18-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

18-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Monday, December 18, 2017

Tsipras: No prospect of 4th memorandum, reportedly in answer to Draghi offer

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, speaking on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, told Greek reporters he declined any prospect of a fourth bailout memorandum for the country, reportedly in answer to an offer by ECB President Mario Draghi for possible future assistance by the eurozone’s central bank.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1304640/tsipras-no-prospect-of-4th-memorandum-reportedly-in-answer-to-draghi-offer

Mitsotakis: ND ready for election at any time

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday told party delegates that the center-right ND is prepared for an election at any time, while at the same time reiterating his sharp attack on the leftist-rightist coalition government.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1304937/mitsotakis-nd-ready-for-election-at-any-time

Latest welfare benefit by govt to doll out one-off 400€ to unemployed young adults

The latest one-off welfare bonus announced by the embattled Tsipras government came over the weekend, with a top minister unveiling a 400-euro bonus to be disbursed to any registered unemployed person in the country aged between 18 and 24.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1305093/latest-welfare-benefit-by-govt-to-doll-out-one-off-400-to-unemployed-young-adults

Four students hospitalized after attack on Athens University faculty

Concerns about incidents of violence at university faculties peaked on Saturday after assailants wielding wooden sticks attacked students at an Athens University campus on Academias Street in central Athens, sending four of them to the hospital.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224233/article/ekathimerini/news/four-students-hospitalized-after-attack-on-athens-university-faculty

Tourism is the only magnet for investment

Investments in Greece continue to lag, with the exception of those aimed at tourism, which continues to flourish in the crisis-hit country, helping – along with an increase in product stock – the economy grow this year, according to an Alpha Bank report.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224244/article/ekathimerini/business/tourism-is-the-only-magnet-for-investment

Cash still king for the majority of Greek consumers, employers

Greeks love cash: Not only do they make most of their payments in cash – more than in any other eurozone country – but they also use it to pay their regular monthly obligations, such as utility bills, rent and even their taxes.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224243/article/ekathimerini/business/cash-still-king-for-the-majority-of-greek-consumers-employers

ATHEX: Banks index recovers this year’s losses

The continued drop in sovereign bond yields and the growing effort to dress up portfolios before year-end saw the majority of stocks chalking up more gains on Friday, when trading surpassed the 100-million-euro mark for a second day. The banks index has now covered all of this year’s losses.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/224212/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-banks-index-recovers-this-years-losses

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SUNDAY PAPERS

KATHIMERINI: Scenery of decadence in Universities

TO VIMA: Melancholic democracy

REAL NEWS: How to save your home from auctions

PROTO THEMA: New lump on the head ante portas! Cuts of 30% for new pensions while the supplementary allowance for pensioners (EKAS) will drop to 35 Euros

AVGI: The new landscape and the great bet regarding the country’s economy

MONDAY PAPERS

ETHNOS: Favorable regulations regarding VAT, rentals and payments in installments offer breathing space

TA NEA: Partisan policies and social allowances hint at early elections

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: New Democracy leader Mitsotakis asked for Gennimata’s support [PASOK leader] but he only got Theodoraki’s support [Potami leader]

KONTRA NEWS: New Democracy leader Mitsotakis did not have the guts to address the issue of massive lay-offs

DIMOKRATIA: Orgy of social allowances by the government in an attempt to save itself

NAFTEMPORIKI: The capital gains tax for real estate assets explained

FAR RIGHT COMES TO POWER IN AUSTRIA

Austria’s chancellor-to-be Sebastian Kurz inked a coalition deal with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) over the weekend. Some in Brussels shrugged, pointing out that the FPÖ has governed before. Not so European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who on Twitter called for democrats who hold European values to keep a “watchful eye” on Austria. Moscovici, who was France’s EU minister the last time the FPÖ entered government, said that while circumstances had changed since then, when the EU hit Vienna with sanctions, “the presence of the far right is never insignificant.”

What Austria’s new leaders want from Europe: Austria is set to take over the EU’s Council presidency in the second half of 2018. While the new government claimed it would remain “pro-European,” its plans sound nothing like French President Emmanuel Macron’s. Austria will act to “steer the EU back in the right direction toward its fundamental ideas” and take a leading role to correct “erroneous developments.” POLITICO’s Matthew Karnitschnig reports on how the new government’s policy toward Europe may make for some awkward conversations in the run up to its presidency.

Far right jamboree: Coinciding with the new coalition deal was a far right get-together in the neighboring Czech Republic, hosted by the Europe of Freedom and Nations, a 37-strong political group in the European Parliament, to which the FPÖ, Marine Le Pen’s National Front and Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom belong. “Because we like Europe, we say that the EU is going to kill her,” said Le Pen, while Wilders, slamming “the totalitarian ideology” of Islam, said: “The EU is a monster. We want a future without it.” The New York Times has more on the Prague meeting.

Turkey triggered: It’s barely in place, but Austria’s new coalition already has a diplomatic spat on its hands. Kurz and FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache pledged in their governing deal not to let Turkey into the EU. Ankara fired back, calling the pledge “baseless and short-sighted” in a statement. The move “confirms concerns about a political trend based on discrimination and marginalization,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said.

Policy priorities: AFP produced a handy guide of the new government’s coalition agreement, including financial penalties for immigrants who “refuse to integrate.”

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS

OLDEST PROFESSION: Ryan Heath’s EU Confidential interview with Belgian regional minister Pascal Smet about Brussels was the scandal du weekend in Belgium. Smet used some colorful language to describe his feelings about the city: “I compare Brussels very often with a whore, with a prostitute. Because at the same time it’s beautiful, it’s very horny, but at the same time it’s very ugly. It’s attractive and at the same time unattractive. It’s nice in its ugliness and ugly in its niceness.” Well, that didn’t go over well. Prime Minister Charles Michel led a chorus of calls for him to apologize, which Smet did. Others wanted him fired. See Le Soir’s take (and cartoon) here.

BIG WEEK FOR EU-MEXICO TRADE DEAL: This is Mexico’s chance to stick it to U.S. President Donald Trump before year-end, and the EU’s chance to clinch another major trade deal in 2017. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo is in Brussels today for talks on upgrading an existing EU-Mexico trade pact. He aims to bring home an agreement in principle. “There is a possibility but not a guarantee” of a deal being struck before the end of the year, he told Reuters. The European Commission said that it was “committed” to striking a political deal by New Year’s Eve. The key moment to push the accord over the line will be Tuesday, when Guajardo meets European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström.

Why Mexico wants it: Trump’s border wall and his push to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have Mexico scrambling to boost ties outside the United States, notably with the EU. Europe is keen, too: A deal with Mexico so soon after the big deal with Japan would send a powerful signal to the world about the EU’s openness for business.

Why it may not quite get there: While Japan accepted Europe’s defense of geographical indications, Mexico may have a harder time. Demands for investment protections are also problematic for Mexico, largely because agreeing to them could disrupt parallel talks with the United States on revamping NAFTA. ICYMI Florian Wicki and Jakob Hanke explain for POLITICO Pro Trade, Financial Services, Transport and Food and Agriculture subscribers why the Mexico-EU trade deal concerns everything from banks to avocados.

COUNCIL — ENERGY MINISTERS MEET: It’s the final ministerial get-together of the year, and it’s set to be a big one for the EU’s energy sector. Energy ministers meeting in Brussels today are expected to sign off on a series of flagship initiatives designed to boost the bloc’s energy security and use of renewable energy. POLITICO’s Anca Gurzu has all the details for POLITICO Pro Energy and Environment subscribers.

COMMISSION — AVRAMOPOULOS ON MIGRATION: After kicking up a war of words in the run-up to last week’s Council summit with President Donald Tusk on the subject of mandatory refugee quotas, Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos explains why it’s naive to think migration can be stopped. “It’s time to face the truth. We cannot and will never be able to stop migration,” he writes for POLITICO.

COMMISSION — VESTAGER GOES AFTER FLATPACK FURNITURE: Ikea’s taxes are the latest to attract the interest of Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s hard-hitting competition commissioner, reports POLITICO’s Nicholas Hirst. The world’s largest retailer, founded in Sweden but now HQ-ed in the Netherlands, would be a prominent European scalp for Vestager, who has been dogged by accusations she is “disproportionately” targeting U.S. companies (link for POLITICO Pro Technology and Financial Services subscribers). On Friday she issued formal objections to Bayer’s planned $66-billion takeover of U.S. chemical giant Monsanto.

COMMISSIONERS’ DIARY: High Representative Federica Mogherini is today hosting the prime ministers of the six Western Balkan countries trying to join the EU … Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn is in Vienna to meet Thomas Greminger, secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe … Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica is in Haiti for the Africa Caribbean Pacific-European Union Joint Parliamentary Assembly … Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc meets officials and business leaders in New Delhi, India.

DIGITAL — 2017, THE YEAR THAT BROKE THE INTERNET: POLITICO’s Mark Scott looks back over the year that saw a proliferation of regional and national initiatives to rein in Big Tech, allowing the Balkanization of the internet to gather pace. “In 2018, the forces dividing the internet along regional or national borders are only likely to gain momentum, as governments worldwide reassert their control over digital forces that threatened to turn policymakers and politicians into bit players in a tech-centric world run by the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook,” he writes.

EU NATIONAL NEWS

FRANCE — MACRON’S ENCHANTED 40TH BIRTHDAY: It was a big day, and Macron celebrated with due pomp. Seven months after he swept to power as France’s youngest leader in generations, Macron, his wife Brigitte and family members headed to the Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley to celebrate his 40th birthday. But the choice of the château, one of France’s most spectacular, triggered controversy over whether it was appropriate for Macron, accused of being a president of the rich, to celebrate in such a sumptuous locale.

Inn or out? Macron’s defenders rushed to point out that the president and his family had rented out a modestly priced inn near the château. Critics retorted that Macron celebrated his birthday in one of its gilded salons. What stuck was the fairy-tale setting for a birthday that may have been fit for a king.

Gift from the polls: Despite the noise, Macron had reasons to rejoice. Chief among them: his popularity, which is back up, according to one survey, after a deep slump during the summer when Macron was pushing through a controversial overhaul of labor rules. Pollster Ifop said 52 percent of the French were satisfied with Macron’s work, up from 40 percent in August and a whopping six percentage points since November.

Other blessings: France’s upbeat economic readings, the European Commission’s embrace of some of his proposals for eurozone reform (*even if member states were tepid on it Friday*) and the fact that the Macron-friendly German Social Democrats may enter a new governing coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

BELGIUM — GOVERNMENT TO SEND FEMALE AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Dominique Mineur, currently Belgium’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, will soon move to Riyadh to represent the country in Saudi Arabia. According to De Redactie, Belgium is the first country in the world to appoint a female ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

ITALY — DEMOCRATS SINK IN POLL: Months before Italians head to an election, the Democratic Party sank further in a poll Sunday, published in Corriere della Sera. Meanwhile Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5Star movement, kept open the option of calling a referendum on euro membership.

GERMANY — MERKEL’S BAVARIAN HEADACHE: With Bavaria facing a state election next year, the staunchly conservative Christian Social Union is set to tack rightwards in a bid to win back support lost to the upstart Alternative for Germany party, placing it even further at odds with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, with whom they are in coalition at the national level. POLITICO’s Janosch Delcker reports from the CSU party congress in Nuremberg.

BREXIT 360°

MAY CABINET TO BEGIN TALKS ON BREXIT END-STATE: After winning rare plaudits from EU leaders at a Brussels summit last week, Theresa May must now face her Cabinet. Starting Tuesday, ministers will discuss a preferred “end-state” for Britain to aim for in the next stage of Brexit talks. May, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson all made statements about the next phase of talks, but they were not exactly in tune.

What Hammond said: That Britain’s trading relationship with the EU would be “largely unchanged” after Brexit. “We won’t technically or legally be in the customs union or the single market. But we’re committed as a result of the agreement we’ve made this week to creating an environment which will effectively recreate the status quo,” he said in comments reported by the Financial Times. He will today meet Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici to discuss Brexit negotiations and tax reform.

What Johnson said: That Britain needed “something new and ambitious, which allows zero tariffs and frictionless trade but still gives us that important freedom to decide our own regulatory framework,” he told the Sunday Times. In other words, Johnson and Hammond were reading from different hymn sheets on Britain’s future trade relationship with the EU.

What May said: That Britain wanted a “new, deep and special partnership” with the EU after Brexit, and that her government was “getting on with the job” despite all the noise, she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. 

What it means: May and her ministers are trying to turn “sufficient progress” into a political victory at home and keep everyone focused on trade wonders to come. But their progress in Brussels is offset by a setback at home, where 11 Tory MPs last week sided with the opposition in support of an amendment forcing the government to give parliament a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.

Labour shadow minister rules out second referendum: Diane Abbott, shadow home secretary, ruled out a second referendum on EU membership. “The Labour Party does not support a second referendum, and we’ve never supported it, and we don’t support it now,” she said Sunday, the same day a new poll showed a 10-point lead for remaining in the EU.

BEYOND EUROPE

LIBYA — HAFTAR SIGNALS HE’S READY FOR ELECTION: Khalifa Haftar, the military strongman who controls the east of Libya, signaled he was ready to run in an election next year. “We declare clearly and unequivocally our full compliance with the orders of the free Libyan people, which is its own guardian and the master of its land,” Haftar said. More from Reuters.