04-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

04-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Monday, September 4, 2017

Tsipras pens ‘Was Andreas (Papandreou) a liar?, sparks shrill political reactions

Leftist Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras picked the Sunday anniversary of the establishment of one of his political adversaries to shake up the usually languid end-of-summer political landscape in the country, penning an opinion piece entitled “Was Andreas a liar?”

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1272612/tsipras-pens-was-andreas-papandreou-a-liar-sparks-shrill-political-reactions

BoG Gov Stournaras: IMF should leave Greek bailout program if it wants

Greece’s influential central banker was quoted on Sunday as saying that the IMF should not be persuaded otherwise if it wants to exit the Greek program, fueling speculation ahead of negotiations aimed to conclude the third review of the ongoing bailout.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1272605/bog-gov-stournaras-imf-should-leave-greek-bailout-program-if-it-wants

Labor market liberalization in Greece again to come under scrutiny by creditors

A closely watched agenda of issues in upcoming negotiations to conclude the third review of the Greek bailout program will be labor market reforms, given the political “sensitivity” entailed for the embattled leftist-rightist coalition government and the insistence of creditors – especially the IMF – to push through liberalization as an ingredient for jump-starting the country.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1272613/labor-market-liberalization-in-greece-again-to-come-under-scrutiny-by-creditors

Euro Working Group meets Monday after summer recess

The Euro Working Group will convene for the first time after the summer recess Monday, ahead of the third review of Greece’s third bailout and amid concerns about the road ahead, as the negotiations in the coming months are expected to be difficult.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221349/article/ekathimerini/business/euro-working-group-meets-monday-after-summer-recess

Greek GDP growth at 0.8% in Q2 2017

Greece’s independent statistics bureau on Friday announced that provisional data showed the country’s GDP up by 0.8 percent (on an annual basis) in the second quarter of 2017.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1272172/greek-gdp-growth-at-08-in-q2-2017

Tax evasion burns a hole in state budget

Instead of raising state revenues, as was intended, the increased demands on self-employed professionals in terms of taxes and social security contributions have resulted in increased tax evasion, confirming the Finance Ministry’s worst fears.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221355/article/ekathimerini/business/tax-evasion-burns-a-hole-in-state-budget

ATHEX: Stock index slides 2 pct in a week

Figures showing a moderate economic recovery in the second quarter of the year didn’t make a great impression on investors at the Greek bourse on Friday, as the majority of local stocks headed south on low trading volume.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221328/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-stock-index-slides-2-pct-in-a-week

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SUNDAY PAPERS

KATHIMERINI: The government sowed taxes and reaped tax-evasion

TO VIMA: Athens is changing hands. Large supply of real estate assets and low prices attract foreign inve

REAL NEWS: Brussels react to the government’s announcements for recruitments. “You are not doing what we agreed upon”

PROTO THEMA: All houses to fall in the hands of bankers

AVGI: Minister for Education, Gavroglou: The university exams have failed

RIZOSPASTIS: Fighting response to the mockery of “fair growth”

MONDAY PAPERS

TA NEA: SYRIZA fears the rebirth of the center-Left

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Department directors are going to be responsible for the evaluation of public employees

KONTRA NEWS: Kim’s hydrogen bomb terrifies the whole planet

DIMOKRATIA: Laughing at the 3rd of September [anniversary for the establishment of center-left PASOK party]

NAFTEMPORIKI: Alert regarding state revenues

The threat of a rogue state launching hydrogen nuclear bombs attached to intercontinental ballistic missiles puts into perspective issues like EU-U.K. Brexit bill differences and which centrist parties will govern Germany. It also reminds us the EU is often a bystander on the biggest issues because it lacks fundamental tools of state: in this case an army, in other cases a treasury.

NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR TEST FALLOUT: North Korea may now have bombs eight times more powerful than that which destroyed Hiroshima. So what is Kim Jong Un trying prove? More from AP’s Eric Talmadge.

Global moves: The United Nations Security Council will meet at 3 p.m. Brussels time to discuss the nuclear test. Diplomats told Reuters reprisals could include banning certain exports, cutting off oil supplies or preventing North Koreans from working abroad (often most of their wages are paid to the state). The Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea in early July.

EU reaction: “The EU stands ready to sharpen its policy of sanctions,” said European Council President Donald Tusk. He also urged global action because “the stakes are getting too high.” Federica Mogherini, the EU’s top diplomat, said in a statement the DPRK must abandon its nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner and immediately cease all related activities.

What the world’s original 5 nuclear powers think …

United States: “They only understand one thing!” President Donald Trump said in a tweet, after last month warning that U.S. armed forces are “locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.” Trump is keeping open the option of striking North Korea while at the same time considering whether to withdraw from a free trade agreement with the South, an incoherence which may embolden Pyongyang.

China: Beijing lambasted the West and its allies over recent weeks for promoting the “China responsibility theory” for North Korea. China’s Global Times tabloid (part of the People’s Daily empire) said: “We should avoid resorting to rash and extreme means by imposing a full embargo on North Korea.”

Russia: Moscow says it has seen no positive impact from North Korea sanctions.

UK: Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday said the United Nations Security Council should urgently look at imposing new sanctions on North Korea and speed up implementation of existing ones. Boris Johnson warned “Seoul will be vaporized” if the U.S. tried to strike the North.

France: Paris, along with Germany and Italy, called Sunday for tougher international sanctions.

GERMAN ELECTION DEBATE WRAP …

This is the election that could redraw the structure of the European Union, but viewers could have been forgiven for thinking they were watching a married couple debate their weekly shopping list (with the help of four neighbors — the moderators). With only a list of minor disagreements to pick over, it wasn’t exactly a thrilling debate between the center-right Angela Merkel and center-left Martin Schulz.

No clear winner equalled success for Merkel, given her party leads by about 15 points in polls. Matthew Karnitschnig writes that Schulz is in danger of getting the boot as Social Democrat party leader if he can’t match the 25.7 percent his party achieved in the 2013 election. Relive the debate blow-by-blow via POLITICO’s live blog.

Talking Turkey: Relations with Ankara weighed heavily on the so-called TV duel, and both candidates seemed to close the door on Turkey joining the EU. “The fact is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU,” Merkel said. “I’ll speak to my [EU] colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks.”

What Germans are sharing: Their voting intentions. In normally private Germany, millions have taken a detailed survey of their policy preferences, the Wahl-O-Mat, by Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (a government agency for civic education), and published the results on their social media feeds. After completing the survey one is told which party best matches one’s views. Take it here.

Next stop: Merkel will today meet with state and city officials from the most polluted cities across Germany to figure out a way to cut urban pollution without resorting to the nuclear option of preventing diesel-powered cars from driving into city centers, report Kalina Oroschakoff  and Marion Solletty.

COUNCIL — MINISTERIAL MEETINGS THIS WEEK: Defense and foreign ministers meet in Tallinn September 7 and 8. Agriculture ministers are also in Estonia to discuss CAP reforms today.

COMMISSION — WHO IS WHERE THIS WEEK, AND WITH WHOM?

President Jean-Claude Juncker meets Luca Visentini, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis meets Klaus Regling, managing director of the European Stability Mechanism.

Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, is in Paris to meet President Emmanuel Macron.

European Commissioner for the Internal Market Elżbieta Bieńkowska is in Israel to meet Economy Minister Eli Cohen and Science Minister Ofir Akunis.

European Commissioner for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Johannes Hahn is in Tunisia.

COMMISSION — OPINION: BRUSSELS HAS A DIVERSITY PROBLEM. Amel Yacef, chair of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), writes: “If you work in the Brussels bubble, you’ll know it’s exceedingly rare to meet an EU civil servant who isn’t white. The European Commission urgently needs to take action.”

DIGITAL POLITICS — EUROPE’S OTHER HALF LIVES OFFLINE, AND THAT’S A PROBLEM FOR EVERYONE: POLITICO’s new chief technology correspondent Mark Scott writes that the EU’s digital policies suffer from an original sin. They are premised on the basis “everyone in Europe has the same online habits — and the same access to the internet,” when the EU’s own data shows that is not the case. In the case of digital Europe, averages are lies. Northern powerhouses lead the world, but in some EU countries locals must spend 8 percent of their income just to keep a mobile connection.

EU GETS ITS SOLIDARITY GROOVE BACK: Trending in Brussels: top tier EU officials touring disaster spots. Last week Carlos Moedas, the European commissioner from Portugal, toured the scene of devastating forest fires where an EU crisis center dispatched dozens of emergency vehicles. Next up is European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics in Norcia, Italy, to meet and witness the work of the first 16 of 230 European Solidarity Corps volunteers helping the earthquake-damaged town clean up and rebuild. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani will join him there for a town hall meeting with locals; more in Tuesday Playbook.

BLED STRATEGIC FORUM: Pitched as the Western Balkan version of Davos, EU and Balkan leaders are gathering in the lakeside resort of Bled in Slovenia for two days to discuss the state of the world. Today’s main panel will include Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, Angel Gurría, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and former Slovenian President Danilo Türk. Other panels will feature Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksey Yurievich Meshkov, S&D Vice President Tanja Fajon and Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó. More details here.

UK — KNIVES OUT FOR THERESA MAY: After rebels brief Tim Shipman that the prime ministers’ day are numbered, Matt Chorley reports Theresa May is using the threat of a reshuffle to bring Tory troublemakers into line.

BREXIT CORNER …

Coming to a conference room near you: the never-ending Brexit negotiation. The U.K. government has proposed extending the next round of Brexit negotiations on a rolling week-by-week basis until a breakthrough is reached on the contentious issue of Britain’s “exit bill,” according to two U.K. officials, writes Tom McTague. Expect four new position papers to be published over the next 10 days.

May to make significant Brexit bill offer: The Sunday Times splashed on Theresa May’s “£50 billion Brexit bill,” saying she has agreed it in secret and intends to confirm only after the Tory party conference in October. U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis dismissed the story.

Schmoozing today — Johnson woos Nordic, Baltic leaders: Boris Johnson, U.K. foreign secretary, hosts the foreign ministers of eight Baltic and Nordic nations for a working dinner in London tonight, with a focus on Russia’s activities in the region. He will promise Britain’s commitment to security and defense in the region won’t change after Brexit, according to Reuters. Anyone preparing their ministers for the meeting would be well-advised to share this brutal article about Johnson with their bosses: “Our foreign secretary is an international joke.” London politicos were still talking about it over the weekend, six days after publication.

Meanwhile Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, will this morning meet Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit lead, before discussing the state of negotiations with the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Professor Barnier schools Brits: “There are extremely serious consequences of leaving the single market and it hasn’t been explained to the British people. We intend to teach people … what leaving the single market means,” Barnier said Saturday.

New UK spokesperson in Brussels: Ray Tang (current head of news at the U.K.’s Department for Exiting the EU) will join the U.K. permanent representation as temporary spokesperson starting today. Playbook hears David Russell will be the longer-term replacement for Alexandra Knapton (on maternity leave) and Amanda Archer, who left Friday to join the office of Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

FRANCE — PM WANTS MORE NOT LESS REFORM: French PM Edouard Philippe said over the weekend his government will bring a new battery of reforms in 2018 to tackle long-term unemployment. Besides labor reforms presented last week, he called for “a global action … to attack unemployment from all angles: reluctance to hire in small and very small firms … but also the cost of labor.” Major overhauls would include vocational training.

And a new set of privatizations? Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire in Italy over the weekend also announced he will present a wave of privatization of French public companies “to finance innovation.” French media reports the sales could be worth €10 billion.

ITALY — THE NORTHERN LEAGUE’S TIGHTROPE WALK TO RESPECTABILITY: The Northern League wanted to break up Italy, close the border and abandon the euro. Now the party is moderating under Matteo Salvini, or at least creating that veneer. “This transformation of the Northern League is a curious chapter in the long struggle between regionalism and centralism in Italy, which goes back to its creation out of a patchwork of fiefdoms in the 19th century,” writes Naomi O’Leary.

TRUMP WORLD — THE DREAM IS OVER: President Donald Trump will end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, Eliana Johnson reports.

BRUSSELS CORNER …

NEW BRUSSELS METRO LINE DELAYED: A new line that will put Schaerbeek and Evere on the metro map is three years delayed, reports the Bulletin. Beliris, the federal body responsible for financing and carrying out the works, said the tunnel from Brussels North station to Bordet will now not be completed until 2028 instead of 2025. The southern part of the line, from Brussels North to Albert station in Forest, requires less work as it follows the existing tram lines 3 and 4, and is still due to open by 2023. Brussels Mobility Minister Pascal Smet said the delay was “unacceptable.”

NUCLEAR FALLOUT FEARS IN AACHEN: Some 500,000 residents of the German town of Aachen and its environs, near the Belgian border, will soon receive iodine tablets due to fears about one of Belgium’s creaking nuclear power stations.

Jonathan van Blaaderen is leaving the Estonian permanent representation to the EU (he’s the only non-Estonian adviser there) to join the legal service of the Council of the European Union.

APPOINTED: Jonathan Bullock has arrived at the European Parliament as a UKIP MEP to replace Roger Helmer. Dennis Radtke replaces Herbert Reul, who became the interior minister for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.