05-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

05-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Tsakalotos to Reuters: Long-term fiscal targets ‘may need to be reviewed’; Greece can now finance itself from markets

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was quoted by Reuters on Wednesday as saying that long-term fiscal targets that his government has agreed to – especially an annual 2.2-percent primary budget surplus as a percentage of GDP between 2023 until far-off 2060 – may need to be “reviewed”.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1368049/tsakalotos-to-reuters-long-term-fiscal-targets-may-need-to-be-reviewed-greece-can-now-finance-itself-from-markets

Euro officials reject Moscovici’s ‘flexibility’

Not everyone in the European corridors of power agrees with the “flexible” viewpoint of Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Pierre Moscovici on Greece meeting its pledges: In interviews on Wednesday the heads of the European Stability Mechanism and the Eurogroup were adamant that Greece must continue on the reform path and not go back on its promises.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230362/article/ekathimerini/business/euro-officials-reject-moscovicis-flexibility

Merkel on refugee crisis deal with Greece; Die Welt links agreement with VAT hike postponement

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday referred to an closely watched agreement between Berlin and Athens dealing with the refugee crisis, saying her government will attempt to sign similar agreements with other countries.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1368102/merkel-on-refugee-crisis-deal-with-greece-die-welt-links-agreement-with-vat-hike-postponement

Summit talks up prospects of Western Balkans

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday hailed the “new dynamic” that has developed in the Balkans in the last year that will enhance the regions’s prospects.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230358/article/ekathimerini/news/summit-talks-up-prospects-of-western-balkans

Government in bid to boost local influence

Proposed changes to a bill aimed at overhauling the governance of Greece’s local authorities, which are to be submitted to Parliament on Wednesday, foresee the segmentation of constituencies in the capital with the apparent goal of increasing the influence of leftist SYRIZA in those areas.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230357/article/ekathimerini/news/government-in-bid-to-boost-local-influence

IOBE study: Use of ‘plastic’ rather than cash ups VAT collection in Greece by 50% in 2017

The skyrocketing use of debit and credit cards in Greece – especially in the wake of imposed capital controls in June 2015 – has dramatically improved tax collection, increasing annual VAT remittances, for instance, by 50 percent in 2017.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1367990/iobe-study-use-of-plastic-rather-than-cash-ups-vat-collection-in-greece-by-50-in-2017

ATHEX: Stocks edge lower in very quiet trade

Turnover struggled to top 20 million euros on Wednesday at Athinon Avenue, as on top of the recent stagnation in local trading, the US Independence Day holiday deprived the Greek stock market of some of the few remaining foreign traders. As a result the benchmark headed south again, while the banks index dropped for a sixth time in the last seven sessions.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230359/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-stocks-edge-lower-in-very-quiet-trade

www.enikos.gr


www.protothema.gr

www.newsbomb.gr

www.cnn.gr

www.newsbeast.gr

KATHIMERINI: SYRIZA wants to ‘cut out’ the second electoral district of Athens according to its interests

ETHNOS: Obsessed… with Memoranda

TA NEA: Pockets will empty – Hot July for 1 million taxpayers

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: New Democracy leader asks European allies not to be lenient on PM Tsipras placing his party’s interest above the country’s benefit

AVGI: Panicked and despaired New Democracy ‘discovers’… international conspiracy

RIZOSPASTIS: The Greek Communist Party stands beside the workers and the people of Thriasio

KONTRA NEWS: EU Commissioner Moscovici warns New Democracy leader Mitsotakis to be careful with his statements because “there is no 4th Memorandum”

TO PONTIKI: EU Commissioner praises the Greek government without any reason

DIMOKRATIA: Social Security Fund of Businessmen: How will the erasure of debts take place

NAFTEMPORIKI: Message to foreign investors

First, an English grammar lesson with, and for, Donald Trump (the president of the United States of America, let’s not forget). And a not so gentle reminder for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that Ireland’s not keen on its own leader following in the Tweeter-in-chief’s footsteps.

Next, David Cameron may have thought he’s been out of play long enough to tweet some innocent bla-bla about English penalty shooting, and how it all suddenly turned into something that works for everyone, and get away with it — but no, some stubborn Brits just won’t forget who was behind the most spectacular own-goal in British history.

Top of the class: It’s graduation season at Brussels’ European Schools. Ask around, and students will admit with a collective groan that students in the Greek language section coast through their classes while the French struggle to scrape a pass. Why? Teachers from Greece tend to grade more generously than those from other countries. “We’re facing the same problem that Europe faces on a political level,” said a teacher at the school. “National culture supersedes European culture.” Read on.

SEEHOFER DOES THE NITTY-GRITTY

WHAT DO YOU WANT? Now this could be a fun one: German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna today to meet his Austrian counterpart Herbert Kickl and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. A few short weeks ago, they were “axis” partners for a tougher line on migration. Now, the Austrians are making no efforts to hide their grumbling over the fact that they’ve been left to react to whatever Germany decides to do at their joint border.

Seehofer will need to explain what he’s after in concrete policy terms, as Vienna is still confused about what Germany a bilateral agreement on refugees might look like or achieve: The deal “came in as a surprise,” Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl told reporters in Vienna. “What exactly it means, neither me nor any other member of the government is in a position to say. We’re waiting for details about what exactly they mean, and how Germany intends to proceed.”

NOT SO FAST: But Seehofer has no plans to sign anything on his Vienna trip today anyway. He’s really just in town to talk about talks: “It’s about talks about the future establishment of agreements,” a spokesperson said. The agreement his CSU party struck with Angela Merkel’s CDU appears to have alleviated quite considerably the pressure felt in Munich that something had to be done (it didn’t matter what, only that it be done swiftly). Seehofer, who just last week was threatening to start enforcing new border controls, now appears to be bound by a deal that foresees a very Merkel-like step-by-step process. (It also saved him his job, let’s not forget).

Bottom line: Seehofer, who a few days ago said he couldn’t accept being fired by Merkel (or more to point, by someone he claimed “is only chancellor because of me”) is now back in his ministerial role of executing, not shaping the government line. In his old role as Bavaria’s minister president — which in Germany’s informal political hierarchy is more powerful than any federal minister, unless that minister is Wolfgang Schäuble (and he isn’t a minister any longer) — all Seehofer had to do to speak to Austria’s Kurz or Hungary’s Viktor Orbán was pick up phone. That may not be the case for very much longer.

Meanwhile in Berlin, Orbán’s in town to sit down with Merkel today. He’s had a hard time working with her too. But, what can you do if she’s the one in the chancellor’s seat?

Orbán sent some rather unusual signals to Berlin ahead of his visit: He no longer categorically rules out a bilateral agreement between Germany and Hungary on migration, but has come up with some new conditions to his government signing any paperwork. “Hungary will not conclude a bilateral agreement with Germany until there is an agreement between Germany and Austria,” Hungary’s state news agency MTI quote Orbán as saying.

AUSTRIA’S DEBUTANTE BALL

NEUTRALLY OUTSPOKEN: Austria’s role at the helm of the rotating EU presidency thrusts the country, and its chancellor, to the center of the EU stage, amplifying the country’s views and expanding its influence over the agenda at a time when Vienna has very clear and outspoken positions on two of the most controversial issues: migration and the EU budget.

Honest broker: While one government official was keen to stress “we’re not a single issue presidency,” those national imperatives have raised concerns among other EU countries about Vienna’s ability to be a neutral broker — even on much less pressing issues, like a Commission plan to harmonize road tolls for cars EU-wide. “Austria is going to be an honest broker,” said Transport and Technology Minister Norbert Hofer, of the far-right FPÖ. “But I’m skeptical” of the toll proposal, he said. “And you can’t leave your opinion at the cloakroom.”

Concerns about Austria’s perceived lack of objectivity ahead of the start of its presidency — which began July 1 — boiled over in a meeting of EU ambassadors last month. For weeks, the Bulgarians had struggled to build support for their compromise on migration (and also on enlargement.) Rather than supporting the Bulgarian proposal, Austria made it clear it had different plans for when its time in the driver’s seat rolled around. The German ambassador ultimately had to invite his Austrian counterpart “to start thinking and working as a presidency,” according to the diplomats present at the meeting. “They really deserved it,” one of them said. More from David Herszenhorn, Jacopo Barigazzi and myself here.

But let’s not talk of the Austrian presidency, let’s talk about… me? No, not me, or Playbook, but Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, who shared, well, a lot. Kneissel has been to refugee camps and worked as an interpreter (on a voluntary basis) in welcome camps in Austria, she told reporters. She also used to be a freelance journalist who paid for reporting trips to the Balkans herself, so she knows what she’s talking about, and would have loved to answer more questions — in German, English, French, Italian or Spanish — but had to run to make it in time for a BBC interview.

A head scratcher: Europe’s asylum “instruments” don’t meet today’s needs because they don’t take into account the effects of globalization, she said. Today’s reality is about survival of the fittest, not Europe choosing who’s most in need of protection. “Let us move the authorities to the people and not the people to the authorities,” she said, advocating for asylum seekers to make their requests in Africa rather than on European soil. But how to avoid creating new pull factors to either embassies or centers of sorts? Food for thought.

Whatever you do, don’t call it a camp: Germany has traded one fight for another. As Angela Merkel and her interior minister clashed over refugee policy, another war of words was raging behind the scenes among the faceless bureaucrats whose job it is to implement and name whatever policy emerges. The issue? What to call the new refugee camps. “As with much else in modern Germany, blame the War.” Matthew Karnitschnig in Berlin has the story.

COPYRIGHT HYSTERIA

END OF THE INTERNET? One of the most contentious files on the Austrian Council presidency’s desk is a proposed reform of the EU’s copyright rules. It looks like it’ll be tough times ahead for any honest broker — and both Austrian ministers involved say they’re well aware of the pitfalls. “It’s a difficult question, we will need to take time to — if it’s possible — see how to mitigate [the proposal],” Austria’s Hofer told reporters in Vienna. Margarete Schramböck, the economy and digital minister, said she intends to “listen to all voices and try to incorporate them.”

You’d better hurry up reading online content and sharing your thoughts on social networks while you still can (and don’t forget to stock up on memes). It could all be over very soon. The internet is going to die — at least that’s what critics of the compromise on new copyright rules reached in the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee are saying. Crunch time will be at noon today in the plenary.

Article 13: Members of the Legal Affairs Committee came up with a handy explainer of what their legal text entails and what it doesn’t, which they sent to MEPs ahead of the vote. “It will not lead to censorship of the entire internet,” it says. Here’s your copy.

More surveillance? No, at least not according to this rather balanced account from European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli, who clarifies that the proposal  “does not seem in itself to require generalised surveillance.” It focuses on the prevention of copyright infringements “by persons who upload content onto a platform with the intention of making it publicly available” not those “who might download or stream that content.” But, Buttarelli goes on to say: “The EU will need to be vigilant to ensure that implementation of the provisions does not exacerbate the already excessive monitoring of people on the internet currently endemic to digital society.”

What’s really going to happen: Today’s vote will either confirm or reject the mandate for Parliament’s negotiators to bring the file to the trilogue table with the European Council and Commission. If the motion to overrule committee gets a majority, it will go to plenary for discussion and then a vote in September, according to the Parliament’s administration. The vote’s too close to call.

It all comes down to… Paul McCartney vs. MEP Julia Reda.

It’s Big Tech vs. publishers, artists vs. online anarchists, new (don’t-touch-my-internet) liberals vs. old (intellectual-property-is-property-too) liberals — the dividing lines cut through all major political groups. MEPs have been bombarded with emails —Wikipedia, for example, has been encouraging its users to write to their MEP to block efforts to “disrupt the open internet,” while the other camp is writing in to complain about just that. And that’s just yesterday’s email traffic. Read POLITICO’s explainer on the spin lingo flying around ahead of the vote and get up to speed on the current discussions here. Joanna Plucinska walks you through this big day.

DONE DEALS

ELECTORAL LAW: Parliament backed changes to the rules governing European elections — but the reforms are a long way from the ambitious plans for which many lawmakers had hoped. Only a few of the proposals will be in place in time for next year’s European election. MEPs agreed to greenlight online voting, allow EU citizens to vote from non-EU countries, and put in place tough penalties for those who vote in more than one country. They also agreed to allow EU political parties to put their names and logos next to national ones on the ballot paper.

Germany and Spain also walked away with a win: Unlike most other EU countries, neither had mandatory thresholds of votes in EU elections and both will now be able to introduce a limit. Maïa de la Baume in Strasbourg has the full story.

Berlin had lobbied hard for electoral thresholds despite a 2014 German court ruling that declared the previous rules unconstitutional (ironically because the federal constitutional court didn’t recognize the European Parliament as a real Parliament.) Smaller parties in Germany have already announced they’ll challenge the new rules once they’re transposed into German law.

TRANSPORT PACKAGE: It’s back to square one, after MEPs rejected three pieces of draft trucking legislation, derailing efforts to revamp road transport regulations. At issue: when local labor rules should apply to truckers on foreign trips; how many pick ups and drop offs a driver could do outside their home country; and driving and rest times. The files will now be referred back to the Transport Committee for a redraft, so today’s rejections means that these issues are “not coming back before the [European] election,” said one parliamentary official. Joshua Posaner has more for POLITICO Transport Pro readers.

Not such a done deal: MEPs’ decision on Tuesday to reject even modest scrutiny of their expenses — worth over €50,000 a year — has caused outrage among some of their colleagues in the assembly.

IN OTHER NEWS

PUTIN’S POISON: The U.K. government’s Cobra emergency committee will meet today to coordinate its response to the latest Novichok poisoning after two people were found unconscious in Amesbury, near Salisbury. Police have given no public indication yet of how the latest poisoning occurred, but initial reports point to questions of the effectiveness of the cleanup in the aftermath of the Salisbury attack four months ago.

SWEET TALK: In a bid to coax small- and medium-sized German companies active in Iran away from the Islamic Republic, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell has quietly begun engaging business executives with an offer to help them tap the much larger and lucrative U.S. market, according to people briefed on the talks. More from Matt Karnitschnig here.