03-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

03-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Monday, September 03, 2018

Greek PM set to announce handouts

Aiming to push the narrative that a new post-bailout era has indeed dawned for the country, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to announce handouts and tax cuts worth more than a billion euros in his keynote speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232215/article/ekathimerini/news/greek-pm-set-to-announce-handouts

Eurozone pours cold water on pension cut talk

The eurozone tried on Friday to contain Greek government rhetoric on suspending upcoming pension cuts, saying that any discussions on that matter are premature, and sending a clear message that Athens should not reverse reforms, particularly in the field of labor.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232192/article/ekathimerini/business/eurozone-pours-cold-water-on-pension-cut-talk

FyRoM FM optimistc ‘name issue’ agreement will be approved in a referendum

The foreign minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fyrom) appeared optimistic over the weekend that a majority of voters in his country will ultimately approve a bilateral agreement to finally resolve the “name issue” preventing a full normalization of relations with Greece – and blocking fyrom’s Euro-Atlantic prospects as well.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1387158/fyrom-fm-optimistc-name-issue-agreement-will-be-approved-in-a-referendum

Greece a haven for Turkish criminals, Ankara says

Greece has become a “safe haven” for Turkish criminals like the eight servicemen that fled to Greece after the botched coup in 2016, according to the country’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglou.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232203/article/ekathimerini/news/greece-a-haven-for-turkish-criminals-ankara-says

Floros heading back to prison after Friday night arrest

An emergency council of appeals court judges in the Evia town of Halkida ordered the arrest late on Friday night of jailed embezzler Aristides Floros after a summons from a Supreme Court prosecutor in Athens calling for a complete re-examination of the medical documentation the convict submitted to secure his release just 36 months into his 21-year sentence.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232202/article/ekathimerini/news/floros-heading-back-to-prison-after-friday-night-arrest

Greek June retail sales rise 1.8 pct, led by house apparel

Greek retail sales by volume rose 1.8 percent in June compared to the same month last year after a downwardly revised 4.2 percent increase in May, statistics service ELSTAT said on Friday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232170/article/ekathimerini/business/greek-june-retail-sales-rise-18-pct-led-by-house-apparel

ATHEX: August closes with 4.1 pct loss for bourse

August ended with losses of 4.15 percent for the Greek stock market’s benchmark, while banks fell over 14 percent, as Friday saw another session of decline albeit with the highest turnover of the last three months, mainly thanks to the rebalancing of the MSCI index.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232186/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-august-closes-with-41-pct-loss-for-bourse

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SUNDAY PAPERS

KATHIMERINI: We are paying too much for children’s education

TO VIMA: Last throw of the dices with cheap tricks

REAL NEWS: Servicemen that were captured in Turkey: “This was our mistake”

PROTO THEMA: Even houses worth less than 100,000 Euros are going to be auctioned

AVGI: Ruling party SYRIZA secretary, Panos Skourletis: “Collaboration with neighboring political parties under specific terms and prerequisites”

MONDAY PAPERS:

ETHNOS: Burdens for businessmen are going to be reduced by 25%

TA NEA: New wave of retrospective payments

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Hard rock for Floros

KONTRA NEWS: Businessmen, bankers and kickbacks-receiving politicians involved in big scandals are going to be called for interrogation

DIMOKRATIA: Andreas Papandreou is still leading SYRIZA and PASOK who both claim a heritage of corruption

NAFTEMPORIKI: The points of disagreement regarding labor issues

GOOD MONDAY MORNING. Summer was still in full bloom in Brussels this weekend. But while at least one passionate weather forecaster (the man who runs the grocery down the street) argues the heat and sun is here to stay, meteorologists tell us the rain is coming home today. But here’s some good news: In the future, summer will be endless. Jean-Claude Juncker promised it would be so.

The European Commission will propose handing control over time to EU countries, many of which want daylight savings time to be permanent, Juncker told German broadcaster ZDF. “The people want it, we do it,” he pledged.

Reactions were … interesting. It was wall-to-wall whataboutism from the commentariat, with pundits from all corners questioning whether the Commission hasn’t got anything better to do than to deregulate a (slight, for most people) bi-annual annoyance. Shouldn’t it be saving the world instead?

Next step: Expect a legislative proposal that will roughly coincide with Juncker’s State of the Union speech in Strasbourg next week, according to EU officials. What’s with the remarkably quick turnaround time? Well, let’s just say it isn’t that hard to scrap legislation that consists of a few paragraphs that say when the clocks are put back and forward.

LE PERSONNEL 

WEBER’S STAGE WIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her blessing to Manfred Weber to enter the race for the European People’s Party Spitzenkandidat, putting the EPP group leader in pole position to become its top candidate for the Commission presidency. Nominations open on Thursday, and Weber is expected to declare his run this week, according to EPP officials. But if Weber does emerge victorious as the EPP’s Spitzenkandidat, does that mean he’ll be the next Commission president? Let’s explore.

Weber’s friends: Weber does have his backers among the younger generation of national EPP leaders — think Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and others like Taoiseach Leo Varadkar — and in the conservative wing of the EPP — Kurz again, and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. (The latter’s chief of staff said Weber would be an acceptable choice as he was “able to keep the party together in a difficult situation and was always a good negotiating partner.”) And there are plenty who say a Parliament group leader, even one who has never been a prime minister, can run the Commission — proponents of that theory include Kurz again and EU budget chief Günther Oettinger, who said as much in a Playbook interview last week.

Not so fast: It’s a long way to that hallowed office on the Berlaymont’s 13th floor. For Weber to become the next Commission president, the EPP would have to win the 2019 European Parliament election and build a majority in the chamber. Someone will then need to broker a majority in the European Council for Weber. Reminder: Merkel backed Weber for the EPP’s Spitzenkandidaten race, but not necessarily for the Commission presidency. (“Merkel is okay with Weber” as a Spitzenkandidat but “without any guarantee for him to become Commission president,” according to a senior official in her CDU. That’s a sign she wants to keep her options open.)

What about Altmaier? Remember when reports emerged that Merkel wanted a German at the helm of the EU’s executive, with Economic Affairs Minister Peter Altmaier cited as her favorite? That was only a week before she appeared to back Weber. Don’t forget, in 2014, Merkel underestimated the momentum of the Spitzenkandidaten process and was forced to abide by it when a stable majority of EPP and Social Democrats emerged the evening of the EU election. The question is, has she learnt her lesson? Because it’s hard to imagine that post-election, MEPs will accept yet another German conservative (that’d be Altmaier), rather than the one who wins the Spitzenkandidaten race (if we assume it’s Weber).

Talking Spitzen: Juncker will be in Berlin on Tuesday to see Merkel. And while there’s plenty to talk about (she could brief him on her recent trip to Africa; he could bend her ear about daylight savings time), I’d put money on them talking about this very matter. Officially, of course, their lunch is part of Juncker’s State of the Union prep tour.

Now read this: Ryan Heath explores how the Liberals may seek to deploy French President Emmanuel Macron to torpedo an EPP Commission president (or at least extract valuable concessions in exchange for their support). And then there’s the risk Parliament’s combined Euroskeptic forces manage to unite behind a single Spitzenkandidat or under one political umbrella to challenge the EPP for first place in the chamber.

BREXIT LAND 

NEWSPAPER DUEL: British Prime Minister Theresa May returned after the summer break with a column in the Sunday Telegraph pledging “not be pushed into accepting compromises on the Chequers proposals,” which sounds very firm until you read the caveat, “that are not in our national interest.”

DD’s revenge: David Davis, the U.K.’s former Brexit minister, called the PM’s fudge an “incredible open sesame” to further concessions on the Andrew Marr show. Davis confirmed he will vote against any Brexit deal founded on May’s Chequers proposals. The plan, which would see the U.K. bound to much of the EU rulebook, was “almost worse than being in,” Davis said.

BoJo’s revenge: Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson uses his weekly Telegraph column to blast Theresa May’s Brexit strategy. “We will remain in the EU taxi; but this time locked in the boot, with absolutely no say on the destination,” Johnson writes. He claims the Irish border issue is “fixable” and concludes: “The scandal is not that we have failed, but that we have not even tried.” Read it as a pitch for May’s job.

NO CHERRY PICKING: Meanwhile, Michel Barnier confirmed in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that the any warm words over the past few days about a special or unprecedented deal for Britain were just that … words. The EU opposes the Chequers proposal; that was true before the summer, and it’s true now. Barnier warned accepting May’s plan could be “the end of the single market and the European project.” Brexit talks don’t need more time, Banier said, what they need is for the U.K. to make “political decisions.”

That old dilemma: May’s party doesn’t want it to look like the U.K. is giving all the ground while the EU doesn’t move an inch from its initial position that cherry picking is forbidden. Which leaves plenty of space for the British parliament to become a key player in the months to come.

BEYOND BREXIT LAND: London Playbook’s Jack Blanchard went on tour around England and Scotland over the summer. This unmissable long read weaves together the trip to Brexit-supporting Lincolnshire, inner-city Birmingham, Edinburgh’s annual arts and comedy festival, the remote Isle of Bute in Scotland, the rugby-mad, former coalfield town of Wigan, a housing crisis in Manchester and the mountains of Cumbria.

ELSEWHERE 

THAT STRANGE COUNTRY: On Saturday, about 11,000 people (8,000 right-wing and far-right protestors and about 3,000 anti-Nazis, according to police estimates) took to the streets of Chemnitz again. Eighteen people were injured, including a TV reporter who was thrown down a flight of stairs. “What the past week reveals is the degree to which the refugee influx since 2015 continues to dominate the country’s politics and fuel support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD),” writes Matthew Karnitschnig from Berlin. “The pictures of marauding neo-Nazis in Chemnitz suggest the German government has largely failed to keep the violent extreme right in check, despite decades of trying.”

Why is this happening? Well, it’s not the economy, stupid. Matthew writes: “By all rights, Germany should be celebrating a golden era. Unemployment is the lowest it’s been since reunification amid robust economic growth. The country’s public debt is on course to fall below 60 percent of gross domestic product this year, meaning Berlin will fulfill the Maastricht criteria for the first time in almost 20 years.” Read his story here.

Meanwhile, Qatar is planning to invest billions more in German companiesHandelsblatt reports today. Finance Minister Ali Sharif al-Emadi told the paper in an interview that he’ll announce “new, large investments” on Friday when he meets with Angela Merkel in Berlin. “We view Germany as a crucial player in the global economy and are very optimistic about the German market,” he said. Qatar already owns stakes in VW, Deutsche Bank, Siemens, Hochtief and Solarworld.

KACZYNSKI SAYS POLAND MUST AVOID EU’S ‘SOCIAL DISEASES’: While Poland must remain in the EU to uphold economic standards, it shouldn’t bend to the Union on family values, ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jarosław Kaczyński said at a party convention on Sunday. EU membership was “the shortest way for Poland to achieve parity when it comes to living standards” with its western allies, he said, “but that doesn’t mean we should repeat the mistakes of the West and become infected with social diseases that dominate there.” Reuters has the write-up.

FIXING FACEBOOK: Facebook’s struggles in conflict countries are the result of its business model and highlight the limitations of applying tech solutions to societal problems, write Democracy Reporting International’s Ray Serrato and Michael Meyer-Resende in an op-ed for POLITICO. “Nowhere is this more apparent than in Myanmar, where the company’s systems miss thousands of posts that incite violence against the Rohingya community.”