11-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

11-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Greece decides to expel Russian diplomats

The Greek government has decided to expel two Russian diplomats, and ban the entry into Greece of two more, accusing them of intrusion into domestic affairs and illegal acts against Greece’s national security, Kathimerini has learned.


Zaev estimates fYRoM ‘name agreement’ to come before Greek Parliament after Jan. 15, 2019

A bilateral agreement resolving the long-standing “name issue” will reportedly be tabled in Greece’s Parliament for ratification after Jan. 15, 2019, as the constitutional revision in the neighboring former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) is expected to be concluded in the first half of the same month.


Eurozone official: VAT rates on islands must be harmonized; pension cut measure stands

A Eurozone official in Brussels on Tuesday reiterated that suspension of a decision to harmonize VAT rates on five eastern Aegean islands – bringing them up to the same level as in the rest of the country – must end at the end of the year.


ND submits fresh proposal on vote for Greeks abroad

Greece’s conservative opposition has submitted for the third time a proposal to amend voting laws so that Greeks living overseas can participate in general elections.


Expelled AN.EL MP forms new right-wing party

A up-until-recently deputy of the rightwing Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party on Tuesday announced the establishment of a new political formation, described as being on the right of the political spectrum.


Greek roadshow in the US to ease investor concerns

The political leadership of Greece’s Finance Ministry traveled to the US for a two-day visit on Monday, where it is holding meetings with US funds and banks in New York and Boston to present the Eurogroup’s decision on the Greek debt.


ATHEX: Moderate rise for local stocks on imported sentiment

The slight drop of the benchmark 10-year bond’s yield, which was at 3.85 percentage late last night, and the positive sentiment across the majority of eurozone stock markets helped the Athens Exchange (ATHEX) to register moderate gains on Tuesday.








KATHIMERINI: Russian diplomats expelled

ETHNOS: EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici: The issue regarding pension-reductions may be open

TA NEA: The EU is making a u-turn on the issue of pensions

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Who is going to benefit from the tax-alleviations

AVGI: Blow against undeclared employment and arbitrary actions of contractors

RIZOSPASTIS: The Communist Party makes interventions in the parliament in order to support the claims of the workers and the people

KONTRA NEWS: New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is setting up a right-wing ‘subsidiary’ party

DIMOKRATIA: The secret dinner, the monk and the new party

NAFTEMPORIKI: Brussels irritated with the reduced VAT in Greek islands


ALLIES, REALLY? NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg embarks on the tricky mission: shielding the alliance from its most volatile participant as leaders meet in Brussels for a high-stakes summit today. Here are four ways he’ll try to do that. Whether it works, we’ll find out today. Follow all the action on our live blog here, from around 10 a.m.

1.WE ARE ALLIES”: First, a not-so-subtle reminder to set the stage.

2. Keep Trump happy, somehow: Europe should spend more on defense, “not to please the U.S.” but because it’s a good idea, Stoltenberg said, thanking Trump “for his leadership in defense spending” and offering the U.S. President to leave with the satisfaction of having steered the ship onto the right course.

But that, of course, was NATO’s strategy last year too, and it didn’t work then either. Trump knows exactly what he wants, and let the world know in a tweet yesterday: “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!”

In the draft communique, NATO allies repeat their commitment to the getting closer to the 2 percent spending goal by 2024 and pledge to come up with “credible plans” to do so. But fresh numbers published Tuesday aren’t likely to appease Trump: While defense spending of Canada and European allies grew by $88 billion since 2015 — and is expected to increase by 3.8 percent this year over 2017 — Germany, despite spending more in absolute terms, is still at 1.24 percent of its GDP.

Damn denominator! Perhaps a recession caused by Trump’s trade war will eventually help to bring the German GDP down.

3. Keep separate accounts: While Trump puts every issue he has with Europe, and Germany in particular, in one basket, Stoltenberg’s approach is to pray Trump will be able to focus on what everybody else is there to discuss: joint defense, and deterrence. On everything else, Stoltenberg acknowledged that “there are different view among allies.” He added: “When it comes to trade, I leave this to the EU.” His job is hard enough, really.

The EU, for its own part, wasn’t willing to talk trade here and now. European Council President Donald Tusk appeared to find some relief and pleasure in tweeting at the other Donald directly: “Dear President Trump: America does not have, and will not have a better ally than Europe. Today Europeans spend on defence many times more than Russia, and as much as China. And I think you can have no doubt, Mr President, that this is an investment in common American and European defence and security. Which can’t be said with confidence about Russian or Chinese spending.”

Nothing like a little Twitter war among allies to get warmed up for the NATO summit. Read David Herszenhorn’s take here, and Tusk’s full remarks here. It’s yet another sign that the EU’s top dogs (including Jean-Claude Juncker the “killer“) have realized that flattering and giving in to the U.S. won’t help Europe be a player on the world stage.

But good luck keeping things separate: The U.S. administration on Tuesday published a list of $200-billion worth of Chinese goods that it proposes to hit with an additional 10 percent tariff, escalating an escalating trade war between the two countries. (Read more from our U.S. colleagues.) Here’s how Trump linked discussions on military spending to trade: “The European Union makes it impossible for our farmers and workers and companies to do business in Europe (U.S. has a $151 Billion trade deficit), and then they want us to happily defend them through NATO, and nicely pay for it,” he tweeted Tuesday. “Just doesn’t work!”

4. Hope for some containment: It’s harder to unravel a defense alliance born in the aftermath of the world’s biggest catastrophe than the rather informal G7 club — and people further down the line of command, such as U.S. ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison, have been trying to tell partners (and I’m paraphrasing) that Trump doesn’t really mean it when he’s being mean, that he’s fully committed to Article V, and that he will make that clear in his remarks to allies today. And while that’s what Europe wants to hear, it comes at the price of the U.S. ambassador to NATO telling the world not to take the U.S. president and commander-in-chief, or his tweets, too seriously.

5. No tweeting please: Leaders will be banned from taking their mobile phones into the summit room (but won’t be searched). To be sure, it’s a security measure and standard procedure for any NATO meeting.

PEOPLE TO WATCH: Theresa May, who is walking a tight rope between showing solidarity with the multilateral organization Britain isn’t going to leave and being careful not to offend or annoying her soon-to-be-guest (Trump travels to the U.K. Thursday evening).

Angela Merkel, who gets some reprieve from her rebellious Bavarian allies and the migration debate only to be the target of attacks by yet another master in manspreading.

Emmanuel Macron, who has some scores to settle after being “dandruffed” in Washington earlier this year.

Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of former FYROM or future North Macedonia, who’s expecting a signal that once everybody knows how to refer to his country, it’ll be welcomed as a NATO ally. On the latter, at least, no disagreement is expected between Europe and the U.S.

BRACING FOR IMPACT: The blood, sweat and tears NATO’s officials and diplomats poured into this meeting could all be for nothing. “It’s not that the meeting — focused on new measures to reinforce Europe in a crisis — is unimportant,” writes Tomáš Valášek in an oped for POLITICO. “The fear is that U.S. President Donald Trump will undo any progress NATO leaders achieve in Brussels this week when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin just four days later.”


AXIS OF THE WILLING: Europe hasn’t solved its migration issue quite yet. The interior ministers of Italy, Austria and Germany — that’s Matteo Salvini, Herbert Kickl and Horst Seehofer — meet for trilateral talks today before a meeting of all 28. Lega chief Salvini has toned down a little his insistence Italy will deny even the EU’s own ships access to Italian ports. Kickl, from Austria’s rightwing FPÖ, said the country is ready to send troops to the Balkans or North Africa to help secure their borders via bilateral agreements or Frontex missions.

This ain’t over: Seehofer, meanwhile, served up another awkward moment in Germany  Tuesday when he finally presented his “master plan” on migration just a few days after said plan was amended and overruled by a coalition agreement. He went on to tell a press conference in Berlin he was celebrating his 69th birthday with the return of 69 people to Afghanistan (“and I did not even order that). Then, when asked how often a politician can threaten to resign without losing credibility, he answered: “Art knows no limits.” But let’s move on to the news.

AUSTRIA HAS ITS OWN MASTER PLAN: As all 28 interior ministers meet in Innsbruck today, their host has something greater in mind. An internal eight-page document, last revised on July 7 and seen by POLITICO, shows the level of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s ambition and makes it clear Austria won’t stop at simply pushing through what’s already on the table for the next six months of its EU presidency. By 2025, Austria wants to see “full control of the EU’s external borders and their comprehensive protection have been ensured,” the document reads. It also wants EU member states to return to “a consensual European border protection and asylum policy.”

The plan? Outsource the refugee problem. It won’t come as a surprise that the document focuses on border protection over any migration movement within the EU — but there’s one line in particular that sticks out as going far beyond the latest compromise that hammered out at June’s summit of EU leaders.

Key paragraph: “Making sure that in the event of a negative final decision on an application for international protection, the person in question leaves the EU and is either transferred to his/her country of origin or possibly to a third country. This would be an essential contribution towards countering criminal people smuggling.”

What’s new? If a migrant’s home country can’t be determined or refuses to take them back, the EU would pay another non-EU country to take them in. Jacopo Barigazzi and David Herszenhorn have the story.

WHAT IT MEANS: In a “discussion paper” dated July 4 and obtained by POLITICO, Vienna is far more outspoken on what this would really mean:”Target group would be [third country nationals] with an enforceable return decision, for example following a final negative asylum decision or expiry of a residence title,” the paper reads.

Imagine you’ve been living for years in a country that has offered you shelter from the Balkan wars, or from Syria. Your children might go to school and have a good chance of one day going to university or getting a job. When your refugee status expires, for whatever reason, you could suddenly find yourself in a camp somewhere in the desert. No wonder many EU countries don’t consider it a helpful approach. As a result, we’re told the paper disappeared from the agendas of any senior diplomats’ meetings (but its ideas won’t, to be sure.)

Spelled out: To avoid “misuse” of these centers in third-countries, subsequent applications for asylum would have to be handled “by the host state,” the July 4 paper stipulates. Why should anyone sign up to that? Well, a not so little bribe might help: “Possible incentives for third countries to agree on establishing and operating a Return Center on their territory should be considered.”


AN EYE ON GREECE: The Commission is expected adopt a formal decision today for “enhanced surveillance” of Greece starting when the bailout program ends in August. The tight rope here is that eurozone countries want closer monitoring than for Portugal, or Ireland, as Greece but don’t want to give the impression of offering, or imposing, a fourth program or a precautionary credit line.

The conditions to be adopted today, according to what EU officials told Playbook: Quarterly reporting, “which will be aligned as much as possible with the various European Semester deadlines,” and monitoring Greece’s commitments to stick to both promised reforms and fiscal targets.

It’s ‘a process’: “Greece is now able to stand on its own two feet; that does not mean that it must stand alone,” Commissioner Pierre Moscovici is expected to say at a press conference alongside Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovsksis. “Europe will remain engaged and committed to supporting the country, and so will the European Commission. Today’s decision is about just that. Enhanced surveillance is not a fourth program: It involves no new commitments or conditions. It is a framework to support the completion and delivery of ongoing reforms. Why is that so important? Because Greece’s recovery is not an event: It is a process.”

PLAN FOR 2019: The College of Commissioners today will prepare the Commission’s work program for 2019. As expected, it will be a short one. We’re told that the key message is that everybody in the European Parliament, Council and Commission should use their time wisely. The goal is “to deliver on all proposals which are currently on the table, including important trade agreements, to demonstrate that the Union produces results for its citizens” ahead of the European Parliament election in May next year.

ELECTION MEDDLING: Facebook faces a fine of £500,000 for failing to protect people’s online data connected to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Mark Scott has more here. “We welcome this report. It shows the scale of the problem and that we are doing the right thing with our new data protection rules,” Commissioner for Justice Věra Jourová told us Tuesday  night. She adds: “Nobody should win elections using stolen or abused data. Legality of elections cannot result from illegality of the political competition.”

A VERY SWEDISH FREAK-OUT: The far-right Sweden Democrats are threatening to knock the ruling Social Democrats off their perch for the first time since 1917. Sweden’s system of minority governments means that even a spectacular result in September’s election won’t see the party take over any time soon. But in some senses they’ve already won: the right-wing party’s policies — including a “Swexit” referendum on leaving the EU and an exodus of asylum-seekers — are a “shock to Sweden’s self-image as a pillar of tolerance and stability,” writes Stephen Brown. “To admirers of the Swedish model, it is another nail in the coffin of the multicultural “humanitarian superpower” which is the still the third-largest recipient of refugees in the world. To those who regard Sweden as a self-righteous nanny state that has invited trouble by opening its doors to asylum-seekers, the growth of the Sweden Democrats is a timely comeuppance.” Full story here.

MARINE’S LE PEN PROBLEM: As the leader of France’s far-right party prepares to give Emmanuel Macron a run for his money in next year’s European Parliament election, her attempts to shed the loaded reputation of her “National Front” party by rebranding it as the “National Rally” is running into legal challenges. But the greater challenge to her brand is her own name. In France, Le Pen is associated not just with her, but with her father — the party’s controversial first president — and carries heavy baggage. Kait Bolongaro has the story.