08-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

08-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Monday, January 08, 2018

Zaev says solution is coming on FYROM’s name

The name issue is about to be resolved between Athens and Skopje, with a concrete proposal to be made public shortly, said Zoran Zaev in an interview aired on Greek TV on Sunday evening.


Latest batch of memorandum-mandated reforms, actions in draft bill this month

An omnibus draft bill to include another batch of “prior actions” prescribed in the current and last bailout program will be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, with a vote expected by Jan. 15.


MPs to debate controversial bill for new university

Lawmakers on Wednesday will be debating a controversial Education Ministry bill for the creation of the so-called University of Western Attica.


Bloomberg: 10 major steps in 2018 before exits the bailout era

Bloomberg over the weekend points to 10 “crucial items” that the Greek government must complete and implement ahead of the end of the third bailout in August 2018.


Latest political furor erupts with interview by PM’s companion; ‘I cry every July 5th’ – date of referendum

The first political fracas in Greece in 2018 sprung from an unexpected source, namely, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ companion, Peristera (Betty) Baziana, who in a wide-ranging interview to a left-wing Athens daily said the former “never lied, never backed down…but fought to face a harsh, unbending situation that emerged before him in an extremely threatening manner.”


Greek bond yields hit new 12-year low

Greece’s 10-year borrowing costs hit their lowest in 12 years on Friday, benefiting from expectations of an exit from its bailout this year, underpinned by risk appetite and a tentative economic recovery.


ATHEX: Week ends with gains of 3.4 pct

Stocks in the Greek bourse continued their ascent on Friday, supported by the significant decline recorded in bond yields. The main index advanced for the 13th time in the last 15 sessions with total gains that exceed 12 percent.








KATHIMERINI: The government opts for allowances instead of salary raises

TO VIMA: The secret bargain with Skopje on the name issue

REAL NEWS: Three names for Skopje under discussion

PROTO THEMA: Who are the ones to ‘pay the bill’ of the new bailout program review?

AVGI: Hot January for the economy and negotiations regarding FYROM’s name


ETHNOS: Definitive step towards the exit from the Memorandum era

TA NEA: Tax-office will auction households

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The straw-men of Golden Dawn

KONTRA NEWS: The money of [now closed] Alter Channel were found in Swiss bank accounts and were confiscated

DIMOKRATIA: They fear that a ‘Lega Nord’ may be set up in Greece

NAFTEMPORIKI: Debts owed to the tax-office exceed 100 billion Euros

EU political figures are mourning the death at age 71 of Peter Sutherland, a former European commissioner, father of the World Trade Organization, Irish minister, corporate chief at BP and Goldman Sachs, and most recently United Nations refugee advocate. Sutherland’s best known legacies include the liberalization of European aviation and the Erasmus student exchange program. He was described by the current European commissioner from Ireland, Phil Hogan, as “probably Ireland’s most distinguished international statesman” and by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as “a true European.” Irish Times profile of Sutherland from 2015.


COMMISSION — WHEN MICHEL MEETS NIGEL: It’s going to be a fun chat at 11 a.m. this morning between the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and former UKIP chief Nigel Farage. Playbook predicts the meeting will produce more tweet than light. The only question is which Twitter-happy participant will press send first. Barnier’s adviser Stefaan De Rynck has already suggested Farage should chill out a bit (on Twitter, of course).

COMMISSION — FUTURE OF EU FINANCE EVENT: Today’s real star-studded EU meeting has nothing to the do with Nigel Farage. It’s called “Shaping our future: Designing the next multi-annual financial framework,” kicking off after lunch. The new eurozone chief Mário Centeno, German Ministers Sigmar Garbriel and Jens Spahn, and European Commissioners Juncker, Jyrki Katainen, Günther Oettinger and Corina Creţu are among the speakers. Watch it here this afternoon and Tuesday morning. Program.

EU regions demand Brexit compensation: “The demands for compensation — from regions, municipalities and provinces across the Continent — are described in responses to a survey by the EU’s Committee of the Regions, obtained by POLITICO. They highlight the pressure on budget-makers in Brussels facing calls for more spending in several areas, including security and border control,” report POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi and David Herszenhorn.

WHO’S WHO IN THE BULGARIAN PRESIDENCY: From MEPs to commissioners to spokespeople, most of the power brokers of the new Bulgarian EU presidency are women. Yet it’s the men who have the most intriguing biographies, including science fiction bloggers to a prime minister who’s a former bouncer, karate master and footballer. Full list here.

Bulgaria investing heavily in presidency communications: Veselin Jelev, a former Associated Press journalist who speaks six languages, has been hired as presidency spokesperson, supported by Andreana Stankova, who has taken leave from the Commission and has lived in six EU countries. They join existing Bulgarian spokespeople Genoveva Chervenakova and Elitsa Zlateva, and are supported by Nicholas Whyte at APCO, who helped both Croatia join the EU and Kosovo achieve independence.

What Bulgarians are tweeting about — ‘When no might mean yes’: That’s a reference to the Bulgarian custom of shaking one’s head to signify agreement, showcased in this presidency video, about a country where West meets East. Here’s another handy guide to the Bulgarian presidency featuring an interview with MEP Eva Maydell, a political calendar and some actually interesting Bulgarian facts.

WHAT A GIFT: A nice anecdote from Brussels in the Mail on Sunday’s Black Dog diary. After discovering British European Commissioner Julian King’s office sofa was adorned with a Union Jack cushion, Jean-Claude Juncker turned into Santa … the sofa is now embellished with two additional EU flag cushions.

PARLIAMENT — WEBER APOLOGIZES FOR ‘FINAL SOLUTION’ COMMENT: Manfred Weber, leader of European Parliament’s center-right European People’s Party, apologized over the weekend for his choice of words during a German radio interview. Speaking about the migration crisis on a German radio show on Friday, Weber said the “central theme of Europe in 2018” would be “the final solution of the refugee question.” Critics pointed out that the phrase (finale Lösung in German) sounded uncomfortably close to the rhetoric used by Nazi Germany to describe the Holocaust (Endlösung). “My choice of words yesterday was wrong and I regret it,” Weber tweeted, adding that “accusing me of intending any further associations is dishonest and completely mischaracterizes my personal view and position.”

BY THE NUMBERS — EU SUPPORT AT 89 PERCENT POLAND: That’s an equal record, h/t Europe Elects.

NATO — ESTONIAN GENERAL SAYS RUSSIA STAGED ATTACK AGAINST WEST: A report by Bild political editor Julian Röpcke before Christmas that said Russia had simulated a massive attack against NATO during last year’s ZAPAD 2017 war games was written off by many as alarmist. On Friday, the commander of Estonia’s Defense Forces Riho Terras confirmed Moscow did stage the manoeuver. “It was not targeted towards the Baltic states only as it was a theater-wide series of exercises spanning from high North to the Black Sea. The scale and extent of the entire exercise was far greater than officially stated,” Terras said.


DEBATE — MACRON’S FAKE NEWS LAW: THREAT TO OR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACY? French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed law that would include measures to make the backers of sponsored content transparent and empower the government to either scrap “fake news” from the internet or even block websites altogether during political elections “focuses on the trees rather than the forest,” writes HEC Paris’ Alberto Alemanno in the latest POLITICO debate. “As such, it will remain irrelevant and aggravate the root causes fueling the fake news phenomenon.”

Aurore Belfrage, a technology investor with EQT Ventures, disagrees. “We need to rethink the rules of engagement in social media … It’s usually problematic when the state gets involved in defining what constitutes the truth. But liberal democracies are engaged in an uneven information war, and in the muddy trenches, it’s hard to decipher fact from fiction.”

BABY OF MUSLIM PARENTS BECOMES ONLINE HATE TARGET IN AUSTRIA: “I’m hoping for a crib death,” wrote one user on Austrian newspaper Heute’s Facebook page, which identified baby Asel as the first baby born in Vienna in 2018. “Deport the scum immediately,” read another.


ITALY — AT SEA WITHOUT A PADDLE: Novelist Tim Parks writing for POLITICO describes how Italy’s fractured political scene shows little sign of coming together ahead of a March election. “No one and no party is getting across a coherent positive vision that people might wish to unite around,” he writes. “No one appears to have any idea of a future that does not amount to muddling through or settling scores. If this is democracy in the twilight of the nation state, it is gloomy, dull and potentially dangerous.”

Grand coalition possible: “It seems to me that none of the three blocs will have a majority to govern on its own,” Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan told newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview published Sunday.

CORRECTION: It’s 100 years and one month since Finland’s independence from Russia; the country celebrated the centenary on December 6, 2017 rather than this year as stated in Friday’s Playbook. As several Playbook readers noted, Romania is also celebrating 100 years in 2018 (the centenary of the “Great Union” is December 1).

UK — CABINET RESHUFFLE EXPECTED TODAY: The Times reports that casualties will include Patrick McLoughlin and Justine Greening, but the biggest posts will remain unchanged. According to the Telegraph, a new post will be created, that of a “minister for no deal” or similar, who will join the Cabinet and report to David Davis.

Meanwhile … ‘Australian flu’ spreads, prompting handshake ban in Northern Ireland churches.

GERMANY — MERKEL OPTIMISTIC AS COALITION TALKS BEGIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel sounded optimistic Sunday as she entered a week of talks to form a “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats. “I think it can succeed,” Merkel told reporters.

Gabriel agrees to boost relations with Turkey: “We’ve both made it our business to do everything we can to overcome the difficulties,” said German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel after meeting Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, his Turkish counterpart on Saturday.

Anti-Semitic migrants could be deported: The CDU said it would propose beefed-up legislation to deal with anti-Semitism among migrant groups, which would include the possibility of deportation.

HUNGARY — NEW CROSS-PARTY OPPOSITION GROUP: Government-supporting media outlets described “Válasszunk! 2018” (V18), which includes former European Commissioner László Andor and ex-Foreign Minister Péter Balázs, as a group of old and tired politicians.

Orbán’s friends do well out of EU-funded government projects: Atlatszo.hu reports on how businesses and entrepreneurs linked to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party benefit from massive public procurement contracts, many of which are funded through EU subsidies.


FINLAND’S SWEDISH-LANGUAGE NEWS AGENCY TO CLOSE: FNB is closing after 130 years. Janne Strang looks at the state of Swedish speakers in Finland, where they face political opposition and an erosion of their language reach, and reports that 10 freelance journalists have decided to replace the news agency with their own new service.

NEW AP NEWS DIRECTOR: Fis Abrashi has been named the AP’s news director for Northern Europe and will be based in Berlin; he will lead the AP’s editorial operations in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Nordics and Baltics.

BBC EDITOR QUITS OVER PAY DISPARITY: Carrie Gracie, the BBC China editor, resigned from her post in Beijing over pay disparities with male colleagues, she said in an open letter published Sunday. Gracie accused the BBC of “breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure.”


VAT BURDEN INCOMING: 130,000 U.K. companies will face a new VAT burden after Brexit, reports the Guardian. The firms would be forced to pay VAT upfront for the first time on all goods imported from the European Union, under controversial legislation to be considered by MPs today.


NATIONALISTS TOP TURKISH CYPRIOT ELECTION: The National Unity Party, which leads the coalition government that opposed 2017 reunification talks, had 36.18 percent of the vote with just over 58 percent of the votes counted, the Kıbrıs Gazetesi newspaper reported late Sunday evening. The social-democratic Republican Turkish Party (CTP), which supports reunification and won the 2013 election (before their government fell apart in 2016), came in second place at 21.74 percent. More from Sara Stefanini.

THE ISOLATION OF STEVE BANNON: “Sloppy Steve” as President Trump now calls him has few friends left either in the White House, the conservative elite or the Republican Party. Bannon’s 297-word statement of contrition about comments he made in Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” was seen as too little, too late, writes POLITICO’s Annie Karni.

Hot click: CNN’s Jake Tapper battles with White House adviser Steve Miller live on air Sunday.

ICYMI — TRUMP SAYS HE’S A ‘VERY STABLE GENIUS‘: The U.S. president was defending himself against claims of mental illness. Never mind the instability, writes Ross Douthat: The most troubling allegation in Michael Wolff’s book is that a “post-literate” Trump trusts “his own expertise — no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s.” Axios today reports that Trump now tends to start his working day at around 11 a.m.