15-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

15-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Friday, December 15, 2017

PM Tsipras’ initiative for “social Europe”

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras raised the issue of an agenda for social Europe in practice during the European Council summit, taking an important initiative towards that direction.


Mitsotakis: Reduction in tax rates ‘non-negotiable’

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis this week again reiterated his party’s standing position that a reduction in tax rates in the country is “non-negotiable”, regardless of whether institutional creditors accept the Greek side’s requests for lower annual primary budget surplus targets – as a percentage of GDP.


Hooded assailants vandalize Thessaloniki university premises, attack students

Police were investigating an attack on Thursday by between 10 and 15 hooded youths who entered the premises of the University of Macedonia and started smashing things using iron bars and wooden sticks.


Greek state primary budget surplus at 4.658 bln euros over Jan-Nov 2017

The Greek state budget posted a primary surplus budget of 4.658 billion euros over the Jan-Nov 2017 period, down from a figure of 5.757 billion euros over the same 11-month period of 2016 but significantly higher than the 3.074 billion-euro target.


ECB lowers emergency funding cap for Greek banks to 24.8 bln euros

The European Central Bank has lowered the ceiling on emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) Greek banks draw from the domestic central bank by 1.0 billion euros to 24.8 billion euros ($29.33 billion), the Bank of Greece said.







Due to yesterday’s strike of journalists there is no newspaper circulation today


It’s not just Prime Minister Theresa May who’s under pressure from demanding political factions, unruly coalition partners and wafer-thin majorities. For many of the heads of state and governments in town for the last summit of the year, it will have been a pleasant few hours away from political acrimony back home.

In Denmark, Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s minority government is wobbling over a dispute about the 2018 budget, while the Netherlands didn’t have a government for over a year. Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni is facing an election in the coming months, with the country’s legislature gummed up due to an obstructive opposition. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis is at loggerheads with the Social Democrat-led coalition government, much like his Lithuanian counterpart Dalia Grybauskaitė is with her government. Croatia’s Andrej Plenković’s majority in parliament has all but vanished after a coalition partner quit earlier this year, while in Dublin Leo Varadkar’s government almost collapsed a few weeks ago. Austria’s Christian Kern just lost an election, the Czech Republic’s Andrej Babiš — the Council’s newest member — looks set to rely on the country’s Communists to prop up his government, and across the border in Slovakia, Robert Fico is struggling to keep his junior coalition partners happy.

Bulgarian Boyko Borissov is only in power thanks to a deal with a fractious group of far-right nationalists, while Jüri Ratas — whose government is currently in charge of the Council of the EU — came to power only after Estonia’s Social Democrats pulled the plug on his Reform Party predecessor. Slovenia’s Miro Cerar is facing down opposition calls for his resignation and Malta’s Joseph Muscat continues to fend off allegations of corruption. Meanwhile on the Iberian peninsula, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy faces an era-defining election in Catalonia and Portugal’s António Costa has to keep his Communist coalition partners on side. Oh, and let’s not forget Germany, which is currently without a government.

The British prime minister may be isolated when it comes to this summit’s topics, but at least in the rarefied atmosphere of the European Council, she’s among others who feel her pain.

Happy families, sort of: Things were running mostly smoothly at the EU leaders’ summit Thursday until around 10 p.m., when migration policy came up for discussion. Before that, leaders signed off on social policy, defense and climate change conclusions with no big surprises. The 25 heads of state who opted into the Permanent Structured Cooperation — that definitely is not the same as a European army — had a photo shoot, flanked on each side by military chiefs. European Council President Donald Tusk said its activation was “good news for our allies and bad news for our enemies.” POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi has the details. Over dinner, EU leaders rolled Russia sanctions over for another six months and agreed on a statement saying their position on Jerusalem was unchanged in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

But then it was time for migration. Talks continued until after midnight, without any clear resolution to a debate that’s raged for some two years, despite Donald Tusk’s attempts this week to move EU leaders on from the divisive topic of mandatory quotas. POLITICO’s Matthew Karnitschnig reports on how the debate flared up.

Debutants: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who reiterated his predecessor’s call for Brussels to back off and let Warsaw continue overhauling its judiciary, and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who came up with the term “migro-mafia” to describe the people traffickers who he said should be the real target of the migration policy debate.

Quotable I: “There is no human right to travel to the European Union,” said Slovak Pime Minister Robert Fico.

Quotable II: “The message is Europe is not simply a Bancontact [a Belgian bank card] when it’s needed, without showing responsibility and solidarity when it is necessary,” said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Quotable II: “People are going to laugh, but for me the European Council is like the Cannes festival of the EU,” POLITICO’s Maïa de La Baume told Deutschlandfunk.

Upgraded: The Irish briefing room has been upgraded, Playbook’s Quentin Ariès confirmed.

What to expect today? The EU27 will debate the European Commission’s eurozone reform proposals, which some say is overreach by President Jean-Claude Juncker. Don’t expect fireworks, though. The debate has been framed as more of an exploratory exercise during which the Commission, Emmanuel Macron and his Italian allies are likely to be put back in their respective boxes. Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank chief, will update leaders on the EU’s economy, which is doing so well it may actually make his life harder, reports POLITICO’s Pierre Briançon for Financial Services Pros.

Brexit for brunch: EU leaders will today decide whether to allow phase 2 of Brexit talks to begin, having last night literally applauded May after she had updated them on progress. “She is our colleague, Britain is a member state and so we are … polite and friendly people,” President Juncker said. Merkel said May “has made good offers,” meaning leaders will likely give the green light, though she noted “there are of course many tasks that still need to be solved and time is pressing.” POLITICO’s Charlie Cooper and Tom McTague report on how May’s visit went down.

Relive the EU’s Cannes on the POLITICO live blog, which will resume this morning at around 8 a.m.


What happens in Brexit Phase 2? From trade talks to WTO curveballs — the Brexit negotiations are about to get really tricky, report Simon Marks and David M. Herszenhorn.


EUROGROUP — ONE DUTCHMAN IS OUT, ANOTHER IN: The Eurogroup will remain at least partially Dutch, even if Jeroen Dijsselbloem is headed out the door. Hans Vijlbrief, a Dutch economist from the country’s finance ministry, will replace Thomas Wieser as chair of the Euro Working Group, the body that does the technical preparation ahead of the Eurogroup itself, in January, two eurozone diplomats told POLITICO. More for Financial Services Pros here.


COMMISSION — VESTAGER REJECTS CHARGE SHE LET GERMAN AIRLINE FAIL: According to German airline Lufthansa, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is the antitrust grinch who stole Christmas. Lufthansa had hoped to acquire bankrupt Air Berlin subsidiary Niki, with little more than a pat on the back from her. When she didn’t quickly sign off on the idea, the airline dropped the plan and lashed out. Vestager hit back Thursday, saying “all the way back when the sales process started we informed the administrator that the deal with Lufthansa would pose very serious competition concerns.” POLITICO Transport Pro subscribers can read more here. In convenient timing for Vestager, German business newspaper Handelsblatt named her politician of the year.

COMMISSION — TRADE DEAL UPDATE: Cecilia Malmström, European commissioner for trade, is “quite confident” that key elements of the EU-Mercosur trade talks can be closed “in a matter of weeks,” Hans von der Burchard reports for POLITICO Trade, and Agriculture and Food Pros from Buenos Aires.

LOBBYING — EAST-WEST GULF IN WHO PAYS TO LOBBY THE EU: A whopping 95 percent of the €1.7 billion spent last year by companies, NGOs and trade associations lobbying the EU institutions came from EU countries that joined the bloc before 2005. POLITICO’s Harry Cooper, Ginger Hervey, Etienne Bauvir and Ioannis Antypas crunched the data.


MEDIA MOVES: Nine European press agencies, including AFP, DPA, EFE, ANSA and Belga, called on internet giants to be forced to pay royalties for using news content on which they make vast profits.


AUSTRIA — NEW GOVERNMENT COMING? Sebastian Kurz told President Alexander Van der Bellen that coalition talks are in the home straight, with a new government likely before Christmas. Come for the news, stay for the gratuitous cute dog pic. h/t Pepijn Bergsen

FRANCE — NEW CENTER-RIGHT PARTY: Agir, France’s newest political movement, offered shelter to conservatives who aren’t happy at their party’s lurch to the right under newly elected leader Laurent Wauquiez but still won’t jump on the bandwagon of Macron’s centrist La République en Marche.

HUNGARY — JOBBIK TO PROTEST FINE: Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party will hold a major protest in front of the ruling Fidesz party’s headquarter today over a fine of over €2 million levied by the country’s State Audit Office for alleged campaign finance irregularities, a move which could deplete all its campaign funds ahead of the spring election.

UK — HIGH COURT BANS HOMELESS DEPORTATIONS: The U.K.’s High Court ordered the government to stop deporting homeless EU citizens. Read the full ruling here | Press release from FEANTSA, the European Federation of National Organizations working with the Homeless, here.


#BRUSSELSLESSWHITE: Two EU national leaders have ethnic minority heritage: Portugal’s Antonio Costa and Ireland’s Leo Varadkar.

OPINION — LET REFUGEES INTERN AT THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION: Across Europe, governments and companies are working out how best to integrate refugees who’ve arrived on the Continent since the the migration crisis kicked off in 2015. The European Commission, which already offers internships to third country nationals, could benefit from opening such programs to refugees, sending “a powerful message of welcome,” write Elizabeth Collett and Aliyyah Ahad.

WHAT THE DAVOS CROWD IS READING — ABOUT THEIR JANUARY ADVENTURE: The World Economic Forum wrote to delegates with the theme of next month’s gathering: “Creating a shared future in a fractured world.” There will be more than 200 new sessions around four objectives: “Driving sustained economic progress, navigating a multipolar and multiconceptual world, overcoming divisions in society and shaping the agile governance of technology.” A beefed-up cultural program in 2018 is one lure for execs wondering whether to make the trip back up the Swiss alps, including a world premiere performance by La Scala principal dancer Roberto Bolle with the Cameristi della Scala. A-grade artists who will be at Davos include Fayyad (Syria), Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya), Mehdi Ghadyanloo (Iran) and Trevor Paglen (U.S.), science fiction author Hao Jingfang (China), photographer Platon (U.S.), choreographer Jin Xing (China) and musicians will.i.am and Yo-Yo Ma (U.S.).


The mobility minister for Brussels has taken a lot of flak for his recently released vision for a unified Brussels. Playbook talks to him about the debate Brussels has to have. Smet has a very interesting way of campaigning to revolutionize and lead Brussels: by comparing the city to a whore. We also discussed surreal horror stories. Top quote: “There are too many politicians who can get votes in this city by saying ‘no’ … We are a slow city. I want to become a fast city … we could do so much better [but] everything is fragmented.”

Smet’s city role models: Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna.

Big picture: Smet wants to get rid of all private cars in 15-20 years and replace them with autonomous shared vehicles.

The battle for Brussels: Smet casts governance reform as a generational fight. The current leadership class are “dinosaurs” and act like a “junta.”

A deal for Eurocrats: You should be able to get all your government documents and transactions done in English, but be required to vote at both local and regional level.

Listen now | Download this episode to listen offline via Apple iTunes.


PUTIN’S ANNUAL PRESS CONFERENCE WRAP: Russian President Vladimir Putin asked U.S. members of Congress, “Are you normal at all?” during an annual press conference that’s become such a bore that Republic.ru, an online magazine, refused to cover it this year, instead offering readers a 50 percent discount on subscriptions, reports the New York Times.

CHINA’S SHARP POWER: This week’s Economist cover story is about the new shape of Chinese influence. And here’s a new report by the Egmont Institute looking at Chinese investment in individual European countries.