECJ — LANDMARK EU SINGLE MARKET RULING: In a lightly reported ruling, Europe’s top court Wednesday said that retail trade in goods constitutes a service for the purposes of the EU’s 2006 Services Directive.

EXCHANGE OF THE DAY: Jean-Claude Juncker riffed Tuesday about the estimated 1 million babies born to couples who met through the EU’s Erasmus student exchange scheme: “This is the great demographic success of the Commission. We increased the European libido, if I may say.” (FYI, the hat tip for the statistic goes to Dennis Abbott, now at Burson-Marsteller, who estimated the number while serving as the Commission’s education spokesman in 2013.)

COUNCIL — COMPETITIVENESS MINISTERS MEET IN SOFIA: EU ministers as well as those from Switzerland and Norway will discuss the bloc’s industrial strategy at an informal Council meeting in Sofia today.

EU AGENCIES — ITALY DEMANDS ECJ REVERSE MEDICINES AGENCY LOCATION DECISION: Rome says the Dutch government misrepresented its readiness to host the European Medicines Agency, in an appeal lodged at the European Court of Justice, obtained by POLITICO (link for POLITICO Health Care and Brexit Pros).

EIB — TIME FOR EU TO DO MORE WITH LESS: That and the question of what role financial instruments should play in the next EU budget, are the themes of a conference today hosted by the EU’s investment bank in Brussels. Playbook interviewed EIB president Werner Hoyer ahead of the conference.

“Nobody has ever brought the Europeans closer together than [former British PM David] Cameron and [Donald] Trump,” said Hoyer. “I was skeptical when the Brexit negotiations began. It’s an interesting triangle — Michel Barnier [France], David Davis [U.K.] and myself [Germany] because we were the ones who negotiated the Treaty of Amsterdam [for] three years in the 1990s. Obviously you always meet again.”

Hoyer added: “I’ve listened in to ECOFIN [economy ministers], to Foreign Affairs [Council], and there’s no agreement yet on the necessary steps of deepening the union.” While Hoyer pointed out that once the U.K. leaves the EU, it is only Denmark with an opt-out from euro membership, he said many elements of further EU integration will need to start on a voluntary inter-governmental basis, not the usual “community” consensus method. Hoyer supports Eurogroup “risk-sharing arrangements” and a “backstop facility,” and he advocates the use of financial instruments to cope with development challenges in Africa and elsewhere that traditional aid has failed to solve.

PARLIAMENT — EPP WARNING LINE ON TRANSNATIONAL LISTS: In a new Facebook video, EPP MEPs warn that “transnational lists are bad for Europe” and would likely help populists. Sean Kelly contradicts his EPP party colleague and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the video. Those intrigues will likely count for little given the Visegrad Group has already rejected the idea, meaning it cannot gain consensus support in the European Council.

PARLIAMENT — MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO NOWHERE: POLITICO has covered the uncertain future of Europe’s night trains before, and now MEPs Lucy Anderson and Jakop Dalunde are now in on the act, co-hosting an event in Parliament with activist group BackOnTrack earlier this week. “The night train is not the fastest and not the cheapest way to travel Europe but, for sure, the most cultivated way,” said Kurt Bauer, head of OBB (Austrian railways) Long Distance Travel in a passionate defense of the nighttime network. Playbook’s source in the room said Marcin Wojcik from the European Commission played the role of killjoy, telling the audience they didn’t need more money or better EU rules, but to use the current rules better. That left EU bubble tweetmeister Jon Worth in a furious state. “Well, sorry European Commission, it’s your damned job to try to put some of those things right!” Worth fumed.

AUTO — MONKEY BUSINESS PROFESSOR SAYS HIS CLIENTS KNEW ALL: Not just one but at least three major German carmakers thought it was OK to put monkeys and people in a room and turn on the fumes. “The bosses of Volkswagen and Daimler Benz and BMW they respond that they don’t know anything about that. That’s not true,” Helmut Greim, who chaired the research advisory board of the now-defunct European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT) that commissioned the monkey trials, told POLITICO. “We had about three to four meetings per year … In all these cases the representatives of the different companies — BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler — always attended these meetings so they have always been informed what we are doing.” POLITICO’s Simon Marks and Joshua Posaner.

ENERGY — NORD STREAM 2 GOT FIRST CONSTRUCTION PERMIT WEDNESDAY: The permit allows it to build and operate the gas pipeline in Germany’s territorial waters and landfall area on the northeastern coast. Nord Stream 2 also has pending construction applications in Russia, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Anca Gurzu has more for POLITICO Pro Energy and Climate Pros.

PODCAST DU JOUR — ARD’S ‘PUNKTEU’: Germany is roaring into the EU podcast arena with this weekly podcast about the oddities of the EU bubble. The first episode lasts half an hour and features journalists Sebastian Schöbel, Ralph Sina, Michael Grytz and Samuel Jackisch.


FRANCE — CITIZENS OF RIGHT HERE: Nextdoor, a private social network for local neighborhoods (which says it has a mission of strengthening communities) is barnstorming into France today. The company claims to already cover 185,000 ‘hoods in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and the Netherlands. Playbook would tell you more but Belgian users don’t get to see over the digital fence into the promised land.

SPAIN — PUIGDEMONT CONCEDES DEFEAT: Telecinco, a Spanish TV channel, reported Wednesday that the ousted president of Catalonia’s regional government, Carles Puigdemont, conceded defeat in the political struggle for independence from Spain in text messages to another exiled pro-independence politician, Toni Comín. According to Telecinco, cameras caught the messages on Comín’s phone during an event in Leuven.

ESTONIA — PUTIN NAMES AIRFORCE REGIMENT ‘TALLINN’: President Vladimir Putin named a division of the Russian airforce “Tallinn,” after the capital of Estonia, “to preserve glorious military traditions.”

ITALY — 5STARS BACKTRACK: Luigi Di Maio, leader of Italy’s 5Star Movement, told international investors on Wednesday he would be willing to govern with his rivals if the March 4 election doesn’t produce a clear winner, Reuters reports.

POLAND — LAWMAKERS BACK HOLOCAUST BILL: Lawmakers overnight approved the draft law that would make it illegal to say Poland helped Germans during World War II. Reuters has more.

UK — BREXITEER HARD-LINERS PONDER NEXT MOVE: Supporters of hard Brexit on the Conservative backbenches have the numbers to topple Theresa May if she veers from their chosen path. The question is whether they’ll use it, report Charlie Cooper and Annabelle Dickson.

RESIGNATION OF THE CENTURY — UK MINISTER MICHAEL BATES: He offered his resignation after turning up late to the House of Lords to answer a question from Labour peer Ruth Lister. Playbook doesn’t know what Lord Bates was trying to prove, but it was a passive-aggressive masterstroke.


EU CRACKS START TO APPEAR — PAY-FOR-PLAY FINANCIAL MARKET ACCESS: So far the EU27 have remained united behind the Commission during Brexit negotiations, saying no to the U.K. cherry-picking the best bits of EU membership. But POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi spoke to six diplomats from EU27 countries who confirmed that — at least informally — a proposal that would see London pay for access to the single market for financial services is being floated. The reason? Locking the City of London out of the EU’s financial markets would likely boost Paris and Frankfurt, but no one else, whereas a payment to the EU budget would boost all.

AS EU LOOKS FOR MORE STICKS TO STOP RACE TO THE BOTTOM WITH UK: Brussels will consider including “non-regression clauses” and sanctions in a trade deal with the U.K. to prevent it from undercutting the EU post-Brexit, the FT reports, citing leaked strategy slides presented by EU negotiators to EU27 member countries last week. The measures could include tax blacklists and penalties against state-subsidized companies. According to the FT, the bloc will consider the tough measures to ensure a “level playing field” and strike back at “clear risks” of Britain loosening environmental, state aid or employment rules or drastically cutting taxes. Britain is too big and close to be treated like a normal trade partner such as the U.S., Japan or Canada, the FT reports the slides said. “International rules do not adequately address the [potential] distortive effects of subsidies on investment, trade and competition,”and “The EU-U.K. agreement will have to include robust provisions on state aid to ensure a level playing field.”

CITIZENS’ RIGHTS FIGHT: Theresa May vowed to fight an attempt by Brussels to extend the cutoff date for full freedom of movement and residency rights for EU27 citizens to be curtailed after Brexit. “I’m clear there is a difference between those who came prior to us leaving, and those who will come when they know the U.K. is leaving,” the PM told reporters during her trip to China. But the EU isn’t going  to take that lying down. “Citizens’ rights during the transition is not negotiable,” the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt told the Guardian. “We will not accept that there are two sets of rights for EU citizens. For the transition to work, it must mean a continuation of the existing acquis — with no exceptions.”

UK  MPs VOTE TO RELEASE BREXIT ANALYSIS: After the House of Commons voted in a favor of the government releasing analysis on the impact of Brexit leaked to BuzzFeed earlier this week, MPs will be given access to a hard copy in a reading room. BuzzFeed on Wednesday published more revelations from the same leaked study, which concludes the strict new immigration policy favored by May after Brexit would further damage the U.K. economy and far outweigh the benefits of signing a free trade deal with the U.S.


SWITZERLAND — BERN LAYS OUT PRIORITIES FOR RELATIONS WITH EU: The Swiss Federal Council laid out its priorities for its relationship with the EU Tuesday, prioritizing single market access for its banking sector. Roberto Balzaretti (a former Swiss ambassador to Brussels) takes over EU negotiating responsibilities from Pascale Baeriswyl. Henri Gétaz has been appointed secretary-general of the European Free Trade Association. Watch Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis’ press conference here.

TURKEY — COURT RELEASES AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL DIRECTOR: A court in Istanbul ordered the conditional release on bail of the local Amnesty International chair Taner Kılıç, the human rights group said in a statement on Wednesday.

WORLD’S MOST VISITED CITIES: Playbook would have imagined European cities dominating the 2017 list. Not so. Only two make the top 10.