05-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

05-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Greek FM in Izmir deflects Turkish criticism in case of asylum-seeking Turk servicemen: We do not host terrorists

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias was in the western Turkey port city of Izmir on Tuesday for the inauguration of Greece’s newly renovated consulate building, using the occasion and the presence of Turkish media to bluntly state that Athens “does not host terrorists”.


Zaev says Wikileaks cable additional reason to approve name deal

The revelations in a Wikileaks document released on Monday, according to which the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) would have accepted the name North Macedonia back in 2008, provided that Greece recognized a Macedonian language and identity, are one more reason for FYROM citizens to vote “Yes” in the upcoming referendum on the name deal, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on Tuesday.


Mitsotakis pledges to immediately cut social security contributions; allow private sector involvement in supplementary sector

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday reiterated that, if elected as the next prime minister, his future government will immediately reduce social security contributions and promote private sector participation in the supplementary pension system – a radical proposal, at least by modern Greek standards.


Strike keeps ferry boats out of service in Greece for second day on Tues.

Ferry boats around Greece remained in port on Tuesday due to another 24-hour strike by the biggest seamen’s union in the country, coming a day after another similar industrial action.


US interested in increasing use of Greek military bases, ports

The United States is interested in increasing its use of military bases and ports in Greece, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said on the second day of his official visit to the country on Tuesday.


BofA/Merrill Lynch details battle by Greek systemic banks to reduce NPEs

Reduced pressure on Greek lenders’ H1 2018 results from lower non-performing exposures (NPEs) is the highlight of four separate reports by BofA/Merrill Lynch this week, one for each systemic bank in the country.


ATHEX: Bank stocks keep sliding

Greek bank stocks suffered increased pressure on Tuesday, which also had a knock-on effect on other major blue chips, resulting in significant losses for all indexes at Athinon Avenue.







KATHIMERINI:  Racket for the release of convicts [with false health certificates]

ETHNOS:  The grey zones of the new university-entry system

TA NEA:  Letter by the victims of the wildfires in Mati slams the PM

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Yankees to visit the Thessaloniki International Fair

AVGI:  Mati [the region that was burned by wildfires last month] will not be forgotten

RIZOSPASTIS:  Dangerous military escalation. Any Greek involvement must stop now!

KONTRA NEWS:  The Tsipras’ ‘package’ shifts the political scenery

DIMOKRATIA:  United as a fist for Macedonia

NAFTEMPORIKI:  In search of ‘fresh money’

FROM INSIDE THE ROOM: “Good meeting!” a Commission spokeswoman texted Playbook when asked how President Jean-Claude Juncker’s closed-door lunch with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin went. There was “agreement on all relevant issues of the future,” she added.

So what were those ‘relevant issues?’ No further details were forthcoming, but here’s what we know: Juncker and Merkel would have had to have discussed security and migration policies, ahead of the EU’s informal Salzburg summit later this month … Juncker’s upcoming State of the Union speech would also have been high on the agenda. (In a tweet, spokeswoman Mina Andreeva hinted that Juncker may use the speech to elaborate on his ideas about how to break the deadlock that has mired the EU’s foreign policy and take a bigger role on the global stage. Note the Weltpolitikfähig hashtag. That’s something Merkel has developed a certain interest in too.) … And Playbook would be willing to bet personnel questions came up too.

GOOD MORNING. Speaking of the personnel carousel — Manfred Weber will make his application to become the EPP’s top candidate for the EU election official today, after meeting his parliamentary group for the first time after the summer break. That’s Tuesday night’s worst … kept … secret in Brussels, and of course you, dear readers, knew it was coming. Weber’s team will give a press statement at around 12:45 p.m. Brussels time.

What’s new: Alexander Stubb, another potential contender, is expected to announce whether he’ll throw his hat in the ring in the second half of September.

This one’s gonna hurt: Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche will not support any European political group that backs the Spitzenkandidat or lead candidate process, which is a “democratic anomaly,” Christophe Castaner, the movement’s chief executive, said last night. Maïa de La Baume was at the rally of LREM supporters in Brussels and has more details here.

Other Spitzenkandidat opponents: Sherpas, diplomats, fans of an a-political commission, the potential losers of the EU election.

Where we stand: Ryan Heath looks at the runners and riders in the race for the EU’s top job.


OETTINGER SAYS THANKS BUT NO THANKS: “It’s too early to talk about new honorary posts,” Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger told Bild newspaper when asked whether he would accept a position offered to him by the German harmonica association (in reaction to a Playbook interview). Music has played an important role in his life ever since he learned to play the recorder, piano and guitar in his early years, Oettinger said, but still, no thanks.

‘MORTAL DANGER.’ In more serious Oettinger news, the commissioner warned that the European project is in “mortal danger” from opponents inside and outside the EU. “Some within Europe want to weaken it or even destroy it — Poland, Hungary, Romania, the government of Italy,” he said at an event in Brussels on Tuesday. He added that the EU was also at risk from autocrats using trade wars and aggression, mentioning Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and “the clever Chinese.” Andrew Gray reports from the German permanent representation.

NEXT TIME IT’LL BE DIFFERENT, REALLY! The Commission “stretched and possibly even overstretched the limits of the law” by fast-tracking Martin Selmayr’s appointment as secretary-general, the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said. She identified cases of “maladministration,” but her main criticism of the 28 commissioners is a political one: They undermined efforts to portray the EU as transparent and democratic, she found. David Herszehorn reports.

Not d’accord: Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, during a midday briefing for which popcorn was the appropriate alimentation, said the Commission doesn’t share the analysis and will issue a formal response later this month. Asked whether the Commission’s spokespersons’ service was “defensive, evasive and combative” in its handling of the affair, as O’Reilly noted, Schinas said he wasn’t sure “these three adjectives can be true at once in English or French.” Lili Bayer and Maïa de la Baume have more here. 

O’Reilly’s report has no immediate consequences: Her conclusion was to urge the Commission to “develop a specific appointment procedure for its Secretary-General, separate from other senior appointments.”For next time. And next time may be quite some time away — Selmayr is 47 years old.

LIGHTHIZER TO MEET MALMSTRÖM ON MONDAY: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will be coming to Brussels on Monday to meet EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström for discussions on the scope of a transatlantic trade deal, two people close to the talks told our colleague Hans von der Burchard. More details in this morning’s Morning Trade newsletter for Pro subscribers.

AVOIDING THE WORST: Hungary’s permanent representation sent out the invitations for their annual party weekend in the Parc Cinquantenaire this weekend. There will be music, a wine tasting, an “art and crafts market, and Hungarian delicacies will be served.” It might be the last chance Budapest gets to schmooze the Brussels glitterati ahead of next week’s vote in Parliament on calling for an Article 7 procedure against Hungary.

Win-win-lose: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is expected to attend the plenary debate on Tuesday afternoon, according to a preliminary schedule. That’s good for Parliament — Orbán is effectively demonstrating he’s not indifferent toward the chamber — and good for the PM, as he gets the best stage possible to declare whether he still feels at home in the EPP or would rather side with Matteo Salvini’s League et al. It’s bad news for Juncker, who expects to be next week’s plenary prima donna assoluta. It’s not great timing for EPP chief Weber either, whichever way the vote actually goes.

View from Hungary: Judit Varga, Hungary’s minister of state for EU relations, writes in an op-ed for POLITICO that the European Parliament’s report on Hungary is “the product of liberal bias against contemporary European conservatism.”

NEW IN TOWN: Ambassadors are meeting for the first Coreper (II) session after the summer, and while the agenda is focused on catching up with what happened over a rather politicized summer, we’re told, it’s also an opportunity to compare everybody’s abbronzatura and welcome some new faces, including Malta’s Daniel Azzopardi and the new German permanent representative, Michael Clauß.

Meet Germany’s new Mr. Europe: Clauß has a long history of diplomatic business in Brussels. He was posted here earlier in his career and headed the German government’s Convention Secretariat, back when the EU thought it would adopt a constitution. He was later made head of the EU department at the foreign office, then moved to China from 2013 to 2018 as German ambassador to Beijing (where he was vocal about investment conditions for foreign companies in the country). “His experiences as German ambassador to China have made him an even more convinced European,” a German diplomat said.


HOW DARE YOU ATTEND A BRITISH BREXIT SEMINAR? The European Commission has warned EU countries not to attend any bilateral formats offered by the U.K. government, officials and diplomats told POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi. The Commission is concerned that any substantive bilateral talks would sideline Brussels — and shift the center of attention and negotiations to the 28 EU capitals. Read Jacopo’s scoop here.

RENZI, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Former Italian PM Matteo Renzi won’t run for the leadership of his Democratic Party again, according to Italian media — he has better things to do. Renzi is going back to his early loves: Florence and TV. He’s working on a documentary on the city, which he started filming in late August with Lucio Presta, which will seek to weaponize the sheer beauty of Florence in a fight against Matteo Salvini.

Dixit Renzi: “I have decided to show what Florence is about, to produce emotions. Italy is hungry for beautiful things, and not for hatred and screams. In an age of media barbarism, culture and beauty are useful also for politics.” According to a poll published on Monday, after the August break, support for Renzi’s party is at 17.7 percent, while support for the League has jumped almost 2 points to 32.2 percent.

NEW FRENCH ENVIRO MINISTER: After a laborious search, Emmanuel Macron has named François de Rugy, the president of the Assemblée, as his new energy and environment minister. De Rugy replaces Nicolas Hulot, who quit last week. De Rugy, 44, is a long-time politician and environmentalist from Macron’s LREM.

LITHUANIA VS. WALMART: Lithuanians aren’t happy that Walmart is selling T-shirts with Soviet symbols. In a letter to the company’s CEO protesting the move, the country’s ambassador to the U.S., Rolandas Kriščiūnas, writes: “The decision to display and promote the symbols associated with mass murder of innocent people cannot and should not be viewed as an ordinary business decision. The promotion of such symbols resonates with a big pain for many centuries.” Read the full letter here.

PEDALING THE EUROPEAN DREAM: Fabrice Pothier, from Rasmussen Global, cycled along the old Santiago de Compostela route this summer seeking to meet people he otherwise would not, and listen to their thoughts about Europe. He asked them three questions: What is Europe for you? Where do you want more Europe, and where would you like to see less? And what are your expectations for next year’s European election? Here’s what he discovered.


TELL US WHAT YOU REALLY THINK: President Donald Trump’s top aides see him as an “idiot” and a child, according to a forthcoming book by journalist Bob Woodward. The first excerpts … are … in, and they are quite the read.