18-01-2019 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

18-01-2019 | EYE ON GREECE 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Political discord mounts in Greece over Prespes name deal

In the wake of Wednesday’s acrimonious confidence vote, tensions continued on Thursday over the Prespes accord, with the office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras promising not to “fast-track” its ratification and to publicize the full text of the agreement for “every Greek” to read.


Centrist Potami unclear on whether it will back Prespes accord

Centist party To Potami said on Thursday it fully supports a solution to the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and that its stance on national issues is not affected by political expediencies, but fell short of explicitly backing the Prespes accord.


Condolences pour in after death of ‘Lesvos granny’

Greek political leaders Thursday paid homage to Maritsa Mavrapidi, one of the three “Lesvos grannies” who became a symbol of the Aegean islanders’ solidarity with refugees after their image sitting side by side bottle-feeding a refugee baby went viral at the peak of the migration crisis in 2015.


EZ official: Eurogroup decision on return of profits generated by Greek bonds in March

Eurozone finance ministers at a Eurogroup meeting in March are expected to discuss the issue of 600-million-euro tranche of profits generated by Greek bonds held by the ECB and other Eurozone member-states’ central banks.


Investment in industry set to keep growing

Greek industries spent much more in investments last year compared to 2017, in response to increased demand and technological developments, according to a survey by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE).


EBRD financing in Greece reaches 846 mln€

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) this week announced that it has financed 15 projects in Greece last year, including the landmark Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), NPL portfolios and the Hellenic Energy Exchange S.A. ·


ATHEX: Fresh selling spree hits bank stocks

The slight recovery of stock prices during the closing auctions on Thursday did not suffice to offset the losses of the Athens benchmark, which ended almost 1 percent lower. Banks were at the focus of selling interest again.







KATHIMERINI:  A fiscal ‘landmine’ worth 29 billion euros has become a nightmare for the government

ETHNOS:  Half of EOPYY’s benefits are uncertain

TA NEA:  Truths and myths regarding the language and ethnicity provisions included in the Prespes agreement

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  The River party offers ‘pale’ support for the Prespes agreement

AVGI:  Responsibility and small party interests on the road to Prespes

RIZOSPASTIS:  No more mockery and trade of hopes! All substitute teachers must become permanent

KONTRA NEWS:  Why is New Democracy leader Mitsotakis avoiding a debate with the PM?

DIMOKRATIA:  Document-‘bomb’ regarding the Prespes agreement

NAFTEMPORIKI:  ‘Cyprus model’ for the protection primary residencies

WHO SAID IT? “With my knowledge, my experience and my ability to convince people, I can play an important role and make European citizens understand that we risk moving away from Western values.” Who else could it be? Silvio Berlusconi is back and will surely save Italy, and the EU, by heading up his EPP party’s list for the European election. More below.

GOOD MORNING. This feels like quite a moment for me, personally. He may not know it, but Berlusconi once drove me out of Italy, so tired was I of my then-editors’ daily requests for coverage of the then-prime minister’s buffooneries. Never mind the fact the country has so much more to offer: the world’s greatest fashion industry, superb sports cars, and a serious shake-up of a decades — nay some would even say centuries — old informal power-sharing agreement among its economic and political elites.

Here we are again. Alas, it seems I can’t escape the man. But I reckon you’re here for news not for my mémoires. Read on.

EAST-WEST DIVIDE: What was most remarkable Thursday when the European Parliament voted on, and broadly backed, a report on the Commission’s proposal to cut funds to EU countries that do not uphold the rule of law, was the geographic divide it revealed. The vote split on Western vs. Central and Eastern European lines — within the EPP, the S&D and ALDE. And now imagine the magnitude of the fight during negotiations at Council about the next European budget.

War zone: The Hungarian government promised the new rules will lead to “further conflicts” and said they were “yet another attempt to punish Central Europe.” It’s not quite that simple, responded Petri Sarvamaa, co-rapporteur for the report. “The notable thing about the mood in the plenary is the division between those member states where the state of the rule of law has already been questioned, and the rest,” the Finnish EPP MEP told POLITICO. Lili Bayer breaks down the vote.


DON’T CALL, I’LL TEXT YOU. Unlike Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker does have Prime Minister Theresa May’s cellphone number. “They haven’t spoken, but they are in contact — they are texting,” said Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas in response to a question about the state of EU-U.K. talks this week.

Bottom line: The EU is keeping May at a safe distance. She won’t come to Brussels any time soon — not this week, “not next Monday,” — said an EU diplomat. The EU wants her to deal with her home-grown mess first, before asking for whatever it is she decides she wants this time from the EU. Word of warning: The respect of fellow leaders starts with being able to predict how things play out at home, and May is not the first British PM to disappoint her peers in that regard.

BREXIT BUSINESS: May and Corbyn spent Thursday exchanging notes on whether or not to meet and talk, and if so for what reason and most importantly under which conditions.

Can’t you understand? As a part of their exchange, May generously offered a lesson in understanding Brexit and the EU, telling Corbyn that taking a no-deal scenario off the table is “an impossible condition because it is not within the government’s power to rule out no deal.” (Because Brexit is supposed to happen 70 days from now, and who would dare promise, given the situation, that it’s going to be frictionless?)

If he so badly wants to avoid a no deal Brexit, May told Corbyn, he should just “vote for a deal, in particular a Withdrawal Agreement, that has been agreed with the EU” — her deal, that is. Another option would be “to revoke Article 50 and overturn the referendum” — but that would be “wrong.”

Also not on the cards (for now): A “People’s Vote.” The government estimates it could take more than a year to organize a second Brexit referendum, according to a Cabinet Office paper seen by POLITICO. That being said, the existence of the document suggests May has considered the practicalities of holding a second vote. Charlie Cooper has the news.

NO-DEAL PREP: France has triggered a contingency plan to deal with an eventual no-deal Brexit, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Thursday. The proposal includes €50 million of investment to help ports and airports cope with a potential Brexit mess. “What’s certain is that the scenario of a no-deal Brexit is less and less unlikely,” Philippe told reporters. The legislation will allow customs officials to “lighten certain formalities” at the border so that huge queues do not form due to the U.K. dropping out of the customs area without a deal, the French government said (link for POLITICO Agriculture and Food, Trade and Brexit Pros).

Zen Germans: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas shared the analysis that the “probability of a disorderly Brexit has significantly increased.” Still, Berlin is taking a more timid approach to preparations for the mess than the French, introducing a bill Thursday that would, if passed, transpose the EU’s transition period into German law (hence, it would take effect only in the event of a deal-based Brexit).

Moving money: Dozens of banks in the U.K. are collectively moving over €1 trillion in assets to the eurozone over the next two years to retain their access to the EU single market after Brexit, according to Sabine Lautenschläger, vice-chair of the European Central Bank’s supervisory arm. She told POLITICO’s Bjarke Smith-Meyer that HSBC, Barclays, UBS and “American lenders” are among the banks making the move (link for POLITICO Financial Services and Brexit Pros).

Get your no-deal papers ready: Drivers on both sides of the Channel have just weeks to secure key documentation needed to continue legally roaming, British insurers warned Thursday. Motorists should contact their insurance companies to secure so-called Green Cards as soon as possible if they expect to drive on EU roads legally following a no-deal exit — that includes those cars, trucks and buses making up the 110 million annual journeys across the Irish land border.

Make savings: Fearing Britain may stop paying into the EU budget if there’s a no-deal Brexit, the Commission is holding back some cash. “In light of the current state of affairs, and as a precautionary measure, the agreed 2019 budget is being made available progressively to spending departments — the bulk of it upfront and a small proportion to be released in the course of the year,” a Commission spokesperson told our own Lili Bayer.

MORE PAIN FOR BRITAIN: Hitachi announced Thursday that it is scrapping its nuclear projects in the U.K., meaning just one of six planned nuclear plants is under construction. Kalina Oroschakoff reports on the devastating blow to Britain’s energy policy.

REMEMBER: Nothing is as inspiring as a good tweet.


BERLUSCONI, COMEBACK KID: Forza Italia leader and former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi announced he will run for the European Parliament Thursday. During a rally in Sardinia, he said he would come back to politics “to stop this government as in 1994 when I decided to stop the communists.” He used the same wording to announce his run too: “Scendere in campo,” which means more than just entering a race — it’s an almost messianic promise to return to earth to save the burdened masses.

Berlusconi is 82 years old. European Parliament President and Forza Italia Vicepresidente Antonio Tajani said Berlusconi’s decision was “excellent news.”

If hope were a strategy: Berlusconi said he is convinced the current Italian government — made up of Matteo Salvini’s League and the 5Star Movement under Luigi Di Maio — is doomed to fail, and soon. “Then Salvini will come and knock on our door so as to form a center-right government,” Berlusconi said. (As a reminder, this was at a rally.) Last May, an Italian court lifted a ban on Berlusconi holding public office, after he was barred in 2013 after receiving a four-year sentence for tax fraud. (He didn’t end up spending any time in prison.)

NEW PARTY, NEW LUCK: Commissioner Corina Creţu announced she’ll be running for the European Parliament with ProRomania, the new party of former Prime Minister Victor Ponta. The news didn’t come as a total surprise to her current party, Romania’s ruling PSD. Creţu said she remains a Social Democrat and that her decision to run with ProRomania would set her apart from the current PSD leadership, which has in recent years attacked the Commission and Creţu herself.

THAT’S NOT A BALLOT BOX, THIS IS A BALLOT BOX: What do submarines, high-security prisons and tropical islands have in common? They’re all places you might catch a European voting in May’s EU-wide parliamentary election. Eline Schaart compiled a list of the most surprising polling stations for you.

MACRON’S LIBERAL LOVE AFFAIR GOES COLD: Two months after the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe announced a partnership with Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche, ALDE officials say the line to the French president has gone cold, reports Maïa de La Baume.


TACKLING CANCER: POLITICO’s latest Global Policy Lab looked into the mortality divide in Europe when it comes to access to fighting cancer. People are more likely to die of the disease in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, where health expenditure is lower — but while money is an important factor, it’s more complicated than that.

‘Corruption is one issue. Lack of information is another,’ writes POLITICO’s Sarah Wheaton. She invites the European community to take part in a collaborative journalism project to share their thoughts on the following questions, and more: Do you agree with what EPP Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber said he wants to do should he become Commission president — pooling European resources to speed up cancer cures? Or is it more important to bring the whole Continent up to speed? Sign up to the newsletter and join the conversation here.

TRANSPARENCY? FOR GOVERNMENTS? The European Parliament is pushing for greater transparency from national governments negotiating in Brussels. Emily O’Reilly, the EU’s ombudsman, called for the Council of the EU to provide more information to the public on its deliberations, member governments’ positions and voting results, and a large majority in Parliament voted in favor of the report.

O’Reilly hopes pressure helps: “The lack of legislative transparency in the Council has allowed the ‘blame Brussels’ culture to endure for far too long,” O’Reilly said in a statement. “I hope today’s vote will help convince national governments — in this most important EU election year — to agree to make EU law-making more open, so the public can see who is really taking the decisions.” She added that “this will require a culture change in the Council.”

Federalist gold-plating: Parliament went beyond O’Reilly’s report, calling for the Council to “align its working methods with the standards of a parliamentary and participatory democracy” and “transform itself into a true legislative chamber in order to create a real bicameral legislative system with the Parliament, with the Commission acting as the executive.”


RUH ROH: “President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter,” BuzzFeed reports. “Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. ‘Make it happen,’ the sources said Trump told Cohen.”

Leading Democrats and members of the House Judiciary Committee said Trump would have obstructed justice if he did indeed instruct Cohen to lie before Congress, POLITICO’s Quint Forgey reports.

So what’s happening with that Russia probe? Darren Samuelsohn reports that when it comes to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, it’s everyone for themselves. “The Team Trump infighting has been a prosecutor’s dream for Mueller, opening up an ever-widening window into the behind-the-scenes workings of a rookie politician whose campaign has been under investigation for years,” he writes.

TRUMP HEARTS NATO … HE REALLY DOES … NO, REALLY … Trump on Thursday claimed the United States is “100 percent” with NATO, days after a report alleged the president privately discussed withdrawing from the military alliance multiple times over the past year. Rebecca Morin has the details.


NO AMERICANS IN DAVOS: Trump canceled a planned trip by several of his Cabinet members to the World Economic Forum in Davos “out of consideration for the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay and to ensure his team can assist as needed,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. Our U.S. colleagues have the story.

NORWAY’S SOLBERG FORMS GOVERNMENT: Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg struck a deal Thursday to form a center-right majority government. Reuters has the latest.