16-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

16-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Monday, October 16, 2017

Defense, energy high on agenda of Tsipras talks with Trump

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to outline what role he wants Greece to play in the Eastern Mediterranean and discuss the role of the International Monetary Fund when he meets on Tuesday in Washington with US President Donald Trump and on Wednesday with Vice President Mike Pence.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222455/article/ekathimerini/news/defense-energy-high-on-agenda-of-tsipras-talks-with-trump

IMF’s Thomsen reiterates: No more austerity measures demanded of Greece; lower fiscal target for 2018 achievable

IMF Europe chief Poul Thomsen on Friday more-or-less reiterated that the Fund is not requesting from still bailout-dependent Greece to take more austerity measures.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1284974/imfs-thomsen-reiterates-no-more-austerity-measures-demanded-of-greece-lower-fiscal-target-for-2018-achievable

Econ minister: ‘Huge interest’ by investors in recovering Greek economy

Greek Economy Minister Dimitri Papadimitriou referred to “huge interest” by investors vis-a-vis the Greek economy and the still bailout-dependent country, speaking from the United States over the weekend.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1285309/econ-minister-huge-interest-by-investors-in-recovering-greek-economy 

ECB could lend support to Greece by buying NBG debt

The European Central Bank could buy covered bonds issued by National Bank of Greece under its asset purchase scheme, providing indirect support for the Greek economy, according to financial sources familiar with the matter.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222443/article/ekathimerini/business/ecb-could-lend-support-to-greece-by-buying-nbg-debt

Biggest Greek pension fund posts 532.7 mln€ surplus over first 9-month period

Revenues of Greece’s largest and almost universal social security fund, known by its Greek-language acronym of EFKA, are posting particularly positive numbers over the first nine months of the year, with a surplus of 532.7 million euros recorded on an adjusted fiscal basis.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1285330/biggest-greek-pension-fund-posts-5327-mln-surplus-over-first-9-month-period

Greek lenders count on interbank market

Senior Greek bank officials visiting Washington in the context of the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have had contacts with major European and US lenders aimed at expanding their funding lines via the interbank market.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222436/article/ekathimerini/business/greek-lenders-count-on-interbank-market

Greece eyes November timeframe for bond swap

Greece is eyeing a November timeframe to launch a swap of 20 small bonds for four new ones ahead of its scheduled emergence from its bailout program next summer, bankers said on Friday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222440/article/ekathimerini/business/greece-eyes-november-timeframe-for-bond-swap

Greek state petitions bankruptcy court over troubled Hellenic Shipyards

The Greek state late last week filed a petition with an Athens first instance court requesting insolvency proceedings against the troubled Hellenic Shipyards S.A at Skaramangas under the newly revised bankruptcy code, which foresees the rapid sale of assets and withdrawal of old shares.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1285305/greek-state-petitions-bankruptcy-court-over-troubled-hellenic-shipyards

ATHEX: Friday the 13th works out well for bourse

Friday’s was the most remarkable trading session so far this month on the Greek stock market, with the benchmark rising to a three-week high, the blue chip index topping 2,000 points and the banks index returning above the 800-point mark. Even trading volume improved, registering the highest level of the week, but observers note that it will take notable growth in turnover for the price growth to be sustained.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222435/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-friday-the-13th-works-out-well-for-bourse

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SUNDAY PAPERS

KATHIMERINI: The difference between Greece and Cyprus in terms of taxation and contributions is chaotic

TO VIMA: Terror over the city after the assassination of well-known lawyer Zafeiropoulos

REAL NEWS: Big Brother to monitor state debtors

PROTO THEMA: The Social Security Fund IKA confiscated the house of a low-paid seamstress

AVGI: The three steps towards the post-memorandum era: bailout programme review, debt restructure and “clean exit” to the markets

RIZOSPASTIS: The goals of the PM’s visit to the US are dangerous and antipopular

MONDAY PAPERS

ETHNOS: Messages of trust from Washington

TA NEA: Wishes and more measures

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Scandal in the National Center for Quality and Technology Control in Healthcare

KONTRA NEWS: Greece is a strategic ally to the US

DIMOKRATIA: Heist against pensions will take place again in 2019

NAFTEMPORIKI: Two months for the conclusion of the bailout programme review

Theresa May will sweep into Brussels today accompanied by David Davis and Olly Robbins to begin a final Brexit lobbying onslaught ahead of Friday’s EU leaders’ summit. The Brits will have a working dinner with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, his chief of staff Martin Selmayr and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, reports POLITICO’s Florian Eder. The last such dinner ended in debacle. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has until 10 a.m. to tell Madrid he is withdrawing Catalonia’s independence claim, otherwise the capital will disband his government and call new elections. Meanwhile in Austria, the center-left’s Christian Kern is cleaning out his desk this morning so 31-year-old right-winger Sebastian Kurz can take over as Austrian chancellor, though it’s unclear what the party make-up of his coalition government will be.

NOT QUITE ALL RIGHT ON THE NIGHT IN AUSTRIA …

Voter turnout increased to nearly 80 percent and the right (ÖVP) and far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) topped the polls, winning a combined 57 percent of the vote. Left-wing parties (the Social Democrats and Greens) mustered just 31 percent. Catch up on the day’s events via POLITICO’s live blog and get the full analysis from Matthew Karnitschnig here.

Who is Sebastian Kurz? “Conservative,” “vain,” “whizz kid,” “populist,” “right-wing Macron.” Born in 1986 and just six years out of university, the man set to become Austrian chancellor has attracted many labels. Der Spiegel | The Economist

Green dream ends: A long-time Greens activist — Alexander Van der Bellen — may be president of Austria, but there may be no Greens in the new parliament after the party, led by Ulrike Lunacek MEP, dropped from 12 percent in 2013 to about 4 percent, the threshold for claiming parliamentary seats. By comparison the ruling Social Democrats held their vote share steady at 27 percent, though they lost ground to both major right-wing parties.

Kurz’s coalition options: On the surface the Social Democrats look roundly beaten and the right-wing parliamentary majority should form government. It’s not that simple. The FPÖ is nothing like a new force in Austrian politics: It has been yapping at the heels of government for 30 years. A coalition government between Kurz and the Freedom Party would set Austria moving towards Hungary rather than Germany and that would come with a price in both Brussels and Berlin. With virtually the same number of votes as the far right, Kern’s Social Democrats could still provide Kurz with a stable majority and a center course in European politics. It would be a marriage of convenience if Kurz does choose the center-left: There’s no love lost between the parties.

A blast from the past: In early 2000, the FPÖ, led by Jörg Haider, entered a coalition with the ÖVP, prompting the EU’s other 14 governments to suspend bilateral diplomatic relations with Vienna and refuse to back Austrian candidates for international posts. The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly for a resolution condemning Austria’s legitimization of “the extreme right in Europe.” Pierre Moscovici, then France’s minister for European Affairs and now a European commissioner, condemned the right-wing Austrian coalition. Will he be as vocal today, Playbook wonders?

COUNCIL — FOREIGN AFFAIRS COUNCIL: Foreign affairs ministers are in Luxembourg today to discuss U.S. President Donald Trump’s intention to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. They will also adopt conclusions on the situation in Myanmar and are expected to sign off on new sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program. Full agenda here.

COMMISSION — FRENCH PM IN TOWN: Juncker, his vice presidents and three commissioners meet French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe in Brussels today.

PARLIAMENT — VOTE ON POSTED WORKERS: MEPs on the employment committee will vote on controversial changes to “posted workers” rules, putting pressure on EU governments to agree their own position on the draft law. Read the proposals prepared by MEPs Elisabeth Morin-Chartier and Agnes Jongerius here.

EIB — NEW PODCAST SERIES: The European Investment Bank launched its first podcast in a new series, the Dictionary of Finance.

ELECTIONS IN 2019 — BARNIER’S POTENTIAL CANDIDACY CONTINUES TO TREND: Arnaud Leroy, a former French MP and close ally to Emmanuel Macron, told Euractiv that Michel Barnier could be Macron’s candidate for Commission president for the 2019 European elections. “We are rather open-minded as we have already ministers coming from Les Républicains,” Leroy said. Playbook attended a dinner with top Green officials last week who are also taking the prospect seriously.

THE FIRST GREAT EU NOVEL: Viennese author Robert Menasse moved to Brussels in 2010 to start working on what would become “The Capital,” which won this year’s German Book Prize — the nation’s equivalent to the Prix Goncourt and the Man Booker. After countless academic papers and newspaper articles, Captain Europe, and an anthem stolen from Beethoven, the EU can now count dramatic literature in its repertoire, writes Konstantin Richter.

FOOD — HUNGARY SLAMS DUAL FOOD STANDARD: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán attacked companies that change product recipes for different countries and threatened to take action if Brussels drags its feet. Speaking last week at a special summit on the issue in Bratislava, Orbán said “some multinational companies want us to eat waste” in “a violation of the internal market rules. It is the duty of the Commission to save the internal market.” More information for POLITICO Agriculture and Food Pro subscribers.

COUNTER EXTREMISM: A two-day conference on terrorism prevention begins Tuesday with European Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King, Sir John Jenkins, executive director at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, former Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski and Dartmouth College professor Dr. Hany Farid in attendance.

DIGITAL POLITICS — THE US WINS EUROPE’S DIGITAL RACE: American tech firms like Facebook, Google and Amazon dominate Europe’s digital economy, making it difficult for home-grown startups to reach scale in a market that’s far from unified. And while the stats suggest digital whizz kids and venture capitalists are mobile, a scratch below the surface offers a more nuanced picture. Mark Scott reports for POLITICO Pro Technology subscribers.

How Putin made me break up with bitcoin: Vijai Maheshwari, a Ukraine-based entrepreneur, explains why Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interest in bitcoin turned him off the digital currency.

PARTY PEOPLE — LET’S COME TOGETHER: The Socialists & Democrats will host a two-day event, “Building the progressive future together,” Wednesday and Thursday to coincide with the European Council summit, with U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Spain’s PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez attending.

GERMANY — MERKEL’S MISSED OPPORTUNITY IN LOWER SAXONY: Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) looked set to score a much-needed victory in a regional election Sunday, following a crushing defeat in last month’s national election. The loss by Merkel’s party means Germany’s national upper house will remain firmly under left-wing control.

MOST INTERESTING MEETING OF THE WEEK: Donald Trump will meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece Tuesday.

FRANCE — MACRON SPEAKS: French President Emmanuel Macron talked to Der Spiegel about Europe, his shared love with Angela Merkel for details and EU nerdiness, how he drafted his big Sorbonne speech on the EU’s future, and how French voters perceive his “aloofness.”

Separately, the French president said Sunday in his first live TV interview since taking office that he told Trump not to tear up the nuclear arms deal with Iran. He also said he was seeking to strip Harvey Weinstein of his Legion of Honor following accusations of sexual harassment against the Hollywood film producer.

ROMANIA — PARLIAMENT WANTS TIGHTER CONTROL OF STATE NEWS AGENCY: The Romanian senate’s culture committee issued a report calling for a draft bill to tighten state oversight of state-owned news agency Agerpres, prompting its director Alexandru Giboi to complain about political interference.

BREXIT 360° …

British ministers were at each others’ throats in the weekend papers and TV shows, with no particular clarity or end in sight. Those pinning their hopes on Chancellor Philip Hammond’s dovish Brexit instincts are feeling lonelier this week after his ham-fisted description of the EU as “the enemy,” and his patently false rationalization of the blunder.

But first, this one’s going to hurt: The Telegraph’s International Business Editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard this morning revealed a huge write-down of Britain’s finances. “Half a trillion pounds has gone missing. This is equivalent to 25 percent of GDP,” according to Bank of America’s Mark Capleton. “The worry is that the pound could really go. If the history of the past 40 years is any guide, it could fall another 20 percent once it does,” the Bank of New York Mellon’s currency strategist Simon Derrick says. “You can very easily construct a scenario where this goes pear-shaped for Britain,” adds David Owen of investment bank Jefferies. “The risk is the Bank of England may ultimately have to raise rates to defend sterling. We have been here before when Britain had to go the IMF in 1976.”

Beware the Swiss model: For some Brits, the Swiss model — and the high level of access to the European single market it offers — looks attractive, were it not for a catch which troubles even the mildest of Euroskeptics: If the Swiss break a single clause in any of the numerous bilateral agreements that make up their trade deal with Brussels, their whole economic relationship comes tumbling down.

Gearing up for the Brexit summit: As previewed by Playbook Thursday evening, EU diplomats broadly agreed on Friday evening to prepare for EU-U.K. trade talks.

Paris and Berlin plays bad cops: Jacopo Barigazzi and Maïa de la Baume report France and Germany pushed for tougher wording in the Council’s conclusions by including a clear reference to the European Court of Justice. Playbook’s source said that around 20 EU ambassadors, particularly Italy, backed European Council President Donald Tusk’s milder approach.

Opinion: Disappearing ‘Great’ Britain: The ruling class is eating itself alive and Ireland may be forced to save itself from London. How about turning Northern Ireland into a special economic zone that is integrated with the south but constitutionally part of the U.K., asks Pat Leahy.

Podcast du jour: Paul Adamson talks to Nick Clegg, former MEP and U.K. deputy PM. Clegg’s new ‘How to stop Brexit’ book is now on sale. Top quote: “If the U.K. finds itself in an impasse in a year’s time if parliament does not endorse the May deal then I’m convinced, following a number of conversations I have had in Europe, that we would in effect ‘stop the clock,’ ‘press the pause button.’”

SWITZERLAND — GOLD IN THE WATER! A new study has found over a million Swiss francs worth of gold are flushed down the toilet each year.

FYROM — PRO-WEST GOVERNMENT FACES LOCAL ELECTION TEST: FYROM’s ruling Social Democrats claimed victory in municipal elections Sunday. The vote was widely seen as a test of the pro-EU, pro-NATO center-left government.

BEYOND EUROPE …

WHO TRUMP ATTACKS MOST ON TWITTER, by Axios.

SOMALIA BOMB KILLS HUNDREDS.

COMMUTE READING — THE EROSION OF DEMOCRACY: Several good articles in the latest Journal of Democracy, here.

BRUSSELS CORNER …

BY THE NUMBERS — EU PANEL WATCH ANNUAL REPORT: Only one in 10 panels at EU events in Brussels is gender-balanced and one quarter are all-male, according to activist group EU Panel Watch, which analyzed 380 events during its 2017 “monitoring month.” Women made up exactly the same percentage of panelists as they did in 2016 (34 percent). Takeaway: “We are NOT impressed.”

ONE SUMMIT: Over 200 young anti-poverty activists from across Europe have descended on Brussels for the annual ONE Summit. They will discuss the 2018 EU budget and an upcoming relaunch of the Global Partnership for Education with MEPs and the Commission.