03-08-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

03-08-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Thursday, August 3, 2017

School flag-bearers will be chosen by lot, rather than achievement

The government has scrapped a long tradition of honoring top pupils by selecting them to carry the national flag in school parades. From now on flag-bearers will be chosen by lot. Opposition parties criticized this as part of the SYRIZA party’s assault on excellence.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/220614/article/ekathimerini/news/school-flag-bearers-will-be-chosen-by-lot-rather-than-achievement

Commission voices concern over conviction of former Greek data chief

The case of Greece’s ex-statistics chief who was found guilty of a breach of National Statistic Authority (ELSTAT) regulations duty will be examined by European Union member-states at the next Eurogroup, a European Commission spokeswoman responsible for economic affairs said Wednesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/220598/article/ekathimerini/news/commission-voices-concern-over-conviction-of-former-greek-data-chief

Εurobarometer: Greeks most pessimistic in EU

The latest Εuroarometer results gauging public opinion in the European Union – as late as last spring – shows Greek respondents as the most pessimistic in the Union (69 percent), whereas the majority of respondents (in 24 EU member-states) are optimistic over the future of the Union.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1264174/eurobarometer-greeks-most-pessimistic-in-eu

DESFA bids of 400 mln or over, minister says

Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis has given candidate buyers of gas grid operator DESFA a 400-million-euro bar to clear ahead of next Monday’s submission of non-binding bids.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/220618/article/ekathimerini/business/desfa-bids-of-400-mln-or-over-minister-says 

Debts to taxpayers, state suppliers continued to grow in June

State debts continued to pile up in June, as another net 67 million euros was added to the 5.067 billion euros run up over the first five months of the year, for a total of 5.134 billion added to the huge mountain of state arrears this year, according to data published on Wednesday by the State General Accounting Office.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/220619/article/ekathimerini/business/debts-to-taxpayers-state-suppliers-continued-to-grow-in-june

Four new projects to obtain fast-track status

Four investment projects are expected to be granted fast-track status – offering them rapid licensing – at Friday’s meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Strategic Investments.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/220621/article/ekathimerini/business/four-new-projects-to-obtain-fast-track-status

Four bidders expected for Athens metro project, source says

Four bidders are expected to show interest in Greece’s tender to build a 1.45 billion euro ($1.72 billion) project to expand the Athens metro, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/220595/article/ekathimerini/business/four-bidders-expected-for-athens-metro-project-source-says

OTE Telecom posts 1 pct rise in Q2 core profit

Greece’s biggest telecoms operator OTE posted on Thursday a 1 percent rise in second-quarter core profit, helped by growing mobile business at home for the first quarter in five years.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/220624/article/ekathimerini/business/ote-telecom-posts-1-pct-rise-in-q2-core-profit

ATHEX: Benchmark, banks post healthy gains

The signs during the second day of August trading at the Greek bourse were very encouraging, despite the drop in turnover, as the reduced number of investors still searching for some midsummer profits at Athinon Avenue appear convinced things are looking up in the market after a period of decline in previous weeks.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/220617/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-benchmark-banks-post-healthy-gains

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KATHIMERINI: Excellence in schools will not be rewarded any more

TA NEA: Venezuelan model for oil reserves. Government plan for the establishment of a national company that will participate in tenders regarding drilling for hydrocarbons

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The flag-bearers of populism

AVGI: [Main opposition conservative party] New Democracy at the service of healthcare contractors

RIZOSPASTIS: Automatic adjustment mechanism for the already low-quality primary healthcare service

KONTRA NEWS: Banks are killing our houses, hotels and factories

TO PONTIKI: The creditors intervene in the work of justice

DIMOKRATIA: Lottery for the flag

NAFTEMPORIKI: The platform for out-of-court settlements debuts today

EXCLUSIVE — JUNCKER’S SUMMER MUSINGS …

POLITICO’s Florian Eder sat down with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker — still at work in early August in his Berlaymont office — for an exit interview before he left for his summer break. Florian found the Commission president upbeat and ready for a fight when he returns for his 2017 State of the European Union address in September.

On Brexit: Juncker spends more than the 30 minutes a week on Brexit suggested by Martin Selmayr, his chief-of-staff, and isn’t betting on a British reversal of course. “My working hypothesis is that it will come to Brexit.”

On America’s Russia sanctions: Juncker said the EU was prepared to “launch counter measures within days” if European companies were affected by the new sanctions. Now that U.S. President Donald Trump has signed the bill sent to him by Congress, the clock is ticking.

On Trump’s White House: “It is stunning.”

On Poland and Hungary: “I’ve got a caring relationship with [Prime Minister Viktor] Orbán. We talk regularly, I see him regularly — even if it’s not always made public — because I think I do not want to lose Hungary.” He didn’t make the same pledge about Poland.

On Turkey: “Turkey is our neighbor, we can’t simply let it slip into oblivion,” Juncker said. “I am not in favor of ending the accession talks with Turkey, which is a demand from the European Parliament.”

On Greece: Grexit is “definitely off the table” and Juncker is “very happy with what we did” in 2015 to keep Greece in the eurozone with a third bailout.

Read the full interview here.

EEAS — MOGHERINI SETS OUT EU POSITION ON VENEZUELA: In a written statement, EU Foreign Policy High Representative Federica Mogherini expressed “deep regret” that Venezuela’s election took place amid violence. “The European Union and its member states therefore cannot recognize the Constituent Assembly … In particular, the effective installation of the Constituent Assembly should be suspended and the attributions of all institutions foreseen by the constitution should be explicitly recognized. Further confidence-building measures, such as the release of all jailed political opponents, are also needed.” The European Commission is considering a “whole range of actions” against Venezuela.

COUNCIL — WHERE THERE’S A MOTTO, THERE’S A WAY: Under pressure to get organized faster, the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU announced its motto is “United We Stand Strong.” The Bulgarian presidency begins in January.

COUNCIL BY THE NUMBERS — MOST TALKED ABOUT TOPICS AT 2016 EU SUMMITS.

EUROPEANS (EXCEPT BRITS) MORE OPTIMISTIC THIS YEAR: A survey of over 33,000 people across Europe suggests overall trust in Brussels is on the rise, and 60 percent of those polled identify as EU citizens, reports Cynthia Kroet.

HEALTH — CONTAMINATED EGGS FROM HUNDREDS OF FARMS: Authorities in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany are grappling with a snowballing health scare after fipronil, a highly restricted insecticide used to kill fleas and ticks, was found in eggs from hundreds of farms. Authorities have ordered 200 farms in the Netherlands to close for tests. POLITICO Pro Health Care and Agriculture and Food subscribers can read more here.

MIGRATION — WHY ARE NUMBERS STABLE? Most experts and governments expected increasing numbers of arrivals in Europe via the so-called Central Mediterranean route. Aside from a flood of Bangladeshi citizens apparently flying into Libya and then getting on rubber boats bound for Europe, the predicted rise is not happening. The million-euro question is around why the stable numbers defied predictions. Catch up on why so many are coming from Bangladesh.

Italian police seize German migrant rescue boat, days after Rome asked NGOs to sign up to a code of conduct in a bid to reduce the number of migrants trying to reach Italy. The NGO is accused of taking migrants onboard directly from people smugglers’ boats.

Did you know? Biggest summer migration route is Spain to North Africa: The Local with an important and surprising set of numbers. h/t Carmen Paun.

BREXIT CORNER …

Brussels fears British chaos is part of a cunning plan: Is Britain’s strategy to pretend not to have a strategy? Diplomats in Brussels who know British negotiators to be canny and usually top-of-the-class can’t believe the U.K.’s surface-level aimlessness is the full story. “In September they’re going to swamp us with [position] papers on the fault lines — exactly the issues where they know we [the EU27 countries] are divided,” predicted an EU diplomat. Jakob Hanke and David Herszenhorn have the full story.

Whitehall flexes its Brexit muscles: U.K. Brexit policy is no longer being issued by decree from No. 10 Downing Street, report Charlie Cooper and Annabelle Dickson.

Britain to create post-Brexit group to handle trade disputes, a job advertisement indicates.

Brexit and Erasmus, what’s next for the popular student exchange program, by Professor Paul James Cardwell.

When border security is trumped by upset holidaying constituents: U.K. Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke complained on Twitter Wednesday (linking to this Daily Mail article) that “bizarre EU rules” recently introduced to toughen up Schengen zone border checks were making life difficult for British holidaymakers. That’s the same set of rules Conservative PM and former U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May called for in 2015 as a means of securing the EU’s borders and preventing terror attacks. Read the Council of the EU conclusions in which ministers, including May, called for tougher Schengen checks here.

UK-EU flights face serious disruption, according to Ryanair’s combative CEO Michael O’Leary.

NATO — ROMANIA APPROVES NEW DEFENSE SPENDING INCREASES: Romania’s Supreme Defense Council agreed to spend €9.8 billion to upgrade the country’s military from 2017-2026, which would put it over the 2 percent GDP defense spending target agreed by NATO members. The White House was quick to issue a statement on the matter labeled “getting results,” a reference to U.S. President Donald Trump pressuring NATO members to hit the target.

GERMANY — CARMAKERS GET MOST OF WHAT THEY WANTED FROM DIESEL SUMMIT: Wednesday was an okay day for German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, but a better one for Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt, from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s sister party CSU. Carmakers pledged to cut emissions by paying for software upgrades in more than 5 million diesel cars. But “in the end, Germany’s car industry got what it wanted,” concluded POLITICO’s Janosch Delcker and Joshua Posaner.

Playbook fact check: “In very concrete terms, we’re claiming our responsibility,” said Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen. But VW has very concretely avoided responsibility in Europe until now, despite pledging billions in compensation to U.S. customers.

GREECE OPINION — BY CONVICTING AN HONEST POLITICIAN GREECE CONDEMNS ITSELF: The prosecution of Greece’s former top statistician Andreas Georgiou — who told Europe the truth about Greece’s finances — raises questions about the integrity of the country’s institutions, writes Megan Greene. “On Tuesday, Georgiou was handed a two-year suspended sentence for ‘breach of duty’ during his stint at the head of the statistics agency, Elstat — a travesty that goes beyond the unfair treatment of one statistician to questions about the progress of Greece’s economic recovery and the sustainability of the eurozone.”

POLAND OPINION — EU’S ONLY WAY TO PRESSURE POLAND IS TO CUT FUNDS: Israel Butler makes the case for why it’s legal and would be effective, here.

SLOVENIA — TRUMP TO NOMINATE KELLY ROBERTS AS AMBASSADOR: Yashar Ali had the scoop on how the president picked an ambassador to his wife Melania’s homeland before nominating one to the EU, and the role Melania played in the selection. Kelly Roberts is a hotel owner and comes from a family of reality TV stars who invented the frozen burrito.

BALKANS — PENCE SAYS ‘FUTURE IS WITH THE WEST’: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday the future of the Western Balkans lies “in the West.” Pence was in Podgorica, Montenegro to deliver a speech at the Adriatic Charter Summit. He reiterated Washington’s commitment to the region and said Balkan states must be “resolute and uncompromising” toward Russia, which he called “an unpredictable country that casts a shadow from the East.”

MOLDOVA — RUSSIAN DEPUTY PM ‘PERSONA NON GRATA’: Only days after Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin attempted to fly to the disputed Moldovan territory of Transdniestria across Romanian airspace, Chișinău’s pro-Western government declared him “persona non grata.” In response, Russia’s foreign ministry said: “Such precarious actions may have a serious destabilizing effect on the general situation in the region and in Europe as a whole.”

NEW RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION TRACKING TOOL: The Hamilton 68 dashboard, an Alliance for Securing Democracy project at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, “seeks to expose the effects of online influence networks and inform the public of themes and content” promoted by Russia. The alliance is headed up by former Clinton campaign adviser Laura Rosenberger and former Senator Marco Rubio’s adviser Jamie Fly.

TRUMP WORLD …

An oral history of the Scaramucci era: There could hardly by any other type. By Washington Post’s Monica Hesse, Ben Terris and Dan Zak.

John Kelly cracks down on West Wing back channels to Trump: New White House chief of staff John Kelly told senior White House staff that information needed to flow through him — whether on paper or in briefings — because the president would make better decisions if given good information.

Kelly assured Jeff Sessions his job is safe.

EXPAT LIFE: Everything you ever wanted to know about the globally mobile and what they think about themselves. Most surprising: Only 33 percent of expats are satisfied with their current financial situation, with a lack of certainty regarding health care the biggest concern.

ROYAL RETIREMENT: Outspoken Prince Philip bowed out of public life Wednesday.

SUMMER READ — STREET-FIGHTING, MAN! Renaming streets can annoy your rivals. Case in point: The Chinese government is said to be terrified the street on which its Washington embassy is housed could be renamed after Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Perhaps the EU and U.K. should give this sort of passive aggressive street-naming a go, suggests Paul Dallison.