10-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

07-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Monday, September 10, 2018

Tsipras defends Prespes agremeent, says he’ll exhaust 4-year mandate

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sat for a lengthy press briefing on Sunday in Thessaloniki, taking questions from numerous reporters where, among others, he defended a June agreement between Athens and Skopje to finally resolve the fYRoM “name issue”, while insisting that promises he made a day earlier for tax and contributions breaks are possible because his government is meeting and exceeding fiscal targets agreed to with institutional creditors.


ND says Tsipras is ‘bold in his lies, cowardly about the truth’

Alexis Tsipras showed the public on Sunday that he is not just “incompetent and dangerous, but is also bold in his lies and cowardly about the truth,” opposition New Democracy said of the leftist prime minister following his press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Sunday.


ND given 10.9 pct point lead over SYRIZA in latest poll

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party is given a 10.9-percentage point lead over ruling SYRIZA in a latest opinion poll, which was commissioned and published by the Sunday weekly “Proto Thema” over the weekend.


Turkish service members arrested at Greek border released

The Turkish army says two of its soldiers were released from Greek custody after they were arrested Sunday for entering Greece illegally.


Energy deals with US giants announced in Thessaloniki

Major energy deals involving Greek and US interests were announced at Friday’s American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce conference held in the context of this year’s Thessaloniki International Fair, which officially opens on Saturday.


Greek police fire teargas at Macedonia protesters

Thousands of Greeks protested in the northern city of Thessaloniki on Saturday over a deal with neighboring Macedonia to end a decades-old dispute over its name.


ATHEX suffers worst week in two years

The Athens stock market ended its worst week in the last two-and-a-half years with a mixed session, as the banks index halted its slide but the benchmark posted additional losses, albeit minimal. Although gains registered during the course of the day created the impression that the main index might end the week with a rise, it was not to be as sellers got the upper hand again in the end.








KATHIMERINI:  Plan B by the EU Commission regarding pension cuts

TO VIMA: American love!

REAL NEWS:  National Bank’s management is being provocative!

PROTO THEMA:  Leader of New Democracy Kyriakos is polling greatly  but Tsipras is reducing the distance

AVGI:  PM pledges fair growth, labor support and social cohesion


ETHNOS:  Tsipras is correcting injustices with his pledges at the Thessaloniki International Fair

TA NEA:  Snap elections ahead

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  PM is being realistic eyeing international markets

KONTRA NEWS:  Alexis Tsipras is dominant and will win the next elections

DIMOKRATIA:  The lists of those awarded with retrospective payments

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Balanced pledges [by the PM]

SWEDEN LATEST: Sweden faces political uncertainty after Sunday’s election resulted in no clear majority and the far right made historic gains. With most votes counted, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s center-left bloc is on 40.6 percent, barely in front of the center-right Alliance, which is on 40.3 percent. The result is so tight that the final vote count could swing the outcome. The far-right Sweden Democrats look set to score their best-ever election results at 17.6 percent, but fall well below the 25 percent some polls predicted.

What happens now? Löfven said overnight that he planned to continue as prime minister and run the government as talks on a future coalition get underway. Charlie Duxbury has everything you need to know here.


GUY WINS MACRON PRIZE: Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt and French President Emmanuel Macron will campaign together in next year’s European election and create a movement that will be a “pro-European alternative to nationalists,” Verhofstadt told French daily newspaper Ouest-France on Sunday. Verhofstadt’s liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament and Macron’s La République En Marche movement would “keep their symbols,” he said, but their objective is to create a decisive group in the future Parliament, and a tool to stop the nationalistic wave.” More from Maïa de la Baume.

JUNCKER PREVIEWS JUNCKER: “Nationalism has never solved, but only created problems. Those who withdraw into their national snail shells can assume the culprits to be outside, but can certainly not overcome any challenges, because they don’t have any oversight at all,” Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told dpa newswire ahead of his Wednesday State of the European Union speech. “I trust that EU reason will prevail and those who want to secure peace and prosperity will oppose populists in the upcoming EU election campaign.”

Juncker previews a fight over beliefs: There are two schools of thought about the campaign among European leaders: Follow Emmanuel Macron’s us-versus-them playbook, which worked in France but comes at the price of blurring lines between the traditional center-left and center-right parties and reducing the argument to a rather simple no pasarán. The other school suggests that the traditional party system is not yet dead, that voters’ interests and preference are too complex to be reduced to a vote for or against the EU — and that it would be a mistake to give in to the far right’s attempt to make any election a referendum on the single issue of Europe’s migration woes.

PROUD PRIDE PROTESTER: Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska was spotted taking part in the Equality March in Katowice, in her native Poland; the first such demonstration in town and agglomeration for a decade. “I flew back home and when I found out that there was a march, I could not miss it here,” Bieńkowska told Playbook. According to media, no local or national authorities showed up. It was, perhaps, a preview of another campaign strategy for senior EU figures: filling the national void in political support for minority rights.

TODAY IN PARLIAMENT: It’s Day 1 of an intense Strasbourg plenary week. The environment committee will tonight vote on new CO2 levels for cars and vans — and at stake are issues that may very well affect the EU election campaign: million of jobs in the European car industry; European carmakers’ fates; clean air for all; lobbyists’ influence on legislation; the big question of whether regulation can outsmart innovation; whether some rural parts in the outer regions of the empire will need to go back to donkey carts — as they might not find fodder for e-cars — to help Brussels reach its Paris goals; and the ability of lawmakers to find a balance between competing goals.

GOOD MORNING. Today, we are more than happy to ignore Boris Johnson’s sex life, but not his ever-wilder attempts to become calife à la place de la calife via the Mail on Sunday. We won’t make a killing in a western German town a Playbook item, but we will mention the fact that the country’s chief spy, Hans-Georg Maaßen, is siding against his ultimate commander in chief, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and with his boss, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who’s looking for yet another opportunity to prove that he is the alpha male in light of the caning he and his CSU party are getting in the polls. (Meanwhile, Handelsblatt this morning reports about German security authorities’ concerns that information may get leaked to the AfD from Maaßen’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.)

But first: A look at how a juicy tip evolved into a three-way fight that exposes different things that can all be true at once. It is a story about a dubious regime in the Indian Ocean, well-meaning but overzealous (or chatty) MEPs, and an attempt within European Parliament to preserve the institution’s moral high-ground, which enables it to speak with authority about whether elections elsewhere meet the criteria of being general, free, secret and equal. We’ll return to today’s and the week’s business below.


ELECTION MONITORS IN HOLIDAYMAKERS’ CLOTHING? The Maldives’ ambassador to the EU, Ahmed Shiaan, complained in a letter to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani about a group of MEPs and others, who he claimed traveled to his country ahead of its September 23 presidential election on tourist visas but then “presented themselves as though they were an official delegation of the European Union.” The group included three MEPs — Maria Gabriela Zoană (of the Socialists and Democrats, from Romania), Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP, Czech Republic) and Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR, from Poland’s ruling PiS party) — and Henri Malosse, the former president of the European Economic and Social Committee, and committee member Madi Sharma. Playbook has obtained a copy of the letter; here’s yours.

The group, Shiaan said, traveled to the Maldives “on a privately sponsored visit under a tourist visa and engaged in their ‘investigation,’ in utter disregard and violation of the rules and laws of Maldives Immigration.” The ambassador expressed “significant concern” about the fact that the MEPs “did not meet any officials or representatives of the Maldives Government,” therefore denying them a right of reply.

The EU’s case: The Maldives is a country in the Indian Ocean which is quite the holiday destination for those who like tropical islands, white sandy beaches and long-haul flights. It’s also been a subject of disquiet in the Council and the European Parliament — the latter expressed in a motion “its deep concern over the serious and deteriorating political and human rights situation in the Maldives, and the increasingly authoritarian rule of President [Abdulla] Yameen.”

Shiaan’s letter raised red flags in Parliament: “The EU did not send an official observation mission to the September presidential elections in the Maldives. I regret that some members traveled there on a tourist visa in a purely private capacity and made some statements that might have misrepresented EU and [European Parliament] positions on the situation in the country,” MEP David McAllister told Playbook. “They had no mandate to speak on behalf of the European Parliament.” McAllister co-chairs the Parliament’s democracy support and election coordination group, which is responsible for any election observation activity.

The consequences: McAllister said that the “presence of these members in the Maldives at a sensitive time has already been raised internally by Ms. Jean Lambert, the chair of the delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia and it will also be on the agenda of the democracy support and election coordination group … Let me also note that Mr. Czarnecki, as a result of his previous unofficial activities, has already been prohibited from participating in any official European Parliament election observation missions during the current mandate.” Czarnecki was among the three MEPs from the ECR group who were excluded from all missions to observe foreign elections after they went to Azerbaijan without a mandate (and made positive comments about the outcome of its presidential ballot).

MEPs surprised by the waves they are making: “I never, never publicly stated that I was there as an official EP representative!” Czarnecki told Playbook in an email.

Zdechovský, Parliament’s rapporteur on the Maldives, said in a phone conversation that he wanted to go to the Maldives “to see how the situation is really looking.” He added that the visit was “private and even secret, it was about meeting the opposition. It was absolutely not official,” which is why he traveled “on my private passport, not on my diplomatic passport.” Zdechovský told Playbook he paid for the trip himself, and said he was “very surprised” when Zoană “started to present us as an official delegation.”

Zoană called on Sunday evening while driving. She too said she was “totally surprised” by the complaints (and promised to answer more questions in writing in due course). She insisted that she knew the visit was not an election observation mission, and claimed she didn’t represent it as such. She said she visited the Maldives in the context of her role in the EU40, a platform for younger MEPs and the EU’s 28 national parliaments.


Question 1, after some theatrical thunder this weekend: Do Aleksandar Vučić and Hashim Thaçi have a script on how to proceed in the peace talks that both vowed to undertake — or are they improvising?

“I will do my best, but it is a long road full of thorns and problems ahead,” Vučić told reporters (Reuters here). “It is not going to be easy to reach [a final] agreement,” the Serbian president said. “I see no possibility to implement my ideas, you saw what Angela Merkel said, you saw what Kosovo Albanians have said.”

Question 2: How about Macedonia and Greece? Angela Merkel reiterated in Skopje this weekend that she’s against changing Balkan borders — and she also stressed her support for a resolution in the name dispute between Greece and the future Northern Macedonia ahead of the Macedonian referendum on September 30. There were protests in Greece.

Question 3: What is Viktor Orbán going to say about his Hungarian NGO laws and the Central European University when he defends his government’s actions in front of European Parliament on Tuesday?

According to the Guardian, the new U.S. ambassador to Hungary, David Cornstein, is due to meet Orbàn this week and will bring up the CEU issue, after having made clear that “while the Trump administration will not publicly criticize Hungary over rule of law and press freedom issues, CEU is a priority.”


PARIS STABBING LATEST: Seven people were wounded, some of them seriously, by an attacker armed with a knife and an iron bar on Sunday evening in Paris. The attacker was arrested. At this point, there’s no evidence of the attack being terrorism related, according to local media. More from Le Parisien.

THERESA MAY’S ‘BUNKER MENTALITY’ BREXIT: According to several leading Conservative Party figures, British PM Theresa May’s recent handling of Brexit negotiations has resurrected concerns that she governs with a “bunker mentality” — trusting only a select group of confidants and often disregarding input from those outside her inner circle, report Charlie Cooper and Annabelle Dickson.

NORTHERN GERMANY’S PIPE DREAM: Gazprom’s contentious Nord Stream 2 pipeline isn’t so controversial for locals in the Baltic Sea beach town closest to where the link makes landfall. Lubmin’s mayor tells Joshua Posaner that residents feel an affinity to Russia and that its investment in the area is paying off.

WHAT WOULD WE DO WITHOUT AMAZON? Mark Scott travels to Stockholm to get a glimpse of a world without the U.S. tech giant.