06-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

06-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Friday, October 6, 2017

Kotzias talks EU prospects with neighboring diplomats

The region’s European Union prospects were at the heart of the discussion Thursday between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his counterparts from Albania, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222212/article/ekathimerini/news/kotzias-talks-eu-prospects-with-neighboring-diplomats

Commuters face confusion over electronic tickets

There was confusion Thursday at metro stations in Athens after Transport Minister Christos Spirtzis ordered the full activation of the new electronic system and an end to sales of some paper tickets.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222215/article/ekathimerini/news/commuters-face-confusion-over-electronic-tickets

Church opposes gender ID bill

In signs of a mounting clash between the Church of Greece and the leftist-led government, the Holy Synod on Thursday appealed to Greek politicians to revoke a controversial draft bill that would grant individuals the right to change their gender identity.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222218/article/ekathimerini/news/church-opposes-gender-id-bill

MEP hits back at criticism from Tsipras adviser

Former SYRIZA MEP Costas Chrysogonos on Thursday accused Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of adopting a strategy that is “essentially Stalinist” in nature.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222208/article/ekathimerini/news/mep-hits-back-at-criticism-from-tsipras-adviser

ELA ceiling for Greek banks eases by one bln€ to €32.6 bln

The Bank of Greece (BoG) on Thursday announced that the governing council of the ECB acquiesced to a reduction of the ELA ceiling for Greek banks by one billion euros.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1282316/ela-ceiling-for-greek-banks-eases-by-one-bln-to-326-bln

Deposits grow, as does ECB pressure on local banks

Confidence is slowly building among bank depositors, as figures for September showed an increase in the Greek bank account balance, but local lenders are now under pressure to step up the pace in tackling bad loans.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222186/article/ekathimerini/business/deposits-grow-as-does-ecb-pressure-on-local-banks

Greece’s Eurobank to sell 1.5-bln-euro bad loans pool to Intrum

Eurobank, Greece’s third largest lender, said on Thursday it will sell a 1.5-billion-euro pool of non-performing loans to Sweden’s Intrum, as part of efforts to reduce its load of sour debt and meet targets agreed with regulators.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222194/article/ekathimerini/business/greeces-eurobank-to-sell-15-bln-euro-bad-loans-pool-to-intrum

ATHEX: No respite for local stocks

Greek stocks continued to drift lower on Thursday on the absence of any positive news that might help them to claw back recent losses that have seen the gains notched up in previous weeks evaporate. Trading volume remained low.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222217/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-no-respite-for-local-stocks

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KATHIMERINI: Unionists block the electronic ticket in public transport

ETHNOS: The party with ghost businesses in Bulgaria is over

TA NEA: The government confesses to embezzling pensions

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Questionnaire for employers by New Democracy which has fully adopted the IMF’s proposals regarding labor rules

AVGI: Dated complaints about the bill on gender selection

RIZOSPASTIS: The monopolies’ strategy is to create a jungle-like labor market

KONTRA NEWS: Tender for TV licenses has been launched

DIMOKRATIA: Which church bishops are gay?

NAFTEMPORIKI: The controls for tax returns are going to take place in 5 steps

14TH EU-INDIA SUMMIT IN NEW DELHI TODAY: The big question is whether stalled free trade talks recommence. The EU is India’s largest export destination. If talks can be restarted, the prize for the EU is shunting the U.K. to the side in yet another trade contest. The other hot button issue discussed will be the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh as well as the work on global compacts for migration and for refugees.

The big name players at the table today are European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini, European Council President Donald Tusk and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The EU-India Business Forum will also run. EU fact sheet here.

Religious freedom campaign body ADF International said: “Europe should not turn a blind eye to the growing persecution of religious minorities in India.” The group accuses India of “government-condoned violence against Muslims and Christians” and says “religious freedom needs to become a precondition to economic cooperation.”

CHINA LOOKS WEST — ENTER THE DRAGON: In POLITICO’s latest China Looks West feature, Laurens Cerulus and Jakob Hanke report that Chinese investment in crisis-hit countries gives Beijing influence at the European Union’s top table. Worth checking out for the amazing artwork alone.

COMMISSION — SWIMMING IN OCEANS OF MONEY: The European Union Thursday pledged €560 million for research, environmental initiatives and various protections for the world’s oceans. Speaking at the Our Ocean conference in Malta, Federica Mogherini said the EU wants to protect the seas from further deterioration and promote a sustainable economy. Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans will join the conference today and announce his European plastics strategy, meeting also with conference initiator John Kerry. Timmermans told Playbook: “If oceans are at risk, so are we.”

LATEST EU CONFIDENTIAL PODCAST — WITH TELIA CEO JOHAN DENNELIND …

Listen immediately | Download to listen offline via iTunes.

We discuss re-engineering German growth with Matthew Karnitschnig, via POLITICO’s first Global Policy Lab, a journalism collaboration between POLITICO writers, experts and our readers. Telia CEO Johan Dennelind says telecoms connects everyone, meaning he has both a business and social obligation to commit to projects like the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Dennelind pitches Stockholm as second only to Silicon Valley in the global start-up race, rejects French President Emmanuel Macron’s idea of an EU agency for disruptive innovation, and says that while the telecoms industry needs to be less whiny with regulators, they need to change too.

UNDER THE RADAR — COMMISSIONER ELŻBIETA BIEŃKOWSKA GOES NUCLEAR: Bieńkowska, the European commissioner for the internal market from Poland, is usually careful not to bad-mouth the Polish government in public, despite Warsaw’s growing strains with Brussels. POLITICO’s Jan Cienski tells Playbook she let loose at the recent European Forum for New Ideas in the Polish Baltic resort town of Sopot.

Poland now under unshakeable suspicion: “We will never have as strong a negotiating position as we used to have,” she said, referring to the period before the current Law and Justice government took power in late 2015. Even a change of government after an election in 2019 won’t help. “No matter what happens with the government, we’ll always be treated with suspicion.” She said in Brussels, “Poland’s voice is completely unheard, and it’s the fault of the government. It’s in every single sphere.”

Bieńkowska blamed the government for violating EU values and ignoring verdicts from the European Court of Justice, which poses “a greater danger for the EU than Brexit.” She also warned of the danger of a two-speed Europe, which leaves countries like Poland on the periphery of a more tightly integrated bloc. Bieńkowska, who was a deputy prime minister in Poland’s former center-right government and came to Brussels along with her boss Donald Tusk, now president of the European Council, said Warsaw’s foreign policy has left the country isolated. “Poland has abdicated its role as leader of this part of Europe. It will take a very long time — and I think never — to rebuild its position.”

COUNCIL — TUSK PLANS FOR OCTOBER LEADERS’ SUMMIT: A well-placed EU source tells Playbook Donald Tusk is in rapid diplomacy mode this week. He consulted Benelux leaders earlier this week, having already met with Estonia, Croatia and Bulgaria. He’s been pushing Macron-style reform and energy in those meetings. Plan A is full EU consensus, with an open door “enhanced cooperation” among most EU countries if consensus on a given issue is not possible.

COUNCIL — EU HEADS TO CAPITOL HILL TO SAVE IRAN DEAL: POLITICO Pro’s Andrew Hanna and Katy O’Donnell report from Washington: Diplomats from the U.K., France, Germany and the EU delegations are on the Hill doing a full-court press to try to save the Iran nuclear deal this week. The Europeans are meeting with leaders from both parties to dissuade them from taking up legislation that could upend the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, should the White House refuse to certify the deal.

COUNCIL — DIGITAL MINISTERS MEET, AGAIN: An EU presidency e-government conference takes place in Tallinn today. Watch the live stream. The main outcome will be the Tallinn Declaration on e-Government.

PARLIAMENT — THE NEW TREND: BANNING LOBBYISTS. Corporate lobbyists who don’t show the European Parliament sufficient respect face having the doors slammed in their faces by MEPs, report Harry Cooper and Quentin Ariès for all POLITICO Pro subscribers.

PARLIAMENT — THE TALE OF THE HUNGARIAN MEP ACCUSED OF SPYING FOR RUSSIA: Béla Kovács, known to many as “KGBéla,” rose from nowhere in the far-right Jobbik party. Then colleagues and journalists started to question that ‘nowhere’ past, a complicated exercise in a country with deep links to Russia. This is what they found.

PARTY PEOPLE — EPP MEETS AFRICAN POLITICIANS: This weekend European People’s Party MEPs will meet center-right African politicians from 13 countries in Sierra Leone ahead of the EU-Africa Union summit.

THE NETHERLANDS — MARK RUTTE’S LAST DANCE: Tom-Jan Meeus explains that while Prime Minister Mark Rutte is due to officially announce early next week that he will lead a government made up of four parties with vastly different political beliefs, it’s a very uneasy coalition. “The prime minister’s political career and the fate of the Dutch model of governing by consensus are both on the line.”

ROMANIA TURNS AGAINST SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Claudia Ciobanu for POLITICO writes that the Romanian constitution’s gender-neutral formulation on marriage, which defines it as a union “between spouses,” has left the legislative door open to legalizing gay marriage. But campaign groups, including churches, want to slam that door shut.

CATALAN CRISIS CORNER …

Banks pile pressure on Catalan government and move HQs: The executive board of Spain’s fourth-largest financial company, Banco Sabadell, based in Barcelona, decided Thursday to move its official registration out of Catalonia to the city of Alicante. Today the executive board of the country’s third-biggest lender, Caixabank, also based in Catalonia, will reportedly meet to consider a similar move. Diego Torres has the story.

Spanish Constitutional Court blocks Catalan parliament session: The court Thursday ordered the Catalan regional parliament to suspend a session scheduled for next Monday, when lawmakers were expected to vote on a declaration of independence from Spain. The Socialist Party of Catalonia, which is opposed to independence, asked the court to take action against the parliamentary session.

Former Spanish PM slams Mariano Rajoy: José María Aznar criticized his successor’s handling of the Catalan crisis, saying he had misunderstood “nationalist dynamics” and the “revolutionary experiment” currently underway in Barcelona. h/t the Spain Report

Support for mediation: Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff, instrumental in the Northern Ireland peace agreement, writes in the FT that similar talks are the only way out of the Catalan crisis.

The people who want to break up Spain: A profile by the BBC of Catalan President Carles Puigdemont. The Financial Times profiles the Popular Unity Candidacy, a small radical party that’s helping drive the independence movement.

BREXIT 360° …

May’s future: Theresa May remains prime minister of the U.K. not because her colleagues or the country like it, but because Conservative MPs worry the process of replacing her (not to mention her successor) would simply cause more trouble. The only person who will force May out is herself. Charlie Cooper has all the juice.

May’s second lesson in post-Brexit trade realpolitik: America’s reaction to a joint U.K.-EU plan that London hoped would allow a smooth Brexit transition at the World Trade Organization shows it will prioritize economic interests over its “special relationship” with Britain, writes Hans von der Burchard.

EU ambassadors to discuss Brexit today: The meeting begins at 10:15 a.m. and the above-mentioned joint EU-U.K. proposal will be a key agenda item.

Institute for Government report: The think tank in its Dispute Resolution after Brexit report, to be released today, argues London should either sign up to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) court — and add British judges to it — or come up with new proposals for a dispute resolution system.

Barnier movements update: The European Commission, after Thursday’s Playbook, updated Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s transparency register entry to acknowledge he attended the Cercle Royal Gaulois Artistique et Littéraire. A spokesperson said “meetings that Michel Barnier has with stakeholders are published in his transparency register. This is in line with the Commission’s decision on the publication of information on meetings held between directors-general of the Commission and organizations or self-employed individuals.” Next stop: finding out who deputy negotiator Sabine Weyand is meeting.

CZECH ELECTION: If it were up to high school students, Pirates would rule the Czech Republic. According to a simulated election involving 40,068 students from 281 schools, the Pirates would win 24.5 percent of the vote, double that of the liberal ANO and right-wing TOP parties. The ruling Social Democrats would be eliminated.

BEYOND EUROPE …

GUN LOBBY SPENDING: Our POLITICO colleagues in Washington report the U.S. National Rifle Association gave $5.9 million in campaign contributions to Republican candidates in the 2016 election cycle, compared with $106,000 to Democrats.

HOW TOM PRICE’S RESIGNATION HAPPENED: Our colleagues across the pond, health care reporters Dan Diamond and Rachana Pradhan, reveal how they investigated former Health Secretary Tom Price’s private jet scandal, leading to his resignation.

JOHN KELLY’S PRIVATE PHONE COMPROMISED: White House officials believe U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly’s personal cellphone was compromised, potentially as long ago as December.