17-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

17-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Nimetz: Term ‘Macedonia’ to be included in name proposal

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting between delegates from Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in New York, United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz said on Tuesday that his proposal to resolve the decades-old name dispute will include the term “Macedonia.”

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224977/article/ekathimerini/news/nimetz-term-macedonia-to-be-included-in-name-proposal

Tsipras calls for more support for countries hosting refugees

During a trilateral summit between Greece, Cyprus and Jordan in Nicosia on Tuesday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appealed to the international community to support countries that host large numbers of refugees as they are the ones that have the greatest humanitarian needs.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224973/article/ekathimerini/news/tsipras-calls-for-more-support-for-countries-hosting-refugees

BoG Gov. Stournaras: Central bank has an obligation to publicly warn about risks

Influential Bank of Greece (BoG) Gov. Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday reiterated that the country’s central bank has an obligation to warn, in a timely and public manner, of possible risks that may disrupt the monetary and credit stability in the country.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1312375/bog-gov-stournaras-central-bank-has-an-obligation-to-publicly-warn-about-risks

Greek budget surplus for 2017 exceeds target

The Greek state budget posted a primary surplus of nearly 1.97 billion euros in 2017, down from a surplus of 2.778 billion in 2016 but significantly higher than a 877-million-euro target, the finance ministry announced on Tuesday.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1312394/greek-budget-surplus-for-2017-exceeds-target

Farmers gearing up for road blockades

As has become almost customary at the start of each year, disgruntled farmers on Tuesday warned that they will be rolling out their tractors on the country’s highways next week.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224957/article/ekathimerini/news/farmers-gearing-up-for-road-blockades

Numerous projects in TAIPED’s business plan

The business plan of state sell-off fund TAIPED, as approved by the inner cabinet, provides for the sale of the state’s energy holdings in Public Power Corporation, Hellenic Petroleum and Public Gas Corporation, along with the concession of minority stakes in the Athens and Thessaloniki water companies (EYDAP and EYATH).

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224972/article/ekathimerini/business/numerous-projects-in-taipeds-business-plan

Greece plans three new bond sales to build post-bailout buffer

Greece wants to create a cash buffer of up to 19 billion euros ($23 billion) to cover debt repayments after it exits its current bailout program and plans three new bond issues by August, government officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224954/article/ekathimerini/business/greece-plans-three-new-bond-sales-to-build-post-bailout-buffer

ATHEX: Index regains 850-point level

Toward the end of a relatively quiet session at Athinon Avenue on Tuesday, the benchmark of the Greek stock market regained its rising momentum, as buyers targeted blue chips, particularly during the closing auctions. Monday evening’s vote on the multi-bill played no part in this as it had already been factored in.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224968/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-index-regains-850-point-level

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KATHIMERINI: The government is cutting down on investments in order to hand out allowances

ETHNOS: Negotiations in the name of a solution [regarding the name dispute between Athens and Skopje]

TA NEA: IMF ‘bomb’ regarding the tax-exemption threshold

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Too many godfathers for a single name [for FYROM]

AVGI: The truth about first residency protection

RIZOSPASTIS: NATO ‘spreads dangerous tentacles’ in the Balkans and the wider region

KONTRA NEWS: The demise of small political parties causes great changes in the political scenery

DIMOKRATIA: Provocative statements by [former minister and former government vice president] Pangalos: “Greeks are a people of idiots”

NAFTEMPORIKI: Green light [by the Ministry of Finance] for the first 70 investment plans

MEET ROMANIA’S NEW PRIME MINISTER

Viorica Dăncilă, a Socialist & Democrat MEP, is set to become Romania’s first female prime minister. She is close to Romanian Social Democrat (PSD) powerbroker Liviu Dragnea, and she has been a significant donor to her party in recent years, giving around €43,000 over the past decade, which is slightly more than the average Romanian earned during that period, according to the tabloid Libertarea. If President Klaus Iohannis accepts the nomination, Dăncilă would be the third PSD prime minister in the space of a year. Announcing her appointment, Dragnea — with whom she worked as a local councillor in the region of Teleorman — said she is “a respected MEP in Brussels, because she is a civilized, non-conflictual, very communicative woman.” POLITICO’s Carmen Paun has more.

Playbook previously reported that Dăncilă gave one of the worst MEP interviews ever (“a masterclass in stonewalling”) to Parliament magazine in July 2017. She failed to answer any of the soft questions posed. After claiming “I love reading,” she failed to name a book she had read. Asked to describe her political style in three words, she used 39, and didn’t name a political role model or any specific career achievement. She did however insist that “my tenacity and willingness to work hard and build positive changes has remained the same.”

Dăncilă is a vice chairman of the Parliament’s agriculture committee and has led work on a regulation about integrated farm statistics, European territorial cooperation and “cohesion policy and research and innovation strategies for smart specialization (RIS3).” (Playbook isn’t sure what that means either.) In the halls of the Parliament, she’s better known for emailing all 750 of her colleagues in a bid to massage the facts on a Romanian PSD government emergency decree decriminalizing corruption cases that brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets across the country. In response, a former MEP’s assistant took Dăncilă to task, resulting in the assistant being denounced as a spy.

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS

PARLIAMENT — VARADKAR TO LEAD PLENARY DEBATE: Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will lead a debate on the future of Europe with MEPs today, before which European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will give a speech alongside Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to kick off Sofia’s presidency of the Council of the EU.

Russian propaganda: In the afternoon, MEPs will debate the influence of Russian propaganda in the EU. ICYMI here’s a U.S. Senate report on the subject released last week.

PARLIAMENT — EUROPE’S GREEN BRAWLER: Former biology teacher Michèle Rivasi is a familiar face on the frontline of almost every crusade to protect public health in Europe, including the latest scandal involving dairy processor Lactalis, which this week needed to recall 12 million cases of potentially salmonella-tainted baby milk. POLITICO’s Carmen Paun profiles Rivasi.

COMMISSION — BRUSSELS LAUNCHES WAR ON PLASTIC: While the Commission backed off proposing a new tax on plastics, a new strategy launched Tuesday by Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans seeks to get Europe’s consumers and customers to drop their addiction as well as ensure that all plastic packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2030. “If we don’t change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050,” said Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans. POLITICO’s Paola Tamma and Ginger Hervey have the story.

COMMISSION — VESTAGER WANTS SECOND TERM: Margrethe Vestager wants a second mandate as European commissioner for competition, she told Belgian newspapers.

COMMISSION WADES INTO DRUG PRICING WAR: Later this month, the European Commission will release a plan to improve cooperation between governments on a key element of drug-pricing decisions, so-called health technology assessment. National bodies have to effectively decide the value of a life, judging whether it makes sense to spend money saving a single child with a rare disease versus treating many older people with chronic illnesses for the same amount or less. POLITICO’s Sarah Wheaton and Carmen Paun report.

BY THE NUMBERS — WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM STARTS NEXT WEEK: A record 70 heads of state or government are participating this year, alongside 38 heads of international organizations, under the guidance of an all-female list of six co-chairs. This year’s opening address will be delivered by Indian PM Narendra Modi. U.S. President Donald Trump will deliver the closing keynote Friday. G7 participants are Paolo Gentiloni (Italy), Jean-Claude Juncker (EU), Emmanuel Macron (France), Theresa May (U.K.) and Justin Trudeau (Canada). G20 leaders include Mauricio Macri, president of Argentina, and Michel Temer, president of Brazil. There are 10 leaders from Africa, nine from the Middle East and North Africa and six from Latin America. Leaders from international organizations include António Guterres (U.N.), Roberto Azevêdo (WTO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (WHO), Angel Gurría (OECD), Zeid Ra’ad Hussein (UNHCR), Jim Yong Kim (World Bank), Christine Lagarde (IMF), Sharan Burrow (ITUC), Peter Maurer (ICRC) and Guy Ryder (ILO).

EU NATIONAL NEWS

AUSTRIA — KURZ IN BERLIN: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is in Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schäuble and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Back home in Austria, far-right Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache accidentally knocked over an EU flag at a press conference, before picking it up and saying: “Today I have rescued the EU.”

POLAND — ANATOMY OF JUDICIAL CHANGES: Government-appointed judges can now reopen any finalized case from the past twenty years, which can then be judged by members of the public in accordance with undefined considerations of “social justice.”

HUNGARY — SOROS TO BE BANNED: Hungarian pro-government news site Origo reported Tuesday that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government is considering banning Hungarian citizen George Soros from entering Hungary. Under current Hungarian law, citizens cannot be banned from the country.

ITALY — MEET ROME’S MATT DRUDGE: From a three-floor penthouse in Rome, tattoo-covered Roberto D’Agostino runs Dagospia — Italy’s most eye-catching and controversial web publication, quickly becoming a must-read for the country’s political elite. To him, the upcoming election is going to be a bit “like sex … [often] the foreplay, namely the campaign, is far more exciting than the climax, namely the actual outcome of the vote.” POLITICO’s Giulia Paravicini has the story.

CZECH REPUBLIC — BABIŠ ASKS FOR IMMUNITY TO BE LIFTED: Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Tuesday lost a vote of confidence in his government because he faces fraud charges, hours after he asked for his parliamentary immunity to be lifted. Babiš and his ANO party’s deputy Jaroslav Faltýnek said they never intended to block an investigation into an alleged fraud case involving a €1.64 million EU subsidy, according to Reuters. Earlier in the week Babiš questioned the independence of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and suggested the allegations had been cooked up by EPP MEP Tomáš Zdechovský, whom he described as a Communist informer.

SWEDEN — PREPARING FOR WAR: Sweden will in May send a booklet to 4.7 million households, telling them what they should do if war breaks out, according to the FT. The brochure covers how civilians can help with “total defense” and secure water, food and heating. It is the first such booklet to be sent out in Sweden since 1961, the FT says.

BREXIT 360°

EU PLAYS FOR BRITISH HEARTS WITH OPEN DOORS: EU “hearts are still open” to the U.K. reversing the Brexit vote, European Council President Donald Tusk told MEPs in Strasbourg Tuesday. His sentiments were backed up by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said in a speech to MEPs: “Our door still remains open and I hope that will be heard clearly in London.” The ball is in Britain’s court, though. Tusk said Brexit will become a reality “unless there is a change of heart among our British friends,” but the Brexit course was not a foregone conclusion. “As David Davis said: If a democracy cannot change its mind it ceases to be a democracy,” referring to a speech in 2012 by the U.K.’s Brexit secretary, who was a backbench MP at the time.

EU WANTS UK TO KEEP TRADE DEALS DURING TRANSITION: Brussels wants Britain to remain in EU trade agreements during a post-Brexit transitional period, and London will have to ask for authorization if it wants to strike individual deals, according to a draft of negotiating directives seen by Hans von der Burchard and Jacopo Barigazzi (more details here for POLITICO Brexit and Trade pros). “During the transition period … the United Kingdom will remain bound by the obligations stemming from the agreements by the Union,” the draft directives say. EU diplomats said this included trade deals and all their obligations — to ensure that London does not go rogue after leaving the bloc — but they also cautioned that the plan depended on trade partners like Canada or South Korea accepting such a solution. The U.K. Department for International Trade confirmed that Britain wants to keep EU trade deals with the aim of ultimately rolling them over into stand-alone agreements.

BY THE NUMBERS — £625M: That’s the deficit between what the U.K. paid in 2014-2015 to other European countries for the medical treatment/health services of U.K. nationals, and what it received from other European countries for treating their citizens, according to the U.K. health department.

MACRON TO PROTECT CALAIS: “The interests of the region will be fully taken into consideration in the context of the discussions and negotiations that France will lead,” said President Emmanuel Macron while on a visit to Calais Tuesday. He travels to meet Theresa May in the U.K. on Thursday, and the Times reports he will come bearing an olive branch: a loan to Britain of the Bayeux tapestry.

BEYOND EU

PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW WITH NASR HARIRI, LEADER OF SYRIAN OPPOSITION …

With Russia signaling its desire to host talks with those involved in the Syrian conflict in Sochi, opposition leaders fear Moscow, which backs President Bashar al-Assad, is trying to undermine U.N.-backed talks in Geneva. In a bid to shore up support, Nasr Hariri, recently appointed leader of the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC), was in Brussels this week to meet EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Belgium’s foreign minister as well as EU ambassadors on the political and security committee. In a statement after the meeting, Mogherini reiterated the EU’s “full and continued support to the U.N.-led mediation process” and “the need to urgently and rapidly advance towards a negotiated political transition in Syria.” Hariri today meets Emmanuel Macron before traveling to Italy and Germany later this week to meet their foreign ministers.

In European interests: Hariri pointed out that resolving the Syrian conflict is a necessary prerequisite for tackling the EU’s migration crisis. “Europe was hardest hit by the Syrian crisis … We can’t solve terrorism, the refugee crisis, the humanitarian load on all these countries without reaching a political solution,” he said, adding that a political solution is “in the Syrian interest and it’s also in the interest of European countries.”

Unclear signals: In suggesting talks in Sochi, Russia is believed to be undermining the Geneva process, which has been blocked over al-Assad’s refusal to step down as part of the political deal. Hariri noted that once the Sochi talks had been put forward, “we began to receive many negative messages from [Russia and its allies]… There was continuous bombing in many areas.” So far, the SNC has not decided whether to participate.

FROM RUSSIA WITH ANTI-SEMITISM: “As soon as you begin to drill into how other nations relate to Russia, and Russian history, it becomes obvious that the unreasonable hostility towards Putin’s Russia, particularly coming from the U.S. and the U.K., is very much a Jewish phenomenon, and has been for centuries,” writes Charles Bausman, editor of Russia Insider, a publication that seeks to correct what it describes as Western media’s biased coverage of Russia.

KOSOVO SERB LEADER GUNNED DOWN: Prominent Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanović was killed in a drive-by shooting outside his party headquarters Tuesday, the same day EU-mediated talks to normalize relations between Pristina and Belgrade kicked off, which Serbia has now put on hold again. Federica Mogherini spoke to both Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and his Kosovar counterpart Hashim Thaçi, urging them to “spare no effort to find the perpetrators.”

US — TRUMP GETS CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH: President Donald Trump needs to go on a diet but is otherwise in “excellent” health, his personal doctor Ronny Jackson told White House reporters Tuesday night. Jackson said he has “no concerns about [Trump’s] cognitive ability.” Read the doctor’s full report here.