01-11-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

01-11-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Staff-level agreement could be achieved with Greece before year end, says senior EU official

A staff-level agreement (SLA) could be achieved between the institutions and the Greek government before the end of the year and ahead of the third review, a senior EU official told journalists in Brussels on Tuesday, in a briefing on the Eurogroup meeting on November 6.


Siemens Hellas bribery case continues with testimony by former director’s secretary

Political party donations and gifts to politicians were a set policy of the Greek branch of technology giant Siemens, the former secretary of the local director told a court on Tuesday, in the ongoing bribery case.


Doing business gets even harder in Greece

Greece’s business environment is continuing to lose ground, the World Bank’s Doing Business 2018 report showed on Tuesday.


Major reduction in arrears owed by Greek state recorded in Sept 2017

The Greek state uncharacteristically went into “overdrive mode” in September to drastically reduce arrears to the private sector, a memorandum-mandated provision that was also the primary condition for the release of an 800-million-euro sub-tranche in bailout money held back from last July’s disbursement.


Albanian national arrested in relation to prominent attorney’s contract-style murder

A 32-year-old Albanian national was arrested in the western port city of Patras over the weekend on charges related to the recent gangland-style slaying of a prominent defense attorney in Athens, police announced on Tuesday.


Total, Edison sign lease agreement for Ionian hydrocarbon block with Greece

The contract for the concession of oil and gas exploration rights in a block west of Corfu in the Ionian Sea was signed on Tuesday by representatives of Total, Edison and the Greek state. The corporate representatives expressed “realistic expectations” regarding the quality of the hydrocarbon reserves, along with concerns that the concession’s completion could be subject to further delays.


SEV: Skills required to boost export sector

The Greek economy will increase its export activity if it can improve the specialization of its human capital in technologically advanced sectors through the cultivation of skills in the workforce and the population in general, the weekly economic bulletin of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) argues.


ATHEX: Stock prices offset their October losses

A sudden jump in stock prices at the Greek bourse on Tuesday wiped out all of October’s losses for the benchmark and even gave it a 0.49 percent increase right at the end of the month, compared to September 30.







KATHIMERINI: Hybrid formula for the exit from the Memorandum

ETHNOS: The ‘offshore routes’ of Taxibeat

TA NEA: Alternative Memorandum costume. The government’s new self-delusion

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Traffic fines revised: “Daddy don’t speed!”

AVGI: Salvaging regulation for 81,715 loan holders of the former Organization for Workers’ Housing

RIZOSPASTIS: The government recycles poverty and mockery of the people

KONTRA NEWS: Frontal collision between PM Tsipras and the ‘media barons’

DIMOKRATIA: Everybody was bribed by Siemens

NAFTEMPORIKI: Radical changes in the online taxation system TAXIS

Today is All Saints’ Day. It is a public holiday in Belgium and other European countries. EU institutions are closed today and tomorrow for All Souls’ Day.

TERROR ATTACK IN NEW YORK: At least eight people were killed after a truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path in Lower Manhattan, New York. One of the victims was a Belgian woman from Roulers in western Flanders. The suspected driver was shot in the abdomen by a police officer and taken into custody.


PUIGDEMONT SAYS NO TO ASYLUM REQUEST, YES TO ELECTION: Former Catalan First Minister Carles Puigdemont gave a much-awaited press conference in Brussels Tuesday, during which he said he wouldn’t be applying for asylum in Belgium (despite a lawyer specializing in Belgian asylum law confirming they met the previous day). He said the reason for his trip to the EU’s capital was to avoid more violence and to make the case for a peaceful solution to the Catalan crisis, which dramatically escalated last week when Madrid suspended the region’s autonomy. He also confirmed he would participate in a snap election called by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in December, but wanted assurances from Madrid it would respect the outcome of the vote even if pro-independence parties won a majority. More from POLITICO’s Jakob Hanke.

Where next? Puigdemont was seen staying at the Hotel Chambord near Porte de Namur and spotted Tuesday afternoon at Place du Luxembourg (pic) by Yasmin Schinasi (h/t Tristan Barber). During the press conference, he didn’t say when he would return to Spain, though not doing so could result in a European arrest warrant being issued if he fails to respond to a court summons to face charges of sedition and rebellion later this week. Europa Press said he was spotted leaving the hotel with his suitcase, while El País reports some of his team has arrived back in Barcelona. A clue may lie in his webpage, which has changed from president.cat to president.exili.eu.

ICYMI — Puigdemont’s chaotic press conference in full here and his speech here.

Quote of the day: Euractiv’s Jorge Valero wrote: “History is not written by those who flee the scene,” describing in a newsletter “the fall of Puigdemont, the start of normalization.”


Carles Puigdemont received the ultimate Belgian welcome: good-humored total chaos. In undoubtedly the worst-organized press conference Playbook has attended, more than 300 journalists waited over an hour crammed into a space designed for 80 at the Brussels Press Club, in scenes that resembled a music festival or sweaty nightclub floor. A dozen Belgian police stood by outside, but no one checked who came and went from the press conference venue, leading to pandemonium inside.

With many Catalans wondering if Puigdemont had abandoned them, by 12:40 p.m. the assembled journalists had begun to wonder the same thing. It took the ample form of the Press Club’s president shouting: “My middle name is Moses, so move!” for order to prevail. Security arrived, dressed improbably in a camel cashmere coat and blue pinstripe flannel suit. A private bodyguard? A spy? It was impossible to know. But he was satisfied and Puigdemont — the rock star of Brussels’ quiet school holiday week — appeared soon after. His fellow fugitive ex-ministers were all but forgotten in the chaos, wedged between aggressive photographers and print journalists. They took several minutes to join Puigdemont on-stage, left to adjust their hair as the cameras rolled. No matter. The press club president had forgotten to turn on the sound. In the end Puigdemont said he would not attempt to claim asylum in Belgium. Perhaps the chaos scared him after all. Playbook’s story here.

Tintin analogies: Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the ALDE group in European Parliament, suggested on Facebook that comparisons between Belgian cartoon character Tintin and the Catalan leader weren’t ideal. “Tintin always finds solutions to the adventures he encounters, while Puigdemont left Catalonia in chaos and devastation.”


PARLIAMENT — PROFESSOR MIFSUD’S EUROPEAN CONNECTIONS: The professor who is said to have introduced George Papadopoulos — the foreign policy adviser who worked on Donald Trump’s election campaign and pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators — to Russian government officials who had “dirt” on Hilary Clinton was confirmed Tuesday to be Maltese national Joseph Mifsud. A former chief of staff to Michael Frendo, Malta’s Nationalist foreign minister from 2004 to 2008, Mifsud’s network extends to the highest levels of the European Parliament.

The professor was president of the Euro-Mediterranean University, a Slovenia-based institution founded in 2008 and backed by the European Parliament until 2012, when he was accused of having spent €39,332 in wrongly claimed expenses. According to the minutes of a meeting chaired by Socialist & Democrat leader Gianni Pittella in 2012, the Parliament was set to give the university €1 million, although Parliament spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment to confirm the payment had been made. Mifsud also could not be reached for comment but told the Telegraph: “I have a clear conscience.”

Mifsud and Pittella are friends: A spokesman for Pittella told Playbook’s Harry Cooper they are friends and that Mifsud had asked the Socialist leader to “give some lessons (gratis) to the London School of Diplomacy” — Mifsud’s place of employment as of March 2016, when he is said to have met Papadopoulos. “Never ever — never ever — Pittella had the impression or feedbacks on Mifsud’s possible interference between the U.S. and Russia,” the spokesman said.


Jourová’s #metoo lament: Věra Jourová, the EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, told Pekka Mykkänen of Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat that no one cared about her sexual violence story when she first described the incident three years ago in the European Parliament. “Nobody picked it up. It was this strange confession of a strange lady in a strange moment,” Jourová said.

Labour activist speaks out about a sexual assault: Bex Bailey, a British Labour activist, on Tuesday said she was raped by a senior colleague at a Labour event in 2011 but was advised not to report it when she confided in a senior member of staff.

Damian Green latest in the firing line: Journalist Kate Maltby writing in the Times accused U.K. First Secretary of State Damian Green of making sexually charged comments to her on multiple occasions. Green denied the claim, telling the paper: “It is absolutely and completely untrue that I’ve ever made sexual advances on Ms. Maltby.” The Times reports Green has been referred to Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood for investigation.


CZECH REPUBLIC — FAR LEFT COULD ‘TOLERATE’ BABIŠ MINORITY GOVERNMENT: Andrej Babiš, leader of ANO, the party which took around 30 percent of the vote in last week’s Czech election, said Tuesday he would attempt to form a minority government after parties other than the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy refused to join him in a coalition. Earlier in the day, the leader of the Communist Party indicated he could “tolerate” such a scenario.

POLAND — US CONSULTANCY TO MAKE CASE FOR JUDICIAL REFORMS: The Polish National Foundation, created last year by Poland’s ruling PiS government to promote the country abroad, will pay U.S. consultancy White House Writers Group $45,000 a month to make the case for Warsaw’s controversial judicial reforms, which, it argues, are a necessary correction to the “endemically corrupt” system inherited from the Soviet era. The firm has also been asked to “straighten out false narratives that are dangerous to the national security of Poland,” tackle “lies” about the country’s role in the Holocaust and clarify the government’s “position on the refugee crisis, which the immediate neighbor [Germany] helped to speed up, reflects the will of Polish voters and their rights as independent citizens, not as vassals.”


FRANCE — COUNTER-TERRORISM LAW: The French Parliament on Tuesday adopted a new anti-terror bill, enabling a state of emergency in place since the 2015 November Paris attacks to be lifted. The new law grants more powers to police and investigators to raid, detain and question terrorism suspects.

FRANCE — NEW ELECTORAL LAW FOR EUROPEAN ELECTIONS? After weeks of rumors in Paris, French conservative daily L’Opinion reports President Emmanuel Macron wants to review the electoral bill for the 2019 European election, including a proposal to adopt a single constituency for the whole country instead of the current voting system with eight regional constituencies.

ENERGY — SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY SIGN PIPE DEAL: The planned Eastring gas pipeline between Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, intended to ensure the EU’s energy security, received a boost earlier this week when the Slovak and Hungarian governments signed a memorandum of understanding on a stretch of the pipe. The hope is the project will reduce the dependence of countries like Bulgaria on Russian gas delivered through Ukraine — increasingly a concern given Moscow has said it will end deliveries made that way by the end of the decade. Russia instead plans to send gas through the planned Nord Stream 2 line to Germany and, potentially, via Russia’s Turkish Stream pipes, which would link up to the Eastring network.

LONG READ — BALKAN POLITICS: A group of academics at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung look at the prospects for democracy and social movements in the Balkans, hit in recent years by protests, government crises and economic turbulence.


OPTICS — COST OF EUROPE’S COAL IN COLOMBIA: La Guajira, in northern Colombia, is one of the country’s most remote and impoverished regions and home to more than 270,000 Wayuu, Colombia’s largest indigenous community. Photojournalist Nicoló Filippo Rosso documents the community’s struggle to adapt to life downriver from the country’s largest coal mine, where severe droughts have made farming impossible.


Next round of talks agreed: EU and U.K. negotiators are set to meet for the next round of talks November 9 and 10.

Bank of England struggles to chart course: Britain’s central bank has been widely tipped to raise interest rates for the first time in a decade, but doing so could rattle consumer confidence at a time of Brexit-induced uncertainty. Not doing so, however, could damage its credibility in the markets. POLITICO’s Cat Contiguglia reports on the bank’s balancing act.

U.K. households £600 worse off because of Brexit: The National Institute for Economic and Social Research says an economic slowdown and fall in living standards in the U.K. are directly attributable to Brexit.

David Davis says Brexit withdrawal agreement will probably favor EU: The U.K.’s Brexit Secretary admitted Tuesday that while Brussels stood to benefit at this stage, the second phase of talks — on the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU — would “favor both sides.”

The bright side: Brexit, the job creation scheme. Davis told Cabinet Tuesday that nearly 3,000 new Brexit-related jobs (including for 300 lawyers) were created across the government to aid the country’s preparations for leaving the European Union.

Trade talks are the real challenge: Anand Menon, director of the U.K. in a Changing Europe, argues the first phase of negotiations is in fact the easiest, with talks on trade likely to be more difficult, painful and long-winded.


NEW EUROJUST PRESIDENT: Ladislav Hamran, a Slovenian corruption investigator, has been elected president of Eurojust, the EU agency coordinating national judicial activities, replacing Michèle Coninsx.