06-11-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

06-11-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Debate on Greek constitutional revision to start on Nov. 14

The parliamentary debate on the revision of the Greek Constitution will start on November 14, according to a decision by the House’s conference of presidents o Monday.


High court prosecutor orders preliminary probe into claims contained in a suit by former FM Kotzias’

A supreme court prosecutor has ordered a preliminary investigation stemming from a “fictitious defendants” lawsuit filed by former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias last week, over what the latter alleges is libel and dissemination of fake news aimed to harm his reputation.


Creditors consider impact of acquiescing to Athens’ request to suspend looming pension cuts measure

Greece’s creditors seem not particularly concerned over the prospect of the Tsipras government suspending a pre-legislated social security reduction that’s set for implementation on Jan. 1, 2019. The dominant view among creditors at present is that the markets are more interested in Athens achieving annual fiscal targets.


Commissioner Hahn calls for end to Turkey’s EU accession talks

Johannes Hahn, the European Union commissioner responsible for bloc enlargement negotiations and neighborhood policy, has called for an end to accession negotiations with Turkey.


Section of health probe on Dunant hospital goes to party chiefs

The first section of a report by a parliamentary committee into alleged financial mismanagement and corruption in the Greek health sector between 1997 and 2014 has been submitted to party leaders.


Industries denounce new power hikes

The Hellenic Union of Industrial Consumers of Energy (UNICEN) denounced on Monday upcoming power rate increases, describing them as a plan to undermine Greece’s industry and the economy’s recovery effort.


ATHEX: Stock losses contained at closing

Closing auctions on the Greek stock market helped minimize the rather sizable losses sustained by the benchmark at the start of the trading week on Monday, with bank stocks remaining the focus of sellers due to speculation concerning the exclusion of some of them from the MSCI Standard index for emerging markets. Traders are now eyeing the publication of quarterly results by major firms tomorrow and on Thursday.







KATHIMERINI:  The scandal-talk season is now open

ETHNOS:  Exclusive: The bill regarding social security contributions

TA NEA:  Land-asset registry: Danger for real estate assets

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Who ‘killed’ Henry Dunant hospital and how

AVGI:  Healthcare: Time for attribution of liability for scandalous handling of state funds

RIZOSPASTIS:  The government and the Eurogroup are escalating the attack against the people

KONTRA NEWS:  Henry Dunant hospital case: ‘Huge’ liability for New Democracy and PASOK ministers

DIMOKRATIA:  New pensioners must file an application for retrospective payments for the period after 2016

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Block against ‘black’ money

JUST IN: The two candidates vying to become the EPP’s lead candidate for the EU election are playing up their strengths in campaign videos released ahead of the EPP’s congress in Helsinki later this week.

Head to head: Manfred Weber’s video stresses that he comes from a rural area (as do many voters in Europe), that the EU is not just about Brussels, and that Europe could really use a Commission president who is aware of that fact. Alexander Stubb, meanwhile, makes the point in his video that he has the experience and skills necessary to lead the EU’s administration.

Both try to shake up the idea that Weber is the establishment’s candidate and Stubb the outsider. Guess which one of them used to be their band’s guitarist-slash-frontman.

GOOD MORNING. You know what’s not a great look? When you’re a German spy chief and Russian state media jumps in to defend you after you get fired, insisting you were cut loose only because “you were right” (in spreading conspiracy theories and calling some of your bosses in government “leftist radicals”).

Today’s issues: Election woes on both sides of the pond are the order of the day. We’ll start in the EU with a sneak peek at some exclusive polling, then I’ll hand over to Zoya, who’s on the ground in the U.S., who will update you on how to watch the American midterms. We’ll also have plenty of other EU news: On policy, on power and on politics — in that order.


EXCLUSIVE FIGURES: Playbook got a sneak peek at a new Eurobarometer survey, which will be released later this month. According to the results, a huge majority of Europeans want social media sites to be more transparent in the run-up to the EU election. Eighty-one percent of respondents said they are in favor of social media companies “making clear what content and publications are online advertisements and who is paying for them.” Two-thirds are concerned about the safety of their data.

Fun fact: The survey was conducted sans tech — interviewers met 27,500 people across all 28 EU countries face-to-face at their homes in September.

Building regulations: Justice Commissioner Vĕra Jourová is set to present the new numbers at the Web Summit in Lisbon this morning. “An architect needs to respect and comply with the building code and a number of safety legislations. For the digital world we should think of a similar system, a mix of ethical, legal and societal norms that would ensure continuing trust in the greatest revolution of our lifetimes,” the commissioner is expected to say, according to prepared notes for her speech that Playbook has seen.

Ending the anarchy: “I want Europeans to be able to make a free and informed decision when casting their vote in May … I remain dedicated to end the online anarchy around elections,” Jourovà will say.

Czech mate: Jourovà was named the second most influential Czech woman by the local Forbes magazine last week (in part because of her current focus on tech — what works for Margrethe Vestager has also worked for Jourovà.) The magazine put High State Attorney Lenka Bradáčová in first place.

Next level meddling: Some tech companies are reporting evidence “that the same bad actors looking to interfere in the U.S. elections are now looking to spread false claims of meddling,” Axios reports. Which would indicate that public skepticism about the cleanliness of the U.S. midterms has grown to such a point that it no longer matters whether claims of meddling are false or real.

Side note: Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, has no regrets. Mark Scott has more from Lisbon.


RALLYING BEHIND TIMMERMANS: European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič pulled out of the race to become the Social Democrats’ lead candidate for the EU election next year. Šefčovič will back the only other contender in the race to be the political family’s Spitzenkandidat — Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans. In a letter to Sergei Stanishev, the president of the European Socialist party family (PES), Šefčovič pledged to “endorse Frans as the PES common candidate to be presented for a vote in order to lead our party family into the 2019 European Parliament elections.” I’ve got the story here.

Consolation prize: Stanishev said in a statement that “I warmly welcome the decision of Maroš Šefčovič,” adding that he’s “a true team player” and will “play an important role in the upcoming 2019 election campaign beyond Slovakia.”

EPP: The EPP presidency will table an “emergency” draft resolution later this week for the Helsinki congress that will condemn unnamed violators of the principles dear to them, such as the “rule of law and a multiparty system, a strong civil society with independent media, the freedom of religion as well as expression and association.” The draft resolution notes: “Populist and nationalist extremism, disinformation, discrimination and threats to the rule of law pose the greatest threat to freedom and democracy in Europe since the fall of the Iron Curtain.” It continues: “We call on all EPP members and associations to respect, protect and promote these principles and values.”

Before you ask: The resolution doesn’t explicitly mention Hungary (and the quashing of academic freedom wasn’t among the top concerns).

What’s the deal with this statement? This is the party showing Viktor Orbán a yellow card — and it’s Alexander Stubb’s candidacy at work, with the party establishment closing an open flank on behalf of Manfred Weber, the frontrunner in the race. If the resolution is passed and there’s some follow-up on it, this could be a moment to remember in the story of a possible East-West schism in Christian Democracy.

Meanwhile, there’s an East-East schism too: Forget the much–fussed over idea of a new East-West divide in Europe, writes Lili Bayer: The new new divide is within Eastern Europe itself. “The formerly communist members of the EU club — from the Baltics in the north to Romania and Bulgaria at Europe’s edge — are diverging on big issues such as the rule of law and defense.”

THE HOF STRIKES BACK: If you’re around Brussels today or later this week, you may spot a truck parked in key locations with a billboard featuring a “special message” for Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party. ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt organized the truck “as a response to the ongoing and unrelenting media campaign by Orbán and Fidesz attacking EU values,” as well as the attacks on Verhofstadt himself and other MEPs, such as Green Judith Sargentini, according to an email he wrote to fellow ALDE MEPs.

Location location: The truck will start out at 11:15 a.m. today on Place Lux, before moving to the EPP headquarters and the Hungarian embassy, passing by Council and Commission, we’re told. The same truck will also drive around in Hungary.


SIDETRACKED BY POLISH AFFAIRS: European Council President Donald Tusk testified for seven whole hours on Monday before a Polish parliamentary commission investigating a pyramid financial scheme that collapsed while he was the country’s prime minister. “You need this spectacle so that every two weeks or every two months you can repeat insinuations, also on the subject of my family,” a combative Tusk told the committee headed by Małgorzata Wassermann, an MP with the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS).

‘Not killed in action’: Responding to questions such as “did you manage the Polish state well,” Tusk snapped back with “Your questions are not only ungrounded but also improper” and “I’ll not comment on your insinuations.” Michał Broniatowski has the full report from Warsaw.

Playbook extra: As Tusk spoke to reporters after the seven-hour grilling, his phone rang, Michał writes in to report. Visibly embarrassed, he shut it off, saying: “Oh sorry, this is the first time in my short political career that my phone rings like that. It was my son, he surely wanted to congratulate me that I was not killed in action today.”

… AND ON THE OFFENSIVE: Tusk will not participate in the November 11 parade in Paris to commemorate the centenary of the end the World War I. Tusk told reporters that instead he would spend the day at ceremonies to mark the anniversary of Poland’s 100 years of independence, which happens on the same day. “I told Macron I had to reject his invitation,” said Tusk, adding that “I’ve been celebrating this anniversary for 40 years now and I must be in Warsaw on that day.”

‘If I’m allowed’: Tusk said he would participate in official ceremonies led by President Andrzej Duda. (Other former Polish leaders have indicated they’ll boycott the events in protest against the ruling Law and Justice party.) “I’ll lay flowers at the Grave of Unknown Soldiers at midday — if I’m allowed to,” he said.


MORE RISK SHARING? UNLIKELY. How fast should the EU proceed with a banking union, including more risk sharing? That’s the question the EU’s finance ministers are considering today. A cautious prediction: The brakes will be on for as long as the Italian question remains unresolved.

Loneliest man in Europe: Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria faced a united front against his government’s draft budget plans for next year, and had a hard time convincing anyone that Italy would promote growth and tackle its debt pile. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire led the charge, telling Tria: “You can’t spend your way out of a crisis.” Look at whatever media you want, be it ItalianGermanSpanish or even British. POLITICO’s story, by Bjarke Smith-Meyer, here.

Eurogroup statement: “Italy has another week to resubmit its budget,” Eurogroup chief Mário Centeno said in a statement released Monday night. “I hope the ongoing constructive dialogue will bear fruits in reassuring European partners and market participants of Italy’s commitment to sound public finances.”

BARNIER VS. FARAGE: In a speech at a Catholic conference in Brussels on Monday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator described a meeting he had with Nigel Farage, which he described (tongue firmly in cheek) as a “stimulating exchange,” our own Eddy Wax writes in to report. Barnier said: “I told him, ‘You led Brexit, you won and now we are delivering Brexit. Can I ask you how you see the relationship between the U.K. and the EU after Brexit?’ And he said this: ‘Mr. Barnier, after Brexit the EU will no longer exist.’ We cannot,” Barnier told the packed music hall, “allow Mr. Farage to be right, and this depends on us.” Eddy has more from the speech.

MALTA FOLLOW-UP: The European Central Bank withdrew the banking license of Maltese lender Pilatus Bank after U.S. authorities arrested its chairman in March on charges including bank fraud and money laundering. The country’s watchdog, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), was quick to display compliance in what earlier this fall produced a diplomatic incident between Brussels and Valletta. Malta issued a statement to confirm the license withdrawal, which it said takes “effect from today.”

THE FRANCO-SPANISH GHOST GAS PIPELINE: The €3.1 billion Franco-Spanish MidCat gas link has become a ghost pipeline: It doesn’t carry any gas and ends far from its intended destination in France — and it may remain empty forever, reports Anca Gurzu.


MIDTERMS GUIDE: Good morning folks, Zoya here, reporting from New York City. Americans head to the polls later today with all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 out of 100 Senate seats are up for grabs. Here’s your guide to how to follow what’s happening …

What to read: POLITICO’s U.S. team will have the latest results with updating House and Senate maps. Here’s an hour-by-hour guide to watching the results.

What to expect: Normally, sitting presidents face a midterm thumping. But when it comes to Trump, we’ve learned that we must expect the unexpected. John Harris and Eliana Johnson ask: “Will Trump shatter his own mystique?” Whatever happens, media networks are prepared.

Timing: First races will be called starting at 1 a.m. Brussels time on Wednesday. The House majority may be called as early as when polls close in California at 11 p.m. local time (5 a.m. in Brussels).