12-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

12-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Friday, January 12, 2018

Tsipras letter to Church of Greece head over fYRoM ‘name issue’ decision

Greek Prime Minister Alexis on Thursday responded to this week’s eyebrow-raising decision by the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece’s Holy Synod to express opposition to a solution for the long-standing “fYRoM name issue” containing the name “Macedonia” – an abrupt ecclesiastical foray into a sensitive foreign policy issue.


FYROM sees hope for end to name dispute with Greece

The deputy prime minister of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) expressed optimism on Thursday over renewed efforts to resolve a decades-long dispute with neighboring Greece over the Balkan country’s name that has kept it out of NATO.


Six media firms apply for TV permits, Mega stays out

Representatives of six media companies submitted applications on Thursday to the National Broadcasting Council (ESR) in Athens for a forthcoming tender for private television licenses.


Lists yield little tax revenue and prospects poor

Very little revenue has been gathered from the so-called Lagarde and Borjans lists of wealthy depositors, which had been touted by authorities as potential sources for recouping evaded taxes, according to figures submitted in Parliament on Thursday by Deputy Finance Minister Katerina Papanatsiou, and recent legislation limiting the statute of limitations suggests that little more will be raised.


Greece’s jobless figure for Oct. 2017 eases to 20.7%

The number of registered unemployed people in Greece remained under the “psychological barrier” of one million in October 2017, according to figures released this week by Greece’s statistical authority (EL.STAT).


PPC to buy out Balkan power trading firm

Public Power Corporation is close to acquiring an electrical energy trading company in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.


ATHEX: Banks help index recover

A stock rally in the latter half of Thursday’s session in Athens saw the benchmark swing back to gains, after a continuation of Wednesday’s losses in the morning. Banks enjoyed robust growth, leading trading volume to its highest level this week.







Due to the strike of the newspapers/magazines distributing agencies there is no newspaper circulation today.


SAVE THE DATE — EUROPEAN ELECTION MAY 2019: Sven Giegold MEP tweeted that the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents (of political party groups) has set the European election for May 23-26, 2019. National government are expected to agree to those dates in coming weeks.

COUNCIL — BULGARIA TELLS TUSK: STAY NEUTRAL ON POLAND. Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov said Thursday that it’s not European Council President Donald Tusk’s job to have political opinions on domestic politics.

COUNCIL — TUSK’S STIRRING PEP SPEECH TO BULGARIA: Donald Tusk isn’t having a subtle week. First, open political warfare with Poland, then while participating in the official opening events of Bulgaria’s EU presidency, Tusk said: “Who, if not you — the descendants of Spartacus, the inheritors of the oldest European statehood, you, who never ever lost a flag in any battle — would be better placed to rise to this important and exceptionally difficult task, that is to renew the European perspective for the whole of the region. You have always been determined and brave, which you have also confirmed in recent years … With a prime minister who could strike fear into many a Thracian warrior, you will certainly make it.”

Juncker’s speech was equally but differently special: If you ever wondered how Bulgaria joined the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker has a self-centric explanation: “You have to know, had I refused to sign, you would not be a member — so be grateful — I was in a good mood, in an optimistic mood, in a future-oriented mood.”

COUNCIL — CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO PULL BULGARIAN PRESIDENCY VIDEO: Karima Delli MEP who, as a Parliament committee chair, is one of the institution’s most powerful figures, wants the Bulgarian presidency to remove this video from its communications channels. The reason? An older male voiceover opens with the message (supposedly about Bulgaria, but with a young woman on-screen) “When you first meet her, you might get the wrong message. Remember, here a ‘no’ might mean ‘yes.’” Delli’s complaint here.

Meanwhile Bulgaria savored its moment in the EU spotlight, reports Reuters.


COMMISSION GROUNDHOG DAY ON SUPERCOMPUTERS: The European Commission announced Thursday what seemed like a bold new supercomputing plan: €1 billion to dramatically reshape Europe’s capabilities at this tech frontier by 2020. That set off a red flag for Playbook — the Commission announced the same goal and timeline in 2012, a deal glossed over in the press release.

The billion-euro question: Since the original announcement in 2012, the EU managed to spend only €330 million of the billion it allocated to supercomputing. In that time, EU-based computers have dropped out of list of the world’s top 10 supercomputers. Whereas the EU was home to the ninth, 12th and 13th most powerful supercomputers, as of November 2017 its best computer was ranked only 14th: a Lenovo (HQ in China) computer based in Italy, known as Marconi Intel Xeon Phi.

What changed in the new EU plan? Commission spokeswoman Nathalie Vandystadt said that now Brussels will “link the dots by offering a true EU added value, never done before: joint procurement possibility targeting world-class machines and supporting research for developing European exascale technology.” There’s a new structure called EuroHPC (the previous vehicle for EU supercomputing salvation was called PRACE), and the funding is now promised to 2026 (though the EU budget hasn’t been agreed that far ahead yet).

Will the new plan help the EU catch up? Commissioners are enthusiastic. But the planned new funding is around €150 million a year, and the Commission admitted Thursday that “Europe is clearly underinvesting in high-performance computing with a funding gap of €500-750 million per year.”

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — PARLIAMENT’S DAMNING MALTA RULE OF LAW REPORT: MEPs report a “culture of fear,” criticize the soft-ball approach to corruption allegations against senior officials and urge the creation of an independent prosecutor. Read the full draft report obtained by Playbook’s Harry Cooper.

PARLIAMENT — PARTY LEADERS DEMAND ACTION AGAINST POLISH MEP: Ryszard Czarnecki, a senior right-wing Polish MEP from the Law and Justice Party, used a Nazi-era slur against a fellow Polish MEP. Read the party leaders’ letter of complaint.

PARLIAMENT — ANOTHER MARKUS FERBER INFLUENCE CLAIM: A businessman working with powerful MEP Markus Ferber claimed to have contributed text to the updated Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II), which Ferber shaped. In a 2014 email to “shareholders, stakeholders and friends,” Dutch businessman Michael Heijmeijer said he influenced technical wording to the final MiFID II legislation in a way that would be advantageous for a commercial product he wanted to sell. When POLITICO contacted him about the matter, Heijmeijer said he was “showing off to get people’s attention.” Ferber said Heijmeijer’s claims “are quite obviously not based on reality.” Bjarke Smith-Meyer has the full story.

EU BUDGET OPINION: Pieter Cleppe says the EU needs to slash in order to survive.

ECJ — SAME-SEX COUPLES CLOSER TO EU FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT RIGHTS: The European Court of Justice’s top legal adviser, Advocate General Melchior Wathelet, said in a non-binding but persuasive opinion that “the term ‘spouse’ includes, in the light of the freedom of residence of citizens of the EU and their family members, spouses of the same-sex.” While EU countries have the right not to authorize marriage between persons of the same-sex, “they may not impede the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his or her spouse of the same-sex, a national of a non-EU country, a right of permanent residence in their territory.”

ECB — JOCKEYING UNDERWAY TO SUCCEED MARIO DRAGHI: The Wall Street Journal reckons the most significant European handover of power in 2019 will be at the Continent’s central bank, not in Brussels.

ENVIRONMENT — EUROPE TRIES TO CLEAR THE AIR:  POLITICO’s Marion Solletty writes that “Central and Eastern European countries struggle with dust and fine particulate pollution, where low-quality domestic heating units are often a major source of those pollutants. And Western European countries are recording high levels of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant closely linked to diesel vehicle exhaust, in their cities.” Now Brussels is prepared to demand fines against EU national governments for failing to clean up air pollution. Five of them — France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. — were given a final warning in early 2017 by the Commission, the last step before being taken to the European Court of Justice.


EUROPEAN BUSINESSES BACK MICROSOFT AGAINST US GOVERNMENT: Some of Europe’s largest trade and business associations will file a joint brief this morning on a key court case before the U.S. Supreme Court. They support Microsoft and oppose the U.S. Justice Department, which wants the tech firm to provide data stored in Ireland to comply with an American warrant. Full details for POLITICO Tech Pros.

EU PRIVACY BOOM IS NO GOLD RUSH: Laurens Cerulus on the commercial difficulties of the EU’s data protection revolution.


SPOTIFY CEO DANIEL EK URGES #METOO REVOLUTION: The music world was a notorious graveyard for online entrepreneurs until Spotify. In the latest EU Confidential podcast, Ek explains why he thinks the Stockholm-based company is different to Silicon Valley firms, what he wants from EU regulators, and becomes the first major tech CEO to give his full support to the #MeToo movement. Ek also spills the beans on his favorite politician, his 2018 resolution, and how firing 20 staff as a 17-year-old shaped his approach to building companies.

Listen immediately here | Download to listen offline via Apple Podcasts.


GERMANY — EUROPE AT STAKE, PRESIDENT WARNS PARTIES IN ‘HARD’ COALITION TALKS: Facing a self-imposed deadline for progress in re-forming their “grand coalition,” Germany’s Conservatives and Social Democrats (SPD) struggled for a breakthrough overnight. The talks, which kicked off Sunday, are Angela Merkel’s “last chance at forming a stable government,” Emily Schultheis writes. If the parties reach an agreement they’ll move on to formal coalition talks following a January 21 vote by SPD members.

GERMANY — REPORTER TAKES ON MEDIA COZY TIES IN BERLIN: Established German media outlets often operate by odd and unwritten conventions. It is common, for example, for journalists to send their articles to the people they have interviewed, allowing them to retract comments with the benefit of hindsight. Jost Müller-Neuhof a reporter at Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper, is on a crusade to change this way of doing things. In fact, he’s taken his fight to court, arguing Angela Merkel’s practice of keeping the participants of her off-the-record meetings with select reporters a secret runs contrary to German law. POLITICO’s Janosch Delcker reports.

LUXEMBOURG — LUXLEAKS WHISTLEBLOWER VERDICT OVERTURNED: The Luxembourg Court of Cassation overturned the verdict against Luxleaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour. His case will now go to appeal.

CZECH REPUBLIC — CHEMIST SEEKS FORMULA FOR THE PRESIDENCY: Siegfried Mortkowitz profiles Jiří Drahoš, the chemist taking on Miloš Zeman for the Czech presidency. But is he too straight-laced to win? “The 68-year-old candidate looks professorial and fit … He has never joined a political party. Zeman, by contrast, appears older than his 73 years, walks with a cane due to his diabetes, and is infamous for his many years of alcoholism and his inflammatory rhetoric, especially on such issues as immigration and Islam.”

HUNGARY — ELECTION DATE FORMALLY SET FOR APRIL 8: As expected, Hungary has set the date of its next general election for April 8, with the campaign period officially starting February 17.


BREXITEERS BACK SECOND EU REFERENDUM: It’s hard to imagine a less-welcome prospect in Brussels. Nigel Farage is leading the charge for an additional vote to kill off suggestions of a “soft” Brexit — or no Brexit at all. Arron Banks, the co-founder of Leave.EU, is on board.

BREXIT WAS SUPPOSED TO SAVE THE NHS, BUT ONLY REFORM WILL DO THAT: POLITICO’s Charlie Cooper and Shirley Wang explain the difficult political terrain of toying with a national treasure. “Brexiteers campaigned on the idea that leaving the EU would provide the U.K. with extra money that could be injected into the NHS — the notorious and discredited £350 million a week claim on the side of their battle bus. The real impact of Brexit is likely to be less money.”


US — ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER TRUMP OUTRAGE AND ANTICLIMAX: Donald Trump is widely reported to have labeled several countries from which immigrants originate “shitholes,” recalling an earlier meeting in which he had grumbled that immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS” and those from Nigeria come from “huts.” Trump confirmed he had canceled a much-discussed trip to the U.K. He tweeted: “I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts,’ only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!”

If you still want to try to understand Donald Trump … Paul Adamson’s latest podcast with David Rennie of the Economist (the former Lexington, Bagehot and Charlemagne correspondent) is the best current effort.