06-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

06-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Commission’s Costello praises, cautions Athens amid ongoing negotiations to conclude third bailout

The term “clean exit” may not be the most appropriate or useful for the period after the ongoing third Greek bailout ends in August 2018, Declan Costello, the European Commission’s chief representative in the program told an Athens audience on Monday evening.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1301558/commissions-costello-praises-cautions-athens-amid-ongoing-negotiations-to-conclude-third-bailout

Amendment changing the way strikes are declared withdrawn, govt promises to resubmit revision in next draft law

A closely watched amendment changing the way union members in Greece vote for industrial actions was abruptly withdrawn on Monday evening, with the relevant labor and social insurances ministry promising that the revision will be included in an upcoming draft bill.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1301477/amendment-changing-the-way-strikes-are-declared-withdrawn-govt-promises-to-resubmit-revision-in-next-draft-law

Central bank chief warns of risks of overtaxation

High taxes pose a risk to economic activity, Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras warned on Tuesday, adding that he is concerned about how the government intends to continue bankrolling the civil service once its bailout agreement with international creditors expires in August 2018.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223880/article/ekathimerini/business/central-bank-chief-warns-of-risks-of-overtaxation

Notaries call off auctions amid big police operations in capital

Notaries in Athens and Piraeus decided on Tuesday to call off auctions of repossessed properties scheduled for Wednesday because of major police operations in the capital.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223902/article/ekathimerini/news/notaries-call-off-auctions-amid-big-police-operations-in-capital

Massive security operation being set up for Erdogan visit to Greece

A major security operation is being set up in the Greek capital ahead of a planned visit to the country by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday and Friday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223881/article/ekathimerini/news/massive-security-operation-being-set-up-for-erdogan-visit-to-greece

Maziotis sets fire in prison

The self-professed leader of the Revolutionary Struggle urban guerrilla group, Nikos Maziotis, was in the hospital unit of Attica’s high-security Korydallos Prison on Tuesday after starting a fire in his cell late on Monday in protest at penitentiary authorities’ refusal to grant the demands of him and his partner Pola Roupa, who are both serving time for terrorist acts.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223898/article/ekathimerini/news/maziotis-sets-fire-in-prison

Funds take positions ahead of gov’t change in Greece

Brevan Howard Asset Management LLP, one of Europe’s biggest hedge funds, revealed to Bloomberg on Tuesday that it has set up two investment funds whose exclusive targets are assets in Greece such as real estate, enterprises and securities, and is aiming to collect 500 million euros from private investors.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223908/article/ekathimerini/business/funds-take-positions-ahead-of-govt-change-in-greece

Mytilineos to become new SEV president

Evangelos Mytilineos, owner of the Athens-listed Mytilineos Group of metallurgical companies, is the proposal of the Executive Committee of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) for the new president of the country’s most influential employers’ association.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223907/article/ekathimerini/business/mytilineos-to-become-new-sev-president

Greek banks beat NPE reduction target in Q3

Greek banks made further progress in reducing their exposure to doubtful and nonperforming loans during the third quarter, central bank data showed on Tuesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223890/article/ekathimerini/business/greek-banks-beat-npe-reduction-target-in-q3

ATHEX: Subdued session ends in losses

The negative mood resulting from the withdrawal of draft legislation on strike action, the cancellation of Wednesday’s property auctions and weak growth data for the third quarter of the year prompted a second day of losses for most stocks at Athinon Avenue on Tuesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223905/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-subdued-session-ends-in-losses

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KATHIMERINI: Costello: Forget about ‘clean exit’ from the Memorandum

ETHNOS: 200 Turkish commandos will accompany Erdogan in Greece

TA NEA: Nightmare on Delusions Street. The government is under the impression that auctions of foreclosed properties do not take place

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Auctions of foreclosed properties suspended due to reductions

AVGI: Golden Dawn: Assassins’ school

RIZOSPASTIS: Do not touch the right to strike!

KONTRA NEWS: We need a new law for red loans and auctions

DIMOKRATIA: Ruling party SYRIZA is hostage to the Communist Party and inner-party opposition by Nikos Filis

NAFTEMPORIKI: Bonds return to 2009 levels

Tasty secret: Here’s what was in Monday’s scuppered Brexit deal …

Tom McTague and Maïa de La Baume obtained the detailed content of the 15-page negotiating text circulating Monday (the one shot down by the DUP’s Arlene Foster). The details are available here for POLITICO Brexit, Food and Agriculture, Trade and Transport Pros. According to the text, the U.K. would pay no upfront Brexit divorce bill to the European Union but instead continue to act “as if [it] remained a member state” by meeting its ongoing liabilities as and when they arise for decades to come. The U.K. would also take “due regard” of ECJ rulings before Brexit day.

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS

Today is the day European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker launches his plans to overhaul the eurozone, following chats with German Acting Finance Minister Peter Altmaier (an Angela Merkel ally and keen Playbooker) and French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire in a bid to secure their backing.

POLITICO’s Pierre Briançon reports today’s proposals will “keep the eurozone reform cause alive as governments seem to have dropped the issue for now; and … aim for a package that narrows the divergent approaches of France and Germany while making sure that the Commission isn’t stripped of some of its powers in the process.”

WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN TODAY’S EUROZONE REFORM PROPOSALS … 

European Monetary Fund: Ideas for converting the European Stability Mechanism into a proper EU-wide monetary fund.

Eurozone finance minister: Inside or outside the European Commission? A Mogherini-like job with an autonomous administration? Would the role involve coordinating budgetary efforts, and also entail distributing cash to poor eurozone countries?

Eurozone budget: Juncker wants it within the EU budget, which means that non-eurozone countries could have a veto on decisions and dedicated funding for the 19 eurozone members. Will financial transfers be named or mentioned in the Commission’s proposal?

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER EU MEMBERS? The focus on German and French reform plans may be inevitable given their traditional role as the main drivers of EU integration. Even so, it’s easy to forget that significant change can only happen when a large majority signs up to reform. In the case of the eurozone, the number of governments that must sign up is reduced to 19, but still significant. The Czech Republic’s outgoing Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, whose country is outside the eurozone, warns against the notion of a two-speed Europe in this POLITICO op-ed, saying the bloc’s emphasis on finding compromise is “the essence of the integration process and the key behind the bloc’s success in overcoming crises and thorny issues.” 

COUNCIL — 17 COUNTRIES ON TAX HAVEN BLACKLIST, NONE FROM EU: Panama, the United Arab Emirates and the Marshall Islands are among the 17 countries the EU has put on its tax haven blacklist. EU countries frequently flagged as creating tax headaches via their special tax deals — Luxembourg, Malta, Ireland and the Netherlands — aren’t on the list.

PARLIAMENT — DISABILITY DAY IN HEMICYCLE: Around 600 people with disabilities will today participate in an all-day event in the European Parliament’s hemicycle, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the founding of the European Disability Forum. President Antonio Tajani and Commissioners Marianne Thyssen and Christos Stylianides will give keynote speeches. Details here.

DEFENSE CORNER …

EU, NATO sign off on new joint proposals: The Council signed off on a new set of proposals for more cooperation between the EU and NATO, saying it “welcomes the continued close and mutually reinforcing co-operation” between the two, “both strategically and operationally.”

Mogherini winces at Tillerson: “The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, looked like she would be happier in a dentist’s chair. Standing at a lectern in the European Council press room, and wearing black that seemed fittingly funereal, Mogherini welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday with all the warmth of a December day in Helsinki.” POLITICO’s David M. Herszenhorn reports on a strange visit.

Tillerson on Iran nuclear deal implementation: Tillerson said he and Mogherini discussed EU-U.S. efforts under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “to hold Iran fully compliant with the terms of the JCPOA, fully enforce that agreement” but also said Iran “is carrying out a number of other destabilizing actions in the region.”

15 EU military projects to be signed off: Bruxelles2 reports 15 EU defense-related projects are set to be signed off, including on submarine drones, new joint training programs, a European medical command and projects related to logistics.

MIGRATION — AVRAMOPOULOS CONFIDENT OF REFORM DEAL: After years of discussions, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said EU governments are closing in on a deal to overhaul the migration system. “I believe it’s a question of some months, three or four months, to conclude negotiations,” Avramopoulos told POLITICO.

That’s all well and good, but for any reform to come into force, the European Parliament, which carries equal weight on migration issues, must also sign up. That is far from guaranteed: Reacting to the idea of scrapping the EU’s mandatory refugee reallocation system, Cecilia Wikström, the Parliament’s lead MEP on the update, told Playbook: “That [proposal] should be put where it belongs and that is in the waste basket, the sooner the better. That’s where I put my copy.”

UN speeds up Libya evacuations: The United Nations migration agency is stepping up the rate at which it flies migrants home from Libya after a CNN report that showed refugees being sold as slaves. Reuters has the details.

DIGITAL POLITICS

PRIVACY REGULATORS TAKE AIM AT TRANSATLANTIC DATA SHIELD: European privacy regulators said the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield data transfer deal raises a “number of significant concerns” and called on the European Commission and U.S. officials to restart negotiations. The deal, a cornerstone of digital ties between the two countries, was deemed a success when it was reviewed by European and American officials in September. Laurens Cerulus has the full story for POLITICO Pro Technology subscribers.

EU INTERNET FORUM TODAY — FIGHTING TERRORISM ONLINE: Joanna Plucinska and Laurens Cerulus interviewed the forum’s convenor, Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, for POLITICO Tech Pros.

JEREMY HUNT TELLS FACEBOOK TO STAY AWAY FROM HIS KIDS: The U.K. health secretary on Tuesday attacked Facebook’s plans to create an app for young users, telling the social media platform to “stay away from my kids.”

EU NATIONAL NEWS

UK — POLICE REPORTEDLY FOIL PLOT TO ASSASSINATE THERESA MAY: U.K. security services thwarted a plot to assassinate the British PM in Downing Street, Sky News reports. Two suspects, who are due to appear in court today, were detained during raids in London and Birmingham last week and charged with terror offenses.

SPAIN — FREE CARLES: Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his ministers still face possible charges for sedition and rebellion, but a Spanish Supreme Court judge on Tuesday dropped a European Arrest Warrant that had been issued to seek their deportation.

GERMANY — SPD BACK IN DRIVING SEAT (SORT OF): Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) on Thursday start a three-day congress in Berlin to decide whether to back party leader Martin Schulz’s plan to hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives that could lead to a new government. On the same day, Schulz — Merkel’s defeated challenger in September’s general election and former European Parliament president — will find out whether the party still has his back when he stands for re-election as leader. The gathering comes days after a new poll said most of the party’s supporters don’t want another “grand coalition.” POLITICO’s Janosch Delcker reports from Berlin.

FRANCE — AFRICA VISIT POLL BOOST FOR MACRON: A new poll shows President Emmanuel Macron received a 6-point boost to his popularity after his Africa tour.

ITALY — IMMIGRANT CHILDREN CITIZENSHIP PLANS PUT OFF: A draft law allowing 800,000 children of immigrants to become Italian citizens has been pushed off the table due to right-wing opposition in the country’s senate.

CZECH REPUBLIC — BABIŠ PROMISES MASSIVE STATE INVESTMENT: Bloomberg has the details.

MALTA — 3 CHARGED WITH JOURNALIST’S MURDER: Three men were charged late Tuesday with the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

BREXIT 360°

Guidelines or no guidelines? Even if Theresa May wins EU27 support next week to open transition and trade talks, she may have to wait to get the guidelines that would underpin them. With the clock ticking, the EU side is running out of time to prepare guidelines for sign-off at next week’s summit: “If [the new proposal] comes tomorrow we have time to propose new guidelines, if it doesn’t come, we don’t have time,” an EU official told Playbook’s Quentin Ariès, clarifying that capitals will need until the end of next week to finish the text. It won’t be the end of the world if the guidelines aren’t ready, since negotiators would still be able to discuss the framework of the transition talks and what they would entail, according to Playbook’s Brexit diplomat source.

What is regulatory alignment? It’s the new, nebulous, endlessly debated phrase in Brussels and London, replacing “sufficient progress.” Brexit Secretary David Davis confirmed Tuesday the British government wants any “regulatory alignment” with the EU after Brexit to apply to the U.K. as a whole. Davis previously rejected the idea of regulatory alignment as against the point of Britain striking out on its own in the world. In a British parliament debate, pro-Brexit Conservative backbenchers showed real discontent. Jacob Rees-Mogg challenged Davis to commit to “regulatory divergence” from the EU as a red line. Davis declined, saying his red line was achieving “the best Brexit for Britain.” POLITICO’s Charlie Cooper reports on the Brexit blow back in Westminster triggered by May’s offer to Ireland.

Interesting theory corner: What if Theresa May knew what she was doing when she effectively signed up to Monday’s Irish border text without first getting DUP support, knowing the DUP would block the text for now, but airing it to show a possible path forward? A counter-view from a Commission official is that May simply miscalculated, and that in fact the rumor circulating in Commission headquarters is that she was visibly shocked when resuming Brexit talks after her phone call with Arlene Foster.

Quotable — Denis MacShane: “It is absurd under any parliamentary system for 10 MPs to hold hostage 640 MPs. Mrs. May needs the 10 DUP members to give her an assured majority in the event of a crisis vote. They are not necessary for 99 percent of government business.”

The broader picture: Andrew Duff, former MEP, Spinelli Group chair and fellow at the European Policy Centre, published his own insights on the collapse of the talks on Monday.

BEYOND EU

AZERBAIJAN — COUNCIL OF EUROPE BEGINS FIRST EVER INFRINGEMENT PROCEEDING: The 47-nation Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers launched infringement proceedings against Azerbaijan on Tuesday over its refusal to release opposition politician Ilgar Mammadov following a 2014 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

UKRAINE — FORMER GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ARRESTED: “Masked members of Ukraine’s security services staged an early morning raid Tuesday on the apartment of Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president and now Ukrainian opposition figure, and arrested him for allegedly supporting a criminal group,” writes David Stern for POLITICO.

US — TRUMP TO RECOGNIZE JERUSALEM AS ISRAELI CAPITAL: President Donald Trump will announce today that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will eventually relocate its embassy there, report POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi and Andrew Restuccia. The move could spur violent protests in the Middle East and undermine the White House’s effort to strike a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

VIDEO — FORTRESS EUROPE: Vox’s latest video in its series on borders is on Melilla, the Spanish enclave in Africa. Watch it here.

RUSSIA — BANNED FROM WINTER OLYMPICS: The Russian Olympic Committee has been banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics over an alleged state-sponsored doping scandal.