19-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

19-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tsipras gives ministers deadline to conclude third review by Nov.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday promised the “ASAP” implementation of “prior actions” by his government in order to conclude the looming third review of the ongoing bailout.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1277352/tsipras-gives-ministers-deadline-to-conclude-third-review-by-nov

Bid to clean up Greek tanker oil spillage is beset by problems

As efforts continued on Monday to clean up hundreds of tons of fuel which leaked from the sunken Agia Zoni II tanker last weekend, the conservation group WWF Hellas lodged legal action against “all those responsible” for what it described as “an environmental crime deserving exemplary punishment.”

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221768/article/ekathimerini/news/bid-to-clean-up-greek-tanker-oil-spillage-is-beset-by-problems

New chief appointed to Supreme Court

Greece’s cabinet on Monday appointed a new president to the country’s Supreme Court, filling the top judicial post after the summer recess, following the retirement in June of Vassiliki Thanou.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221756/article/ekathimerini/news/new-chief-appointed-to-supreme-court

National Bank report: Greek labor market recovery picks up, uptick in qualitative aspects

National Bank of Greece, in a report published on Monday, noted that employment growth in the recession-battered country picked up the second quarter of 2017 by 2.3 percent, yoy, and up 1.4 percent compared to the first quarter of the year.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1277323/national-bank-report-greek-labor-market-recovery-picks-up-uptick-in-qualitative-aspects

20-year extension of Athens airport concession to net 600 mln€ for privatization program

A mostly expected approval by the Court of Audit, which reviews major state contracts, of a proposed 20-year extension of the current concession for the Eleftherios Venizelos Athens International Airport (AIA) means the process will continue unhindered.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1277422/20-year-extension-of-athens-airport-concession-to-net-600-mln-for-privatization-program

Greece EU laggard in e-payments despite big acceleration in 2016

Electronic payments rose faster in Greece last year than in any other European Union member-state, amounting to 108.8 percent year-on-year, as recorded by the European Central Bank. The trend has continued this year, due in large part to a law linking e-spending with an income tax discount as well as the compulsory installation of card terminals by all tradesmen and professionals.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221775/article/ekathimerini/business/greece-eu-laggard-in-e-payments-despite-big-acceleration-in-2016

ATHEX: Banks index swings to negative for the year

The decline in local stock prices which started in the first half of the month appears to be gathering pace, with the benchmark losing another 2 percent on Monday. Banks were unable to halt their slide as their future remains uncertain given the pressure for an asset review.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221771/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-banks-index-swings-to-negative-for-the-year

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KATHIMERINI: The tax-office will not examine cases dating to 2005 and back. The cases of 2006-2010 may be controlled if evidence are available

ETHNOS: District attorney to investigate the Piraeus Bank party

TA NEA: Constant elections in universities – Class can wait. The new bill provides for tens of electoral procedures within two months

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The river of wrath. Thousands of citizens rallied in memory of rapper Pavlos Fyssas [who was slain by a neo-Nazi Golden Dawn member]

AVGI: Mitsotakis’ Greece: Special Financial Zone

RIZOSPASTIS: Join the Communist party because the people should not tolerate the system of injustice

KONTRA NEWS: ‘Rotten’ ships must leave our seas

DIMOKRATIA: Former PASOK minister Karchimakis throws mud at former PM Karamanlis

NAFTEMPORIKI: Which tax-evasion cases are going to remain open

IT’S GERMAN ELECTION COUNTDOWN …

As Germans head to the polls September 24, questions Brussels most wants answers to, in no particular order:

— Who will be German finance minister?
— Will a returned Chancellor Angela Merkel diversify her country’s export-driven economy and deal with its massive (and arguably illegal) current account surplus?
— What will the Alternative for Deutschland achieve with its predicted 50 or so Bundestag seats, and the public money that comes with them?

5 things to watch in the last days of the German election campaign, by Florian Eder. Top takes: The worse the Social Democrats do, the more likely they are to move into opposition in order to rebuild. Meanwhile, expect the liberal Free Democrats to be a difficult partner in any coalition talks.

The Legatum Institute published a report on how the German election system works, a polling overview and an extensive section on why populism hasn’t taken off.

What German voters are talking about: The Berliner Morgenpost has an interesting interactive on the top 15 most discussed topics for the 2017 parliament election. Immigration tops the bill, replacing labor and unemployment from the last election.

Vice interviewed German election candidates, including Liberal MEP Alexander Graf Lambsdorff.

Dream team: Move over Martin! One year ago European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s dream team was with then European Parliament president, now Merkel challenger Martin Schulz. Fast-forward to Wolfgang Schäuble’s 75th birthday Monday, and Juncker has switched horses to his EPP colleague, with whom the Commission chief says he makes “a dream pair.”

EUROPEAN ELECTION MONITOR: Iceland is the latest country set for a snap election. Icelandic President Guðni Jóhannesson on Monday accepted Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson’s request to dissolve parliament and hold an election October 28.

Mark your calendar: 5 days until the German election | 12 days until Catalonia independence vote | 26 days until Austrian election | 31 days until Czech election.

TRANSPORT — PAY UP, COMMISSION TELLS RYANAIR: Ryanair announced it would cancel 40 to 50 flights a day until the end of October because it failed to plan well enough for a change in the way pilots’ holidays are allocated. The European Commission said Monday it expects it to comply with EU law, under which airlines must compensate passengers €250 or more for journeys canceled at short notice for reasons within companies’ control. POLITICO Pro Transport subscribers can read more here.

Charleroi flights disrupted: Ryanair published a list of airports affected during the next six weeks. They include Charleroi, Barcelona, Dublin, Lisbon, London Stansted, Madrid, Milano Bergamo, Porto and Rome Fiumicino.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE — ENFORCEMENT MINISTERIAL MEETING: The committee of ministers overseeing how the council’s 47 member countries implement judgments from the European Court of Human Rights starts in Strasbourg today.

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY …

Trump debut: Foreign Policy rated President Donald Trump’s first U.N. appearance “subdued.” The U.S. president said: “In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement. The United Nations budget has increased by 120 percent and its staff has more than doubled since 2000.” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said he is kept awake at night by red tape nightmares.

Malmström formally launches anti-torture trade alliance: Announced September 7 in Brussels and formally launched in New York with 58 participating countries Monday, the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade’s purpose is banning the trade of instruments used in torture, such as gas chambers and guillotines. Speaking to Playbook’s Harry Cooper, European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said the organizers will start by trying to sign up more countries that have already banned the death penalty (that includes the whole EU), but the alliance is open to anyone who wants to work towards its goals. Photos from launch event here | Site here

Theresa May’s leash: Commenting on the British PM’s trade mission to Canada, Malmström said: “Theresa May can travel wherever she wants,” adding, “If she talks to Canada, if she feels a little bit the mood, there is nothing I can say about that, but she can’t start negotiating.”

CATALAN CORNER — THE CASE AGAINST INDEPENDENCE …

Playbook strives to be a forum for political exchange. To balance the easy-to-find and slickly packaged arguments in favor of Catalan independence ahead of a planned referendum October 1, and as Madrid takes control of Catalan finances, Spanish diplomats and politicians explained to Playbook why they are opposed to “self-determination.”

The quotes and arguments below come from sources within the Spanish national government and diplomatic service, whom Playbook spoke to over the past week.

— Catalonia would be 30 percent poorer, and immediately an outcast from the EU, should it declare independence, “that is crystal clear.”

— Madrid says it is looking at the big picture: “It is important that we defend the rights of all citizens not just Catalan secessionists.” Failing to do that would risk Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy: “It is a very risky path.”

— Madrid did not entertain Catalan government claims (dating back to 2012) for a new “fiscal pact” between Catalonia and the Spanish state because the country was near bankruptcy. Government sources invoked the EU’s austerity rules as one reason a new fiscal pact would not have worked.

— The Spanish state is both legally and philosophically opposed to “self-determination,” but its representatives say they would discuss other aspects of autonomy if the Catalan government dropped its independence push.

— The only legal means for Catalonia to leave Spain would be through changes to Article 1 and Article 2 of the Spanish constitution, which has been amended only twice since its 1978 adoption.

— Government sources refer to the referendum process as both illegal and “a circus,” saying it is not clear who can vote, where they will vote or how the votes will be counted.

— Madrid rejects complaints that Catalan secessionists are vulnerable to arrest for being involved in the referendum, insisting it is merely “informing Catalans of their legal responsibilities.”

— Madrid is not worried Catalonia will find support in Europe’s foreign ministries: “No foreign ministry is interested in this.”

Reality-checking the Spanish government

— Zoltán Kovács, spokesman for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, said Monday: “The will of the people is always what matters, that’s the position.”

— The Spanish government could try to deflate the independence movement with offers of more money or autonomy, as London did for Scotland and Brussels for Flanders.

— While it is easy to find problems with the referendum process, Madrid is also deeply involved in ensuring the vote is flawed. Anyone helping may be hauled before a judge and print shops in Catalonia have been banned from printing election pamphlets, which authorities claim are illegal.

— When asked whether violence was a real possibility on or after voting October 1, Playbook’s top source would say only: “I hope not. It shouldn’t.”

HUNGARY — ORBÁN CRIES RAPE: Yes, literally. Opening the Hungarian parliament Monday, the prime minister praised his government’s economic achievements and said EU migration policy was about raping Hungary. On the same day, Zoltan Kovács, Orbán’s spokesman in Brussels, gave a press conference saying Hungary’s battle against Brussels over EU migration policy had only just begun, regardless of the country losing a recent European Court of Justice case on the policy.  

HUNGARY — ORBÁN RAILS AGAINST SPIRITUAL SUICIDE: The Hungarian prime minister told an earlier Christian conference in the Hungarian parliament that if Hungary does not defend its Christian monoculture, “everything we have worked for” will be gone within a generation.” (Watch with English subtitles). Orbán described Hungary as a “non-immigrant country” and claimed the social transformation of welcoming immigrants is “commonly known as the Soros plan.”

THE NETHERLANDS — AMSTERDAM MAYOR RESIGNS: Amsterdam’s Mayor Eberhard van der Laan will quit because he’s terminally ill with lung cancer and treatment is no longer viable. Deputy Mayor Kajsa Ollongren takes over for now.

CYRPUS AND PORTUGAL — MORE PASSPORTS FOR SALE: A cross-border Guardian investigation found at least 400 people, including wealthy Russians and Ukrainians, among beneficiaries of Cypriot cash-for-passport schemes. Corrupt business executives and family members of politicians are among beneficiaries of a similar “golden visa” scheme in Portugal, the paper reports. The issue matters across the EU because residency or citizenship in one EU country usually confers rights in all of them.

UK — CORBYN’S PLAN TO OVERHAUL LABOUR: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will propose a sweeping overhaul of his party’s rulebook today in a bid to remake the party in his image, senior figures familiar with the plans told Tom McTague.

BREXIT 360° …

UK Brexit department loses its chief: Oliver Robbins used to work for Theresa May and David Davis, but will now answer only to the prime minister.

Boris Johnson unleashed: Someone close to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has a lot of freedom to trash talk the British PM, as this story in the the Sun shows. Johnson “believes Brexit negotiations will fail and end up with Theresa May being humiliated, it has emerged,” the paper claimed. All these ideas “emerging” from unknown people and places sound rather sinister.

UK’s Brexit law does not include an exit date: A curious omission. The phrase “exit day” is mentioned 66 times, but March 29, 2019 is not mentioned once in the U.K. government’s European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Is it an insurance policy, a power grab by the government or a mechanism to delay Brexit? Tom McTague says it could leave the door open for no Brexit, a staged Brexit, or a partial Brexit.

More UK Home Office mess: Another case of deportation and child removal threats against a person living legally in the U.K. — the wife of an EU national.

Reappointment request: The British government wants Christopher Vajda’s European Court of Justice term renewed, the government confirmed in a statement.

BEYOND EUROPE …

TURKEY — FEARS OF STATE-SPONSORED ABDUCTIONS: Under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, forced disappearances stopped. But opposition politicians and human rights activists are asking whether they have started again following a spate of mysterious kidnappings, Zia Weise reports.

REPUBLICANS DOWN UNDER SICK OF WAITING FOR THE QUEEN TO DIE: Australia and New Zealand may be headed for a Brexit of their own, writes Zoya Sheftalovich. The rumbles comes 18 years after Australia narrowly voted to remain a constitutional monarchy.

MYANMAR — AUNG SAN SUU KYI’S ‘LAST CHANCE’: Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi will break her near-silence on ethnic cleansing of her country’s Rohingya Muslim population in a televised speech today. Critics says it’s her last chance to salvage her Nobel Peace Prize reputation.

ANOTHER HURRICANE MAKES LANDFALL: Hurricane Maria is expected to land on the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe this morning.