05-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

05-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Government gearing up for crucial week

French President Emmanuel Macron’s two-day visit to Athens, which starts on Thursday, will take place against the backdrop of Germany’s call, issued on Sunday, for an end to Turkey’s European Union membership talks.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221388/article/ekathimerini/news/government-gearing-up-for-crucial-week

EFC approves Greek exit from excessive deficit procedure

The Economic and Financial Committee (EFC) gave on Monday the “green light” for Greece’s exit from the excessive deficit procedure during a meeting in Brussels, after a positive recommendation by the European Commission, according to a Eurozone source.

http://www.amna.gr/en/article/183810/EFC-approves-Greek-exit-from-excessive-deficit-procedure

Tsipras: ‘What Barcelona is for football, Apivita is for cosmetic products’

“This is what little Greece can achieve,” the board president of Apivita Natural Cosmetics’ Nikos Koutsianas said on Monday as he welcomed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to the company’s premises.

http://www.amna.gr/en/article/183484/Tsipras-What-Barcelona-is-for-football–Apivita-is-for-cosmetic-products

Mitsotakis accuses Tsipras of hypocrisy over investments in meeting with Eldorado unions

New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis criticized Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday on his public claims that he supports investments, saying his government’s handling of Canadian miner Eldorado Gold’s investment in northern Greece shows he is actually trying to block them.

http://www.amna.gr/en/article/183769/Mitsotakis-accuses-Tsipras-of-hypocrisy-over-investments-in-meeting-with-Eldorado-unions

Tough talks on PPC plants to be put up for sale

Facing pressure from Brussels for the sale of some of Public Power Corporation’s most precious electricity plants, the Greek government is hoping that a market test later this fall will be successful enough to avert the concession of hydroelectric units.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221357/article/ekathimerini/business/tough-talks-on-ppc-plants-to-be-put-up-for-sale

NBG expects growth to reach 1.6 percent in 2017

Following the Hellenic Statistical Authority’s publication of provisional growth figures for the second quarter of the year that put expansion at 0.8 percent in Q2 and at 0.6 percent in the first half of the year, National Bank of Greece has estimated that the country’s economy will expand by 1.6 percent in 2017.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221391/article/ekathimerini/business/nbg-expects-growth-to-reach-16-percent-in-2017

Greek bank Pancretan eliminates central bank ELA exposure

Greek cooperative bank Pancretan said on Monday that a rise in deposits had allowed it to stop borrowing from the central bank’s emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) facility.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221364/article/ekathimerini/business/greek-bank-pancretan-eliminates-central-bank-ela-exposure

ATHEX: Banks’ slide gaining speed

The Greek stock market’s banks index continued its decline on Monday, posting a 3.52 percent drop to a three-month low and weighing heavily on the bourse’s benchmark and the blue chip index, on what was a day of international market unrest due to concerns over North Korea.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221392/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-banks-slide-gaining-speed

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KATHIMERINI: Clash between Berlin-Ankara escalates

TA NEA: The government is paving the way for favoritism

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Transfers of public employees through incentives and promotions

AVGI: The center-Left looks itself in the mirror

RIZOSPASTIS: The parliamentary group of the Communist party tabled an amendment for the relief of workers and the unemployed 

KONTRA NEWS: Arrests for three great scandals ante portas

DIMOKRATIA: Guilty silence by the candidates for the leadership of the center-left party under establishment regarding the older loans of PASOK

NAFTEMPORIKI: The failures and successes of labor reforms in the EU

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — THERESA MAY’S DEPUTY HITS THE BARRICADES: The U.K. prime minister is not just about Brexit, insists Damian Green, her second-in-command, in an exclusive interview with Tom McTague and Jack Blanchard. To prove the point, Green promised a batch of domestic policy reforms before Christmas including a new industrial policy strategy, a plan to increase housing affordability and an explosive report into race relations.

What parliament? Green said the PM’s reforms would not all come through new legislation. That’s because the Conservatives failed to win a parliamentary majority. “It’s a good exercise for government to think what can we do other than pass laws,” Green said.

Drowning in Brexit: In contrast with Brussels, where Brexit-related work is conducted by just a few hundred people across the town’s many institutions, Playbook’s London sources report a civil service machine where decision-makers find their days dominated by the divorce. June’s snap election made the situation worse: now every piece of proposed legislation — Brexit or otherwise — starts from a perilous position.

EEAS — EU AMBASSADORS MEET TODAY ON NORTH KOREA, MINISTERS THURSDAY: The EU’s political and security committee meets today to discuss sanctions against North Korea. German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday threw her weight behind calls for stricter coordinated sanctions. Foreign ministers are gathering for an informal meeting in Estonia Thursday. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia that North Korea “will be at the top of our agenda.”

Fighting words: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is “begging for war,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Monday at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

Don’t jump to conclusions: Speaking to defense specialist outfit Jane’s by IHS Markit, nuclear engineer Robert Kelley, a former director of the IAEA and Los Alamos National Laboratory, urged caution about North Korea’s current capabilities: Pyongyang’s “obsessive containment of nuclear debris is a sign that it is anxious to hide its true progress from the West, completely at odds with releasing photos of supposed devices.”

EUROZONE — MOSCOVICI LAYS OUT HIS PRIORITIES: European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici published a speech (delivered at the Ambrosetti Forum on Saturday) on his personal website laying out his top three priorities for reforming the eurozone. “I am convinced that the euro area will only have a truly bright future if we address three burning political issues: the lack of democracy in its decision-making structures; the need to ensure that a future European Monetary Fund is successfully built on democratic principles; and the economic and social divergences creating a dangerous political divide between countries.”

Greek discussions: Moscovici will today meet Euclid Tsakalotos, Greek finance minister.

COMMISSION — THYSSEN TO MEET FRENCH PM: Marianne Thyssen, European commissioner for employment and social affairs, is in Paris today to discuss controversial updates to the Posted Workers Directive with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Labor Minister Muriel Pénicaud.

PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW — EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER TIBOR NAVRACSICS

European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics, from Hungary, is overseeing the rollout of a new European Solidarity Corps. He was in an optimistic mood when Playbook caught up with him after an afternoon touring the Italian village of Norcia, devastated by a 2016 earthquake, which is being assisted by members of the Solidarity Corps. Navracsics joined European Parliament President Antonio Tajani at an outdoor town hall meeting Monday evening. Playbook’s full interview here.

Top thought: “At least 230 European Solidarity Corps participants will support the Italian earthquake regions over the next three years … The Solidarity Corps members are right at the heart of this community, organizing sport activities for children or card game tournaments for elderly residents, helping to rebuild the Basilica — while staying in the same tents that housed many locals immediately after the earthquakes.”

PARLIAMENT — TAJANI SAYS HE IS HAPPY WHERE HE IS: With elections in Italy due by spring next year, there’s much talk over who will be the center-right candidate for prime minister. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani’s name keeps appearing in those debates. At a press conference Monday in Norcia, Tajani denied he was interested, saying: “I’m happy where I am … I’m putting all my effort into leading this institution that I have the honor and the burden to represent.” He said he thought Silvio Berlusconi was best placed to win an election, even though the former prime minister is barred from running due to a tax fraud conviction (he is appealing at the European Court of Human Rights).

COUNCIL — AUSTRIAN VICE CHANCELLOR IN TOWN TO DISCUSS PRESIDENCY: Austrian Justice Minister and Vice Chancellor Wolfgang Brandstetter is in town to push forward planning for the country’s July-December 2018 EU presidency. He will also meet EPP Chairman Manfred Weber to discuss the Article 7 rule of law procedure that may be launched against Poland.

OPINION — POLAND AND HUNGARY, NOT BREXIT, THE REAL STRATEGIC THREAT TO EU: Heather Grabbe and Stefan Lehne argue in a piece for think tank Carnegie Europe that the rise of authoritarianism in Poland and Hungary is a greater threat to the European project than the U.K.’s exit from the bloc.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE — RUSSIA HEADED FOR THE DOOR, WARNS CHIEF: If Russia keeps being excluded from the elections of key personnel at the Council of Europe, Moscow could leave the group, leaving more than 140 million people without a crucial recourse against rights violations, according to the group’s top official. Nicholas Vinocur has the full story.

ECHR — COURT TO RULE ON LEGALITY OF COMPANY SPYING ON EMPLOYEE: Judges in Strasbourg will today rule on the so-called Bărbulescu v. Romania case, in which a company fired an employee after monitoring his electronic communications. Expect 11 judgments today involving Turkey, Belgium and Montenegro. Details here.

WTO — EU AVIATION SUBSIDY VICTORY OVERTURNED BY APPEALS BODY: The EU lost a major dispute with the U.S. over subsidies for the Boeing 777X aircraft. A WTO appeals body overturned a ruling from last year on tax incentives provided by the State of Washington to Boeing. POLITICO’s Hans von der Burchard and Cathy Buyck have more here for POLITICO Pro Trade and Transport subscribers.

POLITICIANS CAUGHT UP IN €3B AZERI MONEY LAUNDERING SCANDAL: The latest development in this slow-burning scandal, reported by Berlinske, the Guardian and Le Monde, involves bank records demonstrating payments to German and Italian politicians with laundered Azerbaijani cash linked to the country’s authoritarian government. The payments came via British companies and Danske Bank has admitted its Estonian branch was used to launder money.

The payments — including more than €2 million to Luca Volontè, a former member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe — were designed to ensure Council of Europe members voted against a 2013 report critical of Azerbaijan. UNESCO chief Irina Bokova and her husband Kalin Mitrev, a board member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, are also mentioned.

Jeppe Kofod, vice president of the S&D and co-rapporteur of European Parliament’s special Panama Papers tax avoidance inquiry said: “I’m calling for a quick and formal hearing of both Danske Bank, Azerbaijan officials and all politicians mentioned in these revelations.”

BLED STRATEGIC FORUM …

Monday wrap: Maybe North Korea scared the political class, but confrontation isn’t on the agenda this week in Bled, Slovenia, at the latest conference styled as a mini-Davos. From Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksey Meshkov to papal envoy Paul Richard Gallagher and EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini, cooperation was the watch word.

Mogherini rejected “a mindset of based on zero-sum games and transactions, where my success requires somebody else to fail” and insisted the EU stood for cooperation and diplomacy “not because we are naïve … It’s because we know what works better. It’s not about being nice.” Full speech here.

Today’s panels: Watch the panels live here. Full agenda here. Top panelists include European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc, French European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau, NATO’s Rose E. Gottemoeller and Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva.

Turkey and EU membership: Mogherini gently brushed off Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz calling for an end to Turkey’s EU membership negotiations during a televised debate Sunday. “In the future I suggest we look beyond what is said in electoral campaigns,” she said. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu branded the German campaign rhetoric as populist vote-chasing.

Hungary and migration: Playbook’s source said that when moderator Nik Gowing asked the Hungarian and Turkish foreign ministers about Sunday’s German TV debate, “they went ballistic.”

Peter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister, described “the hypocrisy” of many EU countries who regard migration as an opportunity to solve the Continent’s demography crisis, rather than as a security crisis: “The Continent has never had to face such a serious threat of terror,” he said.

Russia and EU: Meshkov said it made no sense for Russia to destabilize the EU, its biggest energy customer. “We always had better relations with the EU when things were going well in the EU than when the EU was going through a crisis,” he added.

Neighborly love: Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Viktor Erjavec awarded his Slovak counterpart Miroslav Lajčák the forum’s “Distinguished Partner 2017” award.

EDUCATION BY NUMBERS — INVESTMENT DOWN 11 PERCENT SINCE 2009: More stats on the Livelong learning platform here.

GERMAN ELECTION CORNER … 

Minor parties go for the jugular: What a contrast Monday’s fast-paced and engaging minor-party debate was with Sunday’s Merkel-Schulz TV duel! Line of the night: “Everything you’re saying is wrong, it’s a bald-faced lie,” Left party leader Dietmar Bartsch said to his Green rival when challenged about his party’s environmental record.

Germany maneuvers to avoid fake news trap: Germans don’t do drama and hyperventilation, and that’s making it hard for fake news to penetrate into the country ahead of this month’s election, writes Mark Scott. “In typical German style, the country is not taking any chances. Local publishers — many of which still receive hefty government subsidies — have established, or expanded, fact-checking programs … Tech giants like Google and Facebook also have pumped in money and technical resources to boost public awareness of potential online misinformation and hate speech.”

BREXIT CORNER …

Britain has a trash mountain to manage after Brexit: Marion Solletty explains the U.K. is one of the EU’s biggest waste exporters and without a Brexit deal, the country may have to find new ways to deal with its trash at home.

Liam Fox: Britain does not have capacity to strike trade deals now: Britain has turned down countries wishing to strike free-trade deals after Brexit because the government does not have the capacity to negotiate them, the U.K.’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told POLITICO.

Stupid Brexit: Martin Selmayr, the chief of staff of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU was “stupid.” Bloomberg.

Not happening: Brexit won’t happen, Hans van Baalen, the president of Guy Verhofstadt’s liberal ALDE party, told Dutch radio journalist Tijn Sadee on NPO’s ‘Brussels At Night’ program. h/t Mikos Pieters

Lost in translation: Michel Barnier denied media reports he had said he wanted to “educate” London on Brexit consequences in an off-the-record meeting at the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy. Barnier tweeted: “I said: #Brexit = occasion to explain single market benefits in all countries, incl my own. We do not want to ‘educate’ or ‘teach lessons.’” As Barnier spoke in French at the forum, Playbook wonders if a classic faux amis is to blame. Literal translations between French and English often produce confusion. The French verb éduquer is weaker and broader than the English verb “educate.”

MALTA — THIRD GENDER IDENTIFIER NOW AVAILABLE ON PASSPORTS: Maltese citizens will from today be able to use an ‘X’ marker instead of ‘M’ or ‘F’ for their gender on IDs and passports. Denmark already allows the ‘X’ marker.