09-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

09-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Tsipras tells cabinet 2018 to be ‘landmark year’

In the first cabinet meeting of the year, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said 2018 would be a “landmark year,” citing signs that the Greek economy is improving and a scheduled exit from the country’s third international bailout in August.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224700/article/ekathimerini/news/tsipras-tells-cabinet-2018-to-be-landmark-year

FM on fYRoM issue: Athens discussing ‘a name distinctly different from Greek Macedonia’

The relevant foreign minister on Monday evening shed more light on the leftist-rightist coalition’s “road map” ahead of any resumption in substantive negotiations to finally solve the long-standing “fYRoM name issue”, repeating that Athens is discussing a composite name for all uses “and a name distinctly different from Greek Macedonia.”

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1310217/fm-on-fyrom-issue-athens-discussing-a-name-distinctly-different-from-greek-macedonia

Turkey reiterates extradition request for eight servicemen

Turkey’s deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag has reiterated Ankara’s request that Athens extradite eight servicemen who fled their country after the failed coup of 2016.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224716/article/ekathimerini/news/turkey-reiterates-extradition-request-for-eight-servicemen

Greek minister defends decision banning school trips abroad; claims senior HS classes unaffected

Greece’s far-left education minister this week dismissed scathing criticism by the mainstream opposition, the media, as well as on social media, that his ministry has officially prevented secondary schools’ educational trips taking place in another country.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1309972/greek-minister-defends-decision-banning-school-trips-abroad-claims-senior-hs-classes-unaffected

Greek exports up, imports down in Nov. 2017

Greek exports increased by 15.5 percent in November 2017, compared to the same month of 2016, which combined with a smaller increase in imports (roughly 4 percent), reduced the country’s balance of trade deficit by 11.5 percent.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1310006/greek-exports-up-imports-down-in-nov-2017

ATHEX: Bank sector recovers to reach a new four-month high

A late rally in bank stocks reversed earlier losses on Monday for the credit sector and led the Greek bourse benchmark to another positive closing, albeit on relatively reduced trading volume.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224717/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-bank-sector-recovers-to-reach-a-new-four-month-high

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KATHIMERINI: Shocking images from the Polytechnic School [located downtown in Athens]

ETHNOS: Former PM Kostas Karamanlis is being targeted as the main person responsible for the financial crisis

TA NEA: The government is selling off everything

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Greek Foreign Minister Kotzias: If FYROM wants to enter NATO it will have to solve the name-dispute first

AVGI: Preliminary contacts between Athens and Skopje for the solution of the name-dispute

RIZOSPASTIS: The fight against the anti-popular omnibus bill starts today in the streets

KONTRA NEWS: The name dispute with Skopje divides the Right and will lead it to segmentation

DIMOKRATIA: Mikis Theodorakis: “Wakeup, patriots!”

NAFTEMPORIKI: Measures for the reinvigoration of entrepreneurship

In another sign of the times, Emmanuel Macron has slipped off to China for a three-day state visit as Angela Merkel continues to try to patch together a government at home in Germany. Macron is boldly spending his trip asserting that “I have come to tell you: Europe is back,” but it’s at a 2 million-square-meter warehouse complex around the German city of Duisburg — where the Rhine and Ruhr rivers meet — that China’s new Silk Road strategy is really coming to life in the EU, reports POLITICO’s Joshua Posaner.

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS

EU BUDGET SHOWDOWN — REVOLUTION NOT EVOLUTION IS THE NAME OF THE GAME: Who said the EU budget has to shrink because of Brexit? As we head towards budget debates already further complicated by factors such as Brexit and Poland’s “Article 7” procedure, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was in no mood for calm compromise Monday.

“We need more than 1 percent of European GDP, quite clearly, if we are to pursue European policies and fund them quite adequately,” Juncker said at a major conference on the bloc’s next long-term budget, which will run from 2021 to 2027. In calling for large but unspecified increases, Juncker urged policymakers to first lay out their policy ambitions and then turn to the question of how to finance them.

German revolution — free-spending and knife-wielding: If Juncker was the visionary, the European budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, was the details man, writes David Herszenhorn. He plans to fill in the EU’s €13-billion Brexit budget hole by implementing both cuts to existing programs and raising “fresh money.” Oettinger wants the Erasmus student exchange program and Horizon 2020 innovation projects to escape the budget knife because, he said, “they are about our future.”

French revolution – The EU’s agriculture fundamentalists are now OK with cutting farm subsidies: Contexte reported Monday evening that France is willing to cut back on the Common Agriculture Policy to finance new EU security and defense efforts.

COUNCIL — WILL 2018 BE THE YEAR OF MARK RUTTE? RTL reports on how he and the Netherlands manoeuver to stay at the table of nearly all EU discussions despite not being one of the big four countries.

COUNCIL — BULGARIA OPEN TO EASING RUSSIA SANCTIONS: Bulgaria’s EU Ambassador Dimiter Tzantchev told reporters including POLITICO’s Saim Saeed Monday that he hoped Brussels would “look beyond certain stereotypes” of Bulgaria. He added that Sofia could be the bridge between Western Balkan leaders and the EU (there’ll be a summit in May). The presidency is open to dropping sanctions against Russia “in case there’s unanimity” on improving relations with Russia. The presidency’s Brexit plan is to issue directives on the Brexit transition period by the end of January. Directives on the future EU-U.K. relationship are expected in March.

PARLIAMENT — TAJANI DISMISSES CONCERNS ABOUT FERBER: Markus Ferber won’t face disciplinary action from the European Parliament for promoting a commercial product that allows companies to navigate financial rules he helped usher into EU law, according to the Cabinet for the Parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani. More from POLITICO’s Bjarke Smith-Meyer.

ECB — CONTINENT DESPERATELY SEEKING INFLATION: Persistently low inflation in the eurozone has prompted some economists, bankers and policymakers to suggest lowering the European Central Bank’s 2-percent target. POLITICO’s Pierre Briançon reports on the debate.

COMMITTEE OF REGIONS — WHERE BREXIT WILL HURT MOST: According to a 72-page document obtained by POLITICO, 42 regions, municipalities, provinces and national delegations count their biggest Brexit concerns as future trade, agriculture, fisheries, citizens returning from the U.K. and cuts to the EU budget after Brexit. Jacopo Barigazzi has the scoop for POLITICO Brexit, Agriculture and Food, Trade and Transport Pro subscribers.

DEFENSE — UK DEPLOYS FRIGATE TO ESCORT RUSSIAN SHIPS: Britain’s defense ministry deployed a warship to escort Russian ships as they passed through the Channel on Monday. The Evening Standard reports the ships were returning from operations in the Middle East.

DIGITAL POLITICS

PLATFORM AND ILLEGAL CONTENT SHOWDOWN: Six Commissioners (Andrus Ansip, Dimitris Avramopoulos, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Věra Jourová, Julian King and Mariya Gabriel) will today meet more than three dozen tech leaders to discuss the spread of illegal content online (from terror propaganda to hate speech and breaches of intellectual property rights). A statement is available here.

Playbook’s Ryan Heath will interview Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, live on stage following the meeting at 6:40 p.m. local time in Brussels. Watch here.

DATA PROTECTION SUPERVISOR TO MEET OMBUDSMAN: An annual meeting between the European ombudsman and the European data protection supervisor takes place at 11:30 a.m.

EU NATIONAL NEWS

CZECH REPUBLIC — BABIŠ FACES IMMUNITY VOTE AS OLAF FRAUD ALLEGATIONS PUBLISHED: Today Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš faces a parliament vote on lifting his immunity over allegations the company he founded, Agrofert, misused EU subsidies, a move, he argues, is a conspiracy led by his political opponents. On Monday, Hospodářské noviny’s Tomáš Pergler, Lukáš Prchal and Ondřej Houska got hold of the confidential report compiled by the EU’s anti-fraud investigator OLAF, which the government refused to publish. OLAF says “the project has been affected by numerous breaches of the national and EU legislation … those breaches may constitute basis for judicial proceedings.” If Babiš survives the immunity vote, he will try to win a vote of confidence by MPs on his newly formed government.

POLAND — PM WILL ANNOUNCE RESHUFFLE, HEAD TO BRUSSELS: At around noon, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will announce a reshuffle of his government, before meeting Jean-Claude Juncker for dinner in Brussels to discuss the activation of the Commission’s Article 7 rule of law procedure against his country. Reuters cites two sources saying Teresa Czerwińska, a deputy finance minister, would likely succeed Morawiecki as finance minister and two other sources who say either President Andrzej Duda’s top foreign policy adviser, Krzysztof Szczerski, or Adam Bielan, a deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament, will replace Witold Waszczykowski as foreign minister. Deputy Finance Minister Piotr Nowak is expected to replace Digital Minister Anna Streżyńska.

HUNGARY — OPPOSITION PARTIES REFUSE TO PAY FINES: Hungarian opposition parties LMP (Greens) and the liberal Democratic Coalition will refuse to pay fines imposed by the country’s State Audit Office, they said. The office, which is led by a former politician from the ruling Fidesz, is imposing fines on nearly all opposition parties for alleged financial irregularities.

UK — GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: Theresa May’s anti-climatic reshuffle had more to do with the Conservative Party than affairs of state, reports Annabelle Dickson, who concludes the moves (and non-moves) merely served to underline the PM’s weakness and her government’s fragility.

Re-meet the UK’s sort-of deputy prime minister: David Lidington, the current justice secretary (well-known in Brussels as a former minister for Europe) is the new senior Cabinet Office minister who will fill in for Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions in parliament and chair several Brexit-related Cabinet committees. Olly Robbins, the PM’s Europe adviser, sits in the Cabinet Office overseeing a powerful new Brexit unit.

Lidington is no friend of Brexit: “Those who want Britain to leave the EU seem to hold to two utterly contradictory propositions … It is massive what is at risk.” Full details from the Guardian from February 2016.

Free trade deals with countries like US not enough to plug Brexit economic gap: “It wouldn’t be enough on its own, no,” Lidington told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show last year.

FRANCE — RECORD NUMBER OF ASYLUM SEEKERS REGISTERED: France registered just over 100,000 asylum applications in 2017, a “historic” level, Pascal Brice, director general of the Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons told AFP on Monday.

BREXIT 360°

Brexit predictions for 2018: From exploding MPs to reality checks, current and former British politicians and government officials lay out what to expect from the new year. Charlie Cooper has the story for POLITICO Brexit Pro subscribers.

Here’s one prediction: Half of British voters say the PM is incapable of getting the right Brexit deal for the country, according to an ORB poll released Monday. And that’s the good news — a year ago, only 35 percent said May was capable of getting the right Brexit deal.

Barnier in the Netherlands: EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier meets Dutch lower house MPs between 12:15 p.m. and 1 p.m.

Davis expresses fury at EU ‘no deal’ planning: Bizarre is the only word for it. As his government goes about boasting of its €3-billion contingency plan for a no-deal scenario, the FT reports that U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis has written to Theresa May pondering legal action against the EU’s own contingency planning. Davis believes the negativity of the EU approach may hurt British business or push companies to relocate outside the U.K. Davis’ aide accused the European Commission of failing to act in good faith.

BEYOND EU

THE 2 KOREAS MEET TODAY: Stefano Stefanini provides this color about the 38th parallel north that marks the Korean armistice border, upon which the village of Panmunjom sits: It also goes through Izmir, the Messina Strait and Sicily, the Azores Island, Cordoba and greater San Francisco.

Can North Korean ice skaters help bring about a diplomatic thaw? The Washington Post has this piece on the human face of the first official item on the agenda today: the North’s possible participation in the Winter Olympics.

The EU Monday extended its North Korea sanctions to align with the latest United Nations resolution. The Council added 16 people and one entity, the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces, to the list of those subject to an asset freeze and travel restrictions.

EU VOICES CONCERN OVER REPORTERS’ DETENTION IN MYANMAR: Kristian Schmidt, the EU’s representative in Yangon, called in a letter to the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the release of two Reuters journalists who were arrested last month. More from Reuters.

US — GET READY FOR OPRAH 2020: The gifted communicator stole the show at a Golden Globes ceremony dominated by its activism, for her acceptance speech for a lifetime of achievement in television and film. Read about it hereFull speech video | Transcript.