14-02-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

14-02-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tsipras speaks to Turkish PM amid increasing tension in Aegean

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim on Tuesday evening amid rising tension in the Aegean.


Athens, Skopje agree to continue name talks

The foreign ministers of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) issued a joint statement on Tuesday in which they vowed to continue negotiations aimed at resolving the longstanding name dispute between the two countries.


New Democracy says ‘yes’ to Novartis investigation, ND spox Spyraki says

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) called for full light to be shed on the Novartis case from the outset and said “yes” to a proposal for a preliminary investigation committee in Parliament, ND spokesperson Maria Spyraki said on Tuesday.


Public revenues target for 2018 exceeds 51 bln€

The revenue target for Greece’s Independent Public Revenues Authority in 2018 reaches just more than 51 billion euros, up from 46.85 billion euros in 2017, with the memorandum-mandated goal remaining a primary budget surplus of 3.82 percent of GDP.


Greek bond yields keep increasing

Greek bond yields continued to rise Tuesday, increasing worries about the cost of borrowing the country will face once it has to cover all of its financing needs through the market. At the same time Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos is adamant that Greece will not need a precautionary credit line and is embarking on a series of contacts in an attempt to attract investor interest.


Over 30 pct of salary workers are part-timers

The jobs market in Greece has seen a fresh increase in the share of flexible forms of labor, with more than one in three positions today comprising part-time or temporary employment with wages below 400 euros per month.


ATHEX: Stocks feel global jitters, Turkey row

The despondent atmosphere prevailing on international markets continued to affect Greek stocks and sovereign bonds on Tuesday. According to observers, the latest row with Turkey also weighed on the benchmark at Athinon Avenue.







KATHIMERINI: Ankara flirts with a ‘heated incident’ in the Aegean Sea

ETHNOS: Erdogan: The violator of the Aegean Sea

TA NEA: Erdogan sets the Aegean Sea on fire

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Dangerous bullying in the Aegean Sea

AVGI: Turkish provocations in the Aegean Sea and the Cyprus region

RIZOSPASTIS: Turkish provocations in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus. Participation in NATO does not guarantee any safety for the people

KONTRA NEWS: Don’t let ex-Novartis VP Frouzis escape like Chistoforakos of Siemens

DIMOKRATIA: Provocative nonsense by Thessaloniki Mayor Boutaris on the name-dispute with Skopje

NAFTEMPORIKI: The new growth & development bill includes investment programs worth 300 million Euros

RIP Prince Henrik of Denmark: The prince died late last night in his sleep at the age of 83 at Fredensborg Palace, the Royal Danish House announced this morning. His wife Queen Margrethe and sons Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim were at his side. Henrik last year said he didn’t want to be buried next to his wife in protest of never being named king consort.

LOOK EAST TO THE HIMALAYAS TO SEE THE FUTURE HISTORY OF THE WORLD: Bruno Maçães is back examining the global political horizon for POLITICO, and finds it shifting eastward to the top of the world. He wonders if a grand bargain can be struck between a retreating United States and China and India.


COUNCIL — MINISTERS WANT TOTAL CONTROL OF MOOTED EUROPEAN MONETARY FUND: EU governments want an elite agency to fight the next economic crisis, and they want the European Commission and Parliament shoved to the sidelines, writes POLITICO’s Bjarke Smith-Meyer. The Commission’s idea, proposed in December, is to upgrade the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) — a €500-billion bailout fund — into a powerful new European Monetary Fund (EMF). But if governments share control with MEPs and Eurocrats, finance ministers fear the work of the eventual EMF would get too political to function. So finance ministers have decided to turn to a little-known task force that’s connected to the Council’s Economic and Financial Committee … to draft changes to the ESM treaty that enable the creation of the EMF, minus any pesky oversight by MEPs. Udo Bullman, the acting leader of the Socialists in European Parliament, described the ministers’ approach as a “grave mistake.”

COUNCIL — OMBUDSMAN FINDS MALADMINISTRATION: The EU’s Ombudsman found the Council of the EU’s lack of transparency “constitutes maladministration” and “undermines citizens’ right to hold their elected representatives to account,” according to a report released Tuesday.

COMMISSION — REMINDER OF TODAY’S EU INSTITUTIONAL REFORM PROPOSALS: Later this month, EU heads of state and government will meet to discuss overhauling the EU’s institutions to make them more democratic ahead of the 2019 European election, as well as to discuss the bloc’s next seven-year budget cycle. The Commission will today publish its proposals on institutional reform and budget priorities to contribute to this discussion. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is scheduled to speak to journalists at midday.


Oxfam’s nightmare continues. A senior executive quit Tuesday; the official in charge of protecting Oxfam staff and clients said the CEO knew of but effectively ignored reports of misconduct; Oxfam hired the aid worker at the center of the scandal two years after he was forced out of another British humanitarian agency over claims about his use of prostitutes; and Oxfam International Chairman Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight was arrested in a separate corruption investigation, Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office said.

What about the EU’s annual €32 million to Oxfam? You can expect the EU to come under pressure to demonstrate it has adequate checks in place to stop its money being misused by development NGOs. The EU provides nearly as much funding to Oxfam as the U.K. government, which has come under much greater pressure to act. So far the Commission has volleyed back to Oxfam, via a spokeswoman who said the charity must “fully clarify the allegations with maximum transparency.” While that information will be interesting, it won’t clarify whether the EU’s safeguards function. If journalists don’t apply pressure on Oxfam, you can be sure foreign ministers will when they discuss the EU’s aid agenda Thursday in Sofia.

Did you know? Oxfam is one of the NGOs with the biggest EU lobbying efforts, with 12 registered lobbyists and 61 meetings with EU officials in 2017. It spent close to €1 million lobbying the EU in 2016-17 and participates in EU advisory bodies.

Lessons from Oxfam scandal: Karl Wilding, head of public policy at the U.K.’s National Council for Voluntary Organizations, writes for POLITICO: “We unreservedly apologize to the victims; we take safeguarding extremely seriously; we tried to deal with the problem and informed stakeholders; we need to get better so as to minimize the chances of it happening again or, even better, eradicate completely the chance of it happening again.”

Not the first time: This scandal is not unique. The press and whistleblowers have been reporting on sexual abuse of victims in disaster zones by humanitarian aid workers and U.N. peacekeepers for years. Back in 2008, Save the Children U.K. reported children as young as six were being forced to have sex with aid workers and peacekeepers in return for food and money. The Washington Post reported on similar claims in 2016.


Florian Eder, the incoming Brussels Playbook author (you didn’t hear? Catch up), spoke with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković when he landed in Brussels Tuesday evening, and learned the leader of the EU’s newest member strongly supports the Spitzenkandidaten process. Plenković knows the European election system well: He was an MEP elected in 2014. “Jean-Claude Juncker was my Spitzenkandidat, so in a way we worked for each other. It was important to tell voters that [I] come from a bigger political family, the EPP. I felt the Spitzenkandidat somehow linked the otherwise very national debates to a European context,” he told Florian. Plenković meets Juncker and Council President Donald Tusk individually today.

Spitzenkandidat: Plenković thinks it will be difficult to abandon the Spitzenkandidat system, though many national governments would like to. “One of the objectives is to have a larger turnout, another one to give bigger legitimacy to the president of the Commission,” and for that you need something “linking legitimacy plus the support of the European Parliament plus the European Council.” Hence the Spitzenkandidat system.

Transnational MEP lists: He’s got a practical argument against French President Emmanuel Macron’s idea. “I ask myself how Croatian candidates on such a list would have the time and means to make themselves visible in Turku in Finland, in Galway in Ireland, in Saarbrücken in Germany. This system is an appealing idea but requires more fine-tuning,” Plenković said, adding it would have been premature to introduce the system in 2019.

Merge Tusk and Juncker? Why not? “I know what Jean-Claude thinks and I’ll ask Tusk tomorrow about his opinion,” Plenković said. “I think I need to see what the Commission comes up with, and then we’ll need to discuss among peers, and then decide whether economizing now is the right time. Ten years [how long the Council presidency has existed] is not a long practice by European standards.”

A smaller Commission? “Not yet. I have a specific view, coming from a country that has had a commissioner for only five years … I don’t think this is something that should happen in the 2019-to-2024 term.”


WARM WAR IN SYRIA: Russian President Vladimir Putin may have declared victory in his Syrian campaign two months ago, but Bloomberg reports a strike by U.S.-led coalition forces in the east of Syria last week killed as many as 200 troops working for Russian military contractors. The raid was likely the first such deadly conflict between the former Cold War rivals since the Vietnam War, according to Russian experts. Both sides so far have tried to keep the details secret to avoid escalation.

Syria’s war will mutate into a regional conflict, risking a wider conflagration, writes the Washington Post.

ICYMI, NATO’S GENEROUS FRIENDS: In a major demonstration of support for NATO military build-up, the U.S. and Germany have offered to host two new NATO commands aimed at deterring Russian aggression. The plans involve a North Atlantic planning and strategy command to keep shipping lanes protected from enemy submarines and a logistics command designed to transport troops more quickly across Europe in case of a conflict. U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will discuss the plans with other NATO defense ministers next week in Brussels. A decision is expected in July.


THE NETHERLANDS — FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS OVER PUTIN CLAIMS: Little lies can have big consequences, Halbe Zijlstra found Tuesday, when the Dutch prime minister accepted his resignation. 

ITALY — SCANDAL-RIDDEN BERLUSCONI STRIKES A SAFE POSE: Alberto Mingardi writing for POLITICO argues that “European partners and international observers seem to have developed a new sympathy for the scandal-ridden former prime minister, whom they see as a safe card in next month’s election.”

Playbook reality check: Berlusconi-love could have a simpler explanation. The European People’s Party is the master of protecting and promoting one of its own under the guise of European interest.

ITALY — 5STARS ACCUSED OF FRAUD: Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi accused the populist 5Star Movement of being a “Noah’s ark of frauds, launderers and scroungers” over a scandal in which some members of parliament falsely claimed to return half their salaries to the state.



DELUSIONS: It’s not easy for the U.K. to roll over EU trade agreements because it needs to prove (and frequently can’t) that its exports are homemade. Hans von der Burchard calls it the the great “Made in Britain” delusion in this article for POLITICO Brexit, Transport and Trade Pro subscribers.

ILLUSIONS: ICYMI, Jean-Claude Piris, lawyer to EU national governments for 22 years in Brussels, has a Twitter thread on why Theresa May’s Brexit approach falls short. In it, Piris extends the usual cake metaphor to “buy a cake, eat it, keep it and keep the money!”

CONTUSIONS: Boris Johnson takes to the stage in central London this morning to deliver a speech titled: “The Road to Brexit: a United Kingdom.” It had been billed as Johnson’s “liberal” case for Brexit. In the speech, the British foreign secretary will warn that reversing Brexit would be a “disastrous mistake” that would lead to “permanent and ineradicable feelings of betrayal.” In coming days, other bruised and battered U.K. Cabinet members will follow Johnson in delivering their own “Road to Brexit” speeches. Theresa May will address the Munich Security Conference Saturday, while near the top of the bill are Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Brexit Secretary David Davis.

CLARIFICATIONS — HOW CUSTOMS UNIONS WORK: The EU loves them; the British government doesn’t. POLITICO’s Jakob Hanke explains how customs unions work.

IMMIGRATION PAINS: The U.K.’s home affairs select committee released a report this morning warning the government’s failure to set out its new borders and registration schemes is causing unnecessary anxiety for EU citizens and could lead to backlogs at the border.

BREXIT PODCAST DU JOUR: Paul Adamson interviews Robert Peston, who says: “My greatest worry about Brexit is the opportunity cost … what I regard as the more serious structural problems of the U.K. are not being addressed … some of those structural problems will actually get worse as a result of Brexit. That does not mean that we have to reverse Brexit at all costs.”

TRADE DEAL-HATING BRITS MAKE GLOBAL BRITAIN A TRICKY SELL: More Brits than French signed that anti-TTIP petition. Duncan Robinson’s fingerprints all over this piece.


TURKEY — ERDOĞAN COMPARES BORDER WITH CYPRUS TO AFRIN: Relations between Ankara and EU member countries continue to weaken ahead of a summit in Varna, with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggesting the situation on its borders with Greece and Cyprus is comparable to that in Afrin, a Syrian province it recently sent troops into.

US — TRUMP’S CHIEF-OF-STAFF JOHN KELLY INCREASINGLY ISOLATED: “With few real confidants inside the West Wing — and no principal deputy to help him run the White House — the retired Marine general finds himself increasingly isolated inside the West Wing,” writes Eliana Johnson.