08-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

08-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Friday, September 8, 2017

Tsipras: Greece ready and determined to exit bailout in 2018

Greece is “ready and determined” to exit its international bailout next August, putting an end to years of crisis and uncertainty, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday.


Macron, in Athens, pushes vision of deeper eurozone integration, praises Greece

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday backed Germany’s idea of a European Monetary Fund (EMF) but stressed the ultimate goal should remain a eurozone budget.


EU refugee court ruling triggers new east-west feuding

The EU’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that member states must take in a share of refugees who reach Europe, dismissing complaints by Slovakia and Hungary and reigniting an east-west row that has shaken the Union’s cohesion.


Mitsotakis: We’ll cut business tax rates to 20% within two years

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday promised to detail his center-right party’s positions on boosting entrepreneurship and creating a more business-friendly environment during an address this month at a trade exhibition.


Greek unemployment rate eases to 21.1% in June 2017

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Greece for June 2017 fell to 21.2 percent, compared to 23.5 percent in the corresponding month of 2016. The downward revised figure for the previous month, May 2017, was 21.5 percent.


Eurostat: Greece first in EU in terms of self-employed, 29%

Eurostat announced that Greece retains first place in the EU in the category of self-employed, with the figure at 29 percent of the workforce for 2016, followed by Italy with 21 percent.


ECB lowers emergency funding cap for Greek banks to 33.9 bln euros

The European Central Bank lowered the cap on emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) Greek banks draw from the domestic central bank by 5 billion euros to 33.9 billion euros, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.


Total expects Greek parliament approval for offshore exploration, CEO says

Total expects approval from the Greek parliament by the end of the year to explore for oil off the western coast of Greece, the French company’s chief executive told a Greek newspaper.







Due to a daily strike announced by the journalists’ association of Athens there is no newspaper circulation today. The strike was decided in support of striking workers in the newspaper distribution agencies.

ORBÁN VERSUS JUNCKER, ROUND 3: The very public spat between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker over the EU’s response to the 2015 migration crisis shows no sign of letting up. In a letter dated Wednesday, Orbán suggests Juncker’s interpretation of solidarity would transform Hungary into “an immigrant country, against the will of Hungarian citizens,” before saying he is “stunned and puzzled” that the Commission isn’t willing to pay half the cost of a border fence constructed to keep migrants out of the country.

MEPs upset Budapest even more: A planned visit by MEPs to Hungary later this month is “politically motivated” and would interfere with the country’s general election, planned for spring 2018, according to János Lázár, Orbán’s chief of staff. “I found it outrageous that a committee of the European Parliament systematically ignores and rejects a notable amount of the suggestions of the Hungarian government,” he wrote, referring to letters sent by Ingeborg Gräßle, the German MEP who chairs the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control.

COUNCIL — FOREIGN MINISTERS IN TALLINN: It’s day two of a ministerial get-together in Tallinn, with foreign ministers starting the day with a discussion on how to ensure EU members speak with one voice at international organizations and conferences (not least the U.N. General Assembly, which starts next week).

Candidate countries: Ministers of five candidate countries (Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Turkey) will discuss the fight against radicalization with EU foreign ministers in the morning. Keep your Turkey expectations low: Unless Ömer Çelik, Turkish minister for EU affairs, chooses to go nuclear as he enters the building, it’s unlikely there will be any major developments today. For accession talks to be suspended — a call for which was reiterated Thursday by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastien Kurz, both of whom face elections in the next month — all 28 EU countries would have to agree, most likely at a European Council summit. Given French President Emmanuel Macron and several foreign ministers said they preferred not to press this particular red button, talks will for the time being remain frozen, rather than be terminated.

Partnership countries: The foreign ministers of the EU’s six Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries (Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus) will discuss security issues with their counterparts from the bloc over lunch, just over two months before a major EU-EaP summit in Brussels. Sven Mikser, Estonia’s foreign minister, explains why his country wants more emphasis on the EaP here.

BACK IN BRUSSELS: EU28 ambassadors in the so-called Coreper 1 formation are back to work today for the first time since summer, and will prepare for a meeting next week with MEPs and the Commission on reforms to the EU’s emissions trading system.

EU CONFIDENTIAL: The latest EU Confidential podcast, in which Ryan interviews David McAllister, chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, is out. McAllister says the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU is a “historic mistake” and Turkey’s authoritarian drift is “appalling.” Listen by clicking here, or download the podcast to listen offline via iTunes.


MEPs propose cuts to ranks: What to do with the 73 seats currently occupied by British MEPs? Danuta Hübner and Pedro Silva Pereira, two senior MEPs on the Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs, think they have the answer. In a report obtained by POLITICO, they propose reducing the number of MEPs to 700 from 751 — leaving 51 seats in reserve for a future pan-European list of lawmakers — and re-allocating the other 22 U.K. seats to the remaining EU27. The main beneficiaries of this proposal would be France, Italy and Spain, who would each gain between three and four MEPs each. Read the draft report here and Maïa de La Baume’s analysis here.

EU-Canada name record deal to be taken off table: The Parliament’s legal service advised lawmakers Thursday to halt the Passenger Name Records system agreed between the EU and Canada. “In its current form, it cannot enter into force,” the institution’s legal service told MEPs in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, pointing to an opinion given by the European Court of Justice earlier this year.

ENF secretary general resigns: Ludovic de Danne, secretary general of Marine Le Pen’s Europe of Nations and Freedom, which is under investigation for alleged misuse of EU funds, stepped down Wednesday, according to Mediapart.

ICYMI — STATE OF THE JUNCKER: The European Commission had some IT problems Thursday morning, meaning Playbook didn’t get into everyone’s inbox. We don’t want you to miss this great story about the EU’s ultimate survivor: Jean-Claude Juncker. He told POLITICO’s Florian Eder and David Herszenhorn the Commission has plans in 2018 for expanded military cooperation, concerted action on trade and trade defense, and the transformation of the European Stability Mechanism into a permanent safety net to protect national budgets and the wallets of the bloc’s citizens. Read the full interview here.

The other State of the Union: Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa will speak on Saturday in the Bozar on the “the real State of the Union.”

EUROPE’S TRUMPABILITY INDEX: There aren’t many European leaders who have expressed much faith in U.S. President Donald Trump. Even so, certain character traits closely associated with the man with the blond mane aren’t totally foreign to the Old World. POLITICO has identified the 10 European countries where Trumpian qualities are most likely to be found.

EUROZONE — MACRON WANTS ‘MAXIMUM AMBITION’: Speaking at a conference in Greece, French President Emmanuel Macron urged eurozone members to move with “maximum ambition” toward adopting a common budget and finance minister, in defiance of Germany’s position, reiterating his call for a “real eurozone budget [and] a permanent finance minister who leads this executive.”

Kazimir discusses eurozone options: “The current enforcement mechanism [of fiscal discipline] is questionable,” said Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kažimír, mentioned as a possible successor to Jeroen Dijsselbloem as Eurogroup president. “On paper, everything works fine, but you know how it is in practise.” Reuters has more.

ECB policy on hold: The European Central Bank Thursday left its policy and forward guidance on hold, indicating that any exit from easy money will proceed very gradually. More for POLITICO Financial Services Pro subscribers here.

OECD — HUNGARY TO BLOCK ROMANIA’S BID: As Slovenia surprised EU ambassadors by announcing it would block the accession of Croatia to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development over Zagreb’s refusal to agree to a border agreement, Hungary decided Wednesday to use the same tactic against Romania over concerns Budapest had closed a Hungarian minority school.

UK — MAY TO PUSH HOUSE OF COMMONS CHANGE: News broke overnight that Theresa May will attempt to change law-making rules to overcome her lost majority and ease new Brexit laws through the House of Commons. MPs will vote Tuesday on a new motion that would automatically give the Conservatives a majority on key committees required to pass new laws. The opposition called the move “an unprecedented power grab by a minority government.”

BREXIT 360 …

Another day, another flurry of position papers, on Thursday from the EU side, on issues ranging from the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to the need to protect so-called geographical indications, like Parmesan and Champagne. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, who was at one point rudely interrupted by a fire alarm test, ruled out non-stop talks, as recently suggested by London, saying: “We cannot negotiate every day, otherwise we will not do serious work.” He did give some ground, however, saying he was willing to “pick up the pace” (triggering a response from Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s deposed chief of staff, who tweeted: “But hang on, I thought there was no point as HMG was so unprepared?”).

Ireland troubles: Barnier’s most pointed intervention related to the U.K.’s position on the Irish border, which he said would amount to the suspension of EU law. “The U.K. wants to use Ireland as a kind of test case for the future EU-U.K. customs relations. This will not happen,” he said.

Presidential ambitions? Take a hike: Barnier said he couldn’t think of anything more important than his current task, but suggested a holiday with U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis after the negotiations are done in 2019. “Perhaps we could go hiking together, maybe with Theresa May as well,” he said.

Barnier press conference: Full speech here, video here.

Read the five new position papers here: Public procurementthe dialogue on Ireland/Northern Irelandcustoms related mattersthe use of data and protection of information and intellectual property rights.

Headline du jour: Euractiv’s “You Brexit, you fix it.”

That time Juncker criticized Davis: The minutes of a July meeting of the College of Commissioners in which Barnier gave an update on Brexit negotiations include a reference to Juncker’s concerns about “the stability and accountability of [Davis] and his apparent lack of involvement [in the negotiations].” Read them here from page nine.

May to meet Parliament leaders: Like her predecessor, British Prime Minister Theresa May has turned down an invitation to address all MEPs, but said she would meet the leaders of the Parliament’s party groups behind closed doors.

Don’t rely on Germany: The Brexit camp in the U.K., including David Davis, often point to Germany as a likely source of support for a good exit deal, noting the amount of German goods consumed by British consumers. This faith is dangerously misplaced, argues Christian Odendahl, chief economist and Berlin representative at the Centre for European Reform. He points to the fact that, unlike in Britain, all major German political parties are strongly pro-European. The integrity of the EU and its single market remains a bigger priority than keeping London happy.

GERMAN ELECTION — FDP ‘CAN’T IMAGINE’ JAMAICA COALITION: Christian Lindner, leader of the Free Democratic Party, isn’t keen on a three-way coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Greens after Germany’s September 24 election, he told Focus magazine. Reuters has more.

POLAND — SZYDŁO SAYS NO POLEXIT: “The government will never agree to discuss Poland leaving the EU,” Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło said Thursday. “Anyone trying to plant the thought of leaving the EU is working against the good of Poland.” That didn’t stop her government threatening to block the Canada-EU free trade deal over concerns about the investor dispute court (the Financial Times has the details here).

SPAIN — RAJOY UNLEASHES LAW ON CATALONIA: “There won’t be a referendum,” Spanish Prime Minister said bluntly Thursday. His government asked the country’s Constitutional Court to provisionally suspend the referendum law approved by the Catalan parliament.

NORWAY — LABOR’S BRUTALLY HONEST PLEDGE: There aren’t many politicians who would go into an election promising to raise income tax, but that’s exactly what Norwegian Labor Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre has been doing ahead of the country’s ballot on September 11. What’s even more surprising is that his approach seems to be working, reports John Acher, with his Labor-led bloc neck-and-neck with Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Conservatives.

UKRAINE — WAR TRAUMA: Tens of thousands of soldiers have left the conflict zone in Ukraine’s east to resume civilian lives, but many of them are suffering from trauma — and aren’t getting the support they need due to mental health issues remaining a taboo, Jack Losh writes.