11-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

11-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Monday, December 11, 2017

Erdogan to Muslim minority in Thrace: ‘We’re not referring to assimilation but to your integration in Greece’

Recep Tayyip Erdogan struck a decidedly conciliatory tone on Friday in statements to a mostly Muslim audience that gathered at a hotel in the northeastern city of Komotini to greet him, on the second day of the Turkish president’s official visit to Greece.


Parliament com’t offers govt more ‘political cover’ to formally scrap munitions deal to Saudi Arabia

A relevant Parliament committee on Friday provided more “political cover” for the Tsipras government to officially cancel an already foiled deal to sell Saudi Arabia surplus munitions from Greek military stocks, with the former withdrawing a previous favorable recommendation.


Fourth review of Greek bailout to include all the thorny issues left for last

With the third review of the ongoing Greek bailout more-or-less achieved effortlessly and on time, attention will soon turn to the fourth and final review in the spring, as the current memorandum and the attached multi-billion-euro credit line extended by creditors ends in August 2018.


Top judge accuses gov’t of intervention

The head of Greece’s top constitutional court accused the government of intervention in justice, with the opposition calling for the resignation of minister Stavros Kontonis.


IMF’s Lagarde says restructuring Greece’s debt essential

A restructuring of Greece’s debt is essential so that the future of the Greek economy can be sustainable, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a statement to the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.


NPEs in Greece drop to 100.4 bln€ in Sept. 2017

The level of non-performing exposures (NPEs) in Greece in September 2017 dropped by 2.4 and 5.5 percent compared with the end of June 2017 and late December 2016, respectively.


Rise of 5-7 pct seen this year for exports

The Panhellenic Exporters Association (PSE) expects exports to increase between 5 and 7 percent this year compared to 2016, reversing the declining trend of the two previous years.


ATHEX: Weekly losses contained to 1.06 percent

As the year starts to draw to a close many funds have either stopped trading their securities or are engaging in some window dressing, boosting their performance. This serves to explain the growth seen on the local bourse on Friday, after progress in the third review had already been priced in.








KATHIMERINI: The next 4 months are going to be ‘hot’ for PM Tsipras

TO VIMA: Interview with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “We are bound by the Lausanne treaty with the exemption of the Thrace issue”

REAL NEWS: Tsipras’ threat towards Erdogan

PROTO THEMA: What went wrong with the ‘Sultan’

AVGI: Focus on the real economy


ETHNOS: Tax-declaration forms include traps for tax-evaders

TA NEA: Judges react against the government. “We shall not accept any pointers”

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Greek judges don’t want to reveal their assets

KONTRA NEWS: Lagarde asks for the Greek debt’s immediate reduction

DIMOKRATIA: The German kickbacks sank the submarine

NAFTEMPORIKI: The ‘hot’ files of the 4th bailout program review


At receptions across Brussels a CEO is handed empty glasses (the other guests think he’s there to serve drinks). At a Parliament skin cancer screening service the organizers spend the week avoiding black people (their special camera doesn’t work on dark skin). The European Commission refuses to measure the ethnic diversity of its employees though it measures sex, age and nationality and reaches out to LGBT staff. People of color clean the toilets and serve the food at EU headquarters, but rarely if ever make the decisions. In Europe’s de facto capital, where more than half the city is born in another country, there is a diversity blind spot. Playbook’s Ryan Heath talks to Brussels’ invisible crowd about how that affects their life and work.

How white is the Brussels elite? This image features all 751 members of the European Parliament.

Playbook poll and feedback: Our goal in this article series is to start a debate, not end one. If you have a view on whether or how the EU and its related industries should reflect the wider European population email playbook@politico.eu — we will publish a range of your reactions Tuesday — or vote in this poll.



COUNCIL — FOREIGN AFFAIRS COUNCIL TODAY: It’s a blockbuster meeting of EU foreign ministers to end the year.

Getting defensive: The EU version of the Little Engine That Could leaves the station today. Ministers will set in motion European permanent structured defense cooperation (known as PESCO in EU lingo) in the form at 17 projects signed off from about 50 candidates. This step by 25 of the EU’s members (all but Denmark, Malta and the U.K.) leaves the EU decades away from having its own unified army, but nevertheless puts the union on that road. The project shortlist, seen by POLITICO, covers everything from training to a medical headquarters to cyberdefense (Lithuania is in the lead there). Professor Jolyon Howorth writes about the latest defense developments here for the Wilfried Martens Centre.

Netanyahu makes first Brussels visit in 22 years by Israeli PM: Israel’s occupation of east Jerusalem since 1967 and the United States’ move to establish an embassy in Jerusalem will be sore points when Benjamin Netanyahu meets foreign ministers and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today. The harshest critics are likely to include French President Emmanuel Macron and the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini, while the warmest reception will come from Hungary and the Czech Republic. Netanyahu will be on the warpath against European hypocrisy. “I will not accept a double standard from them. I hear voices condemning Trump [over Jerusalem] but not for rocket fire. I will not accept this hypocrisy. I will represent Israel with my head held high,” he said Saturday ahead of a meeting with Macron. More here.

Rohingya: The Save the Children International CEO has urged the EU not to forget about the Rohingya forced to flee Myanmar, and other NGOs have written to Federica Mogherini about the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide.

COUNCIL — EU LOVE LETTER TO SERBIA, MONTENEGRO; NEW NEGOTIATIONS TO OPEN: Serbian and Montenegrin ministers are in Brussels today to meet with Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner for enlargement, where they’re expected to open new negotiating chapters in their accession talks to join the EU. It’s good news for Serbia and Montenegro but alarming to the other four Western Balkans nations also seeking membership, reports Playbook’s Harry Cooper.

COMMISSION AIMS FOR PITCH PERFECT: At 11 a.m. the European Commission will hold the first Facebook Live pitching exercise. European Commission Vice President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič will listen to the climate action pitches of young Europeans and incorporate the best into his speeches at the One Planet Summit in Paris December 12, where he will announce a new European Youth for Climate Initiative. Šefčovič will also launch a “platform for coal-intensive regions in transition” according to a spokesperson, which will “facilitate the identification, development and implementation of projects which could transform local economies of coal mining regions” in a socially fair manner.

PARLIAMENT — MORE THAN 70 MEPs JOIN INFORMAL PRO-MACRON GROUP: Gilles Pargneaux, a French Socialist MEP, said he created an informal group of “more than 70 MEPs” who share the same political vision as Emmanuel Macron, including lawmakers from the Socialists & Democrats and the European People’s Party.

TRADE — WORLD TRADE MINISTERS GATHER IN ARGENTINA: Argentina’s Susana Malcorra will chair the 11th WTO ministerial conference. Q&A with Malcorra here for POLITICO Trade and Agriculture and Food Pros. Meanwhile, Megan Cassella reports for POLITICO that President Donald Trump’s disdain for the WTO is casting a pall over the conference.

EU disappointed by Latin America trade negotiation progress: The EU’s dream scenario is to announce political agreement on another huge trade deal this week, with the Mercosur bloc. But a Sunday meeting meeting between European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, her agriculture colleague Phil Hogan and ministers from the South American trade bloc failed to deliver the goods and talks will continue. Hogan told POLITICO the meeting was “a bit disappointing.” (Link for POLITICO Trade and Agriculture and Food Pros.)


Playbook caught up with Beatrice Fihn, the 35-year-old director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), as she juggled a whirlwind of hair, make-up and message projection tasks in the countdown to Sunday’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. The prize was awarded to ICAN, founded in Australia in 2007, “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

What does the Nobel Prize mean for the campaign: “Huge momentum. We have achieved something really significant with the [Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons]. Yes, there are lot of doubts about whether this is going to be really meaningful … [but] people believe in this … we are going to make this work,” Fihn said.

What about the reaction of nuclear states? “Even without their participation, this treaty will impact those states. International law and norms impact states outside treaties (land mines, chemical, biological). Nuclear weapons’ time has come … there will be resistance, but they [nuclear-armed states] are not isolated from the rest of the community or how the world sees those weapons.”

What’s next? “We will start divestment campaigns, put other pressure.”

How do you rate the risk of nuclear war? “The risk for nuclear is greater today than it has been for a very long time, maybe ever … There are two world leaders behaving irrationally [Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un] … it increases the risk of an accident. If we don’t address this issue, if we keep them [nuclear weapons] forever, they will be used. That’s a statistical fact.”

What’s the EU’s role past and future? “EU countries have to take much stronger stand. We’ve had support from countries like Ireland, Austria, Sweden and there was a European Parliament resolution in 2016, and as a result the EU delegation in New York attended the negotiations [for the treaty]. But we would like to engage the EU much more … The EU has to stand up to the U.S.”

Disappointment with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg: “His line sounds awfully like the U.S., U.K. and France’s line. But NATO has a stated goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, that is the goal of NATO. We will demand NATO takes concrete steps towards that in line with the NATO treaty. All NATO countries signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.” NATO, for its part, says nuclear weapons “committed to NATO have been reduced by more than 95 percent since the height of the Cold War.”

ESSAYS ON NUCLEAR BAN TREATY: Edited by the European Leadership Network’s Shatabhisha Shetty and Denitsa Raynova.


TOUGH TIMES FOR BIG TECH: Regulators and politicians across the Western world may have spent much of the past year clamping down on Big Tech, issuing fines and scrutinizing business models. Even so, those using their services and investing in them don’t seem phased. POLITICO’s Mark Scott reports on why the world’s largest tech firms seem largely impervious to attacks from regulators.



FRANCE — WAUQUIEZ TAKES CHARGE OF LES RÉPUBLICAINS: While Europe hails progress on Brexit, France’s political class is bracing for a storm to hit hard on the home front. Call it Hurricane Laurent. On Sunday, Laurent Wauquiez, a 42-year-old ex-minister who once called for abolishing the European Commission and cites Donald Trump as an “inspiration,” seized the presidency of Les Républicains, France’s main conservative party.

THE EU AND CENTRAL EUROPE — TENSIONS RISING: On Friday, European Council President Donald Tusk was at Hungary’s University of Pecs, where he gave a speech slamming what he described as “political barbarians” who are threatening liberal democracy in Europe as well as “aggressive rhetoric” about migrants. In parallel …

Czech Republic: Prime Minister Andrej Babiš demanded the EU stop forcing countries to take refugees and President Miloš Zeman, speaking at a conference of the far-right SPD, said: “The cowardly European Union is doing all it can to make the pro-terrorist movement prevail over the pro-Israel movement.”

Poland: Poland’s new prime minister said the country is in no hurry to join the euro and accused the EU of making “nasty threats.” 

Hungary: A Fidesz MP posted a picture of a slaughtered pig with the words “This was Soros.” Meanwhile the Immigration and Asylum Office published the final numbers of a suspended Residency Bond program, which showed at least 19,885 non-EU nationals purchased residency rights to Hungary and the EU (about 15 times the quota of asylum seekers Hungary is supposed to take under EU policy).

ROMANIA — FORMER PM TO LAUNCH PARTY: Dacian Cioloş, Romania’s former technocrat prime minister and a former EU agriculture commissioner, said on Sunday that a new party will emerge from his eponymous NGO. He has positioned the new party against the current ruling Social Democrat Party.

THE DARK EMBASSIES OF THE UNITED STATES: POLITICO alumna Tara Palmeri reports that it’s not a good look when the lights are out in most of the United States ambassadors’ residences in Europe.


The Brexit deal fine print: RTÉ’s Tony Connelly reported Sunday that EU leaders will this week “underline that negotiations in the second phase can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken during the first phase are respected in full and translated faithfully in legal terms as quickly as possible.”

Davis stirs controversy over Brexit deal: David Davis, the U.K.’s Brexit secretary, told BBC television Sunday that “No deal means we won’t be paying the money,” adding that the agreement reached last week in Brussels on the U.K.’s withdrawal was “a statement of intent” rather than “a legally enforceable thing.” After that strong view, not appreciated by many in Ireland, a U.K. government source told Playbook: “There is no question of our commitment to the text of the joint report [agreed Friday]. Ministers, the Irish government and the European Commission all agree that it is the withdrawal agreement itself which has status in law.”

May to say ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’: Theresa May will use a statement today to the House of Commons to reassure Euroskeptics in her party that “The arrangements we have agreed to reach the second phase of the talks are entirely consistent with the principles and objectives” previously set out, but “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Theresa May’s deal doesn’t add up, says Paul Taylor: Friday’s deal will help many breathe easier over the holidays “but fundamentally, the deal doesn’t add up. Its creative wording can’t disguise the ambiguity in the agreement regarding the Irish border — an issue that’s primed to get much trickier during the next phase of negotiations.”

Hard Brexit part comes next year: The first phase of Brexit talks is over, but that was the easy bit, writes David Herszenhorn.

Real Brexit: Irish border spat leaves Ulster fishermen struggling: For a country that says it doesn’t want a border, Ireland is already playing hardball, according to fishermen.

David Davis Brexit predictions versus reality

Germany’s biggest Brexit boon: Migration. Christian Odendahl of the Centre for European Reform reminds us that “the biggest economy in Europe is also a ticking demographic time bomb: Germany’s median age is now 47, compared with 40 in the U.K. and 38 in the United States.” The country has a huge demand for skilled labor but a relatively low workforce participation rate. That can be dealt with by people working longer, more women joining or rejoining the workforce or through immigration. In addition to a massive refugee influx since 2015, Odendahl writes “Germany has become the primary destination for migrants from Eastern Europe, with net immigration totaling almost 1 million between 2011 and 2015.”

Podcast du jour: Tony Connelly on Brexit and Ireland.