02-02-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

02-02-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Friday, February 2, 2018

Ind’p Parliament Budget Office: Market exit does not mean end to creditors’ supervision

The last report by Parliament’s independent Budget Office, under outgoing head Panayiotis Liargovas, again expresses heightened concerns and caution over looming economic developments in the still bailout-dependent country, warning that “a market exit does not mean an end to (creditors’) supervision, nor an end to austerity.”


IMF spox reiterates that debt relief a necessary condition for participation in any Greek program

A deputy IMF spokesman on Thursday stressed that the Fund continues to insist on reforms and debt relief as conditions for its participation in the Greek program.


Skopje officials will not compromise ‘Macedonian’ nationality

The national identity of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s inhabitants is threatening to become a stumbling block in the negotiations between Athens and Skopje to resolve their decades-old name dispute, as suggested on Thursday in the comments made by FYROM’s leadership.


Erdogan aide threats ‘alien to European political culture,’ Athens says

The Foreign Ministry has condemned the violent threats issued this week by a senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, his ministers and other Greek officials, as “unspeakable” and “alien to European political culture.”


Police in Athens plan large-scale operation for Sunday’s ‘Macedonia’ rally

The Greek Police are planning a large-scale operation for Sunday when a rally protesting the use of the term Macedonia in a solution to a longstanding dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the latter’s name is expected to draw a large crowd with a counter-rally by anarchists expected to provoke some unrest.


Taxpayers unable to pay dues

Taxpayers’ total overdue debts to the state soared to a record 101.8 billion euros at the end of December, in a clear indication that society’s taxpaying capacity is at breaking point due to overtaxation.


ATHEX: Volatile session ends with rise

The benchmark of the Greek bourse yo-yoed on Thursday, with early gains wiped out before the closing auctions saw a fresh surge, taking the main index – and the majority of local stocks – higher on increased turnover.







KATHIMERINI: The ‘Macedonian identity’ becomes a new obstacle for the solution of the name dispute between Athens and Skopje

ETHNOS: Unemployment allowance for unpaid employees

TA NEA: Provocative statements by FYROM official turn the heat on for the upcoming rally in Athens

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The organizers of the rally on the ‘Macedonian issue’ want to fight the ‘inner enemy’

AVGI: ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the solution of the name dispute with FYROM

RIZOSPASTIS: The ‘next day’ plan has the signature of capitalists

KONTRA NEWS: Turkey is threatening to… break our legs if we set foot on the Imia islets

DIMOKRATIA: Skopje officials and UN mediator Nimetz show huge grit

NAFTEMPORIKI: Debts owed to the state and social security contributions become a double ‘noose’ for the economy

TOP TALKER — MARTIN SELMAYR SKEWERED AS EURO-BARBIE IN NEW PROFILE: Describing him as “slightly overweight” with “an unchanging doll face,” French journalistic heavyweight Jean Quatremer lays into the “sharp and manipulative character” of Martin Selmayr, Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief of staff, for Libération.

The resistance: “The chiefs of staff of the other commissioners are so scared of him that they have made the habit of meeting regularly to discuss his psychology and to organize how to resist him, prevent his fads, parry his blows,” according to a senior official.

A tough boss: “Humiliating, insulting, authoritarian, not hiding his contempt for the mediocre,” says one chief of staff. Playbook recalls a Hungarian official referring to Selmayr as running the “Ho Chi Minh school of management” — yet others appreciate the direct approach and loyalty he offers.

Not a Montessori school: While Selmayr insists his “brutality is much exaggerated,” he did “acknowledge that [he] was not tender” with the head of Vice President Jyrki Katainen’s team, Juho Romakkaniemi, who will soon leave the Commission to head up the Finnish business association, adding “the Commission is not a Montessori school.”


COMMISSION — OETTINGER, THYSSEN IN BUDAPEST FOR V4+4 MEETING: Commissioners Günther Oettinger and Marianne Thyssen are in Hungary to continue post-2020 EU budget talks with the Visegrád Group and its neighbors Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia. The commissioners will flesh out their positions on regional subsidies and the architecture of the European social fund.

Visegrád youth: Only a third of young people in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia see themselves as “part of the West,” while in Hungary just over half see themselves that way, according to a study by the GLOBSEC think tank.

COMMISSION — EU AND MERCOSUR CHIEF NEGOTIATORS MEET TODAY AT 10 AM: The meeting comes after EU commissioners signaled their readiness to present an improved offer on agriculture — beef, in particular. Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström last week told reporters that the window for finishing the EU-Mercosur deal is closing soon because of elections across South America.

PARLIAMENT — MACRON’S VISION FOR TRANSNATIONAL VOTING CONSTITUENCIES HITS SPEED BUMP: There’s skepticism (as well as enthusiasm) about the use of a transnational list of candidates in European Parliament elections. That means the idea will likely be parked until 2024, report Maïa de La Baume and David M. Herszenhorn.

PARLIAMENT — MEPs OUTRAGED BY PITTELLA’S DEPARTURE: But they’re also unenthusiastic about his return, writes Maïa de La Baume.

PARLIAMENT — LEADERS THROW VICE PRESIDENT CZARNECKI UNDER THE BUS: The Parliament’s group leaders withdrew their support for the European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) Vice President Ryszard Czarnecki after he compared fellow Polish MEP Róża Thun to a Nazi collaborator and organized a spam campaign trying to persuade his colleagues to back him. The plenary will now vote on a proposal to shunt him out of the role next week in Strasbourg. The decision “is not aimed at Poland or the ECR political group” but “simply expresses the opinion of the political leaders that Mr. Czarnecki should no longer represent them,” the lawmakers said in a statement. Full details.

COUNCIL — FULL HOUSE FOR BULGARIAN PRESIDENCY OPENING CONCERT: The event took place at BOZAR and starred renowned soprano Sonya Yoncheva, the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra and Vania Moneva choir. Playbook readers at the concert left smiling.

COUNCIL — TUSK’S MILLION-STRONG TWITTER ARMY: Who wants to be Donald Tusk’s Twitter millionaire follower? Get in quick.

EUROGROUP — CENTENO CLEARED IN PORTUGUESE INVESTIGATION: Portuguese prosecutors have ended an investigation into the country’s finance minister, Mário Centeno, who had come under suspicion that he gave tax breaks in exchange for football tickets last year.

EU BUDGET — BREXIT PUTS EU SACRED COWS ON A DIET: The European Investment Bank and European Court of Auditors lined up Thursday to tell officials in national capitals and Brussels that, thanks to Brexit, it is time for the EU to go on a budget diet. National contributions may rise, but given the hole left by Brexit, the overall budget will not, Klaus-Heiner Lehne, president of the European Court of Auditors (ECA), told Playbook. Lehne’s assessment is based on what he calls “permanent contact” with European Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who wants to present a lean budget proposal in May. “He will not slaughter holy cows” — like the EU’s direct payments to farmers and its €70-billion a year system of subsidies to poorer regions — “but he will set them on a diet,” Lehne said.

Alexander Stubb, the former PM of Finland and current EIB vice president, said the EU would not be able to rely on the bank “being the last one standing at the bar” to pay for the hole left in the EU budget by Brexit. Full story here.

COMMITTEE OF REGIONS — HIGHLIGHTS FROM THIS WEEK’S PLENARY: António Costa, a former member of the committee when mayor of Lisbon, joined the EU’s regional assembly Monday. Costa backed the Cohesion Alliance, which seeks to maintain the basic nature, shape and importance of cohesion policy while modernizing it. Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans railed against Catalan independence activists who “instrumentalize Europe to change constitutional arrangements in member states,” which he said was a “sterile and destructive approach to European integration.”

The Committee is willing to take the European Commission to court if it tries to shift funds traditionally earmarked for regional development towards national reforms. It also urged that Poland’s local and regional governments not be punished because of the national government’s fights with Brussels.


DATA PRIVACY, THE EU’S NEXT EXPORT: When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into force in May, it will represent the biggest overhaul of privacy rules in more than 20 years, with global implications. For politicians outside the EU, there’s a stark choice: bring domestic laws in line with the EU, or risk being shut out of a market of 500 million well-heeled consumers. “Data protection is a good example of Europe trying to extend its influence over other countries,” Christopher Kuner, co-chair of the Brussels Privacy Hub at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, told POLITICO’s Mark Scott. “Call it the ‘Brussels effect.’” 


GREECE — POST-BAILOUT DREAMS: TA NEA’s Maria Vasileiou has a story on how Declan Costello, who leads the European Commission’s Greece bailout taskforce, aims to “establish a robust post-program framework to ensure sustained delivery of reforms,” according to his testimony before the Dutch parliament’s finance committee. It is the first time an official has given a picture of what Greece’s post-bailout future will look like.

Playbook hears: Costello plans to bring a group of journalists to Greece next week to celebrate progress towards the end of the Greek bailout. Given Greece still needs to complete its third bailout review and then undertake another 140 structural reforms in a fourth review (all before the summer), opposition figures speaking to Playbook described the Commission’s optimism as “suicidal.”

The Greek government and Commission can take comfort from outgoing Euro Working Group chief Thomas Wieser, who told Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung that the current left-led government has done more to embrace economic reforms than its center-right and center-left predecessors.

GERMANY — GROKO OFFERS NO LOVE FOR EUROPE: There’s a lot of hope invested in Germany’s planned new coalition government, and it’s not based on much evidence. Ulrike Guérot, founder of the European Democracy Lab think tank and a professor of European politics at Austria’s Donau Universität: “It’s wishful thinking to expect a coalition that so far has been at one another’s throats will come together suddenly on a substantial European agenda.” Matthew Karnitschnig has more.

UK — MINISTER MATT HANCOCK LAUNCHES OWN FACEBOOK-STYLE APP: That’s a sentence Playbook never imagined typing. People aren’t impressedCheck it out here.

POLAND — HOLOCAUST LAW REALITY CHECK: The U.S. government has issued a stern rebuke to a Polish draft law that will make it illegal to suggest Poland was involved in the Holocaust. European Council President and former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk critically quoted the law on Twitter. 

Speech blunder: On Thursday night, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki delivered a solemn speech to the nation uploaded to YouTube, stressing that Poland respects the memory of Holocaust. The video streaming site provided subtitles. It did not go to plan. The speech is now available in English, and the subtitles appear to be turned off.

One family’s story: POLITICO’s Jan Cienski describes his own family’s story to show how some Poles helped save Jews, others betrayed them to the Germans and most did nothing.

Playbook facts of life: Anyone who has visited Auschwitz — a Nazi death camp near Krakow — knows that building it was an elaborate operation, and its setting necessitates that thousands of Poles and Germans imported to live there must have been aware that tens of thousands arrived but never left. There is a lot of black and many shades of gray surrounding Auschwitz and other concentrations camps. There’s not a lot of white, whatever Poland’s draft law might say.

CZECH REPUBLIC — ZEMAN AND BACKERS ACCUSED OF DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN: The Prague-based European Values think tank has a new “Kremlin Watch” report on the 2018 Czech presidential election. Markéta Krejčí, Veronika Víchová,and Jakub Janda say a “massive disinformation campaign was orchestrated by the pro-Zeman and pro-Kremlin” community in order to demobilize voters who would have voted for Zeman’s opponent Jiří Drahoš.

SPAIN — 5 JOBS FOR CARLES PUIGDEMONT: POLITICO’s Paul Dallison and Ivo Oliveira have a few ideas for what might come next for the former Catalan president.


SOUTH KOREA AND CHILE AMONG COUNTRIES OBJECTING TO UK TARIFF TRANSITION: Key global trade partners want concessions from Britain if the U.K. is to retain the same benefits it currently enjoys under EU trade deals during a post-Brexit transition period. David Davis is blasé about the risk, but EU Brexit negotiator Sabine Weyand told an internal EU meeting Thursday that South Korea and Chile have already raised objections. Australian diplomats are also willing to challenge the U.K.’s assumptions. The full story here for POLITICO Trade and Brexit Pros.

UK WEIGHING CUSTOMS UNION DEAL: The FT reports: “Theresa May’s Brexit advisers are secretly considering whether Britain could strike a customs union deal covering trade in goods with the EU, a move that would severely limit the U.K.’s ability to strike out on its own. Senior British officials argue that such a step would limit a loss of trade with Europe after Brexit, help address concerns about the north-south Irish border, and reduce the need for complex new customs procedures.”

More from Alexander Stubb and Klaus-Heiner Lehne …

Brexit negotiation advice: “Be rational and calm,” Stubb said, on how to repeat in overall negotiations the clean U.K. EIB exit deal reached in December. Stubb praised U.K. negotiator Alex Ellis.

Meet the UK’s favorite European court: ECA President Lehne said Brexit would tie the court up for years, but he’s optimistic. “Even after the transition period, probably for two or three years there will be projects to be executed and we will be in charge of auditing them,” Lehne said.


CHINA’S INVESTMENT MACHINE: Measured by total assets, HNA outstrips Alphabet, Amazon.com and Comcast.


ARE YOU PAID ENOUGH? With an estimated 25,000 lobbyists in Brussels, the corporate affairs market is one of the world’s largest and one of Brussels’ biggest sectors — and best paid, according to recruitment agency Ellwood Atfield, which is publishing a report based on a survey of over 300 staff working in the field. Nearly all heads of EU affairs are paid more than €100,000, with the average annual salary coming in at €142,000. Twenty percent earn above €200,000 and the top players in excess of €400,000. Bear in mind that — unlike EU officials — these folk tend to pay at least a third and often more than half those sums in tax and social insurance. The next level down, EU public affairs directors, are paid on average €128,800. Senior public affairs managers — those reporting to directors — are paid on average €90,000, and  corporate affairs managers are paid on average €61,700.