16-02-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

16-02-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Friday, February 16, 2018

Greek PM: Athens won’t accept, allow dispute of sovereign rights; cites EU, NATO membership

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reiterated on Thursday that Athens will not allow nor accept any dispute of Greece’s sovereign rights, speaking to coast guard officers at the shipping ministry in Piraeus days after a particularly serious incident in the eastern Aegean between Greek and Turkish vessels.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1321236/greek-pm-athens-wont-accept-allow-dispute-of-sovereign-rights-cites-eu-nato-membership

FYROM proceeds with airport, road renaming

The decision taken by Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his cabinet to rename the country’s main airport and a main highway has been made official. The alterations are meant to be a goodwill gesture as talks over the name issue with Greece continue.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/225886/article/ekathimerini/news/fyrom-proceeds-with-airport-road-renaming

ND leader in all-out attack against coalition

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis launched a fierce attack Thursday on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his coalition partner, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, in connection to the Novartis case, the economy and foreign policy matters.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/225882/article/ekathimerini/news/nd-leader-in-all-out-attack-against-coalition

Jan. 22 Eurogroup to decide immediate or delay disbursement of latest Greek bailout tranche

Three pending “prior actions” are reportedly stalling the disbursement of 5.7 billion euros in bailout money to Greece by European creditors, with a scheduled Eurogroup meeting on Monday expected to decide on when the loan tranche will flow into Greek state coffers.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1321545/Jan-22-eurogroup-to-decide-immediate-or-delay-disbursement-of-latest-greek-bailout-tranche

Greece among most miserable economies, according to Bloomberg index

Greece ranks as the joint-fifth most miserable economy in 2018, according to the forecasts made in Bloomberg’s Misery Index.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/225860/article/ekathimerini/business/greece-among-most-miserable-economies-according-to-bloomberg-index

Consumer price index reverts to negative in January

Greece’s annual headline consumer price index turned negative in January at -0.2 percent year-on-year, from 0.7 percent in the previous month, statistics service ELSTAT data showed on Thursday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/225866/article/ekathimerini/business/consumer-price-index-reverts-to-negative-in-january

ATHEX: Utilities lead bourse higher

Buyers have returned to the Greek bourse, bringing handsome gains for the vast majority of local stocks on Thursday, although the low trading volume suggested this was more likely a case of profit-taking than confidence in Athinon Avenue.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/225881/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-utilities-lead-bourse-higher

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KATHIMERINI: New Democracy accepts the challenge of the PM’s office about the Novartis case

ETHNOS: Capital controls are going to ease

TA NEA: Heated incident at the Maximos mansion [PM’s office] on the night that the Turkish coast guard vessel rammed a Greek vessel near the islets of Imia

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Lawsuit of Samaras is also a far-right Manifesto

AVGI: Shouts by former PM Samaras, whispers by New Democracy leader Mitsotakis

RIZOSPASTIS: Workers to protest on 21 February against auctions and confiscations

KONTRA NEWS: Novartis officials on FBI videos: “Tell the minister no more kickbacks for him if he does not sign”

DIMOKRATIA: Erdogan wants to go to war

NAFTEMPORIKI: The 10 commandments of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue regarding tax-fines

Lithuania’s big day: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is in Lithuania today to take part in a commemoration marking 100 years since the signing of the Baltic country’s act of independence. The Economist reckons Lithuania would like a quieter future.

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS

JUNCKER’S SPITZEN IMAGE: Incoming Playbook author Florian Eder got his hands on a report by the European Political Strategy Center (the EU’s in-house think tank) on why the Spitzenkandidat process should stay for the 2019 European election. The paper looks into some lessons learned from 2014, chief among them the need to start campaigning earlier to give the candidates time to build visibility, and the need for better TV coverage.

Key quote: “Multilingualism provides a clear advantage, and knowledge of the three working languages of the EU institutions can be considered quasi pre-requisites,” the paper says. Translation: Candidates should be able to campaign in France and Germany in their respective languages. “Executive experience is necessary given the scope of the tasks at hand. And finally, the credibility and effectiveness of the candidate will be bolstered if they are considered by the European Council as ‘one of their peers.’” Get your personal copy of what leaders might have on their tables next week here.

Who fits the bill? If Jean-Claude Juncker hadn’t already ruled himself out of running for another term, Playbook would suggest he fits the bill perfectly. Others in the same boat include Alexander Stubb and Guy Verhofstadt. While Ursula von der Leyen passes the language test she hasn’t been a national leader.

Potential candidates lacking on the language front: Michel Barnier, Jyrki Katainen, Margrethe Vestager.

Playbook reality check: If you have something useful to say in one language, the message will travel. If you’re speaking Eurobabble, it doesn’t matter how many languages you say it in: the result will be the same political dead end.

SPEAKING OF POTENTIAL SPITZENKANDIDATEN — MEET ALEXANDER STUBB: The feature guest of this week’s EU Confidential podcast is Alexander Stubb, the former prime minister of Finland and now vice president at the European Investment Bank.

Listen now by clicking here | Download to listen offline via Apple Podcasts.

Will Stubb run for Commission or Council president? He’s open to it. “If someone was asking if I’ll go back to national politics, the answer is no. But European politics is always an appealing affair to me,” he said. Stubb’s pros as a candidate include that he’s from a Nordic country (they’ve never held the Commission presidency), speaks five languages, and has worked for four other EU institutions. Cons include that he’s not the only qualified Finn. POLITICO’s Finnish sources suggest Stubb will not try to elbow past Jyrki Katainen — his compatriot, party colleague, and fellow marathon sports enthusiast.

EU budget realism: Having been part of EU budget negotiations since 1999, Stubb was unequivocal. “The EU budget is not going to grow, especially after Brexit, so then you’re going to have to come up with different types of ideas of leveraging or getting more bang for the buck or for doing more with less.”

Learning on the job: Stubb says he “didn’t realize the EIB was the biggest multilateral bank in the world.”

EUROGROUP — GREEK AID DISBURSED ‘VERY SOON’: Ahead of Monday’s Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers, an EU official said €5.7 billion would be disbursed to Greece “very soon,” according to Kathimerini. “Maybe they will be ready for Monday, possibly not,” the same official is quoted as saying.

EU BUDGET — AUDITORS WANT MORE DEMOCRATIC OVERSIGHT: The European Court of Auditors in a reflection paper called on the EU to be more transparent in its budget, with full democratic oversight of all EU finances, and more emphasis on “value added.”

EU BUDGET — STRATEGIC INVESTMENTS BY THE NUMBERS: The European Commission has a new website outlining how much each country has benefited from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (also known as the Juncker investment plan).

LEFT HAND, RIGHT HAND: The EU wants to recycle all its plastics by 2030. But what if those plastics have chemicals in them that have since been deemed dangerous? Ginger Hervey on policies that don’t mix.

PARTY PEOPLE — EU ACCREDITS NEW FAR-RIGHT PARTIES FOR ELECTION FUNDING: The Alliance for Peace and Freedom, which includes Greece’s Golden Dawn and Germany’s National Democratic Party, and the Alliance of European National Movements, set up by Béla Kovács, a former Hungarian MEP accused of being a Russian spy, successfully registered as an pan-EU parties. Nikolaj Nielsen has the story.

NATO — NEW ATLANTIC JOINT FORCE COMMAND: At a meeting in Brussels, defense ministers representing NATO allies agreed to establish a new Joint Force Command for the Atlantic “to help protect sea lines of communication between North America and Europe,” with timelines and resourcing to be agreed in June.

OXFAM SCANDAL — NGO TO APPOINT INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATOR: Oxfam today announced the creation of an independent commission to carry out “a wide-ranging review” of the charity’s practices and culture, made up of women’s rights experts. The charity also said it would create a new global database of accredited referees to “end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references.” It will also triple funding to over $1 million and double the number of people working on “safeguarding processes.” The 2011 internal investigation into staff involved in sexual and other misconduct in Haiti will also be published once the identities of innocent witnesses have been secured. Read the action plan here.

South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu stepped down as an Oxfam ambassador Thursday.

MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE CORNER

The three-day Munich Security Conference kicks off today. The agenda focuses on the future role of the European Union as a global actor and its relations with Russia as well as the United States. Other topics include the growing threat to the liberal international order; conflicts in the Middle East; political developments in the Sahel region; and arms control issues.

The curious case of the missing commissioner: The European Commission’s Dimitris Avramopoulos was scheduled to give a closing speech at this pre-Munich Security Conference event. Playbook’s source in the room said organizers announced at the last-minute he would not be speaking. Avramopoulos has denied allegations of corruption during his time as Greek health minister, before he joined the European Commission.

ON TODAY’S AGENDA: German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, her French counterpart Florence Parly, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, Qatar’s Sheik Tamim Al-Thani and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg give opening statements.

EU-NATO defense cooperation panel: Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen, Estonian Defense Minister Jüri Luik, European Defense Agency Chief Executive Jorge Domecq and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. From 5:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.

Tech and democracy: Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt, Microsoft’s Brad Smith and Facebook’s Alex Stamos discuss technology’s impact on democracy from 5 p.m.

The international order: Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the threat to the liberal international order, followed by a panel made up of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Japanese Foreign Minister Tarō Kōno, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso María Dastis. From 10:30 p.m. to 11:45 p.m.

SATURDAY SPEECH DAY: Germany’s Sigmar Gabriel starts proceedings, followed by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, Jean-Claude Juncker, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Herbert Raymond McMaster, national security adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump.

DIGITAL POLITICS

ATTACK ON THE KILLER ROBOTS: When weapons can think for themselves, human rights activists and soldiers alike get alarmed, reports POLITICO’s Janosch Delcker. “A global coalition of human rights activists, philanthropists and thinkers is fighting to ban lethal autonomous weapons now being tested by militaries and arms manufacturers. And their supporters include people who could be taken out of the firing line by the new systems — soldiers.” Florian Kling, a technology specialist in the German military, says: “This conscience of the individual soldier, tied to basic laws and values, is lost.”

COMMISSION GIVES TICK TO GOOGLE+, SLAMS FACEBOOK AND TWITTER: Social media companies are still failing to comply fully with the EU’s consumer rules, the European Commission said Friday. Google+ has improved its performance, but Facebook and Twitter still need to rectify how they tell consumers when their content is flagged for taking down and their contracts canceled.

EU NATIONAL NEWS

POLAND — PM VISITS BERLIN TODAY: Morawiecki will meet Angela Merkel in what the Berlin Policy Journal considers an important test of German-Polish relations and Poland’s position in the EU. Merkel is expected to test the foundation of Warsaw’s recent constructive rhetoric. Agenda items include next steps in the EU’s Article 7 rule of law complaint, the new EU budget, Nord Stream 2 pipeline and the Polish Holocaust law. Polish relations with Israel also seem to be smoothing out.

GERMANY — MAJORITY OF SPD BACKS GROKO: Two-thirds of supporters of Germany’s Social Democrats back their party joining Angela Merkel’s conservatives in another grand coalition, according to a Kantar Emnid poll for the Funke group of regional newspapers released today. Thirty percent want a new election. More from WAZ.

FRANCE — FLIRTING WITH OLAF SCHOLZ: Will the likely new German finance minister splash out on Europe as he did on a concert hall in his home city of Hamburg? France hopes so, write Pierre Briançon and Florian Eder. “Remember that the ideal, fantasy German government for France is Merkel at the head of an SPD government,” a French diplomat jokingly told Pierre and Florian. “It doesn’t happen, of course, in the real world. But the closer you get to that, the happier Paris is.”

GREECE — FORMER PM SUES TSIPRAS OVER CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS: Former New Democracy Prime Minister Antonis Samaras filed a suit against Alexis Tsipras, saying “he is responsible for the horrible conspiracy that is being put together. It has been so badly designed that it is falling apart on its own.”

ROMANIA — WILL JUSTICE MINISTER TRY TO OUST DNA BOSS? Romanian Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, who had been summoned back to Bucharest from Japan, used a press conference Thursday to say he will evaluate the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) before parliament next week. He may decide to oust the DNA chief prosecutor, Laura Codruţa Kövesi — a past member of the POLITICO28 list of movers and shakers — who has become the face of Romania’s anti-corruption fight. Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă plans to visit Brussels to defend her government’s record on the rule of law. (The last time she tried to do that — via an ill-conceived email to all staff in the European Parliament — it blew up in her face.)

Kövesi came under pressure this week, after Vlad Cosma, a former Social Democrat MP indicted for trafficking influence, presented what he said were audio recordings showing DNA prosecutors fabricating criminal evidence, according to local media outlet Republica. Last night, President Klaus Iohannis came out in support of DNA, saying “DNA and its leadership are doing a very good job in my opinion and this attempted attack only confirms that.”

HUNGARY — GOVERNMENT ‘UNSTOPPABLE’ ON SOROS LAWS: At a press conference Thursday, János Lázár, a government spokesman, said Budapest would go ahead with plans to introduce tough new rules on NGOs supporting migrants, even if it triggered infringement proceedings from the European Commission. “We are unstoppable on this issue,” he said.

BULGARIA — GOVERNMENT BACKS AWAY FROM VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN CONVENTION: Prime Minister Boyko Borisov cited strong opposition from religious groups and political parties across the spectrum for his government backing off plans to ratify the Istanbul Convention. The country’s opposition Socialist Party (which includes Sergei Stanishev, Party of European Socialists president), triggered the crisis at the end of last year when it said it would vote it down in parliament. The EU signed the convention last year, but some countries — including the U.K., Ireland, Croatia and Greece — have not yet ratified it.

BREXIT 360°

IRISH BREXIT IMPACT ANALYSIS: There’s no scenario that provides even neutral news for the island’s economy, according to a study published by the Irish government.

LOVE ME LIKE EU DO: Pro-EU forces are uniting to push MPs to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal in parliament, helped along by a summer rock concert and a mobile app. Organizers are ditching the numbers and fear-driven centrist referendum campaign in favor of the tactics used by Labour and Momentum in the 2017 general election campaign, writes POLITICO’s Charlie Cooper.

CUSTOMS UNION THOUGHT BUBBLE: Business lobby group the Institute of Directors today suggests in a report that the U.K. “should seek a bespoke, partial customs union with the EU,” which would cover “industrial and processed agricultural goods, removing the need for U.K. manufacturing firms to face costly ‘rules of origin’ that could render a tariff-free deal meaningless for many companies in these sectors. At the same time, it would allow the U.K. the freedom to forge its own trade policy and seek free trade deals with other countries in areas not covered — meaning we could remove tariffs on raw agricultural products from the world’s poorest countries.”

BEYOND EU

KOSOVO — A YOUNG COUNTRY STILL BEING SHAPED: On the 10-year anniversary of its independence from Serbia, half of Kosovars want to move West. The others want to shape its future, write Lorenzo Sassi and Emanuele Amighetti in this photo essay for POLITICO.

ETHIOPIA — LATEST AFRICAN LEADER TO RESIGN: Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn submitted his resignation on Thursday amid political turmoil in Africa’s fastest-growing economy, reports the Washington Post. It comes a day after Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, was forced out of office by the ruling ANC party.