06-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

06-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Friday, July 06, 2018

Acrimony mars debate in Greek Parliament on the economy

Faced with fierce opposition criticism over the recent Eurogroup debt deal and the country’s post-bailout surveillance, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday personally attacked New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, making reference to the Novartis pharmaceutical scandal and accusing him of having shady dealings with foreign officials.


Calls by Orban, Seehofer for more migrant returns

Amid a widening rift in the European Union over how to manage the bloc’s refugee problem, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Thursday separately called for more migrant returns to Greece and Italy.


Pence, Tsipras discuss recovering economy, military cooperation

Greece and the United States reaffirmed the enduring ties between the two countries in a call between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday night, according to a White House readout of the Vice President’s call to the Greek leader.


State arrears to private sector at 2.974 bln€ in May 2018, down 390 mln€ euros from previous month

The state’s arrears to the private sector – including outstanding tax refunds to taxpayers – reached 2.974 billion euros at the end of May, down 390 million euros (3.364 billion euros) in the preceding month, April 2018.


Two trading firms make 2nd round of HELPE tender

As expected, international traders Glencore and Vitol were short-listed on Tuesday in the tender for the 50.1 percent stake in Hellenic Petroleum (HELPE) after three other bidders were dropped from the second stage.


SETE Intelligence: Tourist arrivals by vehicle to Greece in 2017 comprise 30% of total

Tourists arriving by car or coach in Greece in 2017 significantly increased in 2017, a SETE Intelligence study noted this week.


ATHEX: Stagnation persists on stock market

As has been the case in recent sessions, there was little to suggest on Thursday that the local stock market might stage a significant recovery in terms of prices or turnover, as the thin trade saw the benchmark only moving within a narrow five-point range. Buyers had the upper hand up until the end, but the rising trend recorded on other eurozone markets made hardly any impact in Greece.







KATHIMERINI: Greeks spent 8,3 billion Euros from their savings in 2017

ETHNOS: The Federation of Enterprises asks for the immediate slashing of pensions

TA NEA: Ankara bomb: For the first time the return of the captured 2 Greek servicemen is linked to the handing over of the 8 Turkish military officers who asked for asylum in the EU after the coup attempt in Turkey

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Mr. Mitsotakis you’re out of luck!

AVGI: The end of the Memorandum era and the agony of the old political system

RIZOSPASTIS: The government and main-opposition party New Democracy can’t hide their agreement on the measures that bring the people down

KONTRA NEWS: New Democracy leader Mitsotakis is a historical traitor who begged foreign creditors to slash Greek pensions

DIMOKRATIA: Skopje deal ratification [and elections] to be delayed

NAFTEMPORIKI: Agency for National Debt Management optimistic about debt sustainability in the long-term

Teaching Germans German, the Austrian way: “With Germans, the largest immigrant group in Austria, we have gradually overcome the language barrier,” Sebastian Kurz told reporters in his soft Viennese, which makes almost everything sound charming to a German ear.

Make no mistake: It was a remarkable day for Austrian diplomacy vis-à-vis its big neighbor to the north — one of those moments when the tables turn.

GOOD FRIDAY MORNING. What a week! Germany’s government took a step back from the brink in yet another all-night negotiation, but leaving Europe clueless as to what the truce between Berlin and Munich might mean for them; Poland’s prime minister dismissed the need for a division of powers, telling MEPs in Strasbourg — the sanctum of European democracy, no less — the country was in safe hands; and Big Tech won (for now) the lobbying battle of the year. And there’s more excitement yet to come for Theresa May, with a Cabinet away day that may or may not end with a few ministerial resignations (less of a drama in Britain perhaps than in Germany, it has to be said). More below.

Austria offered Germany a free lesson in diplomacy, sparing its guest the humiliation of showing its bruises too openly. David Herszenhorn et moi took a closer look at what happened. It’s our final Guten Morgen from Vienna this week.


DON’T BLAME US: “I may ask for your understanding that it is German decisions that are currently being discussed, and that it is German decisions that may require Austrian reaction,” Kurz told reporters moments ahead of a visit from German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. Read: Don’t blame little Austria if it closes the Brenner pass. Austria’s well aware of the “emotions linked to the Brenner border,” but would take action if Germany implements national measures.

WHO, ME? Seehofer suggested it should be up to the chancellor to negotiate bilateral agreements on refugees with other countries, not the interior minister, thanks very much. “I assume that due to the complexity and the European dimension, the most important points of the agreement will have to be fixed by the heads of government,” he said during a speech before the Bundestag. He then flew to Vienna, where he repeated the line, saying: “These talks are extremely complex and complicated. They are a true European priority, and can only be decided by heads of government, and I’m referring to Greece, Italy and the chancellor.” Still not quite clear enough? One more time for the road: “It’s always a matter for the heads of government.”

LET’S BLAME ITALY: Seehofer assured Kurz that Berlin would not hold the country responsible for refugees “that it wasn’t responsible for previously,” but would get Italy (and Greece, which is already on board in principle) to take back migrants previously registered there. “Austria would not be affected, because we would take people directly back to Greece and Italy,” according to Seehofer.

So, what happened? Here’s what you need to know about the Vienna meeting.

 1. Seehofer left as empty-handed as he came: He came to negotiate an agreement on border management, and left with nothing more than what he arrived with. But he was forced to perform some seriously deep bows (behind closed doors) for dragging the Austrians into his fight with Merkel in the first place. Advantage Kurz, who wasn’t shy about voicing his irritation at being given a role to play in settling an internal dispute of Germany’s governing parties.

2. Unwilling or just unable? The three-paragraph deal that saved the CDU and CSU from a split spoke of administrative level agreements to alleviate pressure on Germany. Seehofer made it into a much higher-level affair, walking a fine line between shifting the responsibility to his boss and admitting that he’s not quite the right man for the complex job of negotiating these deals.

3. Austria in the middle: Kurz and Seehofer announced there would be a trilateral meeting with Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, next week at the margins of an EU ministerial meeting in Innsbruck. It had previously been announced as a German-Italian bilateral. But the sandwich country will now have a seat at the table — and might even be helpful in reaching an agreement. That, at least, is the plan. The common denominator between all three? You guessed it: secure the EU’s external borders and pretend there is no intra-EU migration.

NEW EUROPE: Austria will intensify controls at its border with Germany as well as at the Brenner pass next week ahead of (and for) a meeting of interior ministers in Innsbruck. Expect delays, traffic and — if you’re unlucky enough to have to take the Inntalautobahn next week — an exclusive preview of what the end of Schengen would look like.

SPD’S ON BOARD: The Social Democrats, Merkel’s other coalition partner, greenlighted Merkel and Seehofer’s migration compromise, following yet another coalition meeting late Thursday night. It’s a “good solution,” said SPD chief Andrea Nahles. It’s a big win for them too — after days of really, really tough negotiations: The “transit centers” at the heart of the deal will now be called “transfer centers.” (ICYMI: Matthew Karnitschnig broke down what the fuss over the name is all about.) Here’s the text of the coalition’s asylum policy agreement.


DIPLOMACY TOUR: Theresa May chatted with Merkel on Thursday — Matthew Karnitschnig’s got everything you need to know here — and her Dutch colleague Mark Rutte earlier in the week. She’s testing the European waters for her latest proposal on how to resolve the customs conundrum of how to leave while also staying in. She first needs to get her own Cabinet to sign off on the proposal, before EU leaders can reject it as unrealistic, a cherry-picking exercise or an attempt to dig a hole into the single market (or perhaps all of the above.)

But that Cabinet OK is far from certain, as the compromise customs plan already faces hostile reactions from Brexiteers, the Brexit secretary included. Today’s the crucial day, when Cabinet meets at May’s country retreat in Chequers. It’s been nicknamed the “body bag summit,” because of the high likelihood of resignations: “May will face the most dangerous moment of her premiership,” Tom MacTague and Charlie Cooper report. “If the prime minister fails to win Cabinet support for her proposals — even at the cost of high-profile resignations — the prospect of ‘no deal’ rears back into view, jeopardizing May’s grip on power and opening up the possibility of a fresh U.K. election and a genuine political crisis.” Watch this space.

VIEW FROM VIENNA: Kurz would prefer extending negotiations with the U.K. rather than surrendering to a “hard Brexit” if a deal on the Northern Ireland border remains out of reach, he said. “Our goal is we reach an agreement with the U.K. but if that’s not possible, I think we have to avoid a hard Brexit.” What would that mean — postponing Brexit day and extending the Article 50 period beyond two years? “I think we need to keep negotiating,” he said.

SEEHOFER AGAIN: The interior minister warned in a letter to the European Commission that an overly rigid approach to Brexit talks would undermine the security of European citizens. He wrote: “Weakening the European security architecture would affect all EU citizens and undermine their fundamental need for security. The ever present threat of cross-border terrorism shows the need for unlimited co-operation in future.” The letter, dated June 27, was not coordinated with the chancellory, the FT reports.

BRITAIN’S WIN OF THE DAY: The country moved one step closer to getting the Bayeux Tapestry — which depicts the Norman victory at Hastings in 1066 — on loan in 2022. Not the best timing, perhaps, as it means the U.K. could end up footing the bill for the artwork’s much-needed restoration.

OVER THE ROOFTOPS: London will allow a 6-meter-tall inflatable of U.S. President Donald Trump as an angry (and very orange) baby to be flown above the city during the president’s official trip to the U.K. next week. Organizers of the “Let Trump Baby Fly” campaign say they hope it’s the beginning of a global tour.


COPYRIGHT? WE’RE JUST GETTING STARTED: The European Parliament has voted to reject a reform of copyright rules for the internet age, reopening the debate on a bill that pits internet giants against publishers and media companies. Let the lobbying game begin (again) and drag on until after the summer, when the plenary will reassess the file on substance (be so kind as to leave Playbook out of the distribution list, if you would.) Joanna Plucinska has the full story on the big-win-for-Big-Tech day.

Are memes here to say? I’m sure you’re dying to know. Mark Scott gets opponents on both sides of the debate to fight it out (in memes). More here.

NATO’S PRESENT TO TRUMP: More NATO members will meet their target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense in 2018, the military alliance’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, told POLITICO’s Ryan Heath ahead of next week’s summit. In 2014, only three countries met the target, according to Stoltenberg. “Now this year I expect eight allies to meet that pledge.” (A little reminder: These are the countries that spend 2 percent of their GDP on their national military; that money doesn’t go into NATO’s budget, or pay back debt to the U.S.)

MERKEL VS. ORBÁN: “Sadly the prime minister sees the recommendations of the Venice Commission, also what goes into the direction of the rule of law, not in a way that we would hope for,” Merkel told reporters Thursday, emerging from a meeting with her second EU visitor of the day, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. But well: “All in all a good visit, dear Viktor,” she said. Maxime Schlee and Lili Bayer report.

A BUDGET BY 2019?: Asked if he believed EU leaders could achieve the Commission’s goal of agreeing the seven-year budget by next year’s European election, Austria’s Kurz said he was doubtful. A number of leaders at last week’s European Council summit, he noted, had expressed a preference for “quality rather than speed.” He knew how to decode that message, he said, reminding the audience of his four-year stint as foreign minister before he became chancellor: “Perhaps that’s a diplomatic way of saying they don’t intend to go very fast.”

Austria’s position: Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who joined Kurz at the news conference, said Austria’s own view could be boiled down to two words: “thrift” and “quality.”

RUSSIA SANCTIONS EXTENDED: The EU on Thursday extended sanctions against Russia for another six months over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. The Council unanimously adopted the extension on the restrictions, which were originally imposed in July 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, citing Moscow’s “actions destabilizing the situation in Ukraine.”

FACEBOOK’S LAST EASY RIDE: The social network’s top brass may soon be nostalgic for the days of their European apology tour — the ones before regulation really came down on their business. Probes into Facebook’s handling of user data are stacking up on both sides of the Atlantic, and carry the potential of crippling financial or legal precedents that could damage its business model. Joanna Plunciska has the story.

QUESTIONS ABOUT EUROPE: Photojournalist Austin Meyer asked eight people he met on assignment in Zambia the same question: What are you curious to know about Europe? These are their answers.

POMPEO IN NORTH KOREA: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Pyongyang today to flesh out what North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s broad pledge to “work toward denuclearization” really means.

OUT THE DOOR: Scott Pruitt has resigned as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency following an avalanche of revelations about his first-class flights, pricey security trappings, backdoor raises for protégés and cozy deals with lobbyists stretching back to his days as an Oklahoma lawmaker. The onslaught proved too much even for Trump, one of Pruitt’s most outspoken fans, to ignore. Our U.S. colleagues have the latest.