17-05-2017 | EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom

EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom 17-05-2017

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Athens says debt relief discussed in Merkel-Tsipras phone contact

A telephone call between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday emerged on Wednesday, given that a strike called by press unions a day earlier coincided with both the development and the beginning of Parliament debate on the latest austerity measures and reforms tabled by the coalition government.


Greece eyeing July bond, if deal reached with lenders: sources

Greece is eyeing its first sovereign bond issue in three years as early as July if its international lenders specify longer term debt relief for the country, and the European Central Bank includes it in its bond-buying program.


Greek debt relief up to ministers after euro zone, IMF officials fail to break deadlock

Euro zone lenders and the International Monetary Fund remain far apart on how to provide debt relief for Greece, but officials hope euro zone finance ministers will still be able to hammer out an agreement at their May 22 meeting.


General strike to disrupt services across Greece

Greek workers have walked off the job across the country for a nationwide general strike expected to disrupt public and private sector services. They are protesting new austerity measures to be imposed beyond the end of Greece’s third bailout next year.


Privatization fund’s tenure extended to June 1, 2020

A relevant general assembly on Tuesday extended the operation of Greece’s privatization fund, the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), until June 1, 2020. HRADF’s sole shareholder is the Hellenic Corporation of Assets & Participations, another memorandum-mandated entity created in 2016 to better exploit the country’s state assets.


EU executive to decide on migration penalties in June

The European Commission will decide next month on any legal cases against countries failing to host asylum-seekers as agreed in the bloc, taking a small step towards potential punishment for Poland and Hungary.


ATHEX: European wind of growth fans Greek stocks

Helped on by the highs recorded in the market of London and Frankfurt, the Greek bourse started climbing back up on Tuesday, toward the 800-point mark it came close to last week.







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

HEADLINE DU JOUR — ‘LEAKER OF THE FREE WORLD’: New York Daily News on U.S. President Donald Trump.


UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT TODAY: António Guterres will be in Strasbourg to speak to MEPs. The lawmakers will also vote on a resolution on the situation in Hungary and discuss the state of relations between the EU and Norway.

COMMISSION — STEP TOWARDS COURT ACTION AGAINST ITALY OVER FIAT: The Commission will start infringement proceedings against Italian carmaker Fiat over breaches of car emissions levels today, a Commission official familiar with the discussions told Playbook. The source said that despite a last-minute phone call between Italian Infrastructure Minister Graziano Delrio and European Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Brussels decided the procedure was the only way to work out if Fiat also used defeat devices to skirt emissions tests, as Volkswagen did.

COMMISSION — DIGITAL PORTFOLIO TO BULGARIA’S MARIYA GABRIEL: The 37-year-old second-term MEP formally won the backing of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and defended her lack of digital experience, saying the job was primarily political rather than technical.

**A message from the EPP Group: It took only 15 minutes for EU leaders to adopt the Brexit political guidelines, a show of unity that our Chairman Manfred Weber will underline in plenary this morning. Confirmation that we are on the right track in prioritizing EU’s future over a relationship with post-Brexit U.K. came in our opinion poll on Brexit.**

ECJ SINGAPORE TRADE DEAL BOMBSHELL PLEASES COMMISSION: Playbook’s high-level Commission trade source said “Champagne corks” were popping in the Berlaymont over the European Court of Justice’s decision on Tuesday that trade agreements that include investment provisions need to be ratified by the bloc’s 38 national and regional parliaments. Crucially, the court also said transportation, intellectual property rights, labor and environmental standards are exclusively within the EU’s realm.

Did Brexit just get harder? At first glance, the British government will now need to climb an even higher mountain: Getting a green light on an EU-U.K. trade deal from Lisbon to Tallinn (and not to mention Wallonia!) looks likely to stretch out negotiations. But if the pact excludes investor rights, as POLITICO’s sources say it likely will, then things just got simpler, not harder, write Hans von der Burchard and Simon Marks. Because the ECJ ruled that Brussels ought to surrender very few competencies to national parliaments, the lion’s share of Brexit issues can be resolved at the EU level.

COUNCIL — CONTOURS OF A FRANCO-GERMAN REVIVAL: Paul Taylor writes that a July joint cabinet session will be the first real test of how much common ground Europe’s engine countries can find. French President Emmanuel Macron will need to prove himself on economic reform, German Chancellor Angela Merkel must be ready to show Germany is a serious defense partner.

Where is the European Commission in all this? Eurozone governance is the policy crossroads where it comes in. At the end of May, the Commission will flesh out how governance gaps could be filled: through some kind of financial product that is close to, but different from, a eurozone bond, and a “stabilization fund” to help eurozone countries deal with major economic shocks. Germany, meanwhile, is still holding up common deposit insurance and a joint fiscal backstop for the European bank resolution fund.

COUNCIL — GOVERNMENTS CAUTIOUS ON POLAND: The EU on Tuesday opted to urge Poland to sit down for talks about its alleged breaches of the of law rather than taking punitive action. Up to 23 governments spoke against Poland‘s handling of rule of law, but those words were not enough for NGOs. “European ministers’ response to the Polish government’s attacks on fundamental rights was inadequate, given the gravity of the situation,” said Iverna McGowan of Amnesty International. “Instead they passed the buck right back to the European Commission,” she added.

COUNCIL — READOUT FROM EU CHIEFS OF DEFENSE MEETING: The Council has released a relatively detailed note covering the subjects discussed.

EU-NATO relations inch forward: A report published the European Leadership Network suggests ways to boost cooperation between the EU and NATO, days before EU defense ministers meet to discuss the issue in Brussels.

COUNCIL — ESTONIAN PRIORITIES: Prime Minister Jüri Ratas set out his country’s EU presidency priorities in the Estonian parliament Tuesday.

Digital summit: “Heads of state or government of the European Union will come to Tallinn in September to discuss Europe’s digital future. Together, we will take a look not at tomorrow or the day after tomorrow but five, 10 and 50 years from now.”

Brexit: “Brexit is neither the main theme nor the priority of our presidency.”

E-government: For the first time since the 2009 Malmö e-government ministerial declaration, a week after Estonia’s big digital summit, an informal ministerial meeting will be convened in Tallinn in October around a new EU ministerial declaration on digital government, according to Playbook’s source. A “high-level roundtable” organized by the Lisbon Council will serve as a first preparatory meeting between EU country experts, with Siim Sikkut, Estonia’s government chief information officer, previewing the draft declaration.

CYBERSECURITY — CLUES LINK RECENT ATTACK TO NORTH KOREA: An early version of the “WannaCry” ransomware that affected more than 150 countries shares code with a tool linked to the North Korean government, reports the Washington Post.

HEALTH — COMMISSION MAY EXTEND GLYPHOSATE FOR A DECADE: European commissioners in Strasbourg to resume discussions with EU countries about the possible renewal of glyphosate for 10 years, Simon Marks and Carmen Paun report.

FRANCE — NEW GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT DELAYED: The official reason is to allow authorities to better check the tax records and backgrounds of potential ministers.

Conservatives torn apart by Macron’s PM: Macron’s decision to appoint Édouard Philippe, the conservative mayor of Le Havre, as his prime minister is achieving what Les Républicains fear the most: it is dividing them. Le Monde reported heavyweights in the party are split. In the European Parliament, Alain Lamassoure and Tokia Saifi are ready to work with Macron, others are remarkably quiet on the issue.

Macron’s updated parliamentary candidate list: La République En Marche has published an updated list of 511 candidates — split equally between men and women — who will contest next month’s parliamentary elections, including prominent members of the centrist Democratic Movement.

A centrist problem: The inclusion of French MEP Marielle de Sarnez, who is running in a constituency in Paris, is controversial, L’Express reports, because she has been an MEP since 1999. En Marche had said it would not support candidates who’ve been in office longer than 15 years.

Neo-Nazi activist behind campaign leaks: POLITICO’s Eric Geller talked to far-right activists behind refuted reports Macron has an offshore account in the Bahamas.

THE NETHERLANDS — PARLIAMENT WILL DEBATE NEW GOVERNMENT FORMATION PROCESS: From 10:45 a.m. today, the Dutch lower house will debate and give directions for a new attempt to form a government. Parliament (not the Dutch king, as Playbook misstated Tuesday) will likely re-appoint Edith Schippers to steer talks. New parties that could be brought to the table include the small Christian Union and the decimated Labour Party (PvDA). If Labour is called up, Jeroen Dijsselbloem may be able to stay on as Eurogroup president.

UK ELECTION — TORIES STORM INTO UKIP TERRITORY: Along England’s east coast, those who previously cast their ballots for the UK Independence Party and backed Brexit look set to flock to the Conservatives in the June 8 election, writes Annabelle Dickson. But beyond the obvious, Brexit-shaped reason to vote Tory rather than UKIP, locals are “moved politically by a yearning for the past and a desire for working class prosperity, social protections and cultural conservatism.”


Spain’s foreign minister outlines priorities: Alfonso Dastis told POLITICO’s Diego Torres that citizens’ rights are Spain’s top priority. “We want the agreement to be as broad as possible … and as similar as possible to the situation we have now,” adding that a trade deal with the U.K. would also have to be “tied to a financial settlement.”

Ireland may have to sacrifice sacred cows to survive Brexit. Brigid Laffan for the Irish Times.

IRELAND — THE RACE TO REPLACE ENDA KENNY: Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is expected to step down as leader of his party in the coming weeks. Naomi O’Leary outlines who is in the race to replace him.


President blocks Russian websites: In a clear breach of European policy regarding the open internet, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko joined the list of countries censoring the internet Tuesday. There are also questions about whether Ukraine has the capability to enforce this ban. The move came just hours after Poroshenko told local television: “Nobody can already stop our move to the European Union.”

Real world effects: As one Playbook reader pointed out, if you are a Ukranian small business that used mail.ru email accounts, you could be very angry today.

UKRAINE — ARMS DEALING IN SOUTH SUDAN AGAINST EU EMBARGO: There are few more desperate places on earth than war-ravaged South Sudan, whose humanitarian crises have produced nearly 2 million refugees. Countless thousands have died (literally, no one is counting). Kenyan newspaper the Nation has reported the U.N. suspects Ukraine has been selling weapons to the country, despite being committed to an EU arms embargo.

The upshot: The EU has given €400 million in aid to South Sudan since 2013. That may count for little, as the country is bombed by helicopters reportedly sold by Ukraine and even European pilots (see this bizarre story about a Hungarian pilot flying for South Sudan, shared with Playbook by a humanitarian NGO).

Russian death sentence for Crimean drug users: It is widely accepted that substitution therapy using methadone reduces HIV and other health and social harms associated with illegal drug use. But in Russia, which in 2014 annexed Crimea from Ukraine, substitution therapy is banned because authorities say it does not cure drug addiction and could be a ploy by western pharmaceutical companies to increase profits. That has left Crimeans who relied on methadone prior to the 2014 invasion with a veritable death sentence, reports Lily Hyde.


More revelations overnight: Reports emerged overnight that Trump tried to shut down an FBI investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Former FBI Director James Comey detailed in a memo that Trump asked him in the Oval Office to drop the probe, according to a friend of Comey, a request that came just one day after Trump ousted Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. For Republicans on Capitol Hill, Trump may finally have gone too far.

The ‘I’ word: As in “impeachment.” There’s now a national poll showing more people support impeaching Trump than not.

UNDERSTANDING THE NEW WASHINGTON WHIPLASH: We’ve been hearing dramatic stories about the new United States administration since January. It is often hard to separate the partisan frustrations from the practical implications for allies in Europe.

Credible news outlets seem to agree that Trump’s sharing of classified intelligence related to a mooted expansion of an in-flight laptop ban for flights to the U.S. with Russia is a turning point in how Trump is viewed globally. It could also cause domestic problems: “This time it did not even take 24 hours for Donald Trump to throw his staffers under the bus and contradict their denials.”

What Trump did was not illegal under American law. But legality isn’t the problem. Trust is. If Trump could pass on Israeli intelligence, what keeps European intelligence safe?

Playbook’s EU diplomatic source said European governments expect answers today from the U.S. deputy secretary to state. “It is somewhat surprising that intel was shared, on this issue, with Russian [Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, before being shared with ministers of allied countries,” the source said.

Here are some possible repercussions for the Trump administration’s relationships with Europe …

— Less information sharing on sensitive issues.

— Reduced willingness to deal with the president himself, if he is the source of problems (Israel was already worried even before this incident).

— Empty chairs: Career diplomats and others may be reluctant to serve in an administration that could leave them in awkward situations. The many vacancies at the U.S. embassy to the EU in Brussels will be harder to fill.


IDAHO IN BRUSSELS: Today is International Day Against Homophobia, and EU institutions are active as never before. Gay rights activists prefer to see more legislative and education action, but welcome the visibility for their issues.

Rainbow Berlaymont and European External Action Service pics: Commission | EEAS

Inclusion campaign: #EU4LGBTI stories including how a father and son dealt with coming out.

Commissioner Günther Oettinger is showing pride in his staff at an event on the theme of “inclusion and identity in the workplace: an asset for all of us.”

Message to the Council from Věra Jourová: “We call on member states to unblock discussions on the Equal Treatment Directive, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in education, social protection and access to goods and services.”

Council action: A rainbow flag will join the EU one atop the Council of the European Union, in cooperation with Malta, the current Council rotating presidency. The Council will also hold an “identity and authenticity in the workplace” event to raise staff awareness. PIC of Council pride street crossing.