20-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

20-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dombrovskis: Concluding third review depends on fulfilling prior actions; Tsipras govt preferred higher taxes

EU Commission Vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis this week reiterated that an “ideal timetable” for concluding the looming third review of the ongoing Greek program should extend by the end of the year.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1277480/dombrovskis-concluding-third-review-depends-on-fulfilling-prior-actions-tsipras-govt-preferred-higher-taxes

ND calls for watchdog to act over suspect opinion poll

New Democracy called on Tuesday on Greece’s broadcasting watchdog to ensure that the law is upheld when opinion polls are conducted and published.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221794/article/ekathimerini/news/nd-calls-for-watchdog-to-act-over-suspect-opinion-poll 

Lesvos mayor issues warning on refugee numbers

Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galinos has written to the government and the European Commission asking that immediate action be taken to reduce the number of refugees on the island.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221795/article/ekathimerini/news/lesvos-mayor-issues-warning-on-refugee-numbers

Concern grows as payments to state suppliers move slowly

It is not at all certain Greece will collect the outstanding subtranche of 800 million euros from the second bailout review next month, as the progress on the repayment of state debts to third parties, which that the subtranche disbursement depends on, has been particularly slow.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221774/article/ekathimerini/business/concern-grows-as-payments-to-state-suppliers-move-slowly

Positive prospects for employment

Medium-sized enterprises, primarily in northern Greece and in the sectors of finance and insurance, services and transport-communications, are showing the brightest employment prospects for the last quarter of the year, according to a survey by Manpower Group.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221801/article/ekathimerini/business/positive-prospects-for-employment

Finance ministry officials confident Athens can exceed primary budget surplus target for 2017

The latest – positive – “scenario” being tossed around in Athens this week by the finance ministry’s top officials holds that the target for the this year’s primary budget surplus will be surpassed by 500 million euros.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1277605/finance-ministry-officials-confident-athens-can-exceed-primary-budget-surplus-target-for-2017

ATHEX: Small recovery for local stocks

The reaction of investors to the drop in stock prices on the Greek bourse in recent days wasn’t strong enough to offer any optimism in the medium term, but it did halt the losing streaks of both the benchmark and the banks indices on Tuesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221800/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-small-recovery-for-local-stocks

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KATHIMERINI: Ongoing nutritional threat. The consequences of the oil spill will last from 3 to 5 years

ETHNOS: No more black money

TA NEA: Mayors in distress due to the oil spill in the Saronic Gulf

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Pensions will be issued quicker and with less deductions

AVGI: Open political game: Polls show a volatile scenery

RIZOSPASTIS: Unanswered questions regarding nuclear weapons in Araxos

DIMOKRATIA: Pensions ‘unfreeze’

NAFTEMPORIKI: Battle for EU funds

GLOBAL ONLINE ANTI-TERROR INITIATIVE: After two years of a European Commission Internet Forum cajoling companies like Facebook and Twitter to take down terrorist material from the internet, the leaders of the U.K., France and Italy, as well as European Commissioner for Home Affairs and Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, will today launch a global version of the agreement, including states like Brazil and Indonesia. Tech companies will be given a target of two hours to take down terror content, reports Annabelle Dickson.

“In the beginning, we were confronted with some concerns about what this initiative would be based on,” Avramopoulos told Playbook’s Harry Cooper. “The companies are cooperating with us … we are partners in fighting terrorism online,” he added.

We love Theresa: Avramopoulos pointed out Theresa May was a driving force behind the initiative when she was the U.K.’s home secretary. “She has a good, deep knowledge of this issue and I can tell you our cooperation when she was minister of interior was excellent,” he said.

Global migration compact: The commissioner will also give a speech outlining progress made on negotiations for a new global compact for migration management agreed at last year’s U.N. General Assembly.

UN — TRUMP PREPARED FOR ‘TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF NORTH KOREA’: U.S. President Donald Trump, in a combative debut speech to the U.N. General Assembly, threatened the total destruction of North Korea if it does not abandon its drive toward nuclear weapons. “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime,” Trump said, using his nickname for leader Kim Jong Un. If the U.S. “is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

Europeans didn’t take the Trump bait: Trump also singled out Iran as he called on “the righteous many” to “confront the wicked few” to prevent “evil” from prevailing. “We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual destruction of a nuclear program,” Trump said, referring to the Obama-era agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program. French President Emmanuel Macron and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini refused to step away from the deal.

Donald Tusk delivers his UN speech today: According to Playbook’s source, Tusk will focus on the value of having an international rules-based order, including a reformed U.N. He is also expected to address North Korea, Myanmar, irregular migration, terrorism and climate.

ECB — MONEY-PRINTING SET TO STAY: European Central Bank policymakers disagree on whether to set an end-date for their money-printing program when they meet October 26, sources told Reuters. The split is between hawks — led by richer, northern countries such as Germany — who are ready to wind down the €2.3 trillion bond-purchase program, and doves, who simply want to reduce its monthly pace, the sources said.

COMMISSION — COLLEGE MEETING: European commissioners will discuss new financial regulation under the EU’s capital market union taxation of tech companies.

COMMISSION — SELMAYR SPEECH FRIDAY: Martin Selmayr, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief of staff, will speak at a Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) event Friday on the future of Europe and Juncker’s State of the Union speech. Full details.

STATE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION FEEDBACK: Thomas Wieser, the EU official who runs preparations for Eurogroup meetings of finance minister, said Tuesday at a panel discussion in Vienna that Juncker “addressed the big topics of the next 20, 30 years, but many made the mistake of interpreting it as if [the changes] were to be expected next year,” Reuters reports.

PARLIAMENT — MEPs VERSUS HUNGARY OVER A LITTLE TRAIN: A routine trip by European lawmakers to Hungary to make sure EU cash is being spent properly has become the latest source of tension between Budapest and Brussels. Members of the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee, which is charged with ensuring proper use of EU taxpayers’ money, are in Hungary this week to visit several projects funded by the bloc. But their decision to visit a railway connecting two villages with links to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán angered the government, which accused the MEPs of seeking to interfere in Hungarian politics ahead of an election due in the spring.

Local media reported the Hungary prosecutor’s office cooperated with the mission.

COUNCIL — AMBASSADORS MEET TODAY: Ambassadors will set the agenda for an agriculture, fisheries and environment ministers’ meeting in October and prepare for inter-institutional negotiations on the EU’s aviation emissions trading scheme and a set of waste laws and policies.

COUNCIL — ENERGY AND TRANSPORT MINISTER MEETING: Ministers will discuss electricity market design, “delivering the Energy Union and the Single European Transport Area” and air connectivity. Full agenda here.

ECHR — HUMAN RIGHTS COURT STRUGGLES TO LAY DOWN THE LAW: Nearly 10,000 judgments of the European Court of Human Rights have not been put into effect by national governments, some ruled on as far back as 1992, and they cover all but one of the 47 member countries of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, reports Ginger Hervey.

PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW — FORMER EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PRESIDENT JOSEP BORRELL …

The Socialist Catalan, who led the European Parliament between 2004 and 2007, is a voice from the left against independence for Catalonia. Borrell was in Brussels to make the case for a united Spain but is also angry at Madrid’s inability to explain its case as the country seems to sleepwalk towards the October 1 vote, which could lead to violence. Here are the highlights from Playbook’s conversation. On Thursday Playbook will hear more from the secessionist side.

Do more, Madrid: “The Spanish state has disappeared from my village in the Pyrenees,” Borrell complains, except for “some roads which are in bad shape.” He added: “If I have a problem with my wife, I send flowers.” The hint being Madrid should send fiscal flowers to Catalonia, the villages especially.

Micro-solutions: Borrell believes the most urgent task for Madrid is to separate the grievances of the Catalans into two baskets: practical problems it can solve and “imaginary problems” it can fight with facts.

The Catalan people do not exist: “Half of Catalonia has become psychologically independent. The other half still believes they are part of Spain.” That fact alone should be enough to puncture the idea of a single oppressed Catalan people, Borrell said. “The story of a single people of Catalonia: It’s not true. It doesn’t exist, the Catalan people.” Instead, Catalonia is divided on ethnic, language and geographic grounds. “Seventy-five percent of the people whose mother tongue is Catalan support Yes. Seventy-five percent of the people with other languages as their mother tongue are against independence.”

Catalan, Spaniard, European: Borrell considers himself all three. When he said that in the European Parliament, his home was defaced, an act he called “the opposite of European.”

Facts have disappeared: “The ability to argue between facts has been lost. It’s no longer rational.”

Stealing the Brexit playbook: “It’s the same discourse of stolen money,” Borrell said. In the Brexit campaign, the suggestion was the EU effectively stole money from British institutions like the National Health Service. In Catalonia, the argument is Madrid steals the money.

One-sided referendum: Perhaps Madrid’s strongest argument about the Catalan government’s plans is “There is no ‘no’ campaign.” A real referendum would have two sides, according to Borrell.

Who will Catalan police side with? Borrell worries “temporary” violence could flare around the October 1 vote and predicts Catalonia’s autonomous police force will be crucial.

EU constitutional crisis: “This could be the biggest European constitutional crisis since the fall of the Berlin wall. For the first time since then, we are talking about changing borders. There could be a domino effect.” Borrell advises Veneto (Italy), Flanders (Belgium), Scotland (U.K.), Bavaria (Germany) and ethnic Hungarian communities in the Carpathian basin could be flashpoints.

CATALAN INDEPENDENCE’S AGITATOR-IN-CHIEF: Gabriel Rufián is a key voice in the Catalan independence campaign. “I’m the son and grandson of Andalusians who moved to Catalonia from Jaen and Granada 55 years ago … and I’m pro-independence,” Rufián said in a firecracker March 2016 maiden speech in the Spanish Congress for the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), one of the two leading pro-independence forces. Diego Torres profiles Rufián and breaks down Catalan voters by national identity, birthplace, age, education and more.

OTHER CATALAN NEWS: Spanish judge says the referendum is unconstitutional, but mayors are not acting illegally.

GERMAN ELECTION — LIBERALS POISED FOR A COMEBACK: Janosch Delcker reports the liberal FDP has a good shot at third place in the German election, and is willing to drive hard bargains with Angela Merkel. The party’s leaders have little reason to make things easy for the chancellor, with many feeling they paid steeply for failing to force the chancellor to accept the pro-business reforms they had promised to their voters when joining her coalition back in 2009.

GERMAN ELECTION — AFD COULD BECOME GERMANY’S OFFICIAL OPPOSITION: If the Social Democrats were to stay as junior government partners and the right-wing Alternative for Germany party finished in third place (polls also give them a good chance), that would make the AfD Germany’s official opposition, the Guardian reminds us. Meanwhile, the AfD is making the most noise on Twitter ahead of the election, according to an Oxford University study.

GERMAN ELECTION — MISPLACED FAITH IN ECONOMIC STRENGTH: When it comes to the economy, most German voters seem content. But they shouldn’t be so complacent, writes Johanna Treeck.

BELGIUM — AGREEMENT WITH SUDAN ON REFUGEES: De Morgen reports the Belgian government is cooperating with the Sudanese government to identify and send home refugees via sweeps of the Brussels North train station. The International Criminal Court accuses Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir of genocide and the regime hosted Osama Bin Laden and other extremist groups. More in De Morgen.

World War Wonder: A German World War I submarine was found near the Belgian coast on Tuesday, with 23 crew members’ corpses inside. La Libre has more here.

BREXIT 360 …

Boris Johnson insists he’s not quitting: The British foreign secretary denied he is trying to undermine Theresa May, or that he is giving up on the government. “I am mystified by all this stuff,” Johnson said.

May prepared to make financial offer to EU: “Germany’s Angela Merkel has been told by the British government to expect Theresa May this week to offer to fill a post-Brexit EU budget hole of at least €20 billion, the first attempt by London to meet European demands to settle its divorce bill,” the FT reports.

The good: The EU could skip re-opening its 2014-2020 budget.

The bad: It’s one third or less of what the EU wants.

Liam Fox’s plan for investment, investment, investment: If Britain can’t yet nail its own trade deals it can at least shape the conditions and incentive for outward investment by British firms, the U.K.’s international trade secretary explains.

Britain’s game of Brexit staff chess: Olly Robbins’ move to become EU adviser to Theresa May creates clarity and confusion, concludes Charlie Cooper.

So Whitehall’s fighting back? Good, says former top civil servant Leigh Lewis. The civil service shouldn’t be a “whipping boy.”

Fabian Zuleeg on Theresa May’s tough draw: The chief executive of the European Policy Center says May is in a mess and the EU must recognize that to ensure it doesn’t compound the damage for both sides.

BRUSSELS CORNER …

RYANAIR CANCELED BRUSSELS FLIGHT DETAILS: The airline released its full list of canceled flights here, Le Soir has identified those affecting Brussels here.