17-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

17-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Lagarde, Tsipras ‘agree’ bailout review must conclude quickly; Greek side points to ‘recovery’

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde received Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Fund’s headquarters in Washington D.C. on Tuesday morning, with both sides sticking to positions widely known and expressed over the past few months.


BoG’s Stournaras: Accelerate efforts to conclude third review; mandated reforms

Bank of Greece (BoG) Gov. Yannis Stournaras on Monday again cited the need for an intensification of efforts to conclude the third review of the ongoing bailout program, as well as all other outstanding reforms emanating from the current program and its updated version last June.


Social funds not enough to beat poverty

Greece is one of the three European Union states with the highest poverty rates, despite the very high expenditure for social protection, as more than one in three Greeks live in conditions of poverty or social exclusion, according to Eurostat.


Housing costs take a huge bite out of Greek incomes

Greek families pay nearly four times more than their fellow Europeans in housing costs as a percentage of their income, according to the latest survey by Housing Europe, the European Federation for Public, Cooperative and Social Housing.


Boosting employment high on agenda of talks between Athens, creditors; major factor in growth ‘calculus’

Employment figures in recession-battered Greece over the next 15 months will have – as widely expected – a decisive impact on the course of the country’s economic recovery, private consumption and the course of the state budget’s execution for 2017, as well as in meeting social security funds’ revenue targets.


Greek retailer Jumbo 12-month profit up 8 pct, foreign markets help

Jumbo, Greece’s biggest listed retailer, posted on Monday an eight percent rise in net profit for the fiscal year to end June, mainly due to robust growth in Bulgaria and Romania.


ATHEX: Moderate rise contained by budget data

The release of the provisional figures for the state budget took the wind out of the Greek stock market’s sails on Monday, moderating prices and clipping the trading volume well below the 50-million-euro mark, partly due to Moody’s decision not to issue a review of its credit rating for Greece last Friday.







KATHIMERINI: Housing costs in Greece are too high

ETHNOS: Sneaky Albanian plan against the Greek minority

TA NEA: Tsipras’ American Dream

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Unjust judges [reject the appeals of two young persons incarcerated for terrorism without sufficient evidence]

AVGI: Antisocial decision [by the court that rejected the appeals of two young persons incarcerated for ties to terrorism]

RIZOSPASTIS: Capitalism is yesterday’s news, Socialism is the future

KONTRA NEWS: Farmers’ loans to be regulated

DIMOKRATIA: Danger in the shelves of super markets due to infected or defective products

NAFTEMPORIKI: The reasons behind the 2,3-billion-Euro ‘hole’ in state revenues

Today is a big picture day.

If you’re anything like Playbook, Brexit navel-gazing is now a bore, typified by Monday night’s Juncker-May dinner and the insipid joint statement that followed it. There is deeper meaning in the bombing of a journalist in Malta; the news that Catalan activists are now in jail for sedition and the fact Europe is missing in action at the Chinese Communist Party congress. It’s also EU Codeweek: teaching the most useful new digital skill to Europeans of all ages.

CRUSADING JOURNALIST KILLED IN MALTA CAR BOMB: Daphne Caruana Galizia, a member of the 2017 POLITICO28 list of individuals changing Europe and Malta’s most famous journalist, was killed Monday by a bomb that threw her car into an adjacent field. Galizia’s final blog, posted less than an hour before her death, read: “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.

Playbook described Galizia in an earlier profile as “a one-woman WikiLeaks, crusading against untransparency and corruption in Malta, an island nation famous for both.” Galizia is survived by her husband and three sons, one of whom was jointly awarded a 2017 Pulitizer Prize for his Panama Paper journalism.

Earlier this year Roberta Metsola, a Maltese opposition figure and MEP, sent a letter to European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans urging him to take action against the “intimidation” of journalists in Malta. Timmermans was one of many EU leaders to express horror at the news. “Shocked and outraged … If journalists are silenced, our freedom is lost,” he tweeted.

A Maltese and European problem — how political figures reacted: Galizia’s murder is front-page news. Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Galizia’s frequent target, postponed his government’s budget presentation, requested FBI assistance and said in a written statement: “What happened is unacceptable on all levels. I condemn, without reservations this barbaric attack on a person and on the freedom of expression in our country.” Malta’s former opposition leader Simon Busuttil tweeted: ‏”Our democracy is at stake.”

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, a former journalist, said Galizia “sacrificed her life to seek out the truth. She won’t be forgotten.” Manfred Weber, leader of Parliament’s European People’s Party, described it as a “dark day for democracy.” Green MEPs called for official investigations given Galizia’s involvement in the Panama Papers exposé. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange offered a €20,000 reward for information on the killing.


Both the EU and the U.K. will skip the most important event affecting them this week: the 19th party congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, which starts midnight. EU officials will not be represented because the event is a party event rather than a state one, according to Playbook’s senior EU diplomatic source. That’s a grey zone given party and state are all but merged in China. EU politicians including Federica Mogherini were active participants at the 2016 U.S. party conventions.

While the U.K. brands itself as Global Britain, the country’s Chinese embassy is more interested in tweeting about the 59th anniversary of the Paddington Bear book series than the once-every-five-years party congress, though it did post a Weibo message a week ago opposing China’s use of the death penalty.

Congress cheat sheets: South China Morning Post | Xinhua News | Reuters | Quartz

China podcast du jour: POLITICO’s Susan Glasser talks with dissident artist Ai Weiwei in the latest Global POLITICO podcast. Weiwei, who lives in Berlin, is promoting his new documentary about the global refugee crisis and a New York exhibition titled ‘Good Walls Make Good Neighbors.’ Both are explicit rebuttals of U.S. President Donald Trump’s America First worldview. “Authoritarian leaders in China and elsewhere are the beneficiaries of Trump and the crisis of American democracy,” Weiwei told Glasser. “China, Russia, they all laugh about it.” Listen on iTunes here.

COUNCIL — GENERAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL IN BRUSSELS: EU affairs ministers are preparing the EU leaders’ summit discussions, including a session minus the U.K. on specific Brexit conclusions with EU negotiator Michel Barnier and on the relocation of EU agencies based in London. More below in the Brexit 360° section. Full agenda here.

COUNCIL — EU STICKS WITH IRAN DEAL AS MOGHERINI JETS TO WASHINGTON FOR RESCUE MISSION: EU Foreign Affairs ministers Monday dismissed President Trump’s decision not to certify Tehran’s compliance with the Iran nuclear deal. The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, will fly to Washington to address the sharp disagreement between European powers and Trump. Jacopo Barigazzi reports French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on the EU to exert “pressure on Congress” so it “does not call this agreement into question.”

Middle East: Ministers launched a civilian mission headed by Germany’s Markus Ritter to work with Iraqi security services.

Bosnia-Herzegovina unity: Council signed off on continuation of Operation Althea, a stability program set up to help Bosnian authorities.

North Korea sanctions: New measures were agreed including a total ban on EU investment and on the sale of refined petroleum and crude oil.

PARLIAMENT — POSTED WORKERS DIRECTIVE APPROVED IN COMMITTEE: MEPs in European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee approved their positions on the controversial revision of the Posted Workers Directive. The committee agreed workers should come under local labor rules after two years abroad. Employment and labor ministers are likely to vote on their positions Monday next week. More information for POLITICO Pro Transport and Trade subscribers.

HOUSING — STATE OF THE UNION REPORT OUT TODAY: Housing Europe presents its flagship annual report at lunchtime, at a Parliament and Committee of the Regions joint event. Expect evidence of increasing housing inequality and cities stepping in for national governments.

MIGRATION — REFUGEE CHILDREN AT HEIGHTENED RISK: A new Save the Children report details how EU asylum, border and return policies risk driving more than 150,000 children into the hands of smugglers.

TRADE — MALMSTRÖM ACCUSES TRUMP OF KILLING WTO FROM INSIDE: European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström told the Financial Times the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement system could break down if the Trump administration continues to veto the appointment of new judges. “If there are specific concerns that the Americans have, OK, let’s hear them,” Malmström said.

Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen is in Washington today pressing the EU’s trade case. He will meet White House economic adviser Gary Cohn. You can watch Katainen at the Atlantic Council (2:30 p.m. Brussels time). Her will deliver a speech at 3 p.m. on “Why the EU and the U.S. need the global trading system.”


Europe hands United States its digital crown jewels: Europe is the master of handing off its successes to Silicon Valley and keeping one hand tied behind its digital back, Mark Scott writes.

Copywrong: Some 57 digital and human rights groups have slammed an EU copyright ‘filtering’ proposal they say would force internet giants to excessively filter, delete and monitor user-generated content, Joanna Plucinska reports for POLITICO Pro Tech subscribers. Read the letter here.

#MeTooThe online tag of the week is surely #MeToo, a rallying point for victims of sexual harassment and assault to share stories about their Harvey Weinstein moments. It started after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” It’s now front-page news in France and other countries.

French minister forced to apologize for sexual harassment comment: Would you denounce a colleague if you knew they were guilty of sexual harassment? Nicholas Vinocur writes French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was forced to backtrack after saying “No.” Several hours later, in a video posted to his Twitter account, a solemn-looking Le Maire said he regretted his previous remarks. “I reacted to the word ‘denunciation,’ which I don’t like, and which I never liked, but I should have reacted to the problem of sexual harassment itself … if I were aware of acts of sexual harassment against a woman, I would be the first to signal them.”


Puigdemont’s response to Madrid, in English: The Catalan president did not withdraw his claimed independence mandate, instead appealing for dialogue with Madrid. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy replied by telling Puigdemont he has until Thursday to clarify the matter.

Spanish stereotypes: El Pais reported in English on how both European and U.S. perceptions and clichés on Spain fall short of reality.

CZECH ELECTION — PRAGUE MAY BE HEADED FOR EU PERIPHERY: The Czech Republic is set to take a Euroskeptic turn in a general election this weekend, reports Siegfried Morkowitz. “If Czech voters decide to back an adamantly anti-EU candidate and join the ranks of fellow Euroskeptics Poland and Hungary, the outcome will further strain EU efforts to maintain a semblance of political cohesion.”


How Sebastian Kurz won. The incoming wunderkind chancellor borrowed from everywhere: the immigration rhetoric of populists, the “New” party label from Tony Blair, the personality cult from Emmanuel Macron, youthful slogans from the heart of the millennial online experience.

Jean-Claude Juncker hopes he will form “a stable and pro-European government,” according to a European Commission spokesperson.

Social Democrats finish second: Final numbers are due Thursday, but the far right is set to finish third. Excellent graphs of voter flows and motivation in FAZ.


Wiener Zeitung, Austria: Austria is divided and it won’t be easy to switch from campaigning to governing.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany: “A revolution named Kurz.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland: “The grand coalition model between conservatives and Social Democrats has had its day.”

Denik, Czech Republic. “The number of Muslims has risen from 4 to 8 percent in the last 15 years … losses suffered by the Social Democrats and Greens show that Austrians are now less willing to take in refugees.”

The Daily Telegraph, United Kingdom: “Conservatives who ignore border anxiety are doomed to lose power to the populist.”

Rzeczpospolita, Poland. Austria could soon become part of the V4 group.

THE NETHERLANDS — POTENTIAL DUTCH MINISTERS: The name game has started ahead of Prime Minister Mark Rutte naming his next cabinet October 26. De Telegraaf reports Halbe Zijlstra (VVD) will become foreign affairs minister. Eric Wiebes (also VVD) is floated for the economics and climate ministry. Financieele Dagblad reports Wopke Hoekstra, from the Christian Democrat CDA, could be finance minister replacing Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

BREXIT 360° …

Getting tough in the summit conclusions: The latest draft declaration for EU leaders to agree on Friday, available for POLITICO Brexit Pro subscribers, confirms that without a specific deal guaranteeing citizens’ rights via a clear role of the European Court of Justice, there’ll be no trade talks. That means France and Germany are winning.

Help me if you can! Theresa May probably never thought she would seek help from Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier in the Brexit negotiation. But that’s the bizarre situation she found herself in at Monday’s informal dinner between top British and Commission officials in Brussels. Tom McTague and David M. Herszenhorn report May hoped to convince Juncker to press leaders of the EU27 to expand Barnier’s negotiating mandate and to help convince them May could not make any more concessions after her speech in Florence last month. Things didn’t go to plan.

Quote du jour: “I never understood why journalists, even the most eminent journalists, ask for an outcome of a meeting before the meeting takes place. I will see Mrs. May this evening, we will talk and you will have the autopsy report afterwards.” Jean-Claude Juncker in response to a question from Playbook’s own Quentin Ariès asking about the Commission president’s expectations of the May informal dinner. Watch the exchange, starting at 12:40. Playbook’s still waiting for that autopsy though.

Accelerate is just another word for nothing left to lose. You’re going to hear that word all week in the context of Brexit. Laura Kuenssberg on why that’s just another word for “going nowhere fast.”

Meanwhile, May’s government fears talks will collapse within weeks, according to Bloomberg.

7 things they didn’t tell you before the Brexit referendum: From tariffs on British trash to the divorce bill, there’s a lot Britons weren’t told about before they voted, writes Charlie Cooper. On the flip side, Annabelle Dickson analyzes whether Brexit is as bad as Remainers made out.

MEPs start preparation for trade talks: MEPs have a mind of their own on Brexit — the European Parliament will carry out internal preparatory work on the framework for a future relationship with the U.K. after it leaves the bloc. POLITICO Brexit Pro subscribers have the details here.

UK — CORBYN AND BOJO IN TROUBLE? Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson are among the MPs who may have to secure new constituencies after the Boundary Commission for England confirmed it planned to scrap their seats. More from the FT.


MIGRANT ARRESTS: RTBF reports Belgian police arrested migrants at Park Maximilien to send them back to Germany and Switzerland, where they claimed asylum.

TEMPING: Sebastian Barkowski will be Poland’s temporary ambassador to the EU (he is now deputy permanent representative responsible for Coreper I) following Jarosław Starzyk’s resignation.