18-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

18-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Pension cuts remain a sore point in talks between gov’t, creditors

Pension cuts due to come into effect in January remain a sore point in talks between Greece and its international creditors, with both sides apparently unwilling to compromise amid speculation that the deadlock could trigger early elections.


Labor minister promises amendment aimed to raise minimum monthly wage scale in Greece

Greek labor minister Efi Achtsioglou on Monday evening promised that an amendment aimed to raise the minimum monthly wage scale – for full-time employment – in the country will be tabled this week, with ratification expected in Parliament by the end of the year.


Zaev: No evidence of Russian interference in referendum

The Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Zoran Zaev said on Monday he had no evidence that Russia has tried to interfere in the country’s referendum, slated for September 30.


MSF: Greece must urgently move vulnerable migrants from island camp

Greece should urgently move children and other vulnerable migrants and refugees from its most overcrowded island camp to the mainland or to other EU countries for the sake of their mental and physical health, the MSF aid agency said on Monday.


Job vacancy rate for Greece in Q1 2018 at 0.7%, lowest in Eurozone

Greece placed last in a Eurostat list, published on Monday, in terms of Eurozone members’ job vacancy rate for the first quarter of 2018, coming in at 0.7 percent, followed by Bulgaria, Spain and Portugal, all with 0.9 percent.


ATHEX: Recovery of banks keeps index afloat

The continued recovery of bank stocks proved enough to keep the benchmark afloat in what was otherwise a day of losses for the majority of stocks at the start of the week. Monday’s session picked up from where Friday’s had left off, with many blue chips and most mid-caps ending in the red, although trading volume was significantly lower.







KATHIMERINI:  Incompetent policing

ETHNOS:  Erdogan revealed. Direct threats against Cyprus.

TA NEA:  The government is handing out benefits ahead of the elections

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Real estate ENFIA tax will become a nightmare for municipalities if its collection is transferred to them

AVGI:  Fascist gangs must be dismantled

RIZOSPASTIS:  No trusting the government! They brought us where we are and they can’t do anything different.

KONTRA NEWS:  Total recall of the bipolar political system

DIMOKRATIA:  Rupture with the creditors and snap elections on the pensions issue

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Banks are putting pressure on bad debtors

Release Sentsov, EU says: EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová called on Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov to release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov from a Russian prison in a letter seen by Playbook. “I would urge that you reconsider this case, on humanitarian grounds and bearing in mind Russia’s international commitments on human rights, and release Mr. Sentsov,” Jourová wrote. “Such a gesture would send a strong signal to the world about Russia’s commitment to abide international law and human rights.

“Pending the release of Mr. Sentsov, I would urge you to ensure access to him by Ukrainian authorities, including the Ukrainian ombudsperson,” the letter said, adding that Jourová also calls for “an independent medical team to ensure appropriate treatment in line with the European Court of Human Rights interim measure of 25 July.”

GOOD MORNING. His approval ratings may be in decline, but French President Emmanuel Macron still managed to sell €350,000 worth of memorabilia in only three days, our own Judith Mischke reports. Of course, even his most adoring fans have just one vote each. With that, onto today’s General Affairs Council in Brussels, where European foreign affairs ministers will discuss Poland and get a briefing from the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. We’ll also discuss a noticeable shift in Austria’s position on migration and next year’s European election.


PEER PRESSURE IS ON: Poland’s Minister for EU Affairs Konrad Szymański will have another opportunity today to convince his peers that his government’s judicial reforms are in line with the rule of law, European style. (Politically) high on the agenda of today’s General Affairs Council meeting is, again, the Article 7 procedure against Poland. Warsaw has no illusions on what’s going to happen. “We are assuming that the hearing will be similar to the one in June,” according to a Polish diplomat. Said June meeting ended with pressure being kept up on Warsaw and the procedure being put on the agenda again for today’s meeting. Voilà.

It won’t be the last time: Once you start a tradition, it’s best to keep it going — so France and Germany are again going to issue a joint statement today on the case, according to EU government sources, backing-slash-pushing the Commission to not let the Polish government off the hook. It’ll be Berlin envoy Michael Roth’s turn to present the joint position. The closer we get to next year’s European election, the more difficult it is for either side to back down.

Don’t make it worse, Germany and France urge Poland: Berlin and Paris are expected to raise their concerns about the new retirement regime for Polish Supreme Court judges, which came into effect in July. According to government sources, Germany and France will ask Poland to hold off on replacing judges until the European Court of Justice has considered its judiciary reforms. The gist of the Franco-German position: The Article 7 procedure must continue.

More fuel for the fire: Poland was suspended from the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary on Monday because the body that nominates the country’s judges is no longer seen as being independent of political control. Jan Cienski has the details.

MEANWHILE, IN HUNGARY: The Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee will this morning publish a report about the treatment of migrants whom Hungary “pushes back” to Serbia. The report covers its most recent visit to Hungary in October 2017 (check it out here), and the response from Hungarian authorities (read it here).

ROMANIA GAY MARRIAGE LATEST: Romania’s Constitutional Court backed the draft changes to the country’s constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, clearing the path for a referendum on the anti-gay-marriage proposal on October 7, our own Carmen Paun writes in to tell us. Some Romanians are planning to boycott the vote, which requires a 30 percent turnout to be valid. More details here.

WILL THE EU SPLIT BETWEEN VISEGRÁD VS. EVERYONE ELSE SOON? No — and Maroš Šefčovič’s bid to become the Social Democratic Spitzenkandidat is a good reminder of that, argues Milan Nič for Slovakia’s Dennik N newspaper. Šefčovič’s move is “a step out of the Visegrád bubble,” he writes, and “shows there are constructive, pro-EU candidates from Central and Eastern Europe for top Brussels jobs.” More on Šefčovič below.

RAAB SAYS BALL’S IN THE EU COURT: In an interview with European papers, including Die Welt, ahead of today’s General Affairs Council, U.K. Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab insists Britain has compromised enough with its Chequers plan, and calls on Brussels to do the same. “We made compromises and we showed ambition — and we do need to see that matched on the EU side,” he says. “Salzburg is an informal EU summit, but it will be an important milestone — a stepping stone if you like — to show we’ve actually got the contours of an agreement on principles to continue the final weeks of these negotiations … We have shown a lot of flexibility and we have been very pragmatic. So I think this is the moment to see that matched … The ball is a little bit in the other court now.”

Opinion — EU and UK need each other on post-Brexit security: The foreign ministers of Poland, Lithuania and Romania warn in an op-ed for POLITICO that without Britain, the EU’s stance on the global stage may weaken, making it more vulnerable to external threats. But it’s not too late to avoid much of the damage, argue Jacek Czaputowicz, Linas Linkevičius and Teodor Meleșcanu.


THERMOMETER KURZ: Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose government holds the Council presidency, sent a piece of advice southwards: “Countries at our external borders need our help,” he said, speaking from Paris, alongside Emmanuel Macron. “But they must also accept the support and help of the European Union,” he added, speaking of Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposals (and Kurz’s own call) for the strengthening of the European Coast and Border Guard.

What that means: Friends and foes say Kurz’s success is at least in part due to his talent for seizing the exact moment to adapt his positions. His message is that it’s now no longer just up to Brussels, Berlin and Paris to accommodate Italy’s (or Austria’s) requests — it’s time for Rome to make concessions.

Will Matteo Salvini heed that advice? Only if solving the crisis is actually the Italian government’s top priority. If the point is just more EU bashing, then don’t expect him to shift.

AN ITALIAN STORY: Italy’s minister for European Affairs, Paolo Savona, has never distanced himself from his “Plan B” proposal — that Italy should bolt in the night out of the eurozone. That stance got him into government, but has seen him blocked from a spot at the top EU tables. He missed out on the finance ministry, isn’t in any of the decisive EU groupings, and isn’t regularly allowed to attend the General Affairs Council, where Italy is usually represented by Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi, considered a safe pair of hands when it comes to EU affairs and respected by the rest of the gang.

Knock knock: Savona suggests in a 17-page paper that’s recently been passed around that he can contribute to reforming the EU’s “institutional setup.” The Commission said it hadn’t received any such thing at the end of last week, but Jacopo Barigazzi has, and here’s your copy.

Savona wants to create an EU ‘politeia,’ or statehood (!) in a Platonic sense, which is missing from the EU and its member countries, according to Savona’s analysis. He also wants to assess “the compliance of the current EU institutional architecture and economic policy with the objectives of growth under condition of price stability and full employment explicitly set out in the Treaties.”

How will he achieve all that? Guess what: “The Italian government will undertake all the necessary steps to set up a high-level working group.” Now if this man doesn’t understand how things are done in Brussels, who does? Anyway, it’ll be Moavero representing Italy in today’s ministerial meeting.


Here’s a roundup of the latest in the lead-candidate process …

EPP: Alexander Stubb will make a decision about whether he runs against Manfred Weber to become the EPP’s Spitzenkandidaten “in the 2-3 coming weeks,” according to the man himself.

SOCIALISTS: Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič made his candidacy official on Monday, but David M. Herszenhorn, Maïa de La Baume and Kalina Oroschakoff reckon there’s still a good chance the Socialists (and the EPP for that matter) will search for “more compelling candidates.” A race between Šefčovič and Weber “might make the 2014 match-up between ex-Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Martin Schulz seem glamorous by comparison,” they write.

Entente: German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier is in town today to meet with Šefčovič — perhaps to discuss the eternal summertime proposal that falls into both of their portfolios, perhaps to talk politics. There’s a joint press point foreseen at the Berlaymont this afternoon.

GREENS: Applications are closed and there are four candidates vying to become the European Green Party’s Spitzenkandidaten (the party will choose a team, in Green tradition): Belgian Senator Petra De Sutter; Dutch Bas Eickhout; German MEP Ska Keller and Atanas Schmidt, nominated by Bulgaria’s Zelena Partija.

Next steps: Each candidate must secure the support of “at least five additional EU European Green Party member parties by 28 September to be able to proceed to the next phase,” European Green Party co-chairs Monica Frassoni and Reinhard Bütikofer said in a statement. Two candidates will be selected at a party congress in Berlin in late November.

ALDE: Margrethe Vestager will be my guest this morning in a live interview, along with Mario Monti. You can follow the livestream here — we’ll discuss fair play with the current and former competition commissioners, talk about the 25th anniversary of the EU’s single market — and we’ll consider what’s next for the EU and a certain eminent Danish Liberal.


NEW CHINA TARIFFS: President Donald Trump announced overnight that the United States will impose a 10 percent duty on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports as of next week, escalating the trade war. Trump also said that a second phase — a boost to the tariff rate to 25 percent — will take place at the beginning of 2019.

A new approach to EU-US trade: Less is more. So what’s happening to that U.S.-EU trade deal? POLITICO’s trade team reports Brussels and Washington have put a mega pact on hold (at least for now), and are instead pushing for a mini-deal.

WHY DO RUSSIANS KEEP VISITING MARIIA BUTINA IN PRISON? Former spook Alex Finley has the low-down on why “Mariia Butina, the gun-slinging Russian student accused by the U.S. government of being a spy for her Motherland,” has received quite a bit of attention from top Russian officials. Spoiler alert: It’s not because they’re overly concerned about her welfare.