05-03-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

05-03-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Monday, March 05, 2018

Two Greek soldiers who accidentally crossed into Turkey to be tried Monday

The trial on Monday of the two Greek servicemen who were arrested in Turkey on Thursday after accidentally crossing the border has placed a further strain on the already tense relations between the two countries.


Deutsche Bahn suspected of bribing Greek officials

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said on Friday that German judicial authorities have relayed evidence to their counterparts in Greece suggesting that Greek state officials received bribes from rail firm Deutsche Bahn to influence contract decisions related to construction work at the Athens metro between 2003 and 2007.


PM rules out tax cuts in near future

Addressing the Delphi Economic Forum on Friday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras indicated that there would be no tax cuts in the near future, and certainly not until such measures can be taken without causing further damage to the fragile welfare state.


Bloomberg: Path cleared for disbursement of 5.7-bln-euro tranche to Greece

The last remaining obstacles in the disbursement of a 5.7-billion-euro loan tranche by European creditors to Greece have reportedly been cleared, with Bloomberg on Friday reporting that a compliance report by the EU Commission to the EWG notes that all “prior actions” listed for the third review of the Greek bailout have been met.


Rating experts warn of risks after August

A world of risks awaits the Greek economy after its emergence from the bailout program in August, according to the main credit rating agencies.


Police union blames civil protection minister for upsurge in violence

The general secretary of the Union of Greek Police Special Guards, Stratos Mavroidakos, has sharply criticised Civil Protection Minister Nikos Toskas over the wave of violent attacks by vigilante groups.


ATHEX: Another week of losses for stock index

The benchmark of the Greek stock market suffered a considerable slide of more than 2 percent on Friday and the banks index gave up the last of its gains registered since the start of the year, mainly on international concerns regarding the trade war US President Donald Trump is attempting to wage against Europe. The positive news from the Euro Working Group, that the third review had been wrapped up, had already been factored in.








KATHIMERINI: Tension with Turkey escalates

TO VIMA: Tsipras is captive

REAL NEWS: The secretary incriminated people involved in the kickbacks scandal regarding the construction of the Metro line

PROTO THEMA: Erdogan trapped the Greek servicemen

AVGI: Government VP and Finances Minister, Dragasakis: “The revival of the economy must be accelerated now”


ETHNOS: Parents of the captured servicemen: “Bring back our boys!”

TA NEA: The Brigadier general that revealed the Saudi Arabia ammunition scandal ‘attacks’ minister of defense Kammenos

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: New Democracy leader Mitsotakis shows tolerance towards a racist slur of one of his MPs

KONTRA NEWS: Italy tears apart the washed-up EU

DIMOKRATIA: Classified signal reveals Ankara’s ambush in Evros

NAFTEMPORIKI: Regling-Costello: “Continue the reforms!”


Italy is headed for a hung parliament. The anti-establishment 5Star Movement is on track to emerge as the largest single party, with over 30 percent of the vote, according to early projections. The ruling Democratic Party is the big loser, hovering at just under 20 percent. The coalition led by former center-right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s right-wing League (formerly Northern League) together look set to win the largest share of the vote — according to early projections around 37 percent — but fall short of the 40 percent needed to govern outright. In a twist, Forza Italia is on track to be the smaller party in the coalition, which would give Salvini a stronger claim to be prime minister than the man chosen by Berlusconi to rule in his place (the media tycoon is barred because of a fraud conviction), the current European Parliament President Antonio Tajani.

Catch up on the latest via POLITICO’s live blog, and read the overnight wrap-up here.

Look out for a special Italian election edition of Playbook later today: Once the results are clearer, we’ll fill you in with the best coverage from across Europe’s media landscape including POLITICO’s team on the ground.

Clichés, damn clichés, and Berlusconi: Many people knowledgeable about Italy have complained that reporting of the Italian election is soaked in stereotypes. Then again, a topless feminist did leap on top of the ballot box as Silvio Berlusconi — dressed as some kind of cross between a mafioso and a priest — cast his vote. You can catch up on POLITICO’s top election reads here.


FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — JUNCKER SETS OUT RATIONALIZED EU BUDGET FRAMEWORK: A letter dated March 1, sent by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger to their colleagues in the College of Commissioners, summons each of them to “hearings” with Oettinger in the second and third weeks of April. Those meetings are designed to help finish six documents for May 2 that will officially start the intra-EU debate on the bloc’s 2021-2027 budget.

Compared with the current seven-year budget’s 69 financial instruments, just 43 are suggested for next time round. Some of that is foreseen as cuts — Juncker and Oettinger refer to “difficult choices” and “streamlining” — but many of the new categories are cosmetic.

The Juncker-Oettinger letter to commissioners | Draft list of rationalized EU budget instruments.

COMMISSION — COLLEGE MEMBERS SET FOR FINANCIAL GAIN FOLLOWING SELMAYR PROMOTION: The Commission’s new secretary-general, Martin Selmayr, is finalizing a plan that would in some cases triple the “transition allowance” paid to departing commissioners, Jean Quatremer reports. Ex-commissioners would receive up to €13,500 per month for up to five years, a Commission office (to which previously only former presidents were entitled), an official car with a driver and two assistants. The allowance is meant to compensate former commissioners for not taking money from outside interests related to their past portfolios.

Two potential conflicts of interest: The first is that Irene Souka — the person who must officially propose changes to the commissioners’ transition system — just received a delayed retirement decision, thanks to Martin Selmayr. The second is that people who stand to benefit from Selmayr shepherding these transition changes (the current commissioners) are those who meekly approved his surprise and unprecedented double-promotion to the secretary-general post in February. There is no suggestion anyone traded support for these various ideas, but the potential conflict of interest is obvious.

A possible solution: Why not outsource remuneration and related decisions to an independent board?

Who’s next in Selmayr’s cross-hairs? Possibly the Commission’s legal service, the high-powered in-house lawyers who act as a sanity check on Commission proposals. Selmayr likes to co-brand himself as a law professor, and there are already plenty of people in the Berlaymont who fear that it’s only a matter of time before the legal service faces the Selmayr demolition derby. One of the rumors circulating is that Selmayr wants Clara Martinez Alberola (who officially succeeded him as Juncker’s chief of staff) to replace the current legal chief, Luis Romero Requena, who is close to retirement age.

Let the renovations begin: More crumbling walls (literally, as well as metaphorically) in the Berlaymont. Contexte reports that Selmayr is moving the secretary-general’s office closer to that of the Commission president’s.

COMMISSION — MOSCOVICI HITS GROKO GROUND RUNNING: Pierre Moscovici, European finance and tax commissioner, is headed to Hamburg for meetings Tuesday with Olaf Scholz, Germany’s likely future finance minister. He’ll also visit Airbus and port facilities.

COUNCIL THIS WEEK: Environment ministers meet today. Tuesday, the defense formation of the Foreign Affairs Council meets, followed by interior ministers for the Justice and Home Affairs Council Thursday and Friday.

EUROPEAN CIVIL PROTECTION FORUM: It’s the largest civil protection cooperation event in Europe, organized every two years by the Commission, bringing together emergency responders and related services.

WATCH OUT FOR: The release at 10:30 a.m. of the results of an investigative reporting project by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Transparency International into so-called golden visas, also known as cash-for-passports schemes. A hint of what’s to come: news that Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska purchased Cypriot citizenship.


GERMANY — GROKO A GO-GO: The party of Germany’s workers had everyone up and working on a Sunday morning to digest the news that 66 percent of SPD members backed the proposed grand coalition (GroKo) government with Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

GERMANY’S NEXT CHANCELLOR: Angela Merkel had a good run. Now the smart conversation in Germany is about whether Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer or Jens Spahn will replace her during the term of the incoming government.

FRANCE’S SECULAR AYATOLLAHS: Those who defend France’s secular values risk enabling and mimicking the fundamentalism they say they abhor by pushing young people into Islamist arms, writes POLITICO’s Paul Taylor. Then there’s the hypocrisy of France’s secular state, which keeps religion out of official life, while remaining culturally (and for holiday purposes) based on Christianity.

The result is that debate “is focused on issues like unregulated Salafist prayer rooms and schools that spread a sub-culture of radical Islam” instead of paying attention to solving widespread sources of alienation like the “routine discrimination that French people of Muslim origin face in the search for a job or an apartment.”

SPAIN — ALL-OUT WAR ON THE SPANISH RIGHT: Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is drifting. Spain’s economy may be getting back on track, but he’s about to lose his finance minister to the European Central Bank, unemployment is still woefully high, and he has been weakened by his handling of the Catalan crisis and his party’s lack of a parliamentary majority. That would be bad enough on its own. Now the liberal conservative party Ciudadanos and its Macronesque leader Albert Rivera are sometimes ahead in opinion polls. The contrast with Rajoy, whose ageing support base is literally dying off, couldn’t be clearer, reports POLITICO’s Diego Torres.

SLOVAKIA — SHOWDOWN BETWEEN PRESIDENT AND PM OVER CORRUPTION: President Andrej Kiska called on Sunday for “significant reconstruction” of the country’s Social Democrat government and suggested an early election is needed in light of the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová. Kiska does not have the formal power to force an early election and Prime Minister Robert Fico — whose Smer party is ahead in polls — rejected his ultimatum for change. He claimed Kiska was “dancing on the graves” of Kuciak and Kušnírová and that he had been pressured by foreigners. Seven people arrested in connection with the murders were released on Saturday because of a lack of evidence, police said.


SMART READS ON MAY’S PREDICTAMENT AND THE EU’S LUCKY FUDGE: Juliet Samuel in the Daily Telegraph and Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian give contrasting takes on how Theresa May ended up in a Brexit corner. The Guardian’s Jennifer Rankin explains what she’s hearing in Brussels, and what’s not being discussed here.

SOME CLARITY … OR NOT … ON EU AGENCIES AND MONEY: Theresa May named three EU agencies she wants to pay into in her Mansion House speech on Friday: the European Medicines Agency, European Chemicals Agency and European Aviation Safety Agency. She said she also wants the U.K. to pay into the successor to the EU’s Horizon 2020 research program. On agriculture and fisheries, May committed to maintaining or beating EU standards.

Hold your horses: Just because the U.K. government wants this link, it doesn’t mean it will happen. For research funding there’s decades of precedent. For the agencies there is none. As the Council’s former legal chief Jean-Claude Piris tweeted, there’s little precedent for that move, and the EU’s interest has not been established yet.


WHEN ROBOTS FORM CARTELS: Self-teaching algorithms and artificial intelligence don’t threaten only the livelihoods of professions like truck driving or accounting, reports POLITICO’s Nicholas Hirst. They might also start replacing clinical airport conference rooms and smoked-filled clubs as the source of cartels: refrigerated server farms working away to collude in ways competition enforcers can’t see or measure, using methods that don’t leak or crack under interrogation.


CHINA — ONE STEP FROM DICTATORSHIP? The massive National People’s Congress is more like a Chinese Davos than a strong parliament: full of rich and influential people, but hardly a check and balance on rulers. If the congress lacks muscle today, it may be even weaker by the end of its annual two-week session. It’s expected to scrap the two-term limit on the presidency and vice-presidency. That move would allow Xi Jinping to serve indefinitelyDonald Trump is a fan.

RUSSIA — BACK IN THE MOLOTOV COCKTAIL GAME? The Daily Beast looks at the Russian ties of members of Falanga, a small, radical Polish organization with fascist roots, whose members are suspected of attacking a Hungarian cultural center in western Ukraine in an effort to create diplomatic tensions between Kiev and its neighbors.

UNITED STATES — THE END OF HOPE: And why Ms. Hicks’ departure matters.