18-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

18-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

ND insists firm linked to PM used fake papers

The conservative New Democracy party on Tuesday presented documents to back up claims that a company managed by relatives of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras secured a public works project by using a fake tax document.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230793/article/ekathimerini/news/nd-insists-firm-linked-to-pm-used-fake-papers

Turkish court again rejects motion to free 2 Greek servicemen held without charges

A Turkish court in the border city of Edirne on Tuesday rejected a sixth consecutive motion to free two Greek servicemen held in pretrial detention in the neighboring country since March 1.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1372340/turkish-court-again-rejects-motion-to-free-2-greek-servicemen-held-without-charges

Greek high court rejects first legal challenge to recently signed ‘Prespes agreement’

The Council of State (CoS), Greece’s highest administrative court, on Tuesday issued a preliminary decision to reject a motion filed by various organizations, representing expatriates hailing from the northern Greece province of Macedonia, to suspend the recently signed “Prespes agreement”, a bilateral deal between Athens and Skopje to finally resolve the fYRoM “name issue”.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1372464/greek-high-court-rejects-first-legal-challenge-to-recently-signed-prespes-agreement

Gov’t lawmakers challenge delays in citizenship for migrants

Fifty-one lawmakers with the ruling SYRIZA party have requested explanations from the Interior Ministry over complaints of lengthy delays in the granting of citizenship to migrants.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230774/article/ekathimerini/news/govt-lawmakers-challenge-delays-in-citizenship-for-migrants

Greece improves 10 spots on International Transparency’s Corruption Perceptions Index

Greece’s position in International Transparency’s “Corruption Perceptions Index 2017” improved by 10 positions, compared to the 2016 listing, landing in 59th place, behind …Saudi Arabia but ahead of Jordan.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1372484/greece-improves-10-spots-on-international-transparencys-corruption-perceptions-index

Slow recovery for employment rates

Employment in Greece is recovering at a slow but steady rate, with the increase in part-time employment since 2011 contributing toward the gradual decline in the jobless rates, according to a report published by the ICAP Group.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230807/article/ekathimerini/business/slow-recovery-for-employment-rates

ATHEX: Mixed picture as investors are distracted

Investors in the Greek stock market appeared more interested in the testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to the US Senate than the trading session at Athinon Avenue on Tuesday, with daily turnover failing to make the 20-million-euro mark. Stocks showed a mixed picture, with gainers narrowly outnumbering losers.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230804/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-mixed-picture-as-investors-are-distracted

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KATHIMERINI:  The government is just now discovering the middle class

ETHNOS:  The new labor landscape

TA NEA:  ‘Crescendo’ of promises and allowances by the government

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Zaev’s Gordian Knot

AVGI:  Storm in the USA – Worries in the EU

RIZOSPASTIS:  Initiative for the reinforcement of the struggle for Collective Labor Agreements

KONTRA NEWS:  The Russian lobby attempted to bribe Independent Greeks’ MPs for 1 million Euros each

DIMOKRATIA:  Unified Social Security Funds issues pensions based on mistaken calculations

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Challenges and promises

 

GOOD MORNING. U.S. President Donald Trump meant to say “I don’t see any any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia” that meddled in his own 2016 election. His statement that “I don’t see any any reason why it would be Russia” was a mere slip of the tongue in Helsinki on Monday.

That’s how Trump justified his Helsinki howler some 30 hours later, this time making sure to stick to prepared remarks. Watch the video here. Why didn’t reporters immediately realize what Trump actually-really-truly-honestly meant to say on Monday? Must be our pesky habit of reporting what we actually hear. POLITICO’s White House reporting team goes behind the scenes to tell you how Trump’s rare climb-down happened here.

Imagine … if Ronald Reagan were Trump: “Mr. Gorbatschov, don’t tear down this wall.” If John F. Kennedy were Trump: “Ich bin kein Berliner,” (h/t @YohannesBecker). If Bill Clinton were Trump: “I did have sexual relations with that woman.” Or, if Walter Ulbricht were Trump (or Trump was Trump, without going off script): “Someone has the intention to build a wall.”

Meanwhile … U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is open to the first talks since 2015 between American and Russian defense chiefs, Reuters reports.

MR. JUNCKER GOES TO WASHINGTON: “Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will travel to Washington on 25 July 2018 where he will be received by President Donald J. Trump at the White House,” the European Commission announced Tuesday. Across “a wide range of priorities,” including security policy, the fight against terrorism, energy and the economy, the two will “focus on improving transatlantic trade and forging a stronger economic partnership.”

Here’s what the confirmation suggests …

1. It’s just Trump. The statement reads as if the Commission president will hop on a plane, meet Trump, then return to Brussels right after — a one-day visit with the meeting at the White House as the sole agenda point so far. It doesn’t seem like an opportunity to seek alliances with the other America — but it does seem about right for a showdown.

2. Fifth avenue obsession: Juncker is set to argue that slapping tariffs on European (read: German) cars will amount to nothing more than painful symbolism. The Commission recently prepared numbers for the U.S. administration, first reported by Playbook, to show that car tariffs would hurt the Americans.

3. Question for Juncker: Cave in or fight? What’s Juncker’s mandate (beyond making clear, via his presence, that trade is an EU issue, not a bilateral one)? That’s one of the questions for an EU ambassadors’ meeting today, according to several diplomats. Will countries be in the mood for appeasement, by scrapping tariffs on industrial goods, cars included, via revived talks for a trade deal with the U.S., or by lowering car duties for America (and thereby all other WTO countries potentially affected)? Or do signs point to confrontation instead?

4. Doing the Germans a favor: Juncker’s visit is a de facto litmus test for Germany’s standing in the EU. It’s easy to say Europe is united, willing to go all the way to defend a rules-based international trading system. But if the EU’s biggest country pushes its smaller brothers-in-arms to be more flexible, just this once, will they bend? Remember, Chancellor Angela Merkel already used some of her political capital at an EU summit last month, when countries worked overtime to forge a compromise on migration to prevent her government from falling apart.

Hans von der Burchard and Jakob Hanke write that in a first win for Germany, it is shaping Juncker’s agenda, with Berlin presenting three offers that the Commission president could take to Trump on July 25 to resolve the dispute. But the French aren’t happy.

5. Android case coming today: Juncker the “brutal killer” and his “tax lady” Margrethe Vestager have one more opportunity to take on the U.S. Expect a Commission decision in the Google/Android case today to set the scene and the tone for next week’s conversation at the White House. Doesn’t look like it will be as harmonious as Trump’s Helsinki schmoozing with Vlad.

Let me repeat that in news lingo: The European Commission will release its much-anticipated decision on Google’s Android operating system today, three EU officials told POLITICO. Competition chief Vestager is widely expected to issue a multi-billion euro fine and to order the U.S. company to change its contracts with smartphone manufacturers and telecom operators. Mark Scott and Simon Van Dorpe here on the magnitude of this day.

Roadmap: Ryan Heath proposes nine ways for dealing with Trump — the 10th entry to that list is due next week.

Meanwhile, on Iran: Experts tell Lili Bayer that the EU’s moves to protect the deal after Trump pulled the U.S. out of it are unlikely to have their desired effect.

UNEXPECTED: Vegetarianism, veganism and other forms of “clean” eating and organic farming are often associated with leftist, progressive movements. But in Germany, even the ethical treatment of animals has been co-opted by the far right, reports Irina Dumitrescu.

TRADE VARIA

LISTEN, DONALD: The signing of the biggest trade agreement ever wasn’t quite a moment of silent triumph for the EU. Council President Donald Tusk and Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker made sure the message from Tokyo gets heard in Washington, first and foremost.

Side by side: “The real risks to our economy, jobs and prosperity are political uncertainty, tariff war, unpredictability, irresponsibility and aggressive rhetoric. NOT free trade agreements,” tweeted Tusk. Juncker added that “with the signature of the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan we are making a statement about the future of free and fair trade. The agreement puts fairness and values at its core. There is no protection in protectionism — and there is no unity where there is unilateralism.” Juncker’s full remarks here and Tusk’s here.

Does your hometown trade with Japan? Wallonia’s frozen fries, Milan’s machinery, pasta from Naples, Parmigiano from Emilia-Romagna, mineral water from Romania (ah, capitalism), vacuum cleaners from Hungary. They’re among the EU’s exports to Japan, and for 90 percent of them, tariffs will be cut to zero. Here’s a fun new tool from the Commission that allows you to check what your country and region export to Japan — and in some cases you can even go down to the city level.

What will Brexit affect? Whisky and shellfish from Scotland, biscuits and aluminum from Wales, forklift trucks from Northern Ireland. According to the EU, some 8,400 British companies export to Japan, 90 percent of them small and medium enterprises. Exports are worth €6.5 billion and support 90,000 jobs.

Awkward: Someone forgot to rejig the standard phrasing in the Commission’s material for Britain. “The United Kingdom and Japan already have a close trading relationship. The EU-Japan trade agreement will give it a big boost,” the Commission’s factsheet promises. Sure, for about three months if things go wrong, or two years if they don’t.

THERESA’S BREXIT WOES

SUMMER RELIEF: Theresa May on Tuesday cleared (probably) her final Brexit hurdle before U.K. parliament’s summer break. She averted (through serious arm-twisting) defeat on key legislation that would have rewritten her Brexit negotiating priorities and could have been the killer blow to her fragile leadership, reports Charlie Cooper.

WHEN DID BREXIT START TO UNDERMINE MAY’S GOVERNMENT? Will Monday, July 16 go down as the day the U.K. government began to lose its footing? Or the day of the publication of the Chequers white paper last week? The decision to accept the Irish backstop in December 2017, perhaps? Or May’s fateful call to hold a snap general election last year? Was it her refusal to accept anything had changed after she lost her majority?

Of course, May is still the PM. Not even Hurricane Trump could dislodge her. Meanwhile, many of her adversaries have left her Cabinet. But still — the odds that May can do a deal that her Tories, the British parliament and the EU can agree on are shrinking.

Excuse the minister’s French: Tom McTague dissects Monday’s and Tuesday’s knife-edge votes in the House of Commons, and argues it’s now even less probable that May can square that triangle of power. One minister was clear about the tight spot the government is now in, Tom writes. “I don’t have any insight, other than it’s a big f**king problem.”

SERVICE ENTRY: May’s white paper is now available in various European languages. What Brexit means in French: “Le gouvernement aura alors concrétisé la volonté exprimée à l’issue du référendum de 2016, le plus grand exercice démocratique de toute l’histoire du pays.” Let’s continue in German:“Die regierung … wird einen entscheidenden Meilenstein in ihrem wichtigsten Auftrag erreicht haben, den Aufbau eines Landes, das allen dienlich ist.” And finally, in Italian: “Il governo darà mandato alla squadra negoziale del Regno Unito di lavorare alacremente con l’Unione Europea al fine di raggiungere un accordo sostanziale sul Futuro programma quadro e sull’Accordo di recesso entro la fine di quest’anno.” 

What it all means: The U.K. will exit the EU, as its people voted to do. Brexit will work for everyone. And May will now, two years after the referendum, ask her negotiating team to please get in touch with Brussels and talk about what happens after March 29, 2019. There is also a new British timeline for an agreement on future relationships: by the end of the year, instead of October. Check for yourself here if that all sounds as empty-yet-pompous in your own language, too. Don’t blame the translators.