14-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

14-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Oil spill reaches the coast of southern Athens

The oil spill created by a small tanker that sank in the Saronic Gulf on Sunday reached the shores of the capital’s southern suburbs on Wednesday, prompting criticism that relevant authorities did not do enough to contain its spread.


Greek govt ‘about-face’ over troubled mining concession, promises 3 licenses by Thur., faster arbitration to resolve pending issues

The embattled Greek government on Wednesday said three pending licenses for the Olympiada mining complex will be issued the next day, a significant development that comes after Canadian multinational Eldorado Gold threatened to suspend operations in the country if regulatory and licensing hurdles weren’t overcome.


State experts to look for a forest in Elliniko plot corner on Thursday

A committee of the Attica Decentralized Administration – a state body not related to the Attica Regional Authority – will on Thursday conduct an inspection of part of the plot of the old Athens airport at Elliniko to establish whether a forest exists there.


Tough issues on Eurogroup agenda

Thorny issues such as the legal travails of former statistical authority chief Andreas Georgiou and the problems between Athens and Eldorado Gold regarding the Halkidiki mines will be on the agenda of the first Eurogroup meeting of the new season, which takes place on Friday at Tallinn in Estonia.


Govt official doesn’t rule out more austerity measures for 2018

A top government official in Athens on Wednesday told reporters that a commitment to achieve specific fiscal targets in 2018 still stands.


Greece to beat primary surplus target, plans more bond issues, FinMin official says

Greece expects to attain a larger-than-targeted primary budget surplus this year and plans to tap bond markets again in the coming six to seven months, a senior finance ministry official said on Wednesday.


Tourists in Greece spend far less than in Spain, Cyprus

On average, each visitor to Greece in June spent 45 percent less than their counterparts in Spain in the same month and 20 percent less than those in Cyprus, according to comparisons of official data from the three Mediterranean countries that compete for visitors in the tourism market.


Cyta telecoms puts Greece subsidiary on the sale block

Cyprus telecoms operator Cyta on Tuesday officially announced that it was fielding offers for its Greek subsidiary, either for outright purchases of the company or as part of a merger with current providers in Greece.


ATHEX: Benchmark ends seesaw session with minor losses

After a session of ups and downs on the Greek stock market on Wednesday, the benchmark and the blue chip indices ended the day with minor losses, while the majority of stocks posted moderate gains.







KATHIMERINI: Ministry of Finance distances itself from the PM’s optimism

TA NEA: Government says new fiscal measures in 2018 are not unlikely

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Crime in the Saronic Gulf

AVGI: Environmental disaster in the Saronic Gulf: Measures need to be taken and liability must be attributed

RIZOSPASTIS: Oil spill in the Saronic Gulf: The hunt for profits is the reason behind the great disaster

KONTRA NEWS: Forestry Authority employees and archaeologists are in charge of Greece and block investments!

TO PONTIKI: New Democracy can’t keep up with SYRIZA

DIMOKRATIA: EOPYY is going to return what was stolen from pensioners [due to false calculation of contributions]

NAFTEMPORIKI: New changes in taxation approaching

COUNCIL — JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS MEETING: EU home affairs ministers are in town to discuss the situation in Italy and the EU’s response to migration in the central Mediterranean. Also on the menu are counter-terrorism priorities and EU-Canada passenger name sharing. Details here.

The Estonian EU presidency is also running a two-day conference on the right to cybersecurity. Watch here.


It’s both fashionable and easy to criticize a mammoth venture like a State of the Union (SOTEU) speech. Playbook thought this year’s speech was the best of Juncker’s three efforts so far. Many of his ideas will die, but it was by anyone’s definition a blockbuster list: from fish fingers to an EU mega-presidency. Given all we know about the geopolitical cards Juncker has been dealt, Wednesday’s speech was about as deft and even-handed as could be expected from a post-Brexit Commission president riding political momentum.

Juncker’s uni-vision for Europe: One speed. One currency. One president.

Playbook’s ‘What he said, what he meant’ analysis here.


No surprise leaders were quicker to give general praise than to back specific ideas like a eurozone finance minister or single EU president. A good background read on the topic is a book (in French) by former Belgian EU Ambassador Jean de Ruyt, now at Covington-Burling. On Amazon here. Meanwhile, some leaders’ reactions were tinged with their own conflicts of interest.

The Netherlands: Prime Minister Mark Rutte called Juncker a “romantic,” then said people who have “visions” should go see a doctor — a clever way to dismiss Juncker’s ideas of a eurozone finance minister and single EU president. While cute, that line is not original: it is former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s (h/t Alberto Nardelli). Rutte has also used it before to dismiss people less ideologically flexible than he.

Rutte has a personal interest in being dismissive. It is widely known in Dutch and liberal political circles that Rutte is interested in replacing Donald Tusk as European Council president in 2019. While Rutte (a ruthless pragmatist not associated with political “visions”) could be ideal in that role, his talents are less suited to the Commission or a unified presidency, which requires vision.

Denmark: PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen wrote: “#EUCO is important member state institution. Let’s not mix roles and competences. Need @eucopresident as voice of member states,” but supported Juncker on trade.

Romania: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis welcomed the idea of holding an extraordinary EU27 summit on Brexit day, March 30, 2017. While it is as much the EU’s day as Britain’s, it would would seen as a snub to the U.K. to choose that date for such an EU convention.

Czech Republic: Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka gushed about Juncker’s comments on uniting Eastern and Western Europe, and especially his statement about dual-quality food being “unacceptable.”

Hungary: Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told Reuters he rejects the “dead-end street” of ceding powers to the EU.

Slovenia: PM Miro Cerar tweeted: “I welcome #SOTEU @JunckerEU, in particular the emphasis that ‘the rule of law in the EU is not a choice, but a duty.’ We need a more uniform, stronger #EU!”

Estonia: “I’m glad that these proposals coincide with the priorities of Estonian presidency,” Prime Minister Jüri Ratas tweeted. Though last time Playbook checked, Estonia wasn’t planning to unify EU presidencies.


A selection of media high and low, big and small, and how they treated both the ideas and the event. The takeaway: a country name-check goes a long way to shaping the coverage there.

UK: All TV and radio Playbook switched on while in London carried reports of Juncker’s Brexit regrets line, as did the London Evening Standard (which called the SOTEU “a keynote speech” and described Juncker’s proposals as a “power grab”). The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express, two of Britain’s biggest pro-Brexit papers, ran front page splashes arguing Juncker is seeking to create a United States of Europe, and pointing to that as evidence of the wisdom of leaving the bloc. Nigel Farage, writing for the Telegraph, echoed that sentiment. h/t Jack Blanchard

Austria: Der Standard focused on Juncker’s tough words on Turkey.

Belgium: Le Soir highlighted the fact Juncker picked up on Belgian Commissioner Marianne Thyssen’s idea of an EU labor agency.

Denmark: Catch Tore Keller’s DR TV analysis here.

Estonia: Postimees gave a straight summary of the speech’s key points, but Playbook had to look through 53 other articles on the home page to find one on the SOTEU.

Finland: “Juncker wants to be remembered as a reformer,” wrote Yle.

France: There were very few headlines on France’s main TV and radio stations. Le Monde reported Juncker is more cautious than French President Emmanuel Macron on eurozone reforms.

Germany: BILD was mostly a State of the Union-free zone. Top SOTEU search result: Juncker wants the euro for all EU countries.

Italy: Juncker payed tribute to Italy, reported news agency service ANSA.

Lithuania: Delfi noted Juncker mentioned Baltic states’ 100th independence anniversaries next year.

Luxembourg: Juncker’s successor as prime minister, Xavier Bettel, called the idea of an EU finance minister attached to the Commission “reality free,” while Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Asselborn insisted “Juncker is right!” More on Luxemburger Wort.

Romania: Focus on Juncker’s call for Romania to join Schengen (Digi 24).

Sweden: If there was an article on Aftonbladet’s or Dagens Nyheter’s websites Wednesday, Playbook couldn’t find it.

Global media: CNN focused on Brexit | New York Times provided a list of key points

COMMISSION — 41 DOCUMENTS THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO SEE … YET: It’s amazing what you can find amongst the EU’s official legal publications. For example, the Commission on Wednesday published on the EU transparency register 41 legislative documents covering regulations, directives, recommendations and “communications” announced in the SOTEU speech. While the documents are in the places they are legally required to be, the Commission didn’t flag them to journalists (the four documents it published are here). If you aren’t paid to look for them or can’t spend €200 an hour on a consultant to search for them, you’re unlikely to stumble across them.

You can read all 41 documents here, if you don’t want to wait for the steady drip of press conferences in the coming days (trade today, industrial policy September 18 for example). Highlights …

Free flow of data: The draft law would radically limit government freedom to restrict the movement of data. Insights here for POLITICO Pro Technology subscribers.

Trade: This document would authorize the Commission to start negotiations with international partners on a new multilateral investor state dispute settlement court. Australia and New Zealand trade negotiations are also approved. Press conference noon today.

Cybersecurity: A draft law will convert the existing Crete-based European Union Agency for Network and Information Security into a fully-fledged cybersecurity agency. Takeaways here for POLITICO Pro Tech subscribers.

Political party funding: The Commission wants to tighten funding rules.


European Labor Authority: To help manage disputes and rights of around 16 million Europeans living and working in another EU country, and the nearly 2 million who commute across borders each day.

European Cybersecurity Research and Competence CenterDetails for POLITICO Tech Pros.

Possibly also an EU-level agency to oversee car approvals, according to European Commissioner for Industry Elżbieta Bieńkowska. More here for POLITICO Pro Transport and Energy and Environment subscribers.

JUNCKER JOKER: There was a jab at Guy Verhofstadt, a perennial runner-up for top EU posts: “You can stand but you won’t win.” Regrets, they’ll have a few, could be the Brexit punchline of the year: Juncker told Euroskeptic MEPs: “You’ll regret it too.”

EUROZONE — REALITY BLURS MACRON’S VISION: The Germans are lukewarm about Macron’s push for a more integrated eurozone, complete with its own budget, finance minister, and even micro-parliament, but so are some important potential domestic allies, writes Pierre Briançon.


Battle for ministerial posts has begun: More from BILD.

AfD anti-Merkel site created by Trump-linked marketers Harris Media: It’s a bit creepy and a lot Trump.

UK — MAY TO GIVE BREXIT SPEECH IN ITALY SEPTEMBER 22: British Prime Minister Theresa May will deliver a speech on Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU September 22 in Florence.

SPAIN — THE PAIN IN SPAIN FALLS MAINLY ON ‘NO’ CAMPAIGN: A judge ordered the closure of the referendum organizer’s website. And Spain’s public prosecutor ordered an investigation Wednesday into 712 Catalan mayors who have vowed to provide logistical support for a referendum on independence called for October 1 in defiance of a ban by the Constitutional Court. But the ‘Yes’ camp seems to be winning in the court of public opinion.

Playbook analysis: The Spanish government both directly or through proxies has struggled to win the public debate around the Catalonia issue because No lacks a face. In fact, the unionist message is hardly present at all, drowned out by what has largely been a no-to-voting campaign. That’s hard for outsiders and democrats to understand.

SWEDEN — NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE AGAINST GOVERNMENT LIKELY FRIDAY: The right-wing Sweden Democrats say Stefan Löfven should be held responsible for the country’s data breach scandal.

NORWAY — ELECTION UPDATE: The four center-right parties won a combined 89 seats to the left’s 79. Two of the center-right parties aren’t keen to rejoin the government, complicating things for Erna Solberg, reports the Local.

RUSSIA — MILITARY EXERCISES ARE AN OPPORTUNITY: Keir Giles argues Russia currently faces no immediate territorial or military threats, meaning it’s unlikely to use the Zapad military exercise, to be held jointly by Russia and Belarus this week, to invade a neighbor. That gives the West an opportunity to glimpse Moscow’s capabilities.


GUILTY SECRET — FIRST MAJOR ENGLISH-LANGUAGE BOOK ON MACRON: The French Exception, by Adam Plowright, is published today.