13-03-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

13-03-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Monday, March 12, 2018

DM warns of possible ‘fatal accident’ involving Greek, Turkish armed forces

Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos was quoted by the French daily “Liberation” over the weekend as warning that the armed forces of Greece and Turkey are “very close to a fatal accident”.


Mitsotakis promises to lower taxes, social security contributions if elected

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) president Kyriakos Mitsotakis again promised lower taxes and social contributions in Greece, if he and his party win the next general election, saying the goal is to achieve sustainable growth in the crisis-bedeviled east Mediterranean country.


PAOK vs AEK game is abandoned as league sinks even lower

The Super League has sunk even deeper in controversy, as the federation’s Saturday night decision to the three points deducted from PAOK was followed by an abandoned PAOK vs AEK derby on Sunday evening and a pitch invasion by PAOK’s owner with a gun in his pocket.


New Democracy leads SYRIZA by 10 points, latest poll by Rass shows

Major Greek opposition party New Democracy (ND) maintains a substantial 10-point lead over SYRIZA, according to the latest poll conducted by Rass on behalf of TV station Action24.


No more free tax ride for private taxi companies, Highway Code revised

The government has tabled the long-awaited draft legislation that will revise the Greek Highway Code and regulate the operation of private transport companies such as Uber.


Seven key suspects of far-right Combat 18 Hellas group testify, four remanded in custody

Seven suspected members of the far-right group Combat 18 Hellas testified on Saturday after defending themselves on charges of running a criminal organization.


FinMin circular lowers GDP forecast for 2018 to 2.3% from 2.5%

A circular issued by Greece’s finance ministry on Friday cites a 2.3-percent forecast for GDP growth in 2018, down from 2.5 percent included in the state budget for the year.


ATHEX: Index swings to 1 pct gains for the week

The Athens bourse benchmark rose again on Friday, tipping the weekly balance from losses to gains, following two weeks on a downward slide. Trading volume remained low though, as investors appear reserved about the outlook of the local economy and the international landscape in general.








KATHIMERINI: The crucial date at Cyprus’ EEZ

TO VIMA: Erdogan is playing with fire

REAL NEWS: 400,000 bank accounts of debtors are going to open

PROTO THEMA: Five SOS signals for Greece issued by Regling

AVGI: New Democracy can’t find a cure for Novartis


ETHNOS: Disgrace

TA NEA: Sixteen hydrocarbon ‘targets’ south of Crete

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Poll on Novartis scandal: Cleansing now!

KONTRA NEWS: The great heist by the pimps of Attiki Odos

DIMOKRATIA: Erdogan is a Grey Wolf!

NAFTEMPORIKI: The outcome of negotiations between Greece and the creditors will emerge at the last moment


ON EUROZONE FUTURE, WHO NEEDS FRANCE AND GERMANY? Contrary to expectations, Berlin and Paris won’t deliver a joint proposal to reform the single currency area by a March 22 EU summit, according to a Der Spiegel report over the weekend. Brussels sounds nonplussed. “Practically we already know where we want to go,” Valdis Dombrovskis, the Commission’s vice president for the euro, told Playbook.

As eurozone finance ministers meet in Brussels today, the Latvian commissioner said he wasn’t surprised France and Germany hadn’t even been able to put together a joint letter for this gathering. For all the goodwill and friendship between Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, diverging views on institutional as well as substantive matters — from the Spitzenkandidaten process for selecting the next Commission boss to the fate of future financial transfers (see below) — are putting a bit of a freeze on the entente.

Dombrovskis listed two priorities for the Commission: That the 19 eurozone countries (and subsequently all other EU members) settle a few less-controversial dossiers “by June,” as previously agreed. “We hope to reach agreement at least on principle and main design elements of a backstop for the Single Resolution Fund [the life, or death, insurance for EU banks],” he said, claiming “broad agreement” to do it on the basis of a possible European Monetary Fund.

Second: Brussels wants to move ahead on elements of a banking union, testing Germany’s willingness to ease its über-hawkish stance on all things fiscal. In particular, Dombrovskis is eager to push through a proposed pan-European bank deposit insurance scheme, which would eventually see all EU countries cover bank failures anywhere in the union. EDIS, as those who are familiar with the story know, is close to a swear word in conservative circles.

These proposals will dominate discussion among the finance minister in coming months. “We’re working at getting as far as possible with EDIS, starting with phase one,” Dombrovksis said. He will push the debate further and wants a clear timeline to move “to phase two, which would imply loss mutualization,” he said, meaning — well, you can look it up here. “We see scope for this. If you look at the roadmap, at what has been delivered on the risk reduction side, I think it’s time to move also on [the] risk-sharing side.”

Euro-dissent: While France and Germany stay on the sidelines and post-election Italy remains in political limbo, the opposition to what’s been described as the “completion” of the banking union is expected to come most vocally from the Nordic countries. So sounds like today’s ministerial could also be a test for the recently installed Eurogroup chief Mário Centeno. And some reckon the Portuguese finance minister hasn’t found his feet as a dispute moderator yet. “Mário still needs to really bring everybody to the table,” a senior EU official said.


“No reason to start packing boxes,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told Helsingin Sanomat’s Pekka Mykkänen. Commenting on Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s announcement that he wouldn’t nominate her for another term in the College of Commissioners, Vestager said, “I would be very surprised if he had said anything else.” Denmark holds a national election before the next Commission gets nominated, and “a year and a half in political time is like a century.”


Saturday’s annual Brussels Press Revue (think White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but with jeans, a mediocre sound system and British humor) got some laughs and left a few EU-worthies lightly bruised. Playbook alum Ryan Heath attended, so you (and I) didn’t have to, and sends this rundown …

“Nerd prom 2018” nearly didn’t happen at all: A strike at AB InBev left organizers Jacki Davis and Geoff Meade scrambling for a new booze supplier 24 hours out from showtime. Craig Winneker returned to the stage as Darth Selmayr, surrounded by lackeys referring to their new secretary-general as “His Inevitableness.” Someone remembered to update Jean-Claude Juncker’s table name at the last minute. Top musical numbers included a Goldfinger-inspired ode to Günther Oettinger (“such a right-winger, this gold-finger”), and a Spice Girls-flavored ditty featuring Brexiteers singing “Tell me what you want, what you really really want.” Catch up on the Gospel of Emmanuel here.

Steve Clemons, editor-at-large of the Atlantic, left impressed by the willingness of Brussels-based hacks to take on their leaders: “We’re much more deferential in the U.S.”


The European Parliament tonight debates Selmayr’s appointment as the Commission’s secretary-general. Why it matters: Parliament can’t fire Selmayr — he serves at the pleasure of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker — but it can add fuel to the three-week-old bonfire of controversy. The arguments at the Strasbourg plenary are likely to focus on the manner of his promotion, and barely conceal the real gripe: Many bubble-dwellers simply don’t like Selmayr. Read David Herszenhorn’s story here.

Who’s on Selmayr’s side: Juncker and Oettinger, the German commissioner for budget and human resources, who’ll take the floor today. Selmayr’s longtime mentor Elmar Brok, the CDU veteran, weighed in with a statement that hit reporters’ inboxes on Sunday afternoon and spared no one: Selmayr might be “too uncomfortable” for “some in the Commission’s apparatus,” he said, labeling Belgian Green MEP Bart Staes, who has led the charge against Selmayr, “left-wing and anti-German.” And he proclaimed that “the opposition of those who disapprove of the Juncker Commission’s fight for the rule of law and democracy in some member states is honorable for Selmayr.”

Demon Martin: In his latest Brussels Sketch for POLITICO, Tim King says the Selmayr witch-hunt has gone too far.

Cozying up to the new boss: Some staffers inside the secretariat-general welcomed the appointment, telling Playbook that Selmayr’s closeness to Juncker would give them increased influence.

Markus Winkler, the European Parliament’s deputy secretary-general, also chimed in in favor. He told Playbook: “The Commission is well-supplied with high-performing officials, but Martin Selmayr stands out clearly among them.” This is a surprise endorsement, considering Winkler belongs to a rival political family — the Social Democrats. “The Commission has been put into its traditional place and the community method has been revitalized. Two people are responsible for this: Juncker and Selmayr.”

Parliament’s a glass house both on the transparency of appointments and on being led by Germans. Winkler has served as head of Cabinet for former Parliament President Martin Schulz. The EP’s Secretary-General Klaus Welle, another German, once upon a time served as Cabinet chief for Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering, a CDU man. All these Germans with secretary and general in their titles — Helga Schmid at the European External Action Service is another — presumably can’t last beyond the 2019 turnover of top jobs in Brussels. Already bets are being placed on who’ll win the coming Game of German Thrones.


Life after Renzi: Italy’s Democratic Party leadership meets today to discuss a replacement for Matteo Renzi, its defeated leader, POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi emails in to report. It could be a Renzi friend or foe. Transport Minister Graziano Del Rio, a former mayor of Reggio Emilia who has nine children and a Catholic upbringing, is a Renzi man in the mix. The other mooted contender is a Renzi antagonist, Nicola Zingaretti — president of the Lazio region and brother to the more famous Luca, a TV actor who stars in Commissario Montalbano, one of the country’s most famous series. At stake: The PD is desperate to avoid the fate of friends such as the flatlining French Socialist Party, Milan’s Mayor Giuseppe Sala told Rai 1 radio.

Life after Pittella: At the European Parliament, the jockeying to replace Socialists & Democrats’ group leader Gianni Pittella, who was elected a senatore in Italy, is underway. By Monday morning, the field was winnowing down. According to members of the group, Italian Roberto Gualtieri didn’t want to run and Spanish MEP Elena Valenciano didn’t get the backing of her national party leader Pedro Sánchez. As the deadline for applications is today, that likely leaves two candidates: interim leader Udo Bullmann, a German centrist, and the more left-leaning Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt. The election is scheduled for March 20.

Xi forever: China’s National People’s Congress on Sunday green-lit a plan to abolish presidential term limits, in effect making it possible for President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely. More from CNN.

Digital power plays: Mark Scott, POLITICO’s chief technology correspondent, writes in his weekly column that Facebook’s refusal to share data undermines the global response to fake news, and analyzes how that affects elections, including Italy’s ballot last week.


While US President Donald Trump seemed to offer the EU a way out of the increased tariffs over the weekend, at the same time he threatened to impose more of them — singling out BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which have significant investments in two of America’s most Trump-friendly states — for criticism. That’s not winning over friends abroad, as Megan Cassella reports. A meeting between European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and her American counterpart didn’t deliver any “immediate clarity,” Malmström said on Saturday.

‘Some solutions will be gone’: The troubled transatlantic relationship dominated the GMF Brussels Forum over the weekend. “There are tensions that we can survive, and there are others that we cannot,” Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, told me. There are some “solutions that can still be there three years from now” — i.e. when Trump’s first term ends and Murphy’s Democrats hope to replace him — “and some solutions which will be gone.”

‘On an issue like Iran, this is going to come to a head one way or another in the next several months, and we have got to find a way to figure it out,” Murphy said. On trade and climate, “we can do some work behind the scenes … [so] that three years from now, we can pick back up to TTIP negotiations, that we can re-enter Paris and make good on our commitments, in time, to make a difference.”

Norbert Röttgen, the CDU chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the German Bundestag, agreed, speaking at the same panel: “I think we have to think in patterns of new alliances. Not only between and among governments but we have perhaps, to forge new alliances of the liberal camp. Not only relying on governments, but bringing in civil societies, different parties, politicians, businesses, in order to uphold another kind of transatlantic dialogue conversation.”

Putin rediscovers an old-faithful scapegoat: Reckon the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election? It wasn’t real Russians, according to President Vladimir Putin. In an interview with NBC News on Saturday, Putin told Megan Kelly: “Maybe they’re not even Russians. Maybe they’re Ukrainian, Tatars, Jews — just with Russian citizenship.” The Washington Post has a write-up.

… As Theresa May prepares to take him on: The British PM will chair a meeting of her national security council this morning amid growing speculation she is poised to formally blame Russia for the chemical weapon attack that targeted a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, reports our London Playbook colleague Jack Blanchard. The Times’ Oliver Wright has the story.

Meanwhile, POLITICO’s Tom McTague and Charlie Cooper report that May is in a race against time to wield the full force of EU sanctions against Moscow.