13-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

13-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Investments facing problems at Halkidiki, Elliniko, airports

Investors continue to have a tough time in Greece, but the next few days will be crucial for two of the country’s biggest projects: the gold mines in Halkidiki, northern Greece, and the development of the old Athens airport plot at Elliniko. Thessaloniki airport has also felt some turbulence.


Moody’s: Eldorado’s plans to suspend investment in Greece is credit negative

Moody’s Investors Service commented that Eldorado Gold Corporation’s announcement that it plans to suspend investment in its assets in Greece is credit negative but has no immediate impact on the company’s B1 rating and stable outlook.


Minister rails over Fraport’s management of 14 recently privatized airports; company issues point-by-point denial

Greece’s relevant minister on Tuesday took aim at one of a handful of landmark privatizations finalized under the current leftist-rightist coalition government’s watch, saying the consortium that took over 14 regional airports hasn’t done a better job so far than the previous state-run managements.


Island mayor threatens suit as oil spill spreads

Clean-up crews were scrambling Tuesday to contain the spread of an oil slick on the island of Salamina, near Athens, caused by a small tanker that sank over the weekend in the Saronic Gulf.


Blue Star Patmos leaks large quantity of fuel off Piraeus

Efforts to tow the Blue Star Patmos ferry boat from the port of Ios in the Cyclades to Piraeus, which began Friday after the vessel ran aground in late August, have resulted in a fuel leak, according to Coast Guard officials.


ISAP work stoppages are called off

The work stoppages at Line 1 of the Athens Metro scheduled for Tuesday evening and for Friday afternoon have been suspended. Therefore all services on the Piraeus-Kifissia electrical railway line (ISAP) will run as normal this week.


Aegean swings from losses to profits in Q2

Aegean Air has flown from losses to profits, as in the second quarter it recorded pretax earnings of 23.2 million euros, contributing in the growth of the tourism market and the economy in general. At the same time, it is hoping for the best in its procurement of new aircraft from the world’s biggest constructors.


OPAP Q2 net profit drops 34 percent

Greece-based OPAP, Europe’s fifth-biggest betting firm, posted on Tuesday a 34 percent drop in second quarter net profit compared to the same period in 2016, hurt by a one-off litigation charge and rising operating costs.


ATHEX: Rise restricted to blue chips on ATHEX

The return to normalcy for international markets after the recent turbulence has yet to be reflected on the Greek bourse. Blue chips edged higher for one more day on Tuesday, but there is no sign of the momentum that carried upward the stock market in May and June, hence declining stocks outnumbered winners.







KATHIMERINI: The investment [regarding the development of the old airport area] in Elliniko hangs by a thread

TA NEA: Government obsessions and evasions regarding large investments

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Toxic and untaxed: Eldorado Gold’s investment under scrutiny

AVGI: WHO: Healthcare reforms in Greece are exemplar

RIZOSPASTIS: Vicious tax-heist with series of confiscations and threats

KONTRA NEWS: Revelation: Who set up the great scam in Skouries involving Eldorado Gold

DIMOKRATIA: Athens Imam is a mobbing bomb

NAFTEMPORIKI: Government pace to follow the rhythm of the bailout programme review

Today the EU bubble is either convulsed with or dreading European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Expect him to talk for around 90 minutes in a combination of English, French and German, focusing on the EU’s positive momentum, areas in which the EU leads globally (free trade and policing the digital world, for example), unprecedented levels of European defense cooperation and the need to find common ground between Eastern and Western Europe.

Watch here from 9 a.m. Follow POLITICO’s live blog of the speech from 8 a.m. here. Playbook will also write a “What he said, what he meant” analysis as quickly as typing allows.

THE TRADE TRAP DOOR: Juncker is expected to announce two big initiatives he hopes will simultaneously defend and boost European industry, including a new regulation that would cement EU countries’ right to block Chinese takeovers of companies (POLITICO has the draft) and a fast-tracked process for free trade agreements that will slice out controversial investor protection clauses.

A risky strategy: Juncker may be about to set the EU on a course of negotiating trade deals that are lacking in vital protections for companies operating abroad. While this may work in trade agreements with New Zealand and Australia, Juncker’s first targets, it’s less clear whether the approach is appropriate for countries like India. European companies would be exposed to the prospect of the Indian government nationalizing a European-owned factory at will. POLITICO’s Hans von der Burchard and Jakob Hanke have the details.

JUNCKER’S MID-TERM REPORT CARD: In a sentence: It could have been a lot worse. Juncker set a high bar for his more “political” Commission and hasn’t always cleared it, but he has pulled the Commission out of its 2016 doldrums. One year ago, Juncker said the EU must not be consumed by Brexit, and he has played a useful role in avoiding that fate, including via the selection of Michel Barnier as the bloc’s Brexit negotiator. And comparisons with other world leaders are doing Juncker favors — If there was no Donald Trump or Theresa May in office, he may fare worse.

Highest marks: Eurozone, mastering bureaucracy, setting the EU’s new narrative.

Lowest marks: Brexit, EU law enforcement, personal discipline.

Read the full report card here.

How insiders are spreading the Commission gospel …

Paweł Świeboda‏, deputy head of the European Commission’s Political Strategy Center, tweeted: “Countdown to #SOTEU 2017: super-vaccinated by uncertainty across channels, seas and oceans, #EU moves on to take care of its future at 27.”

Juho Romakkaniemi, chief of staff to Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, tweeted: “I think #EmploymentEU is the most urgent challenge and should be part of the #SOTEU debate.”

Margaritis Schinas, Commission spokesman, demonstrated the military-level planning behind the speech and sales process in this photo from the SOTEU situation room. He described the speech as “an important political moment for the European Commission, for Europe, for the president … and for the world.”


State of the Juncker, POLITICO’s interview with Juncker.

How times flies … last year a certain Playbook lead writer made a confession about the 2011 SOTEU speech.

How State of the European Union speeches have evolved since 2010.

This time last year Juncker worried about Dutch, French and German populists.

Playbook survey: What is the worst mistake Juncker could make? Baiting Eastern Europe, according to around one third of the 500 survey respondents. Results here.

COMMISSION — INCHING TOWARDS COURT SHOWDOWN WITH POLAND: The European Commission said Tuesday that Poland had failed to address flaws in legislation to overhaul its judicial system and gave Warsaw a month to comply or face court action. POLITICO’s David Herszenhorn and Quentin Ariès have the details.

COMMISSION — CLARITY ON ONLINE CONTENT RULES: Brussels is poised to take its first steps toward EU-wide clarity on illegal hate speech, online terrorist content and child pornography on social media, reports Joanna Plucinska for POLITICO Pro Technology subscribers. A communication is set to be unveiled by the end of the month.


EFSI agreement: The European Parliament, European Commission and the Estonian presidency reached a provision agreement overnight on an upgrade to the so-called Juncker Investment Plan, also known as EFSI 2.0.

Budget discussions under way: MEPs on the budget committee, led by the EPP’s Siegfried Mureșan, are finalizing the Parliament’s position on the 2018 budget, ahead of what are likely to be difficult discussions with the Estonian presidency. “What the Council proposes is a budget for a weaker EU,” Mureșan told Playbook, pointing to a proposal to cut spending by €1.7 billion. “We would not be able to deliver what people of Europe expect and what they deserve with such a budget.”

EPP wants NGO funding limits: The Parliament’s center-right bloc has put forward suggestions to Green MEP Sven Giegold’s report on transparency and ethics in the EU institutions, calling for “politically active organizations” to be “eligible for funding only if they argue by means of verifiable facts.” The EPP also wants to restrict funding to organizations which “demonstrably disseminate untruths.” The vote takes place Thursday.

Immunity lifted for far-right MEP: The Parliament voted to lift the parliamentary immunity of National Front MEP Marie-Christine Boutonnet, who is involved in an on-going investigation by French authorities into the misuse of parliamentary funds.

Fire safety: Months after the Grenfell Tower fire in London, MEPs are set to ask European Commissioner for the Internal Market Elżbieta Bieńkowska what more can be done to strengthen EU standards on flammable building products.

Another Dieselgate debate: At the request of the Parliament’s Green group, MEPs will discuss with the Commission actions taken by Germany and Austria to reduce car emissions that don’t tackle the existing fleet of highly polluting cars. “They’ll all end up in Eastern Europe,” Green MEP Bas Eickhout told Playbook, referring to what might happen if the Commission doesn’t step in to ensure a common EU response.

COUNCIL — BULGARIAN FAR RIGHT SET TO SHOCK BRUSSELS: Described by Council of Europe human rights experts as “ultra-nationalist/fascist,” the United Patriots — a coalition of three far-right parties that form part of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s government in Sofia — are set to play a central role in Bulgaria’s six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, which starts in January. Playbook’s own Harry Cooper with the story.

COUNCIL — FUTURE OF WORK EVENT: The Estonian presidency today hosts an event on the future of work, featuring the International Labor Organization’s Guy Ryder, the European Commission’s Director General for Employment Michel Servoz and the labor ministers of Sweden, Estonia and Slovenia. Agenda here. Watch live here from 9:30 a.m.

GERMANY — FAR-RIGHT AFD GAINING SUPPORT: The far-right Alternative for Germany is third in the polls, according to a new survey. The SPD is on 23.5 percent and the CDU on 36.5 percent.

Merkel backs down on Turkish arms export ban: Citing the need to continue fighting Islamic State, German Chancellor Angela Merkel rowed back on an announcement made the previous day by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel that major arms exports to Turkey would be halted over the worsening human rights situation in the country. Reuters has more.

Spot the propaganda: The Alliance for Securing Democracy has launched a German-language tool designed to highlight Russian propaganda and disinformation on Twitter ahead of Germany’s September 24 election.

BREXIT 360 …

Delayed: After days of rumors, the U.K. government requested the fourth round of Brexit talks start a week later than planned, on September 25, in “recognition that more time for consultation would give negotiators the flexibility to make progress.”

Westminster Brexit vote: MPs backed a motion Tuesday to give the U.K. government a majority on key law-making committees in Westminster, the second crucial parliamentary victory for the government in two days after the EU (Withdrawal) Bill passed with a majority Monday.

Theresa’s friendly fixer: After a disastrous election result in which Prime Minister Theresa May lost dozens of seats, a change of tack was required to keep the government ship steady. In large part this has fallen to Damian Green, quickly promoted to first secretary of state by May. Liked by Leavers and Remains alike, Green has spent the past months knocking heads together to keep things on track. POLITICO’s Tom McTague sat down with him for an interview.

Taking back control means giving up control: In his latest Europe at Large column, Paul Taylor describes the hard reality of going it alone in an age of globalization underpinned by internationally agreed rules and regulations, many of which are written in Brussels. London’s negotiating strategy “appears focused on how to create a facade of sovereignty to appease the flag-wavers, while seeking pragmatic arrangements to stick as close as possible to the EU’s single market and customs union.”

Out of her depth: The British PM is “a lady out of her depth,” according to Philippe Lamberts, the Belgian MEP and co-chair of the Green group. “She is reaching the very edge of her skills now. And I think it’s starting to show.”

FRANCE — MACRON SURVIVES PROTEST: Between 220,000 and 400,000 people protested across France Tuesday against a controversial overhaul of the country’s labor code, proposed by President Emmanuel Macron, who was in the Antilles surveying damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Tuesday’s turnout was significantly lower than at last year’s protests organized against a less-ambitious reform put forward by former President François Hollande, reflecting a grudging acceptance of Macron’s reforms. POLITICO’s Nicholas Vinocur has more.

SPAIN — CATALAN TENSIONS RISE: The Catalan government and Madrid are at loggerheads over the October 1 independence referendum. After Spain’s public prosecutor told the region’s police to investigate anyone involved in organizing the ballot, First Minister Carles Puigdemont suggested they might ignore the demand. “I think the police, all of them, have priorities in life; removing a ballot box is not investigating crime,” he said Tuesday. The Constitutional Court formally suspended the secession bill, publishing a list of individuals including the Catalan government and the speaker of the Catalan parliament who needed to be told to obey the law. H/t The Spain Report

SPECIAL REPORT — URBAN MOBILITY: More than half the world’s people now live in cities, and local governments are trying to figure out how to move them efficiently without choking on pollution or killing off the vitality of urban life. POLITICO takes a close look at Amsterdam, a city that is one of the most successful in Europe in trying new ways of moving people and comes fourth in our top 20 urban mobility ranking of the Continent’s largest cities (check out our interactive map). We also highlight some of the best ideas in urban mobility and some of the biggest flops.

TRUMP WORLD — WOODY DEFENDS HIS BOSS: “I can promise you, when you get to know him, you’ll like him,” Woody Johnson, the new U.S. ambassador to the U.K., said of President Donald Trump in his first speech in the job Tuesday in London. The Telegraph has more.

RUSSIA — POLL STATION MATHS: Reuters reporters stationed outside a polling station in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz counted 256 voters casting ballots in a regional election Sunday. According to official results, 1,867 people voted there.