04-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

04-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Sparks over WikiLeaks release

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis  reiterated his pledge on Monday not to ratify the deal reached between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the latter’s name back in June, following the release by WikiLeaks of a cable which showed Skopje would have accepted the name “North Macedonia” in 2008 provided it included the recognition of the “Macedonian” language and nationality.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232265/article/ekathimerini/news/sparks-over-wikileaks-release

Latest ‘tug-of-war’ between creditors, Greek govt over labor reforms

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is reportedly insisting on its position on no “back-peddling” over previously implemented reforms in Greece’s labor market, liberalization that the Fund says is responsible for easing unemployment figures in the country.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1387481/latest-tug-of-war-between-creditors-greek-govt-over-labor-reforms

Dijsselbloem: EZ states made excessively high demands to Greece in return for bailout loans

Former Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem continued on a somewhat self-critical streak this week, days after his high-profile appearances in Greece, telling a Dutch broadcaster that Eurozone member-states had excessively high demands from the Greek people in order to provide bailout loans.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1387508/dijsselbloem-ez-states-made-excessively-high-demands-to-greece-in-return-for-bailout-loans

Greek seamen extend strike over collective wage agreement, labor rights

Greek ships remained docked at the country’s ports on Monday as seamen started a strike to demand the restoration of wages and labor rights, following the expiry of Greece’s third bailout program last month.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232250/article/ekathimerini/news/greek-seamen-extend-strike-over-collective-wage-agreement-labor-rights

Greek GDP growth slows in Q2 to 1.8% annual rate, down from 2.5% in Q1 2018

The Greek economy continued to grow in the second quarter of 2018, but at a slightly slower rate than the previous quarter. Nevertheless, the figures supplied by the independent statistics authority confirm the sixth straight quarter of economic growth in the thrice bailed-out country.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1387367/greek-gdp-growth-slows-in-q2-to-18-annual-rate-down-from-25-in-q1-2018

Banks diversifying strategy to reduce their stock of bad loans

The second-quarter financial results of Greece’s four systemic banks indicate that Eurobank, National, Piraeus and Alpha will need to increase the pace of bringing down their bad loans in the coming years to sustain profits and avoid a drop in capital. To that end they are diversifying their strategy and putting provisions on the back burner.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232269/article/ekathimerini/business/banks-diversifying-strategy-to-reduce-their-stock-of-bad-loans

ATHEX: Credit sector stocks weigh on main index

While bank stocks tumbled 3 percent on Monday on the Greek stock market, several non-banking blue chips and mid-caps enjoyed a rise at the start of the week. Consequently, although the benchmark’s early losses were contained, the growth data didn’t really make any impact on the day’s trading.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232266/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-credit-sector-stocks-weigh-on-main-index

www.enikos.gr


www.protothema.gr

www.newsbomb.gr

www.cnn.gr

www.newsbeast.gr

KATHIMERINI:  Education Minister Gavroglou’s reform isn’t good enough to pass

ETHNOS:  Two-gear students

TA NEA:  Blurry changes regarding university entry exams

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Mitsotakis is a lying ‘fighter for Macedonia’

AVGI:  First step for the support of labor

RIZOSPASTIS:  The Memorandum-driven anti-worker ‘weaponry’ cannot remain hidden. It’s here and reinforced indeed.

KONTRA NEWS:  The labor ‘medieval times’ are finally over

DIMOKRATIA:  Foreign Affairs minister Kotzias is the ‘sucker’ of Skopje

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Growth without investments

YOUR DATA’S SAFE IN JAPAN, COMMISSION SAYS: Let’s start with news fresh from a meeting of European commissioners’ heads of Cabinet on Monday. The College of Commissioners is this week expected to launch the procedure that will allow the EU to conclude its huge trade agreement with Japan. On Wednesday, the Commission will formally start the process of recognizing Japan’s treatment of personal data as equivalent with the EU’s own General Data Protection Regulation, officials told Playbook. That will facilitate the cross-border flow of data, assuming it gets the green light after a consultation with the European Data Protection Supervisor and EU countries.

BACK TO SCHOOL

SAME BUT DIFFERENT EVERY YEAR: Ordinary business resumes this week. The first formal College of Commissioners’ meeting after the summer break is on Wednesday in Brussels. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is in Berlin today, continuing his State of the Union listening tour ahead of his potentially legacy-defining speech next Wednesday in Strasbourg. The receptions, parties and conferences are back too. First up: the DLD conference on Wednesday (and German magazine publisher Burda’s party is the rentrée week’s hot ticket again).

BRACE FOR EUROZONE REFORMS (OR EVEN A CHANGE IN DIRECTION IN THE ECB’S POLICY): Just kidding. But EU finance ministers and central bank chiefs are meeting in Vienna Friday and Saturday and will restart talks on several contentious matters. The meeting’s agenda says they’ll ask about “the economic potential and risk of crypto assets” and will also reassess “fair taxation” of the digital economy — one of the EU’s most recent evergreen hits, our own Bjarke Smith-Meyer writes in to report.

Cutting the ECB’s grass: It almost looks as if ministers are planning to encroach on the ECB’s monetary policy. The agenda contains an intriguing side note referring to a discussion on the “financial stability implications of increasing interest rates.” Also, ministers will exchange views on the EU’s next financial framework and the Commission’s proposed new instruments for a future eurozone budget. No decisions are foreseen — the meeting is an informal one — but who needs decisions when there’s a proper fight brewing?

TRUMP’S TRADE WAR: The Commission has a new olive branch for U.S. President Donald Trump: some (potentially) good news for his tormented farmers. The EU will seek to renegotiate its annual import quota for (hormone-free) beef to allot a larger share exclusively to the U.S. Brussels’ proposal for a negotiation mandate will now have to be approved by EU countries. Hans von der Burchard has more for Trade and Food and Agriculture Pros.

As time goes by: When POLITICO reported back in April about plans to use the beef quota renegotiation to appease Trump, the Commission insisted that was entirely unrelated to the strained trade relations between the EU and Washington. On Monday, things sounded pretty different: “By taking this step, we are also contributing to ease tensions across the Atlantic, in line with the agreement reached by President Juncker in July,” said Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Mais bon.

Trump could push Germany towards Russia and China, veteran German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger told Reuters in an interview. “The longer Trump remains in office, the harder it will be to stand up to those in this country and elsewhere in Europe who have been arguing since the Vietnam War that we need to cut the cord with America the bully,” Ischinger said. “It would become much harder for the German government to stay the course and defend this relationship.”

SELMAYR LATEST: European Ombudsperson Emily O’Reilly will later this morning publish her assessment of Martin Selmayr’s promotion to secretary-general of the Commission, according to officials. The big question is whether she’ll pick a real fight or just recommend doing things differently next time.

HUNGARY UNDER SCRUTINY: Parliament next week is scheduled to vote on a resolution calling for the Article 7 procedure to be launched against Hungary, with rather huge political (and less so legal) implications. NGOs including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders are trying to move the needle in a vote that is expected to be really tight, according to MEPs on both sides. In an open letter, the NGOs call on MEPs to vote for sanctions, because “European leaders have accommodated, coaxed and warned the government of Hungary. Those efforts have proven futile.”

SALVINI VS. MACRON, AGAIN: Another chapter is being added to the EU migration book as militias fight in Tripoli. At least 47 people have lost their lives, according to Libyan authorities. Meanwhile, Europeans focus on facilitating stability in the country.

Mediterranean jealousy: Italian diplomats and the media claim Rome is supporting President Fayez al-Sarraj. (According to Ansa, the government is considering sending special troops to help out.) But League leader and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini denies that’s on the table, and doesn’t miss an opportunity to blame French President Emmanuel Macron, though this time not by name. “I’m worried,” Salvini said. “I think there is someone behind it. Someone who has [started] a war that should not [have been started], who convenes elections without hearing from the allies and local factions, someone who has gone to force — to export — democracy, which never works.”

BACK TO SCHOOL, SLIM FIT EDITION: The EU will allocate €150 million to promote milk, fruit and vegetables in school cafeterias, as approved back in March this year. “It’s never too early to learn to eat well. And this program aims to promote good eating habits among children,” said Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, looking bronzed and healthy on his return to the press room on Monday (perhaps that’s the fabled Mediterranean diet at work).

TOP JOBS UPDATE

RUNNERS AND RIDERS: No word yet from Alexander Stubb on whether he’s made up his mind over the summer to throw his hat in the ring for the race to become the EPP’s Spitzenkandidat. Applications open Wednesday — and Michel Barnier has another reason to curse the lagging Brexit negotiations. EPP group leader Manfred Weber, meanwhile, is expected to get official backing from his own Christian Social Union in Bavaria and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union shortly. There’s a meeting pencilled into the agendas of members of the two parties’ very inner circles for next Sunday evening in Berlin, according to officials from both parties. The two parties have their regular leadership meetings on Monday and are expected to issue a blessing for Weber.

WHAT ABOUT MERKEL? Former British EU Minister Denis MacShane writes in an op-ed for the Independent that Angela Merkel “always says her last great challenge is to restore confidence in and purpose to the European Union. She is the one German who could lead post-Brexit Europe and make presidents Trump, Putin and Xi sit up and realize the EU is now getting serious.” A Commission President Merkel “has the weight, the authority, the proven government record, international reputation and status,” not to mention “more political experience and skills than all of today’s European politicians put together.”

ALDE FRONTRUNNER: Liberal Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager — a candidate for any top job ALDE manages to secure next year — on Monday evening delivered quite the speech at think tank Bruegel’s annual meeting (another Brussels annual back-to-school moment). She denounced the evil of pessimism in society and politics, spoke about the financial crisis, trade, the migration crisis and her hope for a strong EU economy — and barely mentioned her own portfolio. Shall we take that as a signal that she’s ready for a bigger job? Read the speech in full here.

BREXIT AGREEMENTS AND DISAGREEMENTS  

ONLY IRELAND MATTERS: A new school term of Brexit talks has begun, but there’s only one exam question that matters: the Irish border, writes Charlie Cooper.

TONY BLAIR EXPLAINING THERESA MAY: “What [Theresa May] thinks is: ‘Look, we have to do Brexit. OK, it’s not a good idea but we have to do it. And therefore, I’m going to do the mildest version of Brexit we can in order to say to the people who voted Brexit ‘we’ve done it,’ and protect the economy,’” former Prime Minister Tony Blair said in the inaugural edition of Euronews’ new Brussels political show, Raw Politics, on Monday evening. “In doing that, she’s neither going to satisfy the people who really want Brexit, nor the people who think the whole thing is a bad idea … It’s the worst of both worlds.”

Tony Blair explaining TAP: Blair, a consultant on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline since 2014, will meet Salvini today to convince him the favorite project of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is a good idea for Italy and Europe, the Guardian reports.

TOTAL AGREEMENT: Arch Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg totally agrees with Michel Barnier about one thing: Theresa May’s Brexit plan isn’t going to fly. Rees-Mogg, who opposes May’s Chequers proposals, met the EU’s chief negotiator in Brussels on Monday, alongside other members of the British House of Commons’ committee on exiting the EU. “Mr. Barnier is clear that the common rulebook and customs proposals put forward at Chequers will not work,” Rees-Mogg told POLITICO. “I agree with him.” Charlie Cooper has more.

He’s not going to agree with this: “The European Union and the United Kingdom are so deeply interdependent that a real divorce is, in practice, impossible,” writes the Spinelli Group’s Andrew Duff in an op-ed for POLITICO. He argues the EU should move toward a federalist Europe, and allow third countries to become affiliated with it and the European institutions without becoming full members.

CUTTING IT FINE: The European Parliament will likely vote on the Brexit deal at its March 11-14 plenary, according to Danuta Hubner, head of the constitutional affairs committee. “We have to vote during the first March plenary,” Hubner told her committee, according to Reuters. “The second one [March 25-28] will be too late because after us the Council must look into this again.”

ELSEWHERE IN THE EU

TUSK SUMMONED: A Polish parliamentary commission has summoned European Council President Donald Tusk to testify on November 5 at its final hearing into the Amber Gold financial scam, our man in Warsaw Michał Broniatowski writes in the report. Poland’s lower house — the Sejm — has made the case central to proving the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s allegations of corruption during Tusk’s Polish prime ministership. It’s not the first time Tusk has been called back to Poland for such reasons — he testified at a court hearing into the Smoleńsk air crash in 2010 that killed high-level Polish dignitaries including then President Lech Kaczyński, and twice before the prosecutor’s office, which is running several investigations centered on his time in office. More details from Gazeta Wyborcza.

GOOD GERMANS VS. BAD GERMANS: As right-wing populism is on the rise across Germany, the eastern state of Saxony has gotten a bad name, particularly with Germans in well-to-do neighborhoods in big cities. But Konstantin Richter writes that much as those “good Germans” like to think far-right violence is exclusively a problem for the east, “that’s wishful thinking. After three decades, the lives of people in the east and west are far too interconnected to allow for such a distinction.”

Music vs. Nazis: Some 65,000 people gathered Monday at an anti-Nazi concert in Chemnitz.

SWEDEN’S FAR RIGHT BURNT BY SUMMER: Charlie Duxbury has the latest from the Swedish campaign trail. “After months of localized droughts, forest fires and record temperatures across the country, Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson took to the stage in mid-August to attack his opponents’ concerns about rising temperatures. He accused them of trying to score cheap points off the heatwave,” he writes. Åkesson’s opponents were quick to respond — and less than a week out from Sunday’s election, their counterattack seems to be working.

MEANWHILE, IN SLOVENIA … Former presidential candidate Andrej Šiško has formed an armed group called the “Štajerska Guard” and conducted training exercises that will help the group “secure public peace and order” if needed, he told Reuters.