06-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

06-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Thursday, September 06, 2018

OECD places Greece in unenviable first place among 34 members for tax increases between 2007-16

The latest report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) more-or-less confirms what Greek taxpayers and business owners in the country continue to suffer in the second half of the year, namely, a “tax safari” unleashed in 2016 that has reached unprecedented proportions.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1388053/oecd-places-greece-in-unenviable-first-place-among-34-members-for-tax-increases-between-2007-16

UN mediator Nimetz: Failure to pass ‘name issue’ agreement could lead to another 25 years before resolution

The most experienced of the “old hands” involved over the past quarter century in the “name issue”, US diplomat Matthew Nimetz, reiterated this week that if a Sept. 30 referendum in the neighboring former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) rejects the Prespes agreement then it may take another 25 years to resolve the thorny difference.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1388276/un-mediator-nimetz-failure-to-pass-name-issue-agreement-could-lead-to-another-25-years-before-resolution

NATO chief to discuss FYROM’s accession bid in Athens

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will visit Athens on Thursday to discuss with the government developments on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s (FYROM) accession bid, following an invitation by to the international organization to join its ranks on July 12, sources told the state-run news agency ANA-MPA.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232317/article/ekathimerini/news/nato-chief-to-discuss-fyroms-accession-bid-in-athens

ND names Meimarakis candidate for Euro MP

Former defense minister Vangelis Meimarakis, 64, who also served as temporary leader of New Democracy in 2015, will head the conservative ballot in the elections for European Parliament in May.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232328/article/ekathimerini/news/nd-names-meimarakis-candidate-for-euro-mp

TV regulator publishes final list of winners in licensing tender

Greece’s broadcasting regulator, the National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV), published on Wednesday its final list of media companies that will receive one of the five 10-year nationwide broadcasting licenses, following a meeting of its board.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232313/article/ekathimerini/news/tv-regulator-publishes-final-list-of-winners-in-licensing-tender

Greek high court throws out special consumption tax on wine

The Council of State (CoS) has reportedly overturned a controversial surcharge on wine, according to Greek Wine Federation, in a statement on Tuesday.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1388415/greek-high-court-throws-out-special-consumption-tax-on-wine

Investors staying away from Greek paper

The deterioration of the investment climate in emerging markets, along with the still fragile picture in Greece, despite its exit from the bailout program, and talk of government handouts ahead of the Thessaloniki International Fair are driving investors away from Greek securities, with bond yields climbing to three-month highs on Wednesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232339/article/ekathimerini/business/investors-staying-away-from-greek-paper

ATHEX: Benchmark drops to new 17-month low

The benchmark of the Greek stock market dipped to a new 17-month low on Wednesday as pressure continued not only on bank stocks but also across the blue chip board as well as on bond prices. A balancing session is probably due.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232337/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-benchmark-drops-to-new-17-month-low

www.enikos.gr


www.protothema.gr

www.newsbomb.gr

www.cnn.gr

www.newsbeast.gr

KATHIMERINI:  The government plans to announce benefits that will last until 2022

ETHNOS:  PM Tsipras to offer reserved gifts in the Thessaloniki International Fair

TA NEA:  The government’s ‘amok’ for pre-election pledges threatens Greece

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Nationalistic rampage in Northern Greece

AVGI:  Law and order in the TV field

RIZOSPASTIS:  They are tightening the noose of auctions and extortions against low-earning families

KONTRA NEWS:  Tsipras began his ‘walk towards the people’ aiming at election victory

TO PONTIKI:  I’m searching for you in Thessaloniki

DIMOKRATIA:  Debt regulation with 120 installments for everyone

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Three out of ten did not pay their revenues-tax

Who is Anonymous? Everyone in Washington and beyond wants to know: Who is the anonymous “senior official” who penned the New York Times op-ed about the “quiet resistance” working in the White House to thwart Donald Trump’s “more misguided impulses?” Twitterworld reckons it could be someone very high up indeed. Trump, for his part, accused the author of “treason” and demanded the paper reveal their identity for “national security reasons.” POLITICO’s U.S. team writes that it is “open season on the president.”

AMBASSADORS BRIEFED FIRST, Playbook readers second: Ambassadors in the Coreper I grouping were served dinner on the 13th floor of the Berlaymont on Wednesday night. On the menu: President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the European Union speech — or more precisely, the proposals that will accompany next week’s oration. Diplomats told us to expect a migration-heavy feast, including plans to strengthen the European border and coast guard (get used to the acronym EBCG) and the EU’s asylum agency, and accelerate rejected asylum seeker returns. There’s also going to be an “Africa package” to provide new and stronger partnerships with African countries.

Also on the menu: Countering online terrorist content and a proposal to strengthen the EU’s cybersecurity agency. The Commission will also focus on protecting upcoming elections across the Continent — national as well as European — from hacking. And of course, the EU will announce it will abolish daylight savings time changes.

GOOD MORNING! Forget about the parliamentary groups’, ambassadors’ and the College of Commissioners’ meetings back on the agenda for the first time after the break. Ignore the proof that Germans can throw a proper party, as evidenced by the annual Burda SummerNight. (I will spare you the list of all the commissioners past and present, MEPs, officials, lobbyists and journalists spotted there, but I will say that Jean-Marie Pfaff dropped by, and don’t tell me I have to Google a football legend for you.) Here’s the incontrovertible proof that post-summer Brussels is back with a vengeance.

There’s one important difference this year: We’re in campaign mode.

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

MERKEL’S BLESSING … On Wednesday, Manfred Weber made it official: He announced his run to be the European People’s Party’s Spitzenkandidat in next year’s EU election. Congratulations from his own camp came thick, fast and early. So early, in fact, that MEP Andreas Schwab preempted Weber’s grande surprise from inside the EPP group meeting. Hot on his heels was Alexander Stubb, a potential competitor for the EPP’s lead candidate, who was among the first to wish Weber well.

CDU and CSU are on board: CSU leader Horst Seehofer spoke of the “great honor” that would be bestowed on the party if Weber were to become the EPP’s top candidate; Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister and a member of the gang of young CDU conservatives, sent his bouquets, as did Bavarian Minister-President Markus Söder.

But most importantly: “I welcome this candidacy,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “I support Manfred Weber’s candidacy.” She did pour some water into the champagne, adding that any “top candidate of the EPP is of course, in principle, able to become president of the Commission and in principle would also want to.” (Her message: Watch out after the Spitzenkandidat vote, Manfred.)

Just as fast as the bouquets came the brickbats: Political opponents took aim at Weber as a defender of Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (and the latter’s disputed seat in the EPP’s front row). The campaign train is rolling, let the exciting times in European politics begin.

REALITY CHECK: Weber may be a familiar face in Brussels, but the overwhelming majority of Europeans have likely never heard of him, write David Herszenhorn and Maïa de la Baume. Still, when you’ve got lemons (and not much in the way of relevant experience), make lemonade! “I see myself first of all as a representative of the people,” Weber told reporters when he announced his candidacy. “I am elected as a member of the European Parliament. I am elected, and I am proud to be a parliamentarian. And I want to re-establish the bond between the citizens and the European Union.” (Message for those playing along at home: I’m a man of the people, by the people, for the people.)

SOME HURDLES: What could get between Weber and that nice office on the Berlaymont’s top floor? Strong party-internal contenders, a defeat — or an unclear result — at the polls next year, and a European Council that may decide to pick a proper fight and refuse to accept a Spitzenkandidat for the Commission presidency. And we don’t want to overstate the influence of the press, but refusing to take questions from reporters, then answering some from Germans only, may also not help get that “I’m a European politician” message across. (And let’s not underestimate the press either. Remember that Merkel had to give in to Juncker in 2014 after pressure from ARD and Bild.)

Here’s what you need to know about Weber’s upcoming campaign …

1. POLITICIZING THE COMMISSION: Weber’s biggest weakness, seen through the prism of heads of governments, is that he lacks both executive experience and the stamina of one of their own. After all, a Commission president has to deal with (and stare down) Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Weber is trying to flip that on its head: When he says he wants to “bring Europe back to the people and re-establish the bond between citizens and the European Union,” he’s positioning himself not as a top administrator of tens of thousands of civil servants, but as a political leader. (The implication, of course, is that the current Commission president is merely a ruler of bureaucrats.)

If Weber, a career parliamentarian, does become the EPP’s Spitzenkandidat, he’d be boosting the lead-candidate process to the next level. Perhaps, to borrow Weber’s words, it might even create “more democracy” in the EU, by taking more power out of the hands of members of the European Council, or out of those of their sherpas, ambassadors and envoys to Brussels.

2. SHARPEN THE DEBATE: Expect Weber’s campaign to be more than a mere pro-EU vs. the populists fight. He’ll likely fight harder with Socialist and Liberal top figures than Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz did the last time round, when we needed a microscope to detect the differences in their programs. Gianni Pittella, the former leader of the Parliament’s Socialist group, predicted “a tough battle between us,” as well as against the “nationalist right” in his congratulatory tweet.

Weber made it clear on Wednesday that he’ll be running on a Christian-Democratic, conservative platform (he spoke about values and a “European lifestyle”). Don’t expect him to think, speak or act like a diplomat when it comes to core conservative issues like migration, EU enlargement or fiscal policies. He’s unlikely to discover a new love for certain social pillars. He wants to appeal to conservative voters, the same way he always has. That means leaning in to the fact that he’s always tried to keep Orbán in the EPP, that he counts Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz among his supporters, and that he is clearly a citizen of somewhere — Wildenberg in Bavaria to be precise, home to some 1,300 inhabitants.

3. THE GERMANS TAKING OVER? Weber is Angela Merkel’s candidate to a lesser extent than you may think (see above). We won’t even get into the weeds of the difficult relationship between the CDU and CSU. Matthew Karnitschnig writes from Berlin that “Merkel’s ideal candidate would be a pseudo-German, someone without a German passport who would do Berlin’s bidding. In other words, another Juncker. (Some in Berlin think Stubb, the former Finnish prime minister who is also interested in the job, would fit that bill.)” Here’s his story on what Germany wants.

But Merkel’s boosting of Weber makes perfect sense in the context of German politics. He’s the unruly CSU’s most senior hardcore moderate conservative, a counter-model to strongmen such as Interior Minister Horst Seehofer or Bavarian Minister-President Markus Söder. Holding that ground came at the price, for Weber, of being a relative unknown not only in wider Europe, but also back home. The latter at least may well change during the EU election campaign, in which a strong result is crucial for Berlin.

NEWS UPDATE 

MEANWHILE, IN BRUSSELS: It’s going to be a tough autumn, writes David Herszenhorn in your essential back-to-school read. There are the Brexit negotiations, the EU’s next budget, Italy, eurozone reforms, Donald Trump. Plus, “Sweden holds a national election Sunday in which the populist, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats have surged — a reminder for the EU establishment that far-right extremism is still gaining traction across the Continent. Just 10 days later, EU leaders will convene at a summit in Salzburg, Austria, to tackle the divisive issue of migration, just one of many possible train wrecks lying in wait for the bloc ahead of a European parliamentary election in May.”

Speaking of that Swedish election: A proposed overhaul of the country’s preschool curriculum to promote gender equality — which the opposition calls “gender mumbo jumbo” — has become an unexpected hot-button issue, reports Nathalie Rothschild.

IT’S POLITICS: Presidents of the European Commission should be able to choose their own secretary-general, EU Budget and Human Resources Commissioner Günther Oettinger said at the DLD Europe conference in Brussels. The next head of the Commission should be able to choose someone they consider trustworthy and capable of organizing the internal processes, Oettinger said, adding that even members of the European Council were wondering why anyone is questioning the president’s right to select a secretary-general.

“Take my chancellor as an example,” Oettinger said, referring to Angela Merkel. “Do you really think when she has to appoint a new boss of her chancellery, she would ask anybody? It’s her decision.” Selmayr is a person whom “nobody is neutral about,” Oettinger acknowledged. “Not everybody likes him. Therefore it was clear that not everybody was happy with his appointment — in the Parliament, in the public sphere, even in the Commission.” Philip Kaleta has a write-up of the comments.

AN ITALIAN CONVERSION, OR CAPITALISM AT WORK: Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini vowed that his government would respect the EU’s deficit limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product (which Salvini previously suggested is “not the Bible.”)  He told Il Sole 24 Ore: “We want to introduce ourselves to Europe and the markets with a serious budget bill that will make the country grow, while respecting all EU obligations.” Luigi Di Maio, the other deputy prime minister, sang a harmonious second verse, saying that Italy “won’t challenge the European Union.”

What’s with the sudden change of tune? Markets have been jittery. The difference between Italian benchmark 10-year bonds and those of Germany has almost doubled to 280 points from around 140 points in February. Salvini, meanwhile, has been trying to sell Italy’s debt (and that’s something it has an abundance of) — and according to Corriere della Sera, his planned trip to Beijing is now one of his highest priorities. Jacopo Barigazzi has more.

ANOTHER WALTZ WITH PUTIN: British Prime Minister Theresa May told her parliament on Wednesday that there is “hard evidence” that two Russian citizens traveled to the U.K. on false passports to attempt to murder former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. She also said British intelligence services have concluded the two individuals — named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — were employed directly by the Russian state. “Based on a body of intelligence, the two individuals are officers from the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU,” she said. “This was not a rogue operation.” Tom McTague has the full details.

TAX AVOIDANCE (NOT WHAT YOU’RE THINKING): Germany’s finance ministry is no longer quite so keen to introduce a tax targeting the turnover of the world’s largest tech companies. “The statement, which is still often made in public, that companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon don’t have to pay taxes on their revenues, can no longer be maintained,” Bild newspaper quotes from a confidential document signed by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. A spokesperson said that currently, the ministry is discussing several models for how to tax digital companies, and that “the minister has not decided on one or several instruments, yet.” EU finance ministers are scheduled to discuss the issue at a meeting in Vienna at the end of the week.