08-03-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

08-03-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Turkey PM: 2 Greek servicemen violated border, case before justice system

The first official reaction by a top Turkish government official vis-a-vis the still unresolved case of two Greek servicemen being held in Turkey for allegedly straying into that country’s border territory last week came on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim merely noting that the issue is before Turkish justice.


ESM’s Regling says reforms are Greece’s best insurance against risk

The head of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), Klaus Regling, told Skai TV in an interview aired on Tuesday night that Greece can look forward to a “clean exit” from the bailout when it expires in August but needs to be aware of the risks of volatile markets.


New law paves way for public sector staff to be permanent

The leftist-led coalition on Wednesday passed into law a reform that effectively helps state workers on short-term contracts to secure long-term employment amid accusations from the opposition of favoring their political supporters.


Takings from deposits lists fail to impress

The deposits of Greek enterprises and individuals on the various lists of suspected tax dodgers given to Greek authorities add up to more than 10 billion euros, yet the tax evasion identified amounted to just 919 million euros (including the fines imposed), with only 107 million flowing into state coffers over the last three years. This contrasts with pledges for billions of euros in takings from the depositors lists.


Athens city-breakers grow sixfold in 4 years

Athens is rapidly growing as a tourism destination in itself rather than simply a transit point for foreign tourists heading to the islands, according to figures revealed on Wednesday by Aegean Air and Athens International Airport at the ITB international travel fair in Berlin.


Greek property market halts its slide

The Greek property market showed the first signs of recovery in the last quarter of 2017, moving up the charts of countries surveyed by the Global Property Guide and Knight Frank.


ATHEX: Muted trade points to lack of direction

Greek stocks saw another day of lackluster trade on Wednesday even though the vast majority of foreign markets registered gains. The benchmark remained below the 800-point mark for a third consecutive session, with a clear split between banking and non-banking blue chips, which headed in opposite directions.







KATHIMERINI: The gates of the public sector open

ETHNOS: Survival guide for revenues with ownership titles

TA NEA: Shocking decision about pensions


AVGI: A day like any other or a day for every woman?

RIZOSPASTIS: The reinforcement of military bases of the US and NATO brings a deeper involvement of Greece into dirty plans

KONTRA NEWS: Erdogan is making a mess of everything

TO PONTIKI: Erdogan taking hostages from all fronts

DIMOKRATIA: Return of contributions

NAFTEMPORIKI: The agenda for the regulation of the debt


MEET GOD’S OTHER MAN IN BRUSSELS: It’s one position Martin Selmayr can’t fill. With allies in Brussels and the Vatican, Cardinal Reinhard Marx has shaped the European debate behind the scenes. Incoming Playbook author Florian Eder and Jacopo Barigazzi bring the cardinal out of the political closet.

LAST-DITCH TRADE PEACE TALKS: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his Japanese counterpart Hiroshige Sekō will convene in Brussels with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, the Wall Street Journal reports. U.S. administration officials have now also begun issuing hints that Canada and Mexico might win exemptions from the tariffs (it will be hard to renegotiate the NAFTA deal if they don’t).

TRADE TRUTH SERUM: “Trade wars are bad and easy to lose,” Europe’s Donald (Tusk) said to America’s Donald (Trump) — POLITICO Pro Trade subscribers can read more here. It was the opening pass in Europe’s full-court press aimed at winning an exemption from Trump’s planned tariffs, triggered by an as yet unidentified threat to United States national security.

Cecilia Malmström was also front and center: “I hope that someone in the White House has read the history book,” she told reporters, alluding to a 2002 U.S. decision to impose tariffs on steel imports — against which the EU retaliated — and which cost “thousands and thousands of American jobs,” according to Malmström. “We cannot see how the European Union, friends and allies in NATO, can be a threat to national security in the U.S.,” she said. On car tariffs, Malmström was blunter: “This is not based on facts … the truth is that that is creating a lot of American jobs.”

Moving on without the United States: The 11 remaining states in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), covering 13 percent of global GDP, will sign the deal in Chile today.

Opinion — Trump is losing the trade war with China: Rich Lowry writing for POLITICO argues: “President Donald Trump’s prospective tariffs on steel and aluminum have put renewed focus on China trade, although the tariffs, at least as announced by Trump, are a comically inept misfire if their true target is China. The rubric for the levies could be: ‘How to lose a trade war with China in one easy step.’”

COMMISSION LANDS A BIG SUSTAINABLE FISH AHEAD OF NEW FINANCE STRATEGY: The Commission is due to present a new strategy on sustainable finance at a press conference at 10 a.m., and it just got a lot more interesting. In a private invitation letter seen by Playbook, French President Emmanuel Macron is lending his support to the Commission’s proposal on how to finance the Paris climate goals. Macron will attend, along with Michael Bloomberg, the new U.N. special envoy for cities and climate change, a high-level conference on the topic March 22.

Who’s behind these moves? Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, who knows his strengths and limitations. If you can’t add glamor to an event co-hosted by President Jean-Claude Juncker and oneself, then import it, is seemingly Dombrovskis’ strategy. It’s working.


Parliament fight is on: Political leaders in the European Parliament unanimously backed a proposal to hold a debate Monday evening in Strasbourg on Martin Selmayr’s appointment.

Hungary starts revolt: Zoltán Kovács, the Hungarian government spokesman, rarely misses a political opportunity. So he was happy to claim during a press briefing in Brussels that the Commission practices double standards by facilitating the unusual appointment of Martin Selmayr while also taking national governments to court over complaints about rule of law breaches.

Dutch parties call for Selmayr resignation: The leaders of all Dutch parties in the European Parliament have called on Selmayr to resign. One of the MEPs, Hans van Baalen, who is also president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe party, said: “If this happens in Burkina Faso, that country would no longer receive any support and we would say: That is not how you govern a country.”

Selmayr referred to EU Ombudsman: Sophie in ‘t Veld, a senior liberal MEP, has asked Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly to examine Selmayr’s recruitment.

Playbook hears: Nothing much has changed at the weekly commissioner chiefs-of-staff meetings. Martin Selmayr is still doing all the talking. The real question is whether that is the job of the secretary-general or the president’s chief-of-staff. It can’t be the job of both. You’re encouraged to share your collective Commission memory on this matter with playbook@politico.eu.

COMMISSION — PUBLISHING COMMISSIONERS’ TRAVEL EXPENSES: After last year’s scandal involving Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who traveled on the private jet of German businessman Klaus Mangold, commissioners will now proactively publish information about where they’re going and what they’re spending, to be displayed on their Commission web pages.

COMMISSION — ITALY IN FIRING LINE IN WINTER ECONOMIC SURVEILLANCE PACKAGE: Italy is among three EU countries experiencing “excessive” imbalances in their economies, the European Commission said on Wednesday. The EU’s executive arm issued the warning as part of its European Semester Winter Package, which scrutinizes the economies of 27 countries in the bloc — excluding Greece, given its bailout program. Croatia and Cyprus are the other two countries with excessive imbalances, the Commission said. But all eyes will be on Italy, which is the eurozone’s third-largest economy. Bjarke Smith-Meyer has the story for POLITICO Financial Services Pros.

COMMISSION — EU MAYORS TO DISCUSS URBAN DEFENSES AGAINST TERRORISM: Accidentally enabling innovative terror attacks is every public official’s nightmare. Today mayors gather to learn how to stay one step ahead in the protection of public spaces. The focus is “security by design” and prevention of radicalization. Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Brussels is “here to concretely help our member states with funds and expertise so they step up their efforts at all levels — European, national and local.” The conference is part of an EU action plan.

COUNCIL — JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS MINISTERS MEET IN BRUSSELS: The Justice and Home Affairs Council is on today and Friday, looking at the Passenger Name Record Directive, interoperability of EU information systems and migration. Agenda here.


Pittella resigns: Gianni Pittella, leader of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, announced his resignation from the presidency Wednesday to take up an Italian senate seat. A new president will be elected March 20, with group Vice President Maria João Rodrigues named acting leader. Candidates vying to replace Pittella have until Monday to declare their interest.

National Front MEPs receive big bill: Jean-Marie Le Pen and Bruno Gollnisch must repay the European Parliament over €600,000, the European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday, rejecting their appeals.

PARTY PEOPLE — VAROUFAKIS LAUNCHES 2019 ELECTION LIST: Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is promising to run the first truly transnational list in the 2019 European election: the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25). As there is no transnational constituency to run in, he actually means that he’s launching a cross-border manifesto “mapping out a clear path to a democratic, ecological, egalitarian and ambitious Europe” this weekend in Naples, according to an emailed statement.


HUNGARY GOES AFTER FACEBOOK: Facebook removed a controversial video posted by János Lázár, a minister in the Hungarian prime minister’s office, in which he claimed that “white Christians” are gone from parts of Vienna and the same could happen in Hungary. “In Vienna there are lots of schools where there are no longer white Viennese children, only Muslim immigrants,” Lázár said in the video. The decision by the tech giant triggered a furious reaction from the government, which said Facebook was clamping down on freedom of speech.


POLAND — WHAT’S BEHIND THE US HOLOCAUST LAW BACKLASH: Polish newspaper Wyborcza reports that the real reason for the severe U.S. reaction to the Polish Holocaust law may be related to an investigation into Professor Tomasz Gross (author of the books “Neighbors” and “Fear”). Poland’s attorney general’s office started this investigation back in 2015 but lacked the legal grounds to continue it. The law gives the office new grounds for pursuing such investigations. The key link to the U.S. reaction: Gross has U.S. citizenship, meaning Polish authorities have written a law partly designed to enable them to press charges against an American.

FRANCE — ECJ DELIVERS MORE GRIST FOR MACRON’S SNCF PRIVATIZATION MILL: The European Court of Justice on Wednesday ordered the French government to recover €642 million in state aid granted to a former subsidiary of the national railway company SNCF. The railway operator receives billions in public money annually and currently holds debt of €47 billion. The government in February unveiled sweeping reforms that include ending a scheme allowing some staff to retire more than a decade before other public servants.


EU FREE TRADE GUIDELINES TAKEAWAY — BREXIT CLIFF IS NOW AN ABYSS: The EU27 and U.K. are now dangerously distant when it comes to expectations and language. We learned Wednesday that there’s only one dish on the EU’s future relationship menu: a free trade agreement with zero tariffs, covering all goods and perhaps some services, but not financial services, writes POLITICO’s David Herszenhorn.

President Donald Tusk dropped the cake analogy for a one based on cinema candy: “A pick-and-mix approach for a non-member state is out of the question … It’s simply not in our interest,” he said regarding U.K. preferences to hew close to the EU on many issues, and diverge on others. U.K. diplomats for their part say they will wait for the final EU document before jumping to conclusions, and urge Brussels to use creativity as well as its treaty in approaching the future economic partnership.

CAPACITY ISSUES: The Irish Times’ Fintan O’Toole steps back from the rhetoric to look at the U.K. government’s track record at implementing border technology, and he doesn’t like what he sees. Assuming the U.K. can win political support from the EU for its frictionless border idea, he presents a truckload of statistics to argue the ideals will likely never be translated into reality.