12-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

12-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Govt engages in ‘damage control’ after latest IMF forecasts; specter of new austerity measures looms

Athens will reportedly hold a “wait-and-see” attitude in the face of Wednesday’s negative IMF forecasts for primary budget surpluses that the Greek state must post this year and in 2018, a development that fuelled speculation that the country’s institutional creditors will exert pressure for more austerity measures.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1284329/govt-engages-in-damage-control-after-latest-imf-forecasts-specter-of-new-austerity-measures-looms

Pro-Catalonia anarchists enter Spanish embassy in Athens

Self-proclaimed anarchists burst into the Spanish embassy in Athens on Wednesday and threw leaflets in favor of Catalonian independence, an embassy official said.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222351/article/ekathimerini/news/pro-catalonia-anarchists-enter-spanish-embassy-in-athens

Consumer spending is still shrinking

Figures released on Wednesday by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) suggested that, on average, households have reduced their annual spending by the equivalent of a monthly salary compared to 2008. Household spending was found to have dropped by 34.4 percent between 2008 and 2016, or an average of 728 euros.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222368/article/ekathimerini/business/consumer-spending-is-still-shrinking

Greece said to seek final bids for gas grid sale before year-end

Greece aims to get binding offers from investors shortlisted for a 66 percent stake in state-controlled natural gas grid DESFA by the end of the year, two sources close to the process said on Wednesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222353/article/ekathimerini/business/greece-said-to-seek-final-bids-for-gas-grid-sale-before-year-end

NBG returns to capital markets with 750m€ covered bond

National Bank on Tuesday returned to international capital markets for the first time since 2014, selling a 750-million-euro covered bond.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1284077/nbg-returns-to-capital-markets-with-750m-covered-bond

Eurobank extends deal with EIF for small firms

Eurobank extended last year’s agreement with the European Investment Fund (EIF) to provide financing for small businesses, doubling the amount of available funding to 260 million euros, Greece’s third largest lender said on Wednesday. Small businesses form the backbone of Greece’s economy, which is gradually recovering from a multi-year deep recession.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222366/article/ekathimerini/business/eurobank-extends-deal-with-eif-for-small-firms

ATHEX: Investors cash in on recent bourse gains

The moderate decline of the Athens bourse benchmark on Wednesday was seen more as a spot of profit taking after three consecutive days of gains and less as an end to the growth course that is expected to continue ahead of the review of Greece’s sovereign credit rating by Moody’s and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s trip to the US next week.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222367/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-investors-cash-in-on-recent-bourse-gains

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KATHIMERINI: The IMF points to new fiscal measures

ETHNOS: Neither legal nor ethical. National Telecommunications & Post Commission executive also represents New Democracy

TA NEA: Black hole sucks pensions and the tax-free threshold

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The misfortune of being a Greek woman. Greece lags last in the EU as far as gender equality is concerned

AVGI: STOP to the diversion of the Acheloos river

RIZOSPASTIS: They are making false promises to the people in order for capitalists to gain profits

KONTRA NEWS: No auctions for households worth less than 300,000 Euros

TO PONTIKI: Cherchez… La Garde

DIMOKRATIA: Seasonal allowance up to 916 Euros by the National Manpower Organization

NAFTEMPORIKI: Real estate assets worth less than 300,000 Euros will not be included in online auctions

It’s a defense and security Playbook today. Paul Taylor sets the scene by urging Germany to overcome its Nazi past and put its weight behind EU defense plans. Giulia Paravicini interviews Security Commissioner Julian King. On the global stage, Europeans swarm Capitol Hill to keep Congress from killing the nuclear agreement with Tehran. And Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and now with Tufts University, writes that Crimea is the not the end of Russia’s Black Sea ambitions.

EUROPE AND THE WORLD NEED GERMANY TO TAKE A SERIOUS MILITARY BURDEN: POLITICO’s Europe-at-large columnist Paul Taylor writes that Germany was right to keep its distance from the hell of its military past, but now, “With an assertive Russia flexing its muscles to the east, Islamist terrorism bringing death to Europe’s streets, a U.S. president questioning America’s commitment to NATO, and Britain turning its back on the EU, Berlin must bite the bullet and acknowledge the need for a stronger German military.”

IMPOSSIBLE JOB  — JULIAN KING’S POISONED PORTFOLIO: Giulia Paravicini writes about Security Commissioner Julian King’s particularly brutal lose-lose-lose situation as the EU’s last British commissioner. “He’s blamed for being British. He’s blamed for being ineffective on terror policy. And he’s blamed for being ineffective because he’s British.”

EUROPE’S 3-STRAND PLAN IF TRUMP NUKES IRAN DEAL: European countries continue to scramble in an attempt to keep the Iran nuclear deal on track even as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to ignores their pleas and decertify the 2015 agreement, reports Sara Stefanini. Trump is expected to announce his decision early evening Friday, Brussels time.

Reuters reports that in the event of Trump pulling out, “First, Berlin, London and Paris would issue statements reaffirming their commitment to the deal. Second, they would redouble efforts to lobby Congress, which appears keen to keep the deal, against any rash moves. And third, they would present measures to pressure Iran over its ballistic missile program and destabilizing policies in the Middle East — areas that fall outside the narrowly focused nuclear deal.”

The other worrisome Trump decision on Iran: Trump is reportedly on the verge of designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization, which means “putting it on the same level as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State,” effectively declaring war on it, reports Foreign Policy.

RACE FOR THE EU’S HIGHEST MILITARY POSITION: Will the EU go with a long shot, like Vice Admiral Mark Mellett of Ireland, a modernizer and peace-builder? More on the Irish Times here.

COUNCIL — JUSTICE AFFAIRS MINISTERS MEETING: Ministers are set to adopt the regulation enabling the European public prosecutor’s office to investigate and prosecute EU-related fraud in 20 participating countries. Ministers will also work on cross-border recovery of criminal assets and criminal records. Full agenda here.

EUROPEAN COUNCIL — TUSK IN ITALY: After visits to Copenhagen, Paris and Berlin, Council President Donald Tusk today meets Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni in Rome. Playbook’s Council source said calls with Theresa May, Ireland’s Leo Varadkar and Latvia’s Māris Kučinskis are also planned for today. Friday, Tusk heads to Bucharest and will meet Visegrád Group leaders in Bratislava.

COMMISSION — LEAKED PLASTICS STRATEGY DRAFT: The Commission is determined to set tougher standards for plastic products and packaging to make them easier to reuse and recycle as part of the Plastics Strategy, a draft outline obtained by POLITICO shows. Analysis by Marion Solletty for POLITICO Energy and Environment Pro subscribers.

COMMISSIONERS ON TOUR: Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is in Paris to meet French PM Edouard Philippe, President Emmanuel Macron’s top adviser Alexis Kolher and Ecological and Inclusive Transition Minister Nicolas Hulot. She will also deliver a speech at French public bank BPI. Meanwhile, the EU’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini meets Abel Prieto, the Cuban minister for culture. Commission Vice President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič continues his energy tour in Finland. President Jean-Claude Juncker is in Luxembourg through the weekend.

BANKING UNION BY 2018 — WELL, THAT’S THE PLAN: The European Commission Wednesday published a “communication” left-wing MEPs say is a diluted plan.

PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW WITH SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER ANA BRNABIĆ …

After several years during which the EU was focused more on managing its own internal problems, Juncker in his State of the Union address was at pains to stress the door is not closed to new EU members. After two days of meetings with EU leaders in Brussels, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić sat down with Playbook’s Harry Cooper to explain why she believes her country is on track to join the bloc.

On the right track: Brnabić said she could “completely understand” why EU enlargement had been “left aside a little bit” in recent years but that “Serbia is doing well” in meeting EU standards for membership.

Pro-EU or pro-Russia? Serbia’s close ties to Moscow are no secret, though Brnabić pointed out that “sometimes people rely too much on perceptions and not enough on facts,” noting that Belgrade has participated in more military exercises with NATO members than Russia in the past two years. Serbia “belongs to the European family of nations,” she said.

Difficult neighbors: Relations between Serbia and Croatia, which fought each other during the wars that followed the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, have been strained. Brnabić said the relationship with Croatia is “without doubt a complex one and a difficult one” but her country has been “very tolerant, very flexible … when faced with unfriendly rhetoric from some countries” because “we need regional stability.”

A gay prime minister: Brnabić, who entered government last summer as a minister for local government, said she was surprised to be asked to be prime minister by President Aleksandar Vučić because “it is a fact that I do lack political experience.” She said one reason she joined was his record on LGBT rights, in particular allowing Pride marches to go ahead in Belgrade. “I don’t want to be branded the gay prime minister but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk about this,” she said, acknowledging the situation for the LGBT community wasn’t perfect.

SOCIAL EUROPE — THE POSTED WORKERS MESS: As MEPs and employment ministers will finalize their opinions on the revision of the posted workers directive, the Robert Schuman Foundation has a nice recap paper on what is at stake and Emmanuel Macron’s impact on this burning issue between East and West Europe.

DIGITAL POLITICS — SHERYL SANDBERG’S DAMAGE CONTROL DAY: Facebook’s chief operating officer is more often portrayed a saint than a sinner. Not today. Sandberg is in damage control in D.C., meeting lawmakers to discuss how Russia used Facebook to try to hijack the U.S. presidential election, and how racially inflammatory ads end up on its highly profitable platform. Sandberg’s also sitting down with POLITICO alum Mike Allen to try to manage the company’s narrative. The FT wonders if Facebook is “spinning out of control.”

CATALAN CRISIS … 

HIGH NOON IN CATALONIA: Diego Torres on how Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy and Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont have both drawn their guns but neither dares to open fire.

RAJOY’S RESPONSE: Madrid ordered Catalonia to clear up “confusion” on independence (by fully dropping its plans not merely “suspending” them) and show respect for the law or risk a takeover of the region’s government in eight days time. “The government wants to offer certainties to all Spaniards, especially the Catalans … If Mr Puigdemont manifests his will to respect legality and restore institutional normality, a period of instability, tension and breakup of coexistence would end. That is what everyone wants and expects,” Rajoy said. Recall the original Puigdemont speech from Tuesday evening here.

BREXIT 360° …

BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS — ANALYSING A NEVER-ENDING TRAGICOMEDY: There’s no standing ovation and no curtain call, just a revolving set that is starting wear out even the people paid to watch it. Charlie Cooper on the first five acts of a tragicomedy of train-wreck proportions.

THE NEW IRISH BREXIT EUPHEMISM: Irish diplomats won’t utter the “B” word if they can help it these days. The new workaround is to call Brexit “these challenging times.”

GERMANY — JAMAICA COALITION TALKS BEGIN: Politicians in Berlin are kicking off talks to put together a new government, but don’t expect a full plan much before Christmas. There’ll be up to 56 people negotiating, which, at double the size of an EU summit, explains why the work will be slow.

DENMARK — SSH-ENGEN! Don’t mention Europe’s open borders please, Denmark would prefer if you just accepted they stay closed. The Danish government has extended its emergency suspension of Schengen rules until May 12, 2018 due to the “migrant situation and serious terror threat against Denmark.”

ENVIRONMENT — AIR POLLUTION KILLS: Fine particulate matter pollution caused 399,000 premature deaths in EU countries in 2014, according to the most recent estimates on the health impact of air pollution published Wednesday by the European Environment Agency. Marion Solletty and Ginger Hervey have the story and nifty infographics and maps here.

BEYOND EUROPE — INSIDE TRUMP’S HEAD: The U.S. president talked to Forbes, which put him on the cover. “In the world of the 45th president, there are no partners, no policies, no parties. The real priority: Donald Trump Wins.

PODCAST DU JOUR: French public radio broadcaster France Inter on lobbyists in Brussels. Health warning: The title — “Should Brussels burn lobbyists” — is more provocative than the content. Listen here.

BRUSSELS CORNER …

LOCAL ELECTION UPDATE: An opinion poll commissioned by Sudpresse-RTL shows Green parties (Ecolo-Groen) would finish first in Brussels in Belgian local elections if they were held today with 21 percent of the vote, foreshadowing an implosion of the ruling Socialist Party’s vote.