08-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

08-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Friday, December 08, 2017

In tense visit, Erdogan sets out demands on treaty, minority

A historic visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Athens on Thursday that had been anticipated as an opportunity to improve bilateral relations transpired into a series of testy exchanges with both Erdogan and Greek officials airing long-standing grievances.


Around 1,000 refugees to be transferred to mainland

Some 1,000 refugees and migrants belonging to vulnerable groups are set to be removed on Saturday from camps on the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos.


State arrears to private sector fall to 3.458 billion euros in Oct. 2017

The finance ministry on Thursday announced that state arrears to the private sector were reduced by 101 million euros last month, bringing down the total to 3.458 billion euros.


Statute of limitations for 2011 cases

Lists of Greeks with large deposits abroad and the so-called Lagarde List will be put into the archive for the years up to 2011 at the end of this month, according to a circular sent by the tax administration to the monitoring mechanism, following a decision by the Council of State.


Greek unemployment dips to 20.5 percent in September

Greece’s jobless rate eased to 20.5 percent in September from an upwardly revised 20.7 percent in August, the country’s statistics service ELSTAT said on Thursday.


Alpha to sell loan portfolio of 2.5 bln euros

Alpha Bank is transferring debts in its portfolio from cards, consumer loans and small corporate loans delayed between five and seven years, with a total value of 2.5 billion euros.


ATHEX: Benchmark sees minor gains

The main index of the Greek bourse stopped its southward course on Thursday – but only just – in a mixed session with low trading volume and the majority of stocks (including banks) heading lower.







KATHIMERINI: Visit full of tensions

ETHNOS: Tsipras intercepted Erdogan

TA NEA: Unprepared diplomacy

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Erdogan’s grit was unsuccessful

AVGI: Straight talk aiming at consensus

RIZOSPASTIS: Erdogan talks about grey zones offering the bait of plans that would benefit monopolies

KONTRA NEWS: Greece is experiencing historical moments with Tsipras as the PM

DIMOKRATIA: Erdogan in delirium

NAFTEMPORIKI: Greece is a laggard as far as growth is concerned

Brexit circus continues with morning press conferences and meetings: Theresa May will meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels at 7 a.m. with a press conference penciled in at roughly 7:30-8 a.m. European Council President Donald Tusk plans to address reporters at 7.50 a.m. (before ducking onto a waiting plane whisking him to Hungary). The negotiating parties are once again hopeful of a deal. A Commission spokesperson said Thursday night that, after Juncker’s calls with May and Ireland’s Leo Varadkar, “We are making progress.”

Poland has a new prime minister: Bye bye Beata Szydło. Mateusz Morawiecki, a smooth former economic adviser in the Cabinet of Donald Tusk, will become prime minister. Watch a recent speech by Morawiecki to the AEI in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, as the spotlight turned elsewhere, the Polish government started grabbing at the purse strings of NGOs, write Claudia Ciobanu and Wojciech Kość for POLITICO.


ECB — MEPs DEMAND GENDER-BALANCED SHORTLIST FOR ECB POST: MEPs are pressing governments to present a gender-balanced shortlist of candidates for the post of vice president of the European Central Bank, the FT reports. They looking not only for diversity but to avoid a coronation engineered by national capitals.

Global bank capital deal reached: International banking regulators have agreed the final Basel III standards for banks, after multiple failed attempts. Now central banks and regulators must transpose the standards into national law. ECB chief Mario Draghi, who led the effort, called it “a major milestone.” Fiona Maxwell explains why Draghi is smiling.

COUNCIL — HEALTH, INTERIOR MINISTERS IN TOWN: EU health ministers get together today to discuss conclusions on alcohol policy while justice ministers will discuss European criminal record systems.

COUNCIL — EU-UKRAINE ASSOCIATION COUNCIL: High Representative Federica Mogherini will participate in the EU-Ukraine Association Council meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. An attempt to dismantle Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency was thwarted this week.

UKIP to the rescue: Jane Collins MEP is most famous for being successfully sued for libel and has spoken for just five minutes in European Parliament debates in 2017. That didn’t stop her traveling to Kiev to speak at a rally for Mikheil Saakashvili. The mind boggles at what prompted the sudden outburst of foreign political activity.

PARLIAMENT — TAJANI STEAMROLLS MEPs ON EU PRIORITIES: European Parliament President Antonio Tajani will next week sign off on a list of laws to be finished before the 2019 European elections — a draft was obtained by POLITICO — which will also be signed by Jean-Claude Juncker and Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas on behalf of the EU’s member countries. The catch: six of Parliament’s eight parties disagree, with one calling Tajani a “tyrant.” Harry Cooper has the story.

Party chiefs discuss 2019 election date: The leaders of Parliament’s political groups discussed on Thursday holding the 2019 European elections between March 16-20 or around June 16, 2019. They delayed a decision on creating a special committee to investigate weedkiller glyphosate.

COMMISSION — HUNGARY, POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC TAKEN TO COURT: The European Commission said Thursday it would take Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to the European Court of Justice over their refusal to host asylum seekers. The Commission also said it would take Hungary to the ECJ over its controversial higher education law, which critics say curbs academic freedom. Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister, said Budapest would appeal.

Other EU legal cases against national governments: The European Commission released its monthly list of legal actions against EU rule breakers.

FOREIGN RELATIONS: EU-Turkey economic dialogue today featuring Commissioners Jyrki Katainen, Pierre Moscovici and Cecilia Malmström and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. Federica Mogherini will give a press statement with her Jordanian counterpart at 10 a.m.


The former president of the European Council aims — via a New Pact for Europe report — to create the practical steps that can “turn fear into hope” across Europe. In contrast to Martin Schulz’s bold but detail-free call on Thursday for a “United States of Europe” by 2025 (more on that below), Van Rompuy aims for a modest, Belgian approach to healing some serious wounds in the EU body politic. He says the bloc has to do a better job of protecting citizens and that while a multi-speed Europe can work in certain circumstances, “the countries who want to make progress on some issues have all the instruments they need” already.

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Herman’s new pact for Europe haiku: Playbook asked the leading haiku exponent to reduce more than four years of thinking and 100 pages of conclusions down to 17 syllables.

Sorrow and sadness
Unite Remainers more
Stronger together

Another podcast, with Mujtaba Rahman: Paul Adamson speaks to the well-connected Eurasia Group analyst.


The European trade commissioner is on the verge of extending her winning streak next week, as trade ministers gather in Argentina from Sunday. She spoke to POLITICO’s Jakob Hanke. Pro Trade subscribers can read the full interview here.

South American bonanza: A planned trade deal with the Mercosur bloc would be worth “eight times as much as the Canadian agreement,” said Malmström. French and German automobile industries and machine makers are salivating over a deal that will slash tariffs.

So will a deal be announced next week? “We will see. There is a possibility. But at least we will conclude enough to see the contours of the very endgame … we are very close.”

Trump trauma: Donald Trump has blocked the reappointment of judges to the WTO’s dispute settlement court. Malmström is seething: “We don’t know what they want,” she said. “It’s the only international court in the world where people, you know, accept the outcome. Even China!” That said, she’d like to keep talking to the U.S. about its concerns.

MIGRATION EXTRA INFO: In Wednesday’s Playbook we referred to United Nations work to speed up evacuations of migrants from Libya. The European Commission, through a spokesperson, said this work is possible because of EU money allocated to the “EU Emergency Trust for Africa” fund.

Amnesty International doesn’t think Libya links are anything to be proud of: In a new report called “Libya’s dark web of collusion,” the group says “European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan coast guard, detention authorities and smugglers.”


COMMISSION TAKES IRELAND TO COURT OVER APPLE: Lest you think the EU simply does favors for Ireland to spite the U.K., the Commission decided Thursday to take Dublin to court despite its promise to collect €13 billion in back taxes from Apple, writes Nicholas Hirst.

FREE FLOW OF DATA DEAL NEAR: European governments are closing in on a compromise on the free flow of data regulation, a bill introduced by the European Commission in September that would allow non-personal data to flow more easily across EU borders. A new text, obtained by POLITICO, would clarify transparency requirements for EU countries when they draft laws that would force businesses to store data within their national borders, report Joanna Plucinska and Laurens Cerulus for POLITICO Pro Tech subscribers.



GERMANY — EUROPE’S BACK ON THE AGENDA, THANK GROKO: Wondering why Martin Schulz is suddenly talking about a United States of Europe and Angela Merkel’s allies are finding warm words for French President Emmanuel Macron? The answer has to do with what Germans call Groko, or grand coalition, writing Matthew Karnitschnig.

OPINION — BRATISLAVA IS FOR LOSERS: Dalibor Rohac says Slovakia needs to rethink its European strategy if it wants a real seat at the table. The context: It’s been a rough few weeks for Slovakia. The country descended into “overblown self-flagellations” when, after a cross-party selection of top leaders made a specific turn to face Brussels and show their support for both the EU and NATO, Bratislava went on to lose the race to host the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after Brexit and Finance Minister Peter Kažimír lost the Eurogroup presidency race.

Instead of beating itself up, Rohac says Slovakia can be influential in the EU only if “it matches a commitment to EU integration with effective domestic reforms to update its public administration, health care and education systems. And if Slovak leaders also have a clear vision and strategy of what they are trying to accomplish in Europe.”

HUNGARY — OPPOSITION FINED, THREATENING TO BOYCOTT 2018 ELECTION: Hungarian prosecutors have formally charged Jobbik MEP Bela Kovacs for spying on the EU for Russia and Hungary’s State Audit Office announced it will impose a large-scale fine on Jobbik, over €2 million, for campaign contribution irregularities. The party called the decision — which could wipe out all its funds — politically motivated.

GREECE — ERDOĞAN CALLS FOR BORDER TREATY TO BE BINNED: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Thursday while on a visit to Athens — the first time a Turkish head of state has visited in 65 years — that the treaty defining border relations between Greece and Turkey should be trashed.


SO MUCH FOR DUTCH EFFICIENCY: The building in Amsterdam that will eventually host the European Medicines Agency after Brexit will not be ready until the end of 2019 at the earliest. Other cities competing to host the agency — such as Milan and Copenhagen — had a ready-made space, report Carmen Paun and Jacopo Barigazzi. Playbook wonders (given the €448 million it cost to break the agency’s London lease) whether it would really be so bad to simply hang on in London a little longer than planned.

THEY CAME IN LIKE A WRECKING BALL — DUP GETS BACK TO BASICS: It’s a case of history repeating in Northern Ireland, writes Michael Goldfarb for POLITICO. A party that roars loud but has no majority in the North is defying those in the border zones, who voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU. Goldfarb says that’s a misreading of local politics and could end both the U.K. government and Brexit itself.

THE VIEW FROM IRELAND — WAITING FOR ARLENE: The deal on the table Monday was “appropriate” and “covers everybody’s grounds,” said Helen McEntee, Ireland’s minster for European affairs in an interview with POLITICO. McEntee insists it is now up to Theresa May’s team to come back to the table with a plan that is acceptable to Leo Varadkar’s administration in Dublin that also has the DUP on board.


TRUMP’S JERUSALEM DECISION ‘VERY WORRYING’ SAYS MOGHERINI: U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “has very worrying potential impact,” the EU foreign policy chief told reporters Thursday. “It is a very fragile context and the announcement has the potential to send us backwards to even darker times.”

TILLERSON AT OSCE: It’s not clear that President Trump knows what the Organization for Security and Cooperation is, but Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state, couldn’t have been warmer when he addressed its ministerial plenary in Vienna Thursday. “The OSCE is an indispensable pillar of our common security architecture that bolsters peace and stability in Europe and Eurasia,” he said.

Hungary demands OSCE observers in Transcarpathia: The region in Western Ukraine was formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.


45,000-STRONG CATALAN INDEPENDENCE PROTEST SWAMPS BRUSSELS: Carles Puigdemont led a mass protest in the Belgian capital, aided by Catalans who took advantage of a public holiday “bridge weekend” in Spain to travel to Brussels with the message that the independence movement is far from finished. Natalie Sauer reports.