15-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

15-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Friday, September 15, 2017

Minister says resignation offer was ‘wordplay,’ as furor grows over oil spill

Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis on Thursday sought to play down an earlier statement that his resignation over an oil spill that has sullied the Saronic Gulf’s coastlines “is at the prime minister’s disposal,” as the main opposition called for him to step down.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221650/article/ekathimerini/news/minister-says-resignation-offer-was-wordplay-as-furor-grows-over-oil-spill

IMF presses for asset quality review, stress tests for Greek banks

International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokesman Gerry Rice on Thursday confirmed that the Fund considers that new austerity measures in still bailout-dependent Greece may be possible.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1276462/imfpresses-for-asset-quality-review-stress-tests-for-greek-banks

Greek, Italian leaders call for fairer EU migration rules

At a joint summit on Corfu on Thursday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni declared that European countries should share the burden of dealing with migration.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221676/article/ekathimerini/news/greek-italian-leaders-call-for-fairer-eu-migration-rules

Private sector shouldering the burden, industrialists say

The union of Greek industrialists (SEV) has painted a dire picture of the state of the Greek pension system, saying basically that it is running on empty, and that the country’s beleaguered private sector has taken on a disproportionate share of the burden to support pensioners and the public sector.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221677/article/ekathimerini/news/private-sector-shouldering-the-burden-industrialists-say

Budget fears as revenues slump

Below-target revenues in the first eight months of the year have led to the creation of a 1.7-billion-euro hole in the budget, according to the State General Accounting Office, which for the first time this year has brought the primary surplus below the target of the midterm fiscal plan, albeit marginally: It amounted to 3.55 billion euros, against 3.573 billion provided for in the budget.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221678/article/ekathimerini/business/budget-fears-as-revenues-slump

Greece’s jobless rate eases to 21.1 pct in second quarter

Greece’s jobless rate fell to 21.1 percent in April-to-June from 23.3 percent in the first quarter, data from the country’s statistics service showed on Thursday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221648/article/ekathimerini/business/greeces-jobless-rate-eases-to-211-pct-in-second-quarter

ELA dependence dropped 11 percent in August

Emergency central bank funding to Greek lenders dropped by 3.7 billion euros, or 11 percent, in August compared to the previous month, Bank of Greece data showed Thursday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221679/article/ekathimerini/business/ela-dependence-dropped-11-percent-in-august

ATHEX: Index drops to 3-month low

The International Monetary Fund’s insistence that Greek banks undergo asset quality reviews inflicted losses of 5.61 percent on their sectoral index at the Athens bourse on Thursday, sending the benchmark to a three-month low.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221673/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-index-drops-to-3-month-low

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KATHIMERINI: Delayed response to the oil spill caused the disaster

TA NEA: Government of limited responsibility

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Battle against time for the cleaning of the Saronic Gulf

AVGI: We should learn from our mistakes. The shipwreck case brings legal gaps to light

RIZOSPASTIS: The shipwreck in Salamina and the pollution of the Saronic Gulf reflect the growth supported by capitalists

KONTRA NEWS: The Church is outraged with the Germans that removed the crosses on products depicting Greece

DIMOKRATIA: “Take away their homes!” The creditors make outrageous demands for red loans

NAFTEMPORIKI: IMF insists on stress tests for banks

MIGRATION — ORBÁN WINNING THE POLICY WAR: You will almost never find an official, let alone a minister, willing to admit it on the record. But privately, they tell POLITICO that while Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán lost the summer of 2015 to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he is winning the migration policy war. As European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says Europe remains the continent of solidarity, hardline policies prevail, Jacopo Barigazzi reports.

EU’s relocation policy to become voluntary: A temporary two-year policy requiring EU countries to accept refugees relocated from their EU country of arrival (often Greece or Italy) expires September 26. According to Playbook’s source at Thursday’s meeting of justice and home affairs ministers, the plan will (technically) not be extended. Instead, the Commission will make the policy voluntary and merely encourage participation, while it pushes national governments to agree to permanently reform the Dublin regulation, the system which determines which country is responsible for granting asylum to refugees who enter the EU.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — DRAFT BULGARIAN EU PRESIDENCY CALENDAROf note, only three home affairs ministers’ meetings definitively scheduled, suggesting there won’t be quick reform of the Dublin regulation, or a quick entry for Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen zone.

LATEST EU CONFIDENTIAL — WITH TOMÁS VALÁŠEK: Russia is “downright lying” about military exercises and playing a dangerous game, according to the Slovak ex-envoy, now head of Carnegie Europe. Valášek also said European defense cooperation is now serious business, and applauded Juncker’s State of the Union olive branch to Eastern Europe.

Listen here | Read Playbook’s story here.

COUNCIL — SANCTIONS OVER UKRAINE ANNEXATION RENEWED: Until March 15.

COUNCIL — EUROGROUP STARTS IN TALLINN: Eurozone finance ministers will discuss the Greek program and the euro area’s “economic resilience,” with reactions to Juncker’s State of the Union in the margins.

COMMISSION — NEW CODE OF CONDUCT FOR COMMISSIONERS: As announced by POLITICO 10 days ago, there’s an updated code of conduct for European commissioners past and present, including a longer cooling-off period and tougher rules to manage potential conflicts of interest, plus an independent board to enforce the code.

SOTEU FALLOUT …

Romania declares State of European Union victory: Europe Minister Victor Negrescu claimed Romania received the most mentions in the speech. Negrescu said that if new EU agencies for labor and cybersecurity end up being created as a result of Juncker’s plan, they would have to be located in a country that doesn’t already host one, and suggested Sibiu is likely to host the EU’s first post-Brexit summit in 2019.

Portugal PM opens College of Europe year: Already enthusiastic about the Strasbourg speech, António Costa will deliver his own keynote today: the College of Europe commencement speech at 2:15 p.m. to students of the “Simone Veil Promotion,” the name of the current class.

Swedes do care about EU: While Aftonbladet and Dagens Nyheter went light on SOTEU coverage, Swedish public broadcaster STV carried the Juncker speech live and commented upon it in its studio. Further Swedish coverage here and here. Thanks to all readers who got in touch.

Economist’s Charlemagne: The Economist’s Tom Nuttall writes Juncker is betting on “stealth” integration and “a single vision for the EU that is broad enough to include everyone.”

JUNCKER’S YOUTUBE INTERVIEWS:

Three YouTubers interviewed Juncker live Thursday. His main message: Forget the past (Brexit), let’s talk about the future.

Would he hire a woman wearing a headscarf? “[I] would never refuse a woman wearing a veil at the Commission. I don’t see how a veil could offend other religious sensitivities, or how it could prevent you from going to an office or a meeting. … I don’t see why we should ban this religious sign.” You can watch the exchange here.

On Brexit: “My working hypothesis is that there will be a deal. … I do not envisage a so-called hard Brexit.”

On the Catalan referendum: “The Commission in principle does not take part in internal debates in a country. … We have always said that in this matter, we would respect the rulings of the Spanish Constitutional Court and the Spanish parliament. But it is clear that if there were a yes to independence if that day were to come, we would respect the choice.” But he said Catalonia shouldn’t expect to become an EU member straight after any referendum. “It will have to follow the same accession procedures as those member states who joined in 2004.” Juncker said the same would apply to an independent Scotland and even, he joked, to an independent Northern Luxembourg. Full transcript here (h/t The Spain Report).

Juncker’s response response caused convulsions in Spain over a translation issue. Euronews, which hosted the YouTube interviews, suggested in a tweet that Juncker would respect a vote for independence in Catalonia without reflecting the full context of what he said.

PARLIAMENT — TOUGHER TRANSPARENCY RULES: MEPs backed Green MEP Sven Giegold’s non-binding report on measures to boost transparency and ethics in EU institutions. The EPP decided not to back the call, and controversial last-minute proposals put forward that would have clamped down on NGOs receiving EU funds were rejected.

PARLIAMENT — MEPs CANCEL MYANMAR VISIT: In light of the recent developments in Myanmar, the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade postponed indefinitely its visit in the country. The chairman of the committee, Bernd Lange (S&D, DE), said: “Under these conditions, the ratification of an investment agreement with Myanmar is not possible.”

IT’S JUST A CAKE! POLISH MEPs’ BIRTHDAY WAR: The hotel Jarosław Wałęsa, an MEP and son of Poland’s former president, was staying at in Strasbourg prepared a birthday surprise for him: a cake. Things took a turn when PiS MEP Zbigniew Kuźmiuk ate it without permission. Here’s the hotel’s apology note to Wałęsa, and his response to Kuźmiuk, whom he called a “scoundrel.”

CLIMATE — EU MEETS CANADA, CHINA … US FLOATS AWAY: Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and his counterparts from China and Canada come together at a summit in Montreal this weekend, joined by 30 other major governments, en route to the United Nations General Assembly. Cañete then heads to New York, where he will attend a meeting Monday morning organized by Gary Cohn, U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser and director of the National Economic Council.

HUNGARY — ORBÁN’S NEW BATTLE AGAINST ‘SOROS PLAN’: Origo news site reported on a closed-door meeting in which the Hungarian prime minister outlined plans for another national survey, this time aimed at highlighting an alleged “Soros plan” on migration, named after financier George Soros. Goran Buldioski, director of the Soros-funded Open Society Initiatives for Europe, told Playbook: “The challenges on migration faced at the moment have nothing to do with George Soros and the Open Society Foundations. There is no such thing as a global conspiracy against Hungary. ”

BREXIT 360 …

Visegrád Group flexes Brexit muscle in deep trade links call: The group’s foreign ministers met with U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond in Budapest. “The most wide-reaching and comprehensive free trade agreement possible must be achieved between Great Britain and the European Union to ensure that economic, trade and investor relations can continue as smoothly as possible,” Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto said.

Florence and the Brexit machine: On Thursday, Playbook reported British Prime Minister Theresa May chose Florence as the venue for her big Brexit speech September 22. Why Florence? It’s close to Guy Verhofstadt’s vineyard, the home of Machiavelli, and has a big city hall that hosts an annual State of the Union conference, so why not? Officially Downing Street said, “The U.K. has had deep cultural and economic ties spanning centuries with Florence, a city known for its historical trading power.”

And here’s a stealth picture of the front page of May’s speech. BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg tweeted it was negotiator Oliver Robbins holding the photographed notes.

Single market debate: POLITICO asked Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the British Trades Union Congress, and John Mills, the founder of consumer goods giant JML and chair of the pro-Brexit campaign organization Labour Leave, to set out their views in favor of and against staying in the single market. O’Grady on why Britain’s better off in, Mills on why it should get out.

Lib Dems still hope their time will come: Britain’s Liberal Democrats bet the house on hoovering up the pro-EU vote in June’s general election, and lost. They are still trying to understand why, reports Annabelle Dickson.

You heard about Project Fear, meet Project Cheer: Brexit Central is launching a campaign with positive news about Brexit.

SPAIN — TEMPERATURES CONTINUE TO RISE: Top two developments: Barcelona’s mayor decided not to block voting in the planned referendum (siding with the Catalan government over Madrid), and the Euronews Juncker mistranslation issue (see above).

GERMAN ELECTION CORNER …

Schulz tumbles to 20 percent support: Latest opinion polls show Martin Schulz’s center-left SPD falling further behind Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU.

Who you gonna call? Fake news busters: Mark Scott reports on German efforts to suppress false information as the country heads to the polls. Mark talks to Ben Scott, who advised Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 U.S. presidential campaign on technology and has now teamed up with Stiftung Neue Verantwortung, a digital think tank in Berlin, to bust fake news ahead of the September 24 vote.

REAL EUROPE — GERMANY AND AUSTRIA POOR DEMOGRAPHICS: New data released by Eurostat shows life expectancy from 2010 to 2014 improved in most countries, except Germany, Austria and Bulgaria.

BEYOND EUROPE …

NORTH KOREA FIRES ANOTHER MISSILE OVER JAPAN.

RUSSIA — OPPOSITION CANDIDATES WIN KEY MOSCOW DISTRICTS: A coalition of opposition parties won 14 districts in the heart of Moscow in local council elections this week. Previously, they controlled just one district. The win is mostly symbolic, reports Marc Bennetts. The councillors have little power, and city-wide, Putin’s ruling United Russia party secured about 75 percent of seats.

ICELAND — GOVERNMENT COLLAPSES: Iceland’s ruling center-right coalition has collapsed after the Bright Future party announced Thursday it would quit the government over a scandal involving the prime minister’s father. More from the Reykjavik Grapevine.

TRUMP’S AMERICA — TEFLON PRESIDENT: His approval ratings may be low, but they’re of no use to Democrats heading into a 2018 mid-term election in which they must defend Senate seats in 10 states Trump won. POLITICO’s U.S. politics team.