05-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

05-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Eurogroup OKs staff level agreement between Athens, creditors

A staff level agreement between Greece and its institutional creditors was reportedly given the “green light” on Monday by the Eurozone finance ministers comprising the Eurogroup, with government sources in Athens also claiming that discussion on the matter was brief.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1301246/govt-sources-eurogroup-oks-staff-level-agreement-between-athens-creditors

Nine Kurds ordered held on terrorism-linked charges

Nine Turkish nationals, all ethnic Kurds, arrested last week in raids on three central Athens apartments, and charged with various terrorism-related offenses, were ordered held on remand after their statements on Monday to an investigating magistrate.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1301194/nine-kurds-ordered-held-on-terrorism-linked-charges

Growth rate falls short in Q3

The Greek economy’s growth rate failed to meet expectations in what is traditionally the country’s best quarter, as gross domestic product rose by just 1.3 percent on an annual basis in the July-September period according to provisional figures the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) released on Monday. Tourism was the only main force powering this moderate growth, as the figures for investments and consumption were disappointing.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223872/article/ekathimerini/business/growth-rate-falls-short-in-q3

PPC workers warn of protests over selloffs

Workers at two Public Power Corporation units that being are being put up for sale as part of the government’s plans to privatize 40 percent of the state-owned company’s lignite-powered plants will be holding two rallies this week and warn of more action to oppose the move.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223823/article/ekathimerini/news/ppc-workers-warn-of-protests-over-selloffs

State takes two or three times as long as it should to pay suppliers

The Greek state has turned into a strategic defaulter of sorts, further threatening the already limited liquidity of Greek enterprises and therefore their sustainability, especially those whose main client is the state.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223871/article/ekathimerini/business/state-takes-two-or-three-times-as-long-as-it-should-to-pay-suppliers

Two in five freelancers closed their service invoice books

The social security law introduced by former minister Giorgos Katrougalos in May 2016 has resulted in 111,212 self-employed professionals closing their invoice books for services rendered up to end-November.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223832/article/ekathimerini/business/two-in-five-freelancers-closed-their-service-invoice-books

Fitch: Bond swap may support market return

Greece’s exchange of sovereign bonds held by private sector creditors is another step toward the resumption of regular bond issuance, Fitch Ratings said on Monday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223866/article/ekathimerini/business/fitch-bond-swap-may-support-market-return

ATHEX: Stocks slip as investors cash in gains

Many investors cashed in last week’s gains on Monday, while turnover fell to the lowest point since November 28. Some losses were expected following the spending spree observed in previous sessions, although the unexpected shrinking of growth in the third quarter deepened the impact, while the market had already factored in the staff-level agreement with the country’s creditors.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223870/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-stocks-slip-as-investors-cash-in-gains

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KATHIMERINI: The government broke the taboo of the union legislation. It accepted to make it harder for unions to call a strike in exchange for the closing of the bailout programme review

ETHNOS: The Eurogroup of the South. Positive climate for Greece

TA NEA: The Memorandum express. Growth missed the train

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Fake news bombardment with the political coverage of New Democracy

AVGI: Next stop: Exit from the Memorandum

RIZOSPASTIS: The government is attempting to undermine the right to strike in a sneaky manner

KONTRA NEWS: PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata is fighting the Left forgetting that PASOK and New Democracy are responsible for the country’s debt reaching 350 billion Euros

DIMOKRATIA: Scandalous legislation by SYRIZA regarding taxation of casinos

NAFTEMPORIKI: GDP growth was slower than expected and the government is now placing its hopes on Q4

DEALING WITH NO BREXIT DEAL

The 4-ring Brexit circus — AKA, a very manic Monday: Instead of mere cross-channel shenanigans or a simple Greek-style political volte-face, Brussels got incoming fire from London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and Dublin all at once Monday. But within the Brussels bubble few paid attention. They didn’t talk about it in the lunch line at Exki, they didn’t play it on the screens of local bars, and the EU seemed intent on proving how many balls it can keep juggling as Brexit purred in the background: preoccupied with the Eurogroup presidency election, a crucial telecoms ministers’ meeting and the arrival in town of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Meanwhile the UK faced a great unraveling: In a case of lunchus interruptus, DUP leader Arlene Foster told Theresa May she’d be flying back to a minority government if she went through with the deal for “regulatory alignment” in Ireland. That gave May a choice between giving in to the Republic of Ireland, and supplementary demands from London, Scotland and Cardiff for the same “regulatory alignment” with the EU, or bowing to the DUP and falling deeper into that party’s political hostage-taking tendencies, for the sake of her immediate survival. POLITICO’s Tom McTague, Charlie Cooper and Annabelle Dickson describe how and why Ulster said no.

Varadkar ‘surprised and disappointed’: Speaking in Dublin Monday evening, a clearly frustrated Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “I am surprised and disappointed with the British government over failure to reach agreement in Brexit talks.” Insisting there was “no hidden agenda” — a reference to claims from some Northern Irish unionists that he’s pushing for a united Ireland — Varadkar said “we do not want a border in the Irish Sea.”

Pic of the day: Varadkar arriving in hi-vis sports gear for the Irish Cabinet meeting.

Line of the day: The DUP are the new Walloons.” h/t Marcus Leroux

Another all-male panel: Commission officials and MEPs = a man’s job.

CLOSE BUT NO IRISH CIGAR: “This is not a failure,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. “I’m very confident that we will reach agreement in the course of this week.”

SET YOUR ALARM CLOCKS FOR DECEMBER 14: That’s the date of both the EU summit at which leaders will formally decide whether to open trade talks with the U.K., and the Belgian court decision on whether to extradite former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his ex-colleagues to Spain.

EUROZONE CORNER

NEW EUROGROUP PRESIDENT IS PORTUGAL’S MÁRIO CENTENO …

Mário Centeno, a Harvard-trained economist who has been Portugal’s finance minister since 2015, was elected by his peers as the next president of the Eurogroup, reports Bjarke Smith-Meyer. Centeno is to the left of outgoing Dutch President Jeroen Dijsselbloem and will chair his first Eurogroup meeting on January 18. “This is a victory for the future of Europe and for all of us that fought to get rid of blind austerity,” said Gianni Pittella, leader of the Socialist group in the European Parliament. Paul Ames reports for POLITICO from Lisbon about how Centeno has overseen a dramatic economy recovery in a country that only a few years ago was on its knees.

As Bjarke points out, Centeno’s main task will be steering the end of the €86-billion Greek bailout program next summer while handling sensitive talks over debt relief to satisfy demands from the International Monetary Fund. And as the Commission presents on Wednesday its proposals on eurozone reforms with very likely a new euro finance minister, Centeno may also need to drive the shift from the European Stability Mechanism to a European Monetary Fund and handle the burning issue of a eurozone budget.

Prank of the day— Dijsselbloem’s last ‘Dijsselbourde’: The outgoing Eurogroup president accidentally said Centeno would be his successor … before the vote.

Love is in the air: Slovakia’s Finance Minister Peter Kažimír‏ was poetic ahead of the vote as he tweeted: “Today’s vote of #Eurogroup chair is like going on first date with an old friend and it’s not clear whether you will get the kiss or stay friends.” Kažimír‏ withdrew his application before the formal vote. So not even an awkward handshake then?

LET THE LEADERSHIP CONTEST BEGIN: Centeno’s election is the first of a series of such deals that will be made in the coming years, including a vice president for the European Central Bank and a new Commission president after the European elections in 2019. POLITICO’s Pierre Briançon reports horse-trading for the EU’s top jobs has already begun.

EUROZONE REFORM LEAK REJECTED: Normally Commission spokespeople say they don’t comment on leaks. Despite this, Margaritis Schinas said Monday “no one knows what they are talking about,” after contradictory reports in Der Spiegel and Libération about the Commission’s eurozone reform plans. Given Juncker’s chief of staff Martin Selmayr has been rumored to be behind such leaks in the past, what happens Wednesday is anyone’s guess.

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS

COUNCIL — MOGHERINI, TILLERSON, FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET: The top dogs meet at noon bilaterally, after which EU foreign ministers will lunch with Tillerson from 1 p.m. ABC’s Tara Palmeri has a primer for Tillerson’s visit, as questions about his status in the Trump administration continue to swirl.

COMMISSION — TAXING TALK: Commissioner Pierre Moscovici at a European Tax Adviser Federation event will discuss the EU’s list of tax havens, which finance ministers are set to approve today.

PARLIAMENT — HUNGARY BLASTS WITCH HUNT: Budapest on Monday branded an upcoming European Parliament hearing on Hungary a cross between a witch hunt and a communist-style show trial.

SRB — GERMANY’S ELKE KÖNIG REAPPOINTED CHAIR OF SINGLE RESOLUTION BOARD: The European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs voted in a secret ballot to extend König’s mandate by five years.

IN TOWN: Zoran Zaev, prime minister of FYROM, will keynote an event for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation at noon. Tanja Fajon MEP and External Action Service Political Director Jean-Christophe Belliard will then join for an on-stage discussion. The key topics: EU membership prospects and what the new FYROM government will do (or keep doing) to improve relations with its neighbors Bulgaria and Greece, ahead of talks on the name dispute next week between Athens and Skopje.

PANEL DU JOUR: Chrystia Freeland, Rose Gottemoeller (NATO’s deputy secretary general), Helga Schmid (the EEAS’s secretary general) and Simon Gimson (the International Crisis Groups’ vice president) chat about women, peace and security at 10 a.m. at a German Marshall Fund of the United States event.

DIGITAL POLITICS

YOUTUBE TO TAKE ACTION ON PROBLEMATIC CONTENT: Google overnight announced more changes to how it polices content on YouTube, after criticism it failed to stop hate speech and other violent material from being shared on the video platform. POLITICO’s Mark Scott on what’s changed, available for Pro Technology subscribers here and blog post announcing the move here.

EU NATIONAL NEWS

GERMANY — SPD AGREES TO ENTER COALITION TALKS: Germany’s center-left Social Democrats agreed to enter into talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives about possibly forming a new government.

GERMANY — SEEHOFER ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION AS BAVARIAN PREMIER: Horst Seehofer, Bavaria’s state premier, said he will remain head of Angela Merkel’s sister party, the Christian Social Union, reports Emily Schultheis.

MALTA — 10 ARRESTED OVER JOURNALIST’S MURDER: Ten people were arrested in connection with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced at a press conference Monday.

SPAIN — 7 CONTENDERS IN THE CATALAN ELECTION: Diego Torres for POLITICO profiles the seven contenders in the crucial December 21 election. Carles Puigdemont “has bet the house on getting his job back even if he loses the ballot … A half-communist, half-anarchist political party allergic to hierarchies, the CUP wants an independent Catalonia out of the EU, no matter the cost … If separatists have nightmares, they must surely feature Inés Arrimadas as the next president of Catalonia.”

FINLAND — PM SAYS COUNTRY SHOULD REMAIN NEUTRAL: “To have Finland and Sweden forming this militarily non-aligned zone, I think that increases the security and stability in the Baltic Sea region … I see no reason to change this,” Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä told Reuters.

SURGE OF ISIS FIGHTERS REPORTEDLY HEADING TO EUROPE.

BREXIT 360°

What happens now: The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is still expected to attend the weekly College of Commissioners Wednesday to debrief on the talks. Juncker is expected to meet May once again in the late afternoon Wednesday in Brussels. An EU diplomat told Playbook that Wednesday night is likely to be a long one. Read our live blog to see how the no-deal day unfolded.

Top quotes …

MEP Manfred Weber joins the hardcore crowd: “We will not change our red lines. The lives of millions of families are at stake.”

Philippe Lamberts MEP, a Greens leader: “The necessity of a special agreement for Northern Ireland has been clear to all rational observers since Day 1. Maintaining regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is the only solution if the Good Friday Agreement is to be respected.”

Richard Corbett, Labour leader in the European Parliament: “We are now 18 months on from the referendum, and it’s been nine months since the triggering of Article 50 — yet we are still in the first phase of negotiations, discussing issues that should have been wrapped up months ago. Never mind crossing the finish line of the talks, she [Theresa May] can’t even get off the starting block.”

Donald ‘I spoke too fast’ Tusk: “I was ready to present draft EU27 guidelines tomorrow for #Brexit talks on transition and future. But U.K. and Commission asked for more time,” Tusk tweeted.

I want what she’s having: Any bespoke Brexit deal for Northern Ireland should be replicated in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said. London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones also want their piece of the EU single market.

It works for Starbucks: Shall we all just have our own micro-targeted, personalized Brexit?

New Statesman on 140 areas of North-South Ireland cooperation at risk from differing regulatory approaches on the island.

Brussels, ease up on Theresa May: The European Policy Centre’s Fabian Zuleeg urges European negotiators to work with the British prime minister to avoid damage across the bloc.

The other Brexit saga: British MPs will be able to see the long-awaited Brexit impact assessments in a room somewhere in Whitehall, with a government official watching them and no notes or pictures allowed.