20-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

20-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Friday, July 20, 2018

IMF raps gov’t over its bid to reintroduce labor negotiations

The International Monetary Fund on Thursday issued a clear warning to the Greek government against its plans to reintroduce collective labor negotiations, saying that such a move would put the competitiveness of the Greek economy at risk.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230881/article/ekathimerini/business/imf-raps-govt-over-its-bid-to-reintroduce-labor-negotiations

Lavrov visit to Greece postponed; Moscow expected to retaliate over diplomats’ expulsion

The Tass news agency on Thursday reported that a scheduled visit to Greece by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been postponed.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1374039/tass-lavrov-visit-to-greece-postponed

FYROM Parliament backs NATO bid

The Parliament of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Thursday adopted a declaration backing the country’s bid to join NATO.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230884/article/ekathimerini/news/fyrom-parliament-backs-nato-bid

Anti-money laundering bill delay trouble for Greece

Greece and Romania have been referred to the European Court for not adopting the European Union directive against money laundering.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230889/article/ekathimerini/business/anti-money-laundering-bill-delay-trouble-for-greece

First Greek company falling ‘victim’ to Trump admin’s tariffs Corinth Pipeworks

The first Greece-based company affected by the recent Trump administration decision to slap tariffs on a series of European products is Corinth Pipeworks, following a rejection of an application that it be excluded from the 25-percent levy.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1374278/first-greek-company-falling-victim-to-trump-admins-tariffs-corinth-pipeworks

Only 24 Greek businesses have so far registered ‘Macedonian’ trademark for their products

Greece’s Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE) this week issued detailed instructions on how businesses and producers in the country can secure  the trademark “Macedonia” or “Macedonian” for their products, while adding affected businesses in the country number at least 4.000.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1374286/only-24-greek-businesses-have-so-far-registered-macedonian-trademark-for-their-products

ATHEX: Stocks head lower on very thin trading

The inevitable drop in Greek stock prices following the notable gains registered in the last few sessions came on an exceptionally low trading volume on Thursday. Most indexes closed near their day’s low and there is no sign of anything that might convince traders to turn their attention back to the local stock market any time soon.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230880/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-stocks-head-lower-on-very-thin-trading

www.enikos.gr


www.protothema.gr

www.newsbomb.gr

www.cnn.gr

www.newsbeast.gr

KATHIMERINI:  Tracer bullets by the IMF

ETHNOS:  Alarm signal for the Western Nile virus

TA NEA:  The cancellation of the Athens visit of Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Lavrov sounded the alarm

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Controlled diffusion by Athens and Moscow

AVGI:  Short reckonings make long friends

RIZOSPASTIS:  FinMin circular integrates the ‘axing’ of pensions

KONTRA NEWS:  Two businessmen and a ship-owner involved in the Russian spy-network [that was active in Greece]

DIMOKRATIA:  Tension with Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Lavrov

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Four threats for Europe

 

ALL WORK, NO PLAY: Jean-Claude Juncker vowed to ensure his services “work continuously throughout the summer” to help resolve Italy’s migration sorrows. The promise was contained in a letter sent on Thursday, and obtained by Playbook, from the Commission president to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (with European Council President Donald Tusk CCed).

The letter is a response to two urgent dispatches from Rome to do something, and urgently. It’s Conte’s preferred way to prove he’s in charge — not his interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who is the leader of the far-right League, the ruling coalition’s bigger party.

Juncker’s answer contained three main messages:

1. We’re on the case: “The Commission will work continuously throughout the summer, on the one hand to support — within the limits of its mandate — the efforts of the member states, and on the other hand to prepare the legislative proposals to be presented in September to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard and to make the return policy more effective,” Juncker wrote. (His reply was four pages, in line with diplomatic usances and real-life manners, which dictate his answer ought not be much shorter than Conte’s original four-page letter.)

2. The Commission can’t resolve all your problems: “With regard to your suggestion to set up a crisis cell coordinated by the Commission with the task of coordinating, in the event of an emergency, voluntary and complementary shared actions by the member states following individual search and rescue incidents, I agree that better coordination mechanisms are needed, but only as a step towards a more stable framework,” Juncker wrote.

“In this respect, the Commission is ready to play its full role as coordinator,” he added. “It should not be forgotten that the EU has no competence to determine the safe place/port to be used for landings following a search and rescue at sea.”

3. So get your fellow prime ministers to act: France, Germany, Malta, Spain, Portugal and Ireland have shown solidarity, Juncker wrote, when it came to the 450 refugees that Italy allowed to disembark in Pozzallo only after an unusual intervention from the country’s president, Sergio Mattarella. “My services were active throughout the weekend, using all the diplomatic influence we have to help resolve the situation quickly. However, I am convinced, and I believe that you share my view, that these ad hoc solutions do not represent a sustainable and satisfactory way forward.”

Instead, “we should look for more predictable methods based on European support, both financially and in terms of operational support from EU agencies, while avoiding any pull factor.” Translation: Juncker has reiterated the solution from June’s European Council, of coming up with a comprehensive set of goals — while leaving policy measures to ministers.

GOOD FRIDAY MORNING. Juncker’s letter — find your copy here (some Italian required) — is designed to both help Conte domestically and portray the Commission as the institution that never sleeps. It was sent amidst preparations for Juncker’s big Trump show next week. We hear the Commission president is now indeed inclined to make more of a splash during his Washington trip and is mulling a speech at a think tank or similar. Expect the full program to be released today.

Now, spare a thought for Finland. Imagine you’ve just had two enamored leaders of nuclear powers over to your place for a chat. You had to find space in the courtyard for each one’s armored cars (and they were YUGE), make sure you don’t get in between their egos and preserve the dignity of your office. What would you do when they finally left? Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, after a hard day’s work on Monday, crossed the street, sat down at a bar and had a drink, Helsingin Sanomat reports. Meanwhile, Trump thought things went so well, there ought to be another tête-à-tête with Vlad.

BREXIT COMES TO BRUSSELS

TIME FLIES: Michel Barnier and Dominic Raab, the EU’s and U.K.’s chief Brexit negotiators, agreed on Thursday that the “clock is ticking,” as each said on his way into their first meeting since Raab assumed Boris Johnson’s mantle as Brexit secretary last week. Beyond that — well.

European diplomats didn’t display much excitement about the British white paper on Thursday, ahead of a meeting of the EU’s Europe ministers today at which they’ll talk Brexit. Some of the points are indeed welcomed in Brussels: a more practical approach to sensitive issues such as ECJ oversight or an acknowledgement of sorts that a deep and special relationship comes down to a trade agreement in the end. But British access to a quarter of the single market only — the one for goods — is not going to fly. See the EU’s position on cherry picking since Day 1 of talks.

David Herszenhorn updates you on today’s General Affairs Council meeting.

‘We’re not negotiating about the white paper,’ one EU diplomat said, but on the withdrawal agreement plus a political declaration on the future relationship. Read: To have a British position on the table is a welcome step toward agreement on the EU’s terms for Brexit, but not a basis for negotiation. And while the British government put so much effort into translating its opus into the EU’s official languages, one diplomat said he hadn’t read the translation yet and had no intention of doing so. “The questions that I have are not related to language but to substance.”

Bottom line: The sticking point remains the Irish border question — and how to resolve the conundrum has become neither clearer nor easier after the Brexiteers’ amendments to Theresa May’s Chequers plan. The next months are not going to be about detailed negotiations on the withdrawal agreement or the slightly fluffier talks about the guardrails for future relations, but about a big and bold political problem for the British prime minister. Option 1: No backstop, no deal with the EU. Option 2: Backstop, and risk losing power.

Comes in handy: The Commission published a briefing on Brexit preparations — and on preparations for a no-deal scenario in particular. The paper warns that transport between the EU and the U.K. will be “severely impacted, with roads and ports blocked by customs queues; millions of British and EU citizens would be left in legal limbo if the U.K. leaves without a deal next March; EU funding would be gone; and the prospects for a future trade agreement would depend “on the circumstances leading to a withdrawal without an agreement.”

MEANWHILE, BACK IN BRITAIN: The U.K.’s newly appointed Health Secretary Matt Hancock came out of the gate vowing to use the skills he developed as digital secretary to give the 70-year-old National Health Service a much-needed refresh, but as Katie Jennings and Sarah Wheaton report, that’s easier said than done.

REBUTTAL DAY

MONTENEGRO: ‘WE’RE NOT AGGRESSIVE.’ Podgorica hit back at Donald Trump, saying that “Montenegro is proud of its history and tradition and peaceful politics that led to the position of a stabilizing state in the region and the only state in which the war didn’t rage during disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.” That was in response to Trump saying Montenegro “is a tiny country with very strong people. They are very aggressive people, they may get aggressive, and congratulations, you’re in World War III.” Andrew Gray has more.

Side note 1: Read again how U.S. Vice President Mike Pence praised Montenegro on Trump’s behalf for joining NATO (h/t Balkan Insider).

Side note 2: The fears of World War III are overblown, reckons Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “Europeans fretted about the end of NATO. But seen from Moscow, the military alliance still appears to be very much alive. Trump’s harsh words to his allies on spending haven’t changed that. Russia is all too aware that the alliance is focused on its eastern flank, and not only rhetorically.”

Side note 3: The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser writes that the real scandal of Helsinki may be only just emerging. “On Thursday, Putin gave a public address to Russian diplomats in which he claimed that specific ‘useful agreements’ were reached with Trump in their one-on-one meeting at the summit, a private meeting that Trump himself insisted on. Putin’s announcement came a day after his ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, said that Trump had made ‘important verbal agreements’ with Putin on arms control and other matters.”

Not convinced: Trump’s Russia spin isn’t working with Republicans, Burgess Everett and Eliana Johnson write. And Trump’s disastrous performance has sent West Wing morale to its lowest level since the Charlottesville fiasco, Eliana reports.

TRUMP: ‘I TOLD YOU SO.’ Trump wasn’t happy with the European Commission’s decision to slap a €4.3-billion antitrust fine on Google. “I told you so! The European Union just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google,” Trump tweeted. “They truly have taken advantage of the U.S., but not for long!”

That’s an interesting yet unsurprising take on a decision to enforce the law, and it widens the transatlantic rift, writes Mark Scott. And may we add, it’s also not an unwelcome escalation (note: double negative) ahead of Juncker’s visit to the White House next week.

US CAR MAKERS: ‘DON’T DO IT.’ Opposition is mounting to Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on imported cars and parts. During Thursday’s day-long Commerce Department hearing on whether the imports threaten U.S. national security, all but one of the 45 scheduled witnesses were expected to testify against the tariffs, which are almost uniformly opposed by the U.S. car industry. The move has drawn sharp condemnation from Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress, and is said to be controversial among Trump’s own advisers, Doug Palmer reports for POLITICO Trade and Transport Pros from Washington.

SURINAME: ‘WE’RE NOT A FAILED STATE.’ Suriname has sent a protest note to the Netherlands after the Dutch foreign minister said the South American nation was a “failed state.” More from Reuters.

GERMANY: NO HOLOCAUST DENIAL ON FACEBOOK. Germany won’t allow posts that deny the Holocaust on Facebook or other social media platforms, the country’s justice ministry said. “What Mark Zuckerberg wishes or demands for the American or international market is not possible in Germany,” a ministry spokeswoman told POLITICO, responding to the Facebook CEO’s suggestion that a jolly debate about whether the Holocaust really happened should be tolerated on the platform. In reply, the ministry spokesperson stressed there were no doubts that Holocaust denial is considered a criminal offense in Germany, under a paragraph in the country’s criminal code condemning incitement to hatred. Janosch Delcker has more.

SEEHOFER: ‘IT’LL BE SÖDER’S FAULT.’ CSU leader and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer reckons critics are waging war against him. “Anyone who wants to see it will see that there is a campaign going on here,” he said in an interview with Augsburger Allgemeine; Esther King has a write-up in English. “It’s against me and my party. Unfortunately, individuals from the CSU have also allowed themselves to be drawn in.” Look no further for said “individuals” than … Markus Söder, who took over from Seehofer as minister-president of Bavaria earlier this year. Seehofer won’t be to blame if the state election in October goes as badly as polls suggest it will. “Bavaria is doing splendidly and Markus Söder relies on an absolute majority, which we won under my leadership in 2013,” Seehofer said.

PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS

CLOSED FOR THE SUMMER: The European Parliament is just about to close its doors for the summer break. Visitors’ access will be restricted, with fewer entrances open to allow for a reduction in security personnel; corridor lights will be dimmed to save energy; and — this almost goes without saying — parliamentary business is in recess until August 20, when official activities peu à peu resume.

Logjam: According to an internal chart, written up by Parliament’s secretariat-general and seen by Playbook, the pipeline is opulently filled with files — 649 of them — to be dealt with preferably by the European election next May.

By the numbers: There are 235 files for co-decision — the normal legislative procedure — that are still awaiting first reading in Parliament, plus a few dozen each where the chamber is asked for consent or being consulted. That adds up to 328 open files. There are then about 100 own initiative reports.

Yet to come: Parliament expects 17 more proposals from the Commission, according to the document. It estimates an additional 81 budget-related files (discharge procedures included), plus a few others. Et voilà: 649. Expect the EP to be more than busy for the rest of the term.

Fact check: Commission officials told Playbook the expectation of 17 more proposals seems like an overestimate. The only things the Commission plans on doing (and it has told EU ambassadors as much) is following up on the last EU summit in June on migration, plus Brexit related changes to legislation (see above — it’s part of the “preparedness” exercise). The Berlaymont counts 275 open files awaiting Parliament’s referral.

Not so fast: This week’s parliamentary business appeared to amount to sending postcards from committee trips in places all over the world including Washington, New York, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tunis and Algiers. There was even a “one-member ad hoc delegation” trip planned to Bangkok, according to a Bureau decision earlier this year, Maïa de la Baume writes in to report. The number of trips increased significantly in the last year of Parliament’s term, and there’s a long list of planned jaunts for every month for the rest of the year. Spending has spiked too: The estimated overall cost for committee missions abroad was €6.1 million in 2018, compared to €4.8 million in 2016 and €5.3 million last year, according to the Bureau.