09-03-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

09-03-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Friday, March 9, 2018

Debt relief to be included in looming talks between Athens, creditors to conclude 3rd bailout

Resumed negotiations between Athens and its institutional creditors, ahead of the fourth and last review of the current (third) bailout, will also revolve around the imperative Greek debt issue.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1328094/debt-relief-to-be-included-in-looming-talks-between-athens-creditors-to-conclude-3rd-bailout

No specific date for IMF participation in Greek program, says spox

There is no specific deadline for the activation of the International Monetary Fund’s program for Greece, its spokesperson Gerry Rice said on Thursday, during a regular press briefing in Washington.

http://www.amna.gr/en/article/237537/No-specific-date-for-IMF-participation-in-Greek-program–says-spox

House turns down ND proposal for investigation into three ministers

As expected, Parliament rejected late on Thursday a proposal by conservative New Democracy for a parliamentary inquiry into whether former health ministers Panayiotis Kouroublis and Andreas Xanthos, as well as Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis, are guilty of breaches.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/226560/article/ekathimerini/news/house-turns-down-nd-proposal-for-investigation-into-three-ministers

Gov’t handling of Novartis case ‘attack on the rule of law,’ ex-PM says

Former conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras has accused Greece’s leftist-led government of using the Novartis bribery case to smear the reputations of its political rivals in a campaign that amounts to an “unprecedented attack on independent institutions and the rule of law.”

http://www.ekathimerini.com/226540/article/ekathimerini/news/govt-handling-of-novartis-case-attack-on-the-rule-of-law-ex-pm-says

Tsipras uses olive branch to send message of peace to Turkey

During a speech about growth and the challenges faced by small businesses on Thursday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought to underline the broader symbolism of an olive branch presented to him by the president of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE) Giorgos Kavvathas.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/226537/article/ekathimerini/news/tsipras-uses-olive-branch-to-send-message-of-peace-to-turkey

ECB lowers ceiling on ELA drawn by Greek banks

The European Central Bank lowered the ceiling on emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) Greek banks draw from the domestic central bank by 3.2 billion euros to 16.6 billion euros, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/226545/article/ekathimerini/business/ecb-lowers-ceiling-on-ela-drawn-by-greek-banks

ATHEX: Stocks rise on low turnover

The absence of sellers during Thursday’s bourse session at Athinon Avenue resulted in strong gains for the majority of stocks on particularly low trading volume. The buying interest is associated with the state’s plans for a 12- month treasury bill issue.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/226556/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-stocks-rise-on-low-turnover

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KATHIMERINI: Political favors are announced every day

ETHNOS: What the Nazi’s talk about

TA NEA: The government is paving the way for elections – Three ‘social moves’ in 24 hours

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Former PM Samaras exports panic and hatred

AVGI: Samaras and Venizelos intercept New Democracy’s and PASOK’s message

RIZOSPASTIS: Multifaceted action for the protection of Labor Collective Agreements with rallies on 20 March

KONTRA NEWS: Corruption prosecutors on the tracks of kickbacks

DIMOKRATIA: Pensions: The road to claiming retrospective fees is wide open

NAFTEMPORIKI: Annual bonds issued 8 years after the financial crisis broke out

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS

THE TARIFFS ARE COMING! Trump may have just thrown a bomb into the global trading system, writes POLITICO’s Adam Behsudi. “Using national security to justify tariffs will likely invite copycat behavior from other countries … More ominously, experts say the move represents a nuclear option in the trade world that threatens the very institutions that maintain the global economic order.”

WHY AMERICAN STEEL TARIFFS FAILED LAST TIME AROUND: When George W. Bush tried to save the steel industry in 2002 by raising tariffs on select steel products, more jobs were lost than saved, and the states he sought to help suffered, which is why in the end the tariffs were nixed. The upside for the United States: Bush’s move gave the U.S. industry some space and time to restructure. But “it’s a very, very expensive way to save jobs or create employment,” according to Gary Hufbauer, one of the authors of a 2003 Peterson Institute study on Bush’s steel tariffs. POLITICO’s Doug Palmer has the story.

COMMISSION — UK MUST PAY €2.7B IN LOST CUSTOMS DUTIES: The European Commission formally demanded Thursday that the U.K. pay back €2.7 billion into the EU budget. OLAF’s anti-fraud investigators found that British authorities allowed a massive fraud network originating in China to evade paying the appropriate level of customs duties on ultra-cheap Chinese goods.

Commission’s monthly charge sheet: Including 19 “letters of formal notice,” 22 “reasoned opinions” and four referrals to the European Court of Justice, issued by the Commission this month here.

SELMAYRGATE LATEST 

Parties line up to take shots: Parliament will on Monday evening debate Martin Selmayr’s appointment as the European Commission secretary-general, and parties are lining up their positions. The Socialists are considering a censure motion against the whole Commission for endangering the EU’s future, reports Nicolas Gros-Verheyde. The Greens want a full Parliament investigation and to delay signing off the Commission’s annual budget until September if it’s denied any relevant documents. They’re also demanding all Commission jobs be advertised. “If this procedure was corresponding to the rules, the rules have to be changed,” said Sven Giegold, a German Green MEP. His colleague Bart Staes went on Terzake, a popular Belgian TV program, and called Selmayr’s appointment a Christian-Democrat “coup.”

Dutch pressure continues: NRC focused on how the actions of Selmayr and Juncker hamper the work of the Dutch commissioner, Frans Timmermans, on issues like rule of law in Poland, while the lower house of parliament has demanded the Dutch government take a formal position on the appointment.

From the Commission’s corporate memory: Playbook reader Riccardo Perissich replied to Playbook’s request for information on how meetings of top Commission officials were chaired pre-Selmayr. He writes: “I was chief of staff for four commissioners from 1971 to 1986 and director-general from 1989 to 1994. In those years the secretary-general (SG) was the mythical Emile Noël, who filled the role from 1958 to 1987, followed by the much-admired David Williamson.

“The SG chaired both weekly meetings: the chief of staff and the DGs. To chair both meetings gave them the unique position of being the main link between the political and the bureaucratic level of the Commission. They (Noël more than Williamson) carried considerable power, but their influence was informal and exercised mostly within closed doors. They always kept an attentive eye on everything, but intervened rarely. The purpose was less to promote policies that to warn against ill-conceived initiatives. Their influence was greater with weak presidents like Gaston Thorn than with strong ones like Jacques Delors. However the SG, while being close to the president whose confidence he needed for survival, always took care not to appear as ‘the president’s man.’ They never appeared in public, nor gave interviews. In my time Martin Selmayr, whatever his qualities, wouldn’t have been appointed secretary-general. Or, to put it differently, he would have needed a totally different strategy to succeed.”

Selmayr’s officials portraits were up before his appointment was confirmed: David Carretta spotted that Selmayr’s famous series of portraits were uploaded to the Commission website 10 days before his promotion (but after he became the sole candidate).

When 55 portraits become 16: Readers may also be interested to know that since Playbook first wrote about the photo set, 39 of the 55 photos originally uploaded have been removed from the Commission’s website.

PARLIAMENT READIES FOR EU BUDGET FIGHT: MEPs head down to Strasbourg for a plenary session during which they’ll lay out their demands for the 2021-2027 EU budget and their vision of what a deep trade deal between the EU and U.K. should look like. The political situation in Slovakia is also up for dissection after the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova. Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa is the VIP guest speaker.

COUNCIL — MYANMAR WARNS EU IT WILL TURN TO CHINA IF ROHINGYA SANCTIONS IMPOSED: Danish newspaper Politiken had the scoop that the Myanmar government has threatened to throw its lot in with China and spurn the West if the EU imposes sanctions over the treatment of the Rohingya minority in the country.

EU AGENCIES — COMPLAINTS ABOUT EUROPEAN MEDICINES AGENCY RELOCATION SENT TO ECJ: The EU’s General Court sent to the higher European Court of Justice Milan’s complaint about the European Medicines Agency being moved to Amsterdam. Europe’s top court will now rule on Milan’s case and a similar one lodged by Italy directly with the ECJ.

TRANSPARENCY — UKRAINE LOBBYING SMOKE AND MIRRORS COME TO BRUSSELS: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s allegations against Paul Manafort, the disgraced lobbyist who led Donald Trump’s election campaign, are posing some difficult questions for well-known consultancies in Brussels. He alleges that Manafort and his associates broke U.S. lobbying rules by using the Brussels-based European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECFMU) to “minimize public disclosure of their lobbying campaign and distance their work” from the Ukrainian government, paying around $2 million directly to two Washington lobbying firms, who were on paper clients of the center.

Burson-Marsteller and FleishmanHillard confirmed they had done work for the ECFMU in Europe but refused to say who paid them. Ina Kirsch, the ECFMU’s founder, said they were paid directly by “European companies with a Ukrainian background,” though there’s no paperwork to prove it. BM has also lost track of its EU Transparency Register paperwork on the matter. No record of it is available in the EU’s systems. Both firms say they were fully compliant with transparency rules in Brussels and elsewhere. More details here from midday today in POLITICO’s Brussels Influence newsletter.

LATEST EU CONFIDENTIAL PODCAST

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Interviews: Playbook talks to Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen about her skills drive, EU budget priorities and what on earth happened in the room when Martin Selmayr’s double-promotion was dumped in commissioners’ laps. Our second interview is with Lulwah Al Khater, the first female spokesperson for the Qatari ministry of foreign affairs.

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GMF BRUSSELS FORUM HIGHLIGHTS …

GMF’s Brussels Forum rounded out International Women’s Day with High Representative Federica Mogherini, a conversation with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and female power-brokers including NATO’s Rose Gottemoeller and Ana Gomes MEP.

You can watch today’s forum events live at BrusselsForum.org, including Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström as the tariff issue heats up and a refugee crisis discussion with former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.

Saturday morning starts off with Playbook’s incoming author Florian Eder moderating a conversation with Norbert Röttgen, head of the foreign affairs committee in the German Bundestag, and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, who may be a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020. You will be able to watch the livestream on politico.eu.

WHEN WOMEN’S VOICES ARE HEARD: Heather Grabbe writing for POLITICO argues that excluding women from stages has “ripple effects” that distort policy. “Decisions may not get made in conferences in Davos or Munich — where politicians rub shoulders with business leaders and think tankers — but the discussions that take place in these forums influence the choices lawmakers make. Politicians and policymakers float new approaches, test reactions and hear new ideas.”

EU NATIONAL NEWS

EUROPE’S (NOT SO) FREE PRESS: Belgian journalist Jean-Paul Marthoz writes for POLITICO that the shooting last month of Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, coming just months after the murder by car bomb of Maltese reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia, “has dispelled the perception that Europe is a continent at peace … The investigation into Kuciak’s death is still ongoing, but what is clear is that his murder was intended as a signal that dark networks will not tolerate being exposed.”

SLOVAKIA — PROSECUTOR MAKES ALLEGATIONS AGAINST KALIŇÁK: A special prosecutor tasked with investigating the relationship between Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, a close ally of Prime Minister Robert Fico, and controversial businessman Ladislav Bašternák, went public with “serious suspicions” of fraud Thursday. The allegations surfaced on the day a group of MEPs were in Bratislava for meetings with President Andrej Kiska, Fico, Kaliňák and Chief of Police Tibor Gašpar.

FOREIGN MINISTERS COMING AND GOING: Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat big beast who has been German foreign minister since January 2017, will not be a minister in the country’s new government, reportedly leaving the post open for Heiko Maas. In France, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced he was quitting the center-left Socialist Party.

POLAND — REVERSE ENGINEERING JUDICIAL REFORM: Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki presented the European Commission president with a 94-page white paper drawn up by his government, which seeks to show that Warsaw’s overhaul of its legal system does not undermine the rule of law — contrary to the view of the Commission. Normally such a white paper is used to consider a difficult issue before a decision is taken.

LAST WORDS ON BREXIT

We’re not going to miss writing this section. Can words ever do justice to the strangeness of Brexit and its processes? Some unlikely characters are getting close.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel: The U.K. was in the EU “with a load of opt-outs. Now they are out, and want a load of opt-ins.”

Brexit is … “The undefined negotiated by the unprepared to get the unspecified for the uninformed.” Ouch. That’s Ireland’s Terry Nichol, h/t Paul O’Donoghue.

Jacob Rees-Mogg as ‘Brexit’s Maoist’: “Jacob Rees-Mogg looks every bit the pillar of the establishment he was born to be,” writes POLITICO’s Tom McTague in a must-read profile of the Tory arch-Brexiteer and chairman of the 60-strong European Research Group of Euroskeptic Conservatives. “But appearances can be deceiving. Rees-Mogg wants to tear the pillars down.”

Donald Tusk’s ‘Ireland First’ strategy: “If in London someone assumes that the Brexit negotiations will deal with other issues first, before moving to the Irish issue, my response would be: Ireland first,” the European Council president tweeted.

Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit good copBehind the scenes in Westminster, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator is now seen as something of an ally on the future relationship between Britain and Brussels, report Tom McTague and David M. Herszenhorn for POLITICO Brexit Pro subscribers. “Of two approaches set out in Brussels this week, first by the Parliament in a draft resolution and then on Wednesday by European Council President Donald Tusk in draft negotiating guidelines, it is Verhofstadt’s which grabbed London’s interest,” they write.

The weirdest Brexit character of all: Scottish fisherman Aaron Brown became the public face of the pro-Brexit group Fishing for Leave after organizing a flotilla down the River Thames in 2016, which culminated in Bob Geldof and Nigel Farage trading insults from the decks of their rival craft. He’s been accused of using fake personas to amplify his message, and makes his case to POLITICO’s Kait Bolongaro for immediately leaving the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy in 2019. POLITICO Agriculture and Food and Brexit pros can read the full interview here.

New Brexiteer line to take: ‘Keep calm and carry on exiting.’ Leading Brexiteers are urging more civility in the Brexit debate. Arlene Foster wants less “throwing threats of violence around,” while International Trade Secretary Liam Fox reckons both sides should “keep the temperature down” and maintain “decorum” (before describing the EU as “a gang” punishing the U.K.). POLITICO Trade and Brexit Pro subscribers can read more about Fox’s statements, made at the British Chambers of Commerce conference in London on Thursday here, and Brexit Pros can read Foster’s here.

BEYOND EU

US-NORTH KOREA THAW: President Donald Trump has agreed to meet directly with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in what could be the biggest breakthrough in the tense nuclear saber-rattling that has defined the president’s stance since taking office. POLITICO’s Bryan Bender, Nahal Toosi and Nancy Cook have the latest.

ICELAND — MEET THE PM: The Nation profiles Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Iceland’s leftwing, environmentalist, feminist prime minister.

UKRAINE — HOW IT BECAME THE WILD EAST OF CRYPTOCURRENCIES: Vijay Maheshwari for POLITICO writes about the kidnappings, raids and thefts that have led to Ukraine, which prides itself on being one of the most progressive countries of the former Soviet Union, to become crypto’s Wild East.