05-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

05-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Gov’t says Elliniko investment to move forward quickly

The government on Wednesday indicated that an important step had been taken toward the realization of a planned real estate project on the site of the capital’s former airport at Elliniko following a decision by the country’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS), ruling that just a small fraction of the site is of archaeological interest.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222182/article/ekathimerini/news/govt-says-elliniko-investment-to-move-foward-quickly

Saronic Gulf oil spill largely contained, says ministry

In a statement on Wednesday, the Shipping Ministry said that the marine pollution caused by an oil spill from a tanker that sank off the coast of Salamina last month has been largely contained.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222170/article/ekathimerini/news/saronic-gulf-oil-spill-largely-contained-says-ministry

Cosmetics firms fined over cartel practices

The Competition Commission has imposed fines totaling 18.83 million euros on five well-known cosmetics companies and Notos Com Holdings for cartel practices.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222188/article/ekathimerini/business/cosmetics-firms-fined-over-cartel-practices

Rouvikonas vandalizes tax office in Athens suburb

Around 15 members claiming to belong to the Rouvikonas group barged into the tax office of Neo Psyhico, north of Athens, on Thursday morning.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222190/article/ekathimerini/news/rouvikonas-vandalizes-tax-office-in-athens-suburb

Part-time work is on the rise as wages fall

Part-time workers and the hard-core unemployed have almost tripled during Greece’s debt crisis despite a recent drop in the jobless rate, the country’s largest labor union GSEE said Wednesday. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs in Greece since it tumbled into crisis in 2010.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222175/article/ekathimerini/business/part-time-work-is-on-the-rise-as-wages-fall

PPC teaming up with Forthnet

Public Power Corporation (PPC), Greece’s dominant energy utility, has teamed up with small telecoms operator Forthnet to explore synergies in their relevant sectors in Greece, PPC said on Wednesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222177/article/ekathimerini/business/ppc-teaming-up-wth-forthnet

National Bank of Greece planning euro-covered benchmark

National Bank of Greece has announced plans for a euro-covered benchmark, the first Greek bank bond in the public market since 2014 and a crucial step in normalizing its funding after years of costly central bank support.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222176/article/ekathimerini/business/national-bank-of-greece-planning-euro-covered-benchmark

ATHEX: Credit sector keeps sliding

Bank stocks continued to fall on Wednesday in the wake of a European Central Bank decision that foresees eurozone lenders having to set aside funds to cover 100 percent of loans that turn nonperforming from January 2018. The news reinforced market concerns that, one way or another, local banks will need a fresh cash injection.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222183/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-credit-sector-keeps-sliding

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KATHIMERINI: Shocking reductions in pensions of high ranking state officials

ETHNOS: Express-pensions for 30,000 mothers

TA NEA: Budget achieves surplus through the ‘embezzlement’ of pensions

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: “I will not pay, I will not pay!” TV channel owners wish to keep their licenses without paying any fee

AVGI: TV channel owners are addicted to ‘free meals’ and wish to avoid payments for the TV licenses

RIZOSPASTIS: Do not attempt to touch the workers’ right to strike and collective action!

KONTRA NEWS: Construction works in Elliniko must begin immediately

TO PONTIKI: Inside the beast’s nest. Meeting between Tsipras-Trump on 17 October

DIMOKRATIA: Budget will be derailed if more time is lost

NAFTEMPORIKI: The investment in Athens’ former airport at Elliniko lies on the razor’s edge

Who’s been a naughty Brexit negotiator? Michel Barnier is in Sweden today to meet the prime minister and other government officials. But while we’ve all been promised a transparent Brexit, it’s hard to keep track of the EU’s chief negotiator. His team has failed to publish details of key meetings and speeches; those they do publish are spread across two contradictory web pages (here and here.)

Barnier held a series of meetings and briefings for elite audiences across the Continent in September, which included a speech to the exclusive Cercle Gaulois in Brussels, first revealed by POLITICO. Under Commission rules, details of that appearance should have been published by the end of September. If you’ve had a meeting with Barnier that the Commission hasn’t published, Playbook would be happy to hear from you.

AMAZON, APPLE AND THE COMMISSION’S TAX JUSTICE CRUSADE …

Who would have thought it? Jean-Claude Juncker, the man who spent years obstructing EU efforts to tackle tax avoidance while premier of Luxembourg, leads the European Commission that has done the most to close tax loopholes. In addition to new action against Luxembourg and efforts to toughen VAT regulation, the Commission is taking Ireland to court for refusing to comply with its order to recover €13 billion in unpaid taxes from Apple. Emmanuel Macron showed he is a fan of competition chief Margrethe Vestager’s work with a tweet that did nothing to hurt her chances for the Commission presidency in 2019.

Vestager orders Luxembourg to recover €250 million in illegal tax advantage given to Amazon: The Commission’s competition chief said: “Amazon was allowed to pay four times less tax than other local companies subject to the same national tax rules. This is illegal under EU state aid rules. Member states cannot give selective tax benefits to multinational groups that are not available to others.”The Commission claimed the tax ruling enabled Amazon to shift the vast majority of its profits from an Amazon group company that is subject to tax in Luxembourg (Amazon EU) to a company that is not subject to tax (Amazon Europe Holding Technologies).

What Amazon said: “We believe that Amazon did not receive any special treatment from Luxembourg and that we paid tax in full accordance with both Luxembourg and international tax law.” (They issued their statement in five languages.)

What Luxembourg said: “Luxembourg considers that the company has not been granted incompatible state aid … Luxembourg will use appropriate due diligence to analyze the decision and reserves all its rights.” The government also said it is fully compliant with OECD tax modernization efforts.

COMMISSION REJECTS HUNGARY’S REASSURANCES ON NGO LAW: A law obliging NGOs to register with the government and publicize when they’re funded by organizations or individuals from abroad “violates the right to freedom of association and the right to protection of private life and personal data enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,” the Commission announced Wednesday. If Hungary does not initiate changes to the law in the next month the Commission will refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Commission blooper: The Commission was forced to reveal the news a day earlier than planned, along with a handful of other legal decisions, after it accidentally published its press release on Hungary. The Commission deleted it but then reposted it about an hour later alongside other announcements. Often the Commission tries to maximize news coverage by spreading out its announcements of decisions taken at the weekly College of Commissioners’ meeting.

COMMISSION — DOMBROVSKIS CONFIRMS INTENTION TO EMBED FISCAL RULES IN EU LAW: Vice president for the euro Valdis Dombrovskis told MEPs Wednesday that the Commission is aiming to put forward legislation by the end of 2017 that will incorporate the intergovernmental Fiscal Compact Treaty, which forces 26 participating governments to meet tough deficit and debt requirements, into EU law covering all EU countries.

COUNCIL — VISEGRÁD LEADERS TO DINE WITH JUNCKER OCTOBER 18: The peacekeeping mission is a prelude to the European Council summit on October 19 and 20.

COUNCIL — GLYPHOSATE WARS: As national governments meet to consider the fate of glyphosate products in Europe, campaigners against Monsanto’s RoundUp product were in Brussels Wednesday to press their claims that they or their family members developed cancer as a result of persistent use of the chemical weed killer. The New York Times examined the large number of court cases Monsanto now faces.

WINNING — EU-FUNDED RESEARCHERS WIN ANOTHER NOBEL PRIZE: Jacques Dubochet and Richard Henderson took home the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on cryo-electron microscopy, which simplifies and improves the imaging of biomolecules. It’s the second prize for EU-funded researchers this week.

CATALAN CRISIS CORNER …

Catalan regional president speaks out: Carles Puigdemont said the Spanish king had “deliberately ignored” those injured by Spanish police and missed an opportunity to speak to all Spaniards. Puigdemont also confirmed his wish for a mediator to facilitate a dialogue with Madrid. On that front Playbook received two more nominations for the role: Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish President, and Pope Francis.

Commission defends Madrid’s use of ‘proportionate’ force: In a European Parliament debate, the Commission’s first vice president, Frans Timmermans, sided squarely with Madrid, report Maia de la Baume and David Herszenhorn. The EPP’s Manfred Weber expressed regret about the violence that took place Sunday.

>Key lines from Timmermans: “It’s time to talk … the power of dialogue … is what our union is built on.” He added that “upholding the rule of law does sometimes require the proportionate use of force.”

Opinion — Why Spain needs a constitutional overhaul: Camino Mortera-Martinez for the Center for European Reform writes that the only way for Madrid to resolve the fragility of the Spanish state without giving into the demands of the Catalan government is to urgently revise the country’s model of regional government.

Bloomberg’s John Micklethwait writes that Catalonia may only be the beginning. Another Brexit-like rupture in Europe’s East could be waiting in the wings, “driven by a similar mixture of pent-up anger and short-term political maneuvering.” The likely election of Andrej Babiš, known as the Czech Donald Trump, this month will give further momentum to Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland. “This brings home the basic fact about all three populists: They’re popular,” Micklethwait writes.

PARLIAMENT SOAPBOX …

TAJANI WANTS PARLIAMENT TO BE A GLOBAL STAGE: European Parliament President Antonio Tajani wants to welcome a wider set of high-profile figures into the hemicycle — not just heads of state — to put Parliament at the “heart of the debate on the future of Europe,” reports Maïa de la Baume.

MORE LOBBYISTS COULD BE BARRED FROM PARLIAMENT: The Greens will ask political group leaders this morning to withdraw Parliament access badges from anyone representing Caterpillar, after the company refused to attend hearings of a tax evasion investigative committee.

FERBER CONFLICT OF INTEREST DISCUSSION: Leading MEPs on the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee today will discuss alleged conflicts of interest involving EPP MEP Markus Ferber, who is also vice president of the committee. POLITICO reported that lawmakers were uneasy about Ferber pitching a financial service to navigate financial regulations he helped shape.

PARTY PEOPLE — FRENCH SWINGERS: Former National Front MEPs Florian Philippot, Sophie Montel and Mireille d’Ornano left the far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom group to sit with UKIP in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group.

NETHERLANDS — O DUTCH GOVERNMENT, WHERE ART THOU? The Dutch will soon break their own record on the longest stretch between elections and a new government: On October 9, it will have been 208 days since the March 15 parliamentary election with no government in place. Cynthia Kroet and Ivo Oliviera run you through the numbers.

BREXIT 360° …

Britain’s trade woes deepen: Things just got a whole lot worse for Prime Minister Theresa May on the trade front. Hot on the heels of slapping tariffs on Bombardier, affecting thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland, the U.S. has now teamed up with six other heavyweights at the World Trade Organization to push the U.K. on the all-important issue of post-Brexit food imports.

Britain and the EU insist they have struck a deal over post-Brexit quotas, determining how much meat, sugar and grain the U.K. should be willing to buy on global markets. But in an unusually testy letter, the Americans, Canadians, Argentines, Brazilians, Uruguayans, Thais and New Zealanders shot back that the proposed U.K.-EU deal was unacceptable and could leave them worse off. This team of nations will now fight to ensure deep access to both U.K. and EU for their massive food exports: Bad news for British and EU farmers. POLITICO Trade Pro subscribers can read the full story here.

May’s future in doubt again after conference disaster: Whisper it — a few people are feeling sorry for Theresa May this morning. There’s a definite sense among U.K. political insiders that the prime minister is limping toward oblivion after her domestic political relaunch crash-landed Wednesday. Even the ultra-Tory Daily Telegraph newspaper concluded May’s gaffe-heavy party conference speech Wednesday “capped a disastrous conference week for the Conservatives,” whose membership has an average age of 71.

POLITICO’s Charlie Cooper told Playbook: “There will have been much sympathy for the prime minister, who was clearly unwell, but at times it was excruciating to watch as May struggled to get her message across and the Cabinet engineered a standing ovation to give her time to recover.” Of course, it’s not lack of personal sympathy that’s the issue: It’s that the speech was a deafening metaphor for where the U.K. government stands 17 months after its citizens voted to leave the EU.

How it played: Non-British media | Telegraph | Sun | Guardian | Times | Independent | FT

What is Barnier up to: Eurasia Group’s Mujtaba Rahman wrote to clients that EU member countries are skeptical of Barnier’s claim that he’ll return with a “clear commitment for an off the shelf transition” if given the mandate to explore the transition with the U.K. That’s because “it is precisely these two issues where Boris [Johnson] has been the most hawkish and most vocal.” In the words of one senior Brexit negotiator quoted by Rahman, the fear is that “we could lose our framework and unity in the talks but get nothing in return.”

Latest Johnson circus: It seems no day can pass without a member of the Johnson family summoning our attention. Today it’s Boris’ father Stanley, a former European Commission official, who announced he now backs Brexit.

For a Boris Johnson antidote, poet Luke Wright offers this satirical take-down of the U.K. Foreign Secretary’s latest gaffe, about the Libyan city of Sirte facing a bright tourist future once it “clears away the bodies.”

Opinion — Britain’s Tories are too old: Conservatives are right to be worried about their lack of popularity with young Brits, writes Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University. “The right leader can help enthuse and mobilize young people. But in the end, a party needs to persuade them that it’s on their side.”

HUNGARY — CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY FINDS A FRIEND: The future of Budapest’s CEU, which was under threat of being shut down, looks to have been secured, the institution said, thanks to a new memorandum of understanding with a longstanding partner, Bard College, “to provide educational activities in New York.”

UNITED STATES — DEMOCRATS’ BEST HOPE FOR 2020 IS OPRAH WINFREY: If Oprah isn’t interested in the presidency, she has a funny way of showing it.

KOSOVO AND THE POLITICS OF PRAYER: Pristina’s newest cathedral is not just a religious monument; it’s a political symbol, writes Matthew Clayfield, who visited the Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa ahead of its consecration.