09-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

09-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Monday, October 9, 2017

Greek PM prepares for US trip on October 17

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is preparing to address a host of crucial issues in his meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House on October 17, most pressing among which is the stance that the International Monetary Fund will assume on Greece’s third bailout as well as bilateral cooperation in the area of defense.


Bailout review likely to drag as prior actions pending

Despite the encouraging statements made by top European officials on recent visits to Athens, the fact remains that the bulk of the prior actions authorities must enforce by year-end remains pending.


Gov’t tries to ease tensions with Church on gender bill

The government on Friday sought to ease tensions with the Church of Greece over a bill that would allow people to freely determine their gender identity, saying it respects the Church’s views while making clear that the essence of the reform will not be changed.


Mitsotakis reiterates support for tax breaks, reducing indirect labor sector costs

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis stayed “on message” on Sunday by reiterating his pledge for tax breaks towards the business sector and a reduction of Greece’s indirect labor costs – i.e. excluding wage scales.


Notaries: Protesters block auctions of high-end property owned by people with millions of euros in debt

The latest grassroots protests this week blocking the auction of foreclosed real estate in Greece  generated an uncharacteristically sharp reaction by the association representing notaries in the greater Athens area, with the group directly charging that high-end property owned by individuals with millions of euros of debt was essentially being protected.


Socialist faction votes to leave ruling SYRIZA

An overwhelming majority of SYRIZA’s “Socialist Trend” faction under MEP Costas Chrysogonos have voted to part ways with the ruling leftists over differences in policy.


Greek balance of trade in Jan-Aug at 14.78 bln€

Greece’s balance of trade deficit reached 14.78 billion euros over the Jan-Aug 2017 period, up from 12.27 billion euros over the same period in 2016, an increase of 20.4 percent.


Flexible labor forms do the job

The Labor Ministry’s September hirings data point to the complete domination of flexible forms of labor in Greece, leading to an increase in the rate of underemployment, which has almost trebled over the course of the crisis.


Attica Group readying for acquisition of HSW, Grimaldi Group’s next moves

Mediterranean operators Attica Group and Grimaldi are apparently in the first stages of a “public discussion” over the future of Hellenic Seaways (HSW), given that coastal shipping rivals have found themselves “intertwined” in the latter, with Attica holding a razor-thin majority of 50.3 percent of HSW and Grimaldi 48.53 percent.


ATHEX: Index decline continues for a sixth week

The sixth consecutive week of losses ended on the Greek bourse yesterday with a mixed performance on Friday. The benchmark had not seen six straight weeks of decline in three years.








KATHIMERINI: Poll by the University of Macedonia: We like Russian President Putin but we also want the safety of the EU

TO VIMA: Secret bargains between Greek PM Tsipras and US President Trump

REAL NEWS: Double strike by the Sultan [Turkish President Erdogan]. Frontex report shows that Turkey increased migrant flows to the West

PROTO THEMA: First residencies to be auctioned as well!

AVGI: Greece is back in the game. From pariah state to an upgraded role.

RIZOSPASTIS: Behind “growth celebrations” hide never-ending sacrifices and mockery for the people


ETHNOS: Is a civil right a sin? The government and the Church clash on the gender-identity bill

TA NEA: Ruling party SYRIZA is searching for… gender-identity

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Be not afraid, the world is changing. Gender-identity bill reaches the parliament.

KONTRA NEWS: Late former PM Mitsotakis makes revelations from his grave

DIMOKRATIA: Mutiny by New Democracy VP, Adonis Georgiadis. Turbulence within New Democracy

NAFTEMPORIKI: Towards rationalization of social security contributions and taxes

This is the week Brexit gets real, and so must the Catalan government.

After the reemergence of Brexit trade realpolitik and the distraction of British cabinet games, we get the real test this week of how solid the EU brick blocking the next stage of negotiations is. If the Centre for European Reform’s Charles Grant is right that national governments are taking a harder line than EU negotiator Michel Barnier, that means London has badly miscalculated in the run up to next week’s EU summit by bypassing Barnier and instead appealing to national capitals. More in Brexit 360° below.

In Catalonia, the government must decide whether to declare independence or admit at least a partial defeat in the wake of its October 1 referendum. If the Catalan government steps back from the brink, Madrid and its allies will face a choice: declare victory and potentially inflame tension, or sit down humbly to jointly solve whatever grievances they can.

EUROGROUP — SCHÄUBLE GOES OUT WITH A BANG: “Risks arising from the accumulation of more and more liquidity and the growth of public and private debt” could cause a new financial crisis, outgoing German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble warned in a Financial Times interview, ahead of his final Eurogroup meeting today. Schäuble is worried about the weight of bad loans still on European bank books and the amount of money central banks are pumping into the economy.

European Monetary Fund debate: Ministers will review Portugal and debate the future role of the European Stability Mechanism with several EU countries urging it become a European Monetary Fund. Full agenda here.

COUNCIL — POLISH EMBASSY INTRIGUE CONTINUES: Recap here the resignation of Jarosław Starzyk as Poland’s ambassador to the EU on Friday. Playbook hears many staff had quite a hangover Saturday after celebrating his abrupt departure. Names in the mix to replace Starzyk include Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a right-wing MEP, and Małgorzata Wenerska-Craps, the head of the economic and trade section at the Polish embassy (permanent representation in EU parlance).

COUNCIL — AGRICULTURE MINISTERS GATHER IN BRUSSELS: Ministers in charge of fisheries and agriculture meet to discuss fishing stocks in the Baltic Sea, this summer’s European egg crisis and anti-dumping procedures opened by the U.S. against imported Spanish black table olives.

PARLIAMENT — COMMITTEE WEEK: Highlights this week include Chairman of the European Banking Authority Andrea Enria attending a hearing of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee today. The committee will also debate MEP Andreas Schwab’s proposals to boost the EU’s national competition authorities. MEPs on the Constitutional Affairs Committee will on Wednesday discuss the 170 amendments to Danuta Hübner and Pedro Silva Pereira’s proposals on what to do with the U.K.’s 73 parliamentary seats after Brexit.

EU LEADERS’ DIARY: Council President Donald Tusk is in Sweden to meet Prime Minister Stefan Löfven ahead of next week’s EU summit. European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström is in Morocco for a World Trade Organization ministerial conference. Commissioner for Taxation Pierre Moscovici meets Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna, to see what can be done about Luxembourg’s notorious tax wheezes. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Christos Stylianides is in Serbia to meet President Aleksandar Vučić and Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, who will travel to Brussels Tuesday.

EU AGENCIES — MACRON’S DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION AGENCY WOULD SIT OUTSIDE NORMAL EU STRUCTURE: ScienceBusiness reports the French government is discussing its idea as an inter-governmental structure, not an EU-rooted structure. Listen here to Johan Dennelind, CEO of Swedish telco Telia, explain why he thinks the agency is a bad idea regardless of how it’s structured.

EU AGENCIES — EUROPOL CHIEF SHORTLIST: Czech news portal Aktuálně.cz published the names of the final three candidates to take over as Europol’s executive director: Belgium’s Catherine De Bolle, Czech Republic’s Oldrich Martinu and the Netherlands’ Wil van Gemert. A decision must be taken by the end of the year by the EU’s interior ministers, with a lot of wheeling and dealing expected at this week’s Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Brussels.

COMMITTEE OF REGIONS — PLENARY SESSION KICKS OFF: It’s #EURegionsWeek, which means thousands of local politicians, planners and activists descending on Brussels for 130 EU-funding and legislation-related events. More information.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE — ANOTHER BRIT TAKES OVER A EUROPEAN INSTITUTION: Just weeks after Stuart Peach was elected chair of NATO’s military committee from 2018, British Conservative MP Roger Gale is set to become president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the human rights watchdog for 47 European countries including Russia and Turkey. The move is a result of a corruption scandal that pushed out former President Pedro Agramunt, preempting a motion for his dismissal that was set to be debated today. Several assembly members stand accused of accepting bribes to go soft on Azerbaijan’s human rights record. Delegates today may also debate the situation in Catalonia and a controversial language law introduced by the Ukrainian government.

AUSTRIAN ELECTION PLAGUED BY DIRTY TRICKS: Matthew Karnitschnig reports on an election that gets murkier with each day. First, consultants working for Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats (SPÖ) were behind a racist Facebook campaign aimed at undermining his opponent, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). One page — “The truth about Sebastian Kurz” — portrayed the foreign minister as a tool of American financier George Soros, who was secretly planning to open Austria’s borders to another wave of refugees. Then one of the consultants involved in the smear said one of Kurz’s closest aides tried to lure him away from Kern’s campaign with a cash payoff totalling €100,000. The ÖVP denies the accusation.

Many voters undecided: One in four Austrians have yet to choose who to vote for ahead of October 15 election. The center-right remains ahead of the Social Democrats and far-right Freedom Party. Reuters has more.

GERMANY — PARLIAMENT GETS PREVIEW OF THE AFD SHOW: Janosch Delcker on the AfD’s provocative choice for the role of parliament vice president: Albrecht Glaser. A member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) for 40 years, Glaser helped found the AfD in 2013 and made headlines earlier this year by saying Muslims living in Germany should lose their right to freedom of religion.

GERMANY — MERKEL ACCEPTS SOFT REFUGEE CAP: Merkel agreed to try to limit the number of refugees coming to Germany every year to 200,000, but stopped short of endorsing a hard cap, also known as the Obergrenze, demanded by her party’s Bavarian allies.

GERMANY — JOURNALIST SYLKE TEMPEL DIES IN STORM: One of Germany’s foremost foreign policy analysts, Sylke Tempel, the editor-in-chief of foreign policy magazine Internationale Politik and Berlin Policy Journal, was killed in the powerful Xavier storm that swept across Germany Thursday. Tempel was hit by a falling tree when she stepped out of her car to move debris. She was 54.


‘Shall we talk?’ Thousands rallied around that slogan in Barcelona and Madrid Saturday. A much larger group rallied Sunday against Catalonia secession: Barcelona police said 350,000 people participated, while march organizers Societat Civil Catalana said 930,000 turned out. Another thousand showed up at the European Parliament in Brussels. Le Soir has more.

Symbolic declaration of independence: Is there such a thing? The BBC’s Katya Adler tweeted Sunday the Catalan government will opt to make such a declaration but stop short of a unilateral declaration of a Catalan state independent of Spain.

Rajoy says all legal options remain on table to prevent independence: Enric Millo, the Spanish prime minister’s representative in Barcelona, may have apologized for injuries among Catalans on October 1, but PM Mariano Rajoy gave an interview in El Pais Saturday that gave no hint of talks or mediation.

On the other side of the Pyrenees: The French department of Pyrenees-Orientales, also known as Northern Catalonia by regionalists, is keeping an anxious eye on the crisis just across the border. AFP has more from the city of Perpignan.

Commentary pick — Endlessly fighting old wars is no use for today: Will Hutton on how remembering past wrongs can be a collective curse 

BREXIT 360° …

Brexit negotiation agenda: It looks like lighter than usual: Negotiators don’t even plan to meet on Wednesday. The Telegraph reports the U.K. team should be smaller compared to previous rounds, a sign talks can only move forward on citizens’ rights issues while the Brexit bill will remain stuck this week.

Opinion — Theresa May’s warring Tories can’t negotiate Brexit: Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for exiting the European Union, writes for POLITICO: “The Conservatives … are too busy negotiating with each other to negotiate effectively with the EU.” Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson “has been accused of backseat driving over Brexit, but the truth is he is only interested in his own ambitions and not the country’s.”

Forget the negotiations: The real issue is the leaders’ summit next week. Now that Olly Robbins is back serving only one master — Theresa May — expect the Whitehall turf war between the Cabinet Office (which includes Downing Street) and David Davis’ DExEU department to continue.Who wins and how the summit is handled will affect May’s ability to hold her government together. James Forsyth, the Spectator political editor, suggests Tory supporters of a hard Brexit will be tempted to pull the plug on May if she concedes too much at the EU summit. If May holds on, expect a cabinet revamp, though Boris will “just say no” if she tries to get rid of him, according to the Telegraph.

What Brexit Britain can learn from the Swedish-Norwegian border: Border checks: 229,286 of them. That’s the workload at the border between Sweden and Norway, which has the closest possible trading relationship with the EU without actually being part of the bloc. The border is a haven for smugglers, writes Charlie Duxbury. He spoke to Roger Nilsson, a 30-year veteran of Sweden’s border force, who said: “My advice to the U.K. when they leave the EU is: Don’t build the border station too small, you need plenty of space.”

Belgian ports brace for a hard Brexit: The Guardian reports from Zeebrugge.

Macron has no ax to grind, says ambassador: Old Brussels hand Jean-Pierre Jouyet, now French ambassador to London, told the Times “President Macron has no desire for revenge — it all depends on the U.K.

Two Conservative MEPs suspended over Brexit vote: Julie Girling and Richard Ashworth, a former leader of U.K. Conservative MEPs, were suspended from the party after they both voted for the European Parliament’s Brexit resolution last week, which said “sufficient progress” hadn’t been made for phase two of negotiations to begin. POLITICO Brexit Pro subscribers can read more here. Now David Davis wants Jeremy Corbyn to kick out 18 MEPs from Labour.

DIGITAL POLITICS — THE UK WHATSAPP WARS: In the British Conservatives it’s no long who you are, but the WhatsApp group you’re in that matters. New MP Vicky Ford told John Pienaar that leadership plotter Grant Shapps wasn’t even part of her WhatsApp group. Meanwhile, MP James Cleverly risked being expelled from his group, the Mail on Sunday reports, for a rather extended and graphic metaphor about how coup attempts are “political masturbation.” “I need mind bleach” Sutton and Cheam MP Paul Scully said after reading the message. You can read some of the WhatsApp messages here.

PODCAST DU JOUR — HOW I LEARNED TO LOATHE ENGLAND: Joris Luyendijk, a Dutchman, spoke to Prospect Editor Tom Clark for the Headspace podcast. “We had arrived as fellow Europeans, but when we left this summer to return to the Netherlands we felt more like foreigners: people tolerated as long as they behave.” Luyendijk’s full article is a difficult but fascinating read.

HOSTAGES IN ERDOĞAN’S NEW TURKEY: Zia Weise reports that Turkey’s reluctance to release foreign citizens swept up in its post-coup purge has drawn accusations they are being used as bargaining chips to pressure NATO allies into extraditing Turks living abroad.

REVEALING READ — HILLARY CLINTON ON WHERE SHE WENT WRONG: Christina Lamb does a better job than most getting Hillary Clinton to open up as she touts her new book, “What Happened.”