17-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

16-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

War of words over loan by family of Greek PM

A loan settlement for a company belonging to the siblings of Prime Minster Alexis Tsipras has prompted an acrimonious war of words with New Democracy.


Labour ministry to introduce first-ever unemployment benefit for self-employed

With a ministerial decision signed by Labour Minister Efi Achtsioglou and Deputy Minister Tasos Petropoulos on Monday, the Greek government will for the first time implement laws providing freelance and self-employed individuals (lawyers, engineers, doctors) with unemployment benefit.


Greek tax authority to debut e-platform for AirBnB-type listing in next few days

Property owners engaged in short-term leasing of lodgings, the “AirBnb phenomenon”, will reportedly come under the “taxman’s” scrutiny in Greece over the coming period, with a new finance-ministry electronic platform finally set to come online.


Fresh warning from SEV on gov’t promises

Industrialists are calling for particular attention to what the government has agreed with its creditors, stressing that “the markets ask for greater credibility in exercising financial policy.”


Handelsblatt: Greece eyes 10-year bond issue – before Aug. 20

Handelsblatt on Monday claimed that Greece’s Public Debt Management Agency is considering a 10-year bond issue before the current – and last – bailout program officially ends on Aug. 20.


ATHEX: Moderate rise on low trading

The week at the Athens stock exchange got off to a quiet start with a few buyers and no sellers, while more than half of the trading volume concerned pre-arranged deals. Turnover this July bears more resemblance to that which would normally be expected in August, the traditional holiday month, so one can only wonder what levels it will sink to then.







KATHIMERINI:  Real estate owners transfer assets to the State in order to pay their taxes

ETHNOS:  Air BnB caught in the war between the EU and the US

TA NEA:  The mysteries of Mount Athos. The struggle for the region’s control which includes US and Russian involvement.

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  ‘Paid patriots’. FYROM PM Zaev claims that Russia instigated violent acts in order to undermine the deal between Athens and Skopje.

AVGI:  Month of hysteria. New Democracy panics in light of 21 August [when the Memorandum officially ends].

RIZOSPASTIS:  Stranded salaries compressed further while ‘flexibility’ is standardized.

KONTRA NEWS:  300,000 housing loans to be regulated.

DIMOKRATIA:  Orgy of ‘black funds’ and propaganda regarding the agreement with Skopje.

NAFTEMPORIKI:  New balancing of surpluses.


SAYS IT ALL: As Vladimir Putin’s motorcade was en route to downtown Helsinki for the meeting with Donald Trump, the Russian foreign ministry struck. Quoting Trump’s own tweet, sent hours earlier, blaming bad relations between Russia on American “foolishness and stupidity,” the ministry had a simple reply: “We agree.”

Noting how low relations had sunk, Trump said after the meeting: “That changed as of about four hours ago.” David Herszenhorn has more here from Helsinki, while Christopher Cadelago writes that Trump’s wet kiss to Putin has sealed a new world order.

My own five takeaways …

1. He’s back: Trump helped Putin back onto the world stage — at no cost to Russia (besides a football). That being said, the Russian president also won nothing in the form of concrete concessions.

2. The last word: Trump sided with Moscow when asked about Russian meddling in his own election, and wouldn’t say that he trusts his own intelligence agency and Department of Justice over Putin. “There was no collusion at all,” said Trump. Putin was asked whether he wanted Trump to win in 2016. “Yes, I did,” he answered.

3. Stakes are high for Jean-Claude Juncker: The Commission president — a “brutal killer,” in Trump’s own words, as Playbook reported — will be at the White House next Wednesday. (The official confirmation is expected today from both Washington and the European Commission.) The big question is: Will there be any meetings in Congress or speeches at an influential think tank, or other attempts to influence the U.S. elites beyond their president? The answer will give us an indication of Juncker’s level of ambition to connect with America’s remaining establishment.

4. Message to NATO: Reaching the 2 percent goal isn’t just an exercise in pleasing Trump — it might become necessary to secure one’s own defenses.

5. Get a drink or two: I bumped into an EU foreign minister right after the Helsinki press conference finished. He poured himself a double shot of unidentified but heavy stuff. And why not, after that day of reckoning? After all, who is going to defend Europe in the event of any aggression in the near future? Would Germany really fire a single shot eastwards, given the heavy weight of its history? Could the French be bothered to care about Eastern Europe, and will Britain still be around after Brexit?

Good read: Putin’s attack on the U.S. is the new Pearl Harbor, write Molly McKew and Mark Hertling.

FRIENDS, FOES, OR HEROES (WHO WILL INEVITABLY DIE)? Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas added some ancient Greek to the languages spoken in the press room Monday. Asked whether America and the EU were friends or foes, Sophocles’ Antigone (or Αντιγόνη) came to his mind. “Ούτοι συνέχθειν, αλλά συμφιλείν έφυν,” he quoted the play’s heroine. Translation: “I was born to love not to hate,” or, as Schinas adapted it to current communication needs, “I was born to have friends not foes.”


FINAL STRETCH: The European Commission is putting the finishing touches on a data transfer agreement with Japan, ahead of a high-level meeting in Tokyo today. “We are very close to finalizing the agreement, so we have good news for Mr. Juncker and Mr. Abe,” said Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová, who leads the negotiations on the so-called adequacy decision that would facilitate companies’ use of personal data. The agreement is set to accompany a massive trade deal the EU and Japan will sign late-morning today (Brussels time), with a good chance the data deal will be announced just before.

HOW THE WORLD HAS CHANGED: This time last year, over lunch behind closed doors, European and Japanese leaders discussed the imprint Donald Trump would leave on the world. Prime Minster Shinzō Abe told the EU side that while Trump may have quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Abe still considered the Japan-America relationship special and “privileged,” one EU official recalls. How things have changed.

This year’s EU-Japan summit will be an illusion-free zone, EU officials expect. Japan didn’t even get a temporary exemption from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, which have applied to the country since March. And if Europeans feel the U.S. has abandoned us and our security, spare a thought for Tokyo.

Expect the main message of today’s meeting to be that the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement is a joint commitment by two large trading blocs to fair, old school relations. They’re signalling their commitment to a rules-based multilateral system, their desire to “fight all forms of protectionism and stand firm against unfair trade practices,” as a Commission official said. Together, the EU and Japan account for around 30 percent of global GDP.

Behind closed doors: Expect Juncker to discuss his upcoming visit to Washington in the meeting with Abe. While Juncker will be representing the EU, it’ll be a bonus to be able to convey the message that Trump doesn’t have many friends in the trade world (particularly if he can say America’s tariffs would face a coordinated response).

IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT TRUMP. We looked into our archives and talked to trade officials over the past few days to figure out how the deal came together. Negotiations for a trade agreement between the EU and Japan started in April 2013. At a 2015 stocktaking exercise, not much had happened, and not much more was about to happen.

Enter Trump.

Right after being sworn into office, Trump abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership and dumped Japan. Abe was quick to turn to the other side of the world.

In January 2017, Juncker got a phone call. Abe’s adviser Takaya Imai was on the line and said “the prime minister wanted to urgently resume and accelerate talks,” ideally concluding them by the summer of 2017, an EU trade official recalls. On February 24, Imai came to see Juncker’s then-head of Cabinet, Martin Selmayr, and trade adviser Mauro Petriccione. They agreed to speed up talks. Negotiating teams were done four months later.

Petriccione spent weeks in Japan in June last year and was told not to return without a deal. On June 30, Commissioners Cecilia Malmström and Phil Hogan flew over to wrap up the last points with their Japanese counterparts — and almost failed (it’s all about the cheese!). Here’s how they pulled it off at the time — a story by POLITICO’s trade team that’s worth re-reading.

Timeline: The agreement was announced in Brussels on July 6 last year, with negotiations finalized on April 17, 2018. It was green-lit by the College of Commissioners at the end of April, with the Council adopting the on-signature and provisional application at the end of June. After both partners sign off on the deal today, the European Parliament is expected to vote in the fall, according to EU officials. If all goes well, the agreement will enter into force in early 2019.


REFORMING THE EU BUDGET? OH, PLEASE, DON’T BE NAIVE. Germany and France told Brussels they firmly reject cutting funding for farmers under the next EU budget, Simon Marks reports for Agriculture and Food and EU Budget Pro subscribers. In a joint declaration delivered to agriculture ministers at their Council meeting in Brussels, the two EU heavyweights said cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy aren’t in line “with the increased environmental and climate objectives.”

Telling farmers they must meet environmental goals might be an insult for those who believe farming and cattle breeding is just about feeding people — but it’s a well-compensated insult.

FRUIT MEANS FRUIT: Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis wrote to ministers asking them to do more to ensure food labels don’t mislead consumers. He pointed out that EU legislation already provides ways to deal with misleading claims such as pictures of fruit on products that don’t contain it, “whole grain” labels for products that include barely any trace of them, or liberal uses of the words “traditional” or “artisanal,” which “convey an impression of quality that bears little or no relation to the production process.”

MEANWHILE IN THE LAND OF FOOD FASCISM: Italy is in uproar after someone remembered a favorite foe. CETA, the EU-Canada trade agreement, ensures Ottawa will recognize the EU’s geographic indicators, but that’s never enough for Italy. Rome is threatening to refuse to ratify CETA in parliament because the Canadians dare to produce ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, and tons and tons of it, as Coldiretti (the farmers’ lobby) said on Monday. That’s not to mention the gall of making “not well identified Friulano cheese, which certainly has nothing to do with the region in north-east Italy” — and which certainly doesn’t infringe on any actual Italian trademark or geographical indicator.

It’s all about ‘perceptions’: Eurostat numbers indicate that Italian goods exports to Canada have increased by around 2 percent since CETA was provisionally applied, while food and animal exports rose by 12 percent. Why would Italy veto a trade deal that has boosted exports? Farm Minister Gian Marco Centinaio told reporters in Brussels that “we want to understand with concrete data whether CETA is really advantageous for our country. We have the impression that it is not … We do not have other data. We have assumptions, mostly perceptions from firms, mainly from the agriculture sector.” He added: “Nobody is in a hurry to bring CETA to the chamber.” Reuters story here.


ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER CLOSE CALL FOR THERESA MAY: Someone get the British PM a cup of a tea. On Monday, after facing the prospect of (yet another) Brexiteer uprising, No. 10 Downing Street announced it would not fight four so-called wrecking amendments laid by hard-line Euroskeptics in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group of Tory MPs. Today, she faces another Commons showdown over her Brexit strategy. Read the full details about Monday night’s drama from Tom McTague and Annabelle Dickson, and all about today’s in this morning’s London Playbook.

Just watch and admire MP Anna Soubry taking on her fellow Tory Brexiteers — that’s some rich British debate culture right there.

WHO’S CALLING THE SHOTS IN SPAIN: Pedro Sánchez has been breaking rule after unwritten rule of Spanish politics since seizing power. The latest: naming Iván Redondo, a 37-year-old political consultant with no political affiliation, as his chief of staff. Diego Torres has a profile of Redondo.

OPINION — KEEP TURKEY CLOSE: Federica Mogherini’s special adviser Nathalie Tocci and academic Dimitar Bechev argue that cutting off EU membership talks for Turkey would play into President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hands.