19-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

19-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

No pension decision before Dec 2

Pensioners will have to wait until the December 2 Eurogroup meeting to find out whether their pensions will be cut further a few days later, sources from Athens say following contacts with the European creditors.


Angry reax against panelist on state-run channel claiming ND leader reminded him of Italian fascist figure

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party this week reacted angrily to statements by a television panelist on the state-run broadcaster ERT, who referred to an address by the party’s president, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, as reminding him of “fascist theorist Sergio Panuccio (sic)”.


Police block march on Golden Dawn offices to commemorate murder of Pavlos Fyssas

Tensions were high at a march to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas , whose stage name was Killah P, in Keratsini, a suburb of Piraeus.


Eldorado Gold seeks 750 mln€ in damages from Greek state over delays at Skouries site

Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold Corp., the parent company of Hellas Gold SA., is demanding 750 million euros in damages from the Greek state over what it calls delays and obstacles in the issuance of licenses for its Skouries gold mining concession in northern Greece.


Job numbers on their way down as the summer ends

The strongly seasonal character of the Greek labor market was clear to see in August’s job hiring and departure statistics. The tail end of summer was accompanied by a reduction in the number of jobs by 7,748, mainly due to an increase in redundancies by hotels and food service enterprises – and that was despite hirings in private education.


ATHEX: Convincing rise for bank stocks and benchmark

The benchmark of the Greek stock market saw a more convincing day of gains on Tuesday on slightly improved turnover. However, although bank stocks headed north for the third day in a row, the momentum will have to strengthen if they are to stage a full recovery.







KATHIMERINI:  Political games with the Prespes agreement

ETHNOS:  Polarization scenery

TA NEA:  The IMF insists on the slashing of pensions and is going to extremes

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  The Movement for Change is called upon by the head of the European Socialdemocrats to form an ‘alliance of progressives’ against the Right

AVGI:  Mitsotaki’s fiasco

RIZOSPASTIS:  The military escalation by the USA, NATO and Israel is setting the Middle East on fire

KONTRA NEWS:  Accusations against former PASOK minister Giannos Papantoniou for money laundering to be examined by prosecutors

DIMOKRATIA:  Former PASOK minister Giannos Papantoniou caught stealing

NAFTEMPORIKI:  A ‘convincing story’ is necessary to avert the slashing of pensions

You’re hired! Jean-Claude Juncker is “a tough, tough cookie,” “he’s nasty” and “the kind of guy I want negotiating for me,” Donald Trump said on Tuesday at a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Then again, Trump also said the Commission president crumbled in the face of U.S. pressure to negotiate a new trade deal after Trump threatened tariffs on European autos.

‘Fort Trump’ in Poland: Aside from the Juncker love fest, Trump also said he’s “very seriously” considering Warsaw’s request for a permanent U.S. military base in Poland. “I hope that we will build Fort Trump in Poland together, Mr. President,” Duda quipped.

GOOD MORNING: Today’s Playbook comes to you from Berlin. This morning’s most talked-about news: The German government resolved its most dramatic government crisis since … July: Chief spy Hans-Georg Maaßen will be removed from his job after the government lost trust in him. But he’ll get a more senior and better-paid role as secretary of state for said government instead — under the oversight of his lord protector, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. On to today’s business.

PARLIAMENT MOVES HUNGARY FILE: A few days after the plenary vote to launch an Article 7 procedure against Poland, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani on Tuesday sent a rather somber letter notifying Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (the Council’s “president-in-office,” as Il Presidente put it) of Parliament’s decision. In the letter, which Playbook has obtained, Tajani invited Council “to determine whether there is a clear risk of serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded.”

He added that he wanted “to convey the importance Parliament places on the matter.” Next step: The Austrian government needs to figure out what to do with it — when to put it on Council’s agenda, that is. Hungary said it will challenge the decision at the European Court of Justice, according to two diplomats.

WILL THE COMMISSION MOVE ON POLAND? After a hearing in the General Affairs Council — Maïa de la Baume and Lili Bayer have an update on how it went — the Commission today is expected to decide whether to refer Poland to the European Court of Justice over its forced early retirement for judges. “The paperwork is ready,” one official said. It’s now up to the College of Commissioners — and Frans Timmermans — to decide whether to proceed.


THERE’S WORK TO DO, SAYS TUSK: European Council President Donald Tusk is firm in his expectations for the leaders’ meeting starting in Salzburg tonight: He wants everyone to stop fighting.

“I want to openly state the following,” he wrote in his invitation letter to leaders. “The quest to end the migration crisis is a common task of all the Member States and EU institutions. If some want to solve the crisis, while others want to use it, it will remain unsolvable. I am hoping that in Salzburg we will be able to put an end to the mutual resentment and return to a constructive approach.”

Accompanying Tusk’s letter were some telling graphics that show illegal border crossings are “back at pre-crisis levels.” But the underlying message? Don’t hold your breath waiting for progress in Salzburg on ending the migration feud — and don’t expect mainstream Europe to keep bending to the requests of those who appear unwilling to compromise.

Here’s what’s on the agenda when it comes to migration …

1. Disembarkation platforms: “We should also discuss the potential to step up cooperation with Egypt, including in the area of migration,” Tusk told leaders in his letter. He was in Cairo recently together with Kurz; apparently working with Egypt to agree to host one of those “disembarkation platforms” that leaders called for in June. According to EU diplomats, Spain is in talks with Morocco, and Tunisia may be another candidate. “Tusk and Kurz want a quick win and they are pointing at Egypt as a model,” said a diplomat closely involved in the migration file.

2. Who takes in refugees? No EU country has raised its hand to host a “controlled center,” which leaders also called for in June, to deal with Italy’s main concern: where to bring people rescued at sea.

The dilemma: Many governments agree with German EU Affairs Minister Michael Roth’s assessment that “it’s an untenable situation” to scramble every time Italy allows a refugee boat into its ports. But few countries want to step up if others don’t. And so the excruciating question of what solidarity is, and what it means, remains unresolved.

3. Border Guard: The Border Guard proposal is among Jean-Claude Juncker’s gifts to the summit. In a rather unusual sequence, it’ll land on leaders’ tables before national experts finalize their analysis of it. The big question (not only for Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, but also for countries with a sea border in the Mediterranean such as Malta): What competences exactly will EU staff have in the future — more precisely, will an EU agency be allowed to overrule national decisions? Expect national sovereignty to be the most controversial issue on this file.

Question of the summit day: Which way will Italy swing — will its isolation push Rome back toward the group, or into Orbán’s arms? Kurz, standing next to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte after a bilateral meeting in Rome, said he hoped the Salzburg meeting would produce steps forward in translating into policies the decisions taken in June — in particular by boosting border management.

STILL UNREGISTERED: Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos took pride in telling POLITICO that EU countries like his home Greece “do their job and they do it in a perfect way — because right now 95 percent, maybe in some cases 100 percent” of migrants are fingerprinted and registered.

Dutch Migration State Secretary Mark Harbers is not convinced.

In a letter sent to Avramopoulos Tuesday and seen by POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi, he does his own math: “For the entire period between July 2015 and September 2018 a little over 50 percent of asylum seekers [who reached the Netherlands] were unregistered,” he wrote. “You will agree that these numbers are strikingly high,” he added. “I will refrain from drawing strong conclusions from these data” — but it nevertheless means that “our current system de facto allows migrants to choose the member state where they want to get international protection.” He reckons the “phenomenon of ‘asylum shopping’” is still an issue.

No plan: Jacopo and David Herszenhorn write that as arrival numbers have fallen sharply, leaders have failed to use the respite to come up with a plan to solve the migration issue.

MEANWHILE, ON BREXIT: In his letter, Tusk told EU leaders to save a date in November for an extraordinary Brexit summit. “First, we should reach a common view on the nature and overall shape of the joint political declaration about our future partnership with the U.K.,” Tusk wrote. “Second, we will discuss how to organize the final phase of the Brexit talks, including the possibility of calling another European Council in November. Third, we should reconfirm the need for a legally operational backstop on Ireland, so as to be sure that there will be no hard border in the future.” And Tusk warned there was still a major risk of a no-deal Brexit. “Unfortunately, a no-deal scenario is still quite possible. But if we all act responsibly, we can avoid a catastrophe.”


THERESA MAY’S GERMAN APPEAL: Theresa May, meanwhile, has an op-ed in Germany’s Die Welt this morning ahead of the Salzburg summit. She says the EU and Britain are close to “achieving the orderly withdrawal,” but insists she won’t budge on the Irish border. “Neither side can demand the unacceptable of the other,” she writes. This would include erecting “an external customs border between different parts of the United Kingdom — which no other country would accept if they were in the same situation.”

White smoke from Brussels? The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, declared a new willingness Tuesday to rethink the “backstop” provision that Brussels and Dublin insist is needed to prevent the recreation of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. But while the comments were clearly intended to reassure London and ease tensions, they do not necessarily indicate a fundamental shift in the EU position, report David Herszenhorn and Jacopo Barigazzi.

May’s big plan: Tom McTague reveals in a story available to POLITICO Brexit Pros that Britain has its own plan to overhaul the EU’s Irish backstop. He writes that U.K. negotiators are actually prepared to be flexible on keeping Northern Ireland tied to Brussels rules and regulations, but only if an element of “democratic consent” is introduced for the Northern Irish people.


IT’S ON: Austria’s opposition leader and former Chancellor Christian Kern will step down as chairman of his Social Democratic Party and, instead, will lead it in its campaign for next year’s European election, he announced on Tuesday. He didn’t say whether he’d challenge European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič in the race to become the Social Democratic Spitzenkandidat, but Austrian media reckons that’s where he’s heading.

“We’re watching how the idea of a liberal, open democracy is massively challenged by the Orbáns, the Kaczyńskis, the Straches, the Salvinis,” Kern said, referring to the leaders from Hungary, Poland, Austria and Italy. “For us Social Democrats, it’s the most important task to make sure this European legacy is preserved, that Europe remains a shining city on a hill and doesn’t descend into a nationalistic swamp.”


VESTAGER KNOCKS SPITZEN PROCESS: Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager warned the European Parliament that it won’t be able to pick the next Commission president on its own. “When we have this structure with Parliament and Council as partners in democracy, you cannot have the Parliament sort of saying, ‘We want to decide this.’ Of course it could say, ‘We prefer these people,’ but … the Council has to be a co-decider as well,” she told the audience at a Playbook panel discussion Tuesday.

A liberal line to take: Vestager, an eminent Liberal figure in Brussels, said she doesn’t buy the Parliament’s and most political parties’ except her own ALDE’s (after a very recent change of mind) position that the next Commission president must come of the reservoir of parties’ lead candidates for the election. And she definitely doesn’t buy the idea that the system is democratic. “In most countries — in 27 countries at least — you will not be able to vote for this person. So you cannot vote for the president of the Commission. This is complete fiction, it doesn’t exist,” she said.

Losers looking for a job? Vestager expects “that there would be one prime minister or two who would be looking for another job” by the time the EU is ready to appoint a successor to Jean-Claude Juncker — since “there are at least nine elections before the European election next year.” That’s one way to pick a Commission president …

Not saying: Vestager wouldn’t say whether she would seek the Commission top job herself. Would she like to stay in Brussels? “That I have said to a lot of people who want to hear it or who don’t want to hear it.”

GETTING POLITICAL: Mario Monti, the president of Milan’s Bocconi University, a former Italian prime minister and former EU commissioner, was on the same panel with Vestager. He warned against the notion of a “political” Commission, which must remain a neutral arbiter and even a law enforcement authority when it comes to competition and state aid decisions.

Vestager did and didn’t agree: “Law enforcement has to rest on the evidence and the facts of the case. It has to end up in court,” she said. “But political choices were made by our founders. The treaties did not grow on trees or were god-given.”

Politics of the fundamentals: But the Commission cannot be so political “that it prefers the bigger countries to the smaller ones or the northern ones to the southern ones,” Vestager noted. “There has to be politics of the fundamentals as they — in my opinion — are expressed in the treaties.”

You can watch the whole discussion, including a conversation about the lessons for Brexit from 25 years of the European single market and Monti’s call to create an enforcement authority for it, here.


VESTAGER’S RED LIGHT FOR GERMAN CAR INDUSTRY: Vestager launched a landmark cartel probe Tuesday into concerns that Germany’s leading carmakers conspired to limit the development of clean emissions technology. Christian Oliver, Joshua Posaner and Saim Saeed have the details.

But Germans don’t care: Matthew Karnitschnig reckons the dirty little secret of Germany’s long-running auto emissions scandals is that the public doesn’t care. “Despite a steady drip of revelations about the schemes the industry employed to circumvent the law, German car buyers have been driving VWs, BMWs, Mercedes and Porsches off lots in record numbers,” he writes. But people do worry about what politicians are doing about it — and that’s the paradox of German environmentalism.