20-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

20-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Budget approved as Mitsotakis challenges clean exit talk

Greek MPs approved on Tuesday night the 2018 budget following a debate between party leaders during which New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis challenged Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s claim that Greece is on the road to recovery.


Greek food authority issues warning after antifa-like group claims intentional product poisoning

Greece’s food authority (EFET) on Tuesday issued a warning to consumers to avoid buying certain products, after a post appeared on a notorious website known for hosting “antifa” and “anti-establishment” material claimed that the products were intentionally tainted with hydrochloric acid.


Property auctions again cancelled in greater Athens area; next up Jan. 3

Property auctions will not resume in the greater Athens area – and the Aegean islands – until at least Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 – following yet another decision by associations representing notaries in the specific areas to abstain from the process.


Uni senate calls for state protection after intrusion

The Athens University of Economics senate has reiterated its call to the Greek state to ensure the necessary conditions that will enable the institution’s unhindered operation after members of anti-establishment groups stormed its lecture halls and workshops on Friday, forcing out teaching staff and students.


Salaries continue to decline in Greece

Salaries have declined considerably and the number of workers on low wages has expanded, explaining the increase in jobs recorded by the Labor Ministry’s hirings database Ergani this year.


ATHEX: Stocks head up for 5th session

A late surge by Greek stocks on Tuesday offset the losses racked up earlier in the session, leaving a balanced picture at the end of trade as the benchmark rose for a fifth session in a row. However, the continued slide in trading volume has dimmed the prospects of a “year-end rally.”







KATHIMERINI: Social allowances handed out by the government under the scrutiny of the country’s international lenders

ETHNOS: Support for the heroes of the refugee crisis through the reduction of VAT for the islands hit by migrant waves

TA NEA: The great pension-losers. Cold shower due to the cuts that are going to be put in effect in 2018

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Draft bill for the monitoring of online gambling

AVGI: PM Tsipras: We are getting the country out of the financial crisis

RIZOSPASTIS: The government attempts a political scam in order to conceal the escalation of anti-popular policies

KONTRA NEWS: They are attempting to deceive the people with fake polls

TO PONTIKI: – Joseph, where’s Jesus? – He has gone to collect the allowance for unemployed youngsters

DIMOKRATIA: Diesel fuel set on fire due to new tax

NAFTEMPORIKI: Procedures regarding red loans accelerated


COMMISSION TO GO NUCLEAR ON WARSAW: Vice President Frans Timmermans is expected to announce at lunchtime today that the European Commission will initiate the Article 7 process — the so-called nuclear option — that could strip Poland of its voting rights, following countless warnings, requests for dialogue and demands for clarification about changes to the country’s judicial system. POLITICO’s Maïa de La Baume and David Herszenhorn have the full story here.

COMMISSION — THE OTHER COLLEGE ITEMS YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT: Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis will launch new rules for investment firms, Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s Phase 2 negotiating mandate will be published, as will a set of proposals dealing with the issue of visa reciprocity for citizens of countries like Bulgaria and Romania who need to go through extra security checks when traveling to the U.S.

A GREEK AND A GERMAN WALK INTO A EUROPEAN COURTHOUSE: You can always count on Yanis Varoufakis to do whatever it takes to stay in the headlines. The ex-Greek finance minister, fired by his former friend PM Alexis Tsipras after less than six months on the job back in 2015, wants to force the European Central Bank to disclose why it cut its emergency funding to the Greek banking system in 2015. Varoufakis is joined in his endeavor by leftist German MEP Fabio De Masi. The ECB first turned down their request, arguing its deliberations on such matters were meant to remain confidential. So now it’s up to the General Court of the European Union to decide.

OPINION — OPEN PRIMARIES FOR SPITZENKANDIDAT: In a bid to get voters more engaged in the 2019 European election, Rasmussen Global’s Fabrice Pothier argues the European Parliament’s political groups should hold open primaries to select their candidate for Commission president instead of choosing someone through the usual backroom negotiations.

PARLIAMENT — WHO WAS ANDREI SAKHAROV? Cafébabel asked MEPs about the Russian dissident, whose name is given to the European Parliament’s Prize for Freedom of Thought. Results are a mixed bag. Video here.

ECJ — UBER RULING TODAY: The European Court of Justice will today issue its verdict in a case that will decide whether Uber should be treated as a transport or digital service for the purposes of EU law. Playbook’s Morning Tech and Transport colleagues report that odds are the ECJ will rule Uber is a transport service, but that likely will have little material impact on its operations. POLITICO Pro Technology and Transport subscribers can check out an interactive graphic on where Uber operates across the bloc.


GERMANY — CLASS ACTIONS COME TO THE CONTINENT: Handelsblatt has the story about U.S. lawyer Michael Hausfeld, who has won landmark class action lawsuits in his country and now wants to take his trade to Germany. Hausfeld says he “can’t stand the great divide between the powerful and the powerless.” He still gets a third of the damages, though.

BALKAN BORDER TROUBLES: An attempt by Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar to persuade his Croatia counterpart Andrej Plenković to accept the ruling of an international tribunal on a border dispute failed Tuesday, just over a week before a deadline for its implementation lapses. The Commission has been reluctant to get involved publicly in a spat that the Croatian government describes as a bilateral issue, even though resolving it was part of Zagreb’s accession treaty. Watch Tuesday’s press conference during which Plenković ruled out implementing the ruling on the grounds the tribunal had undermined itself here.

ROMANIA — SENATE PASSES JUDICIAL LAW: The Romanian senate passed on Tuesday amendments to a law regulating the status of judges and prosecutors, according to local media. The amendments introduce sanctions for judges and prosecutors thought to have acted in bad faith, which protestors and opposition politicians argue could have a chilling effect on corruption investigations and magistrates’ independence. The vote came a day after judges protested on the steps of Bucharest’s Court of Appeal against the changes.

SPAIN — UNIONIST FEAR CAMPAIGN: Catalans go to the polls this week in a hotly contested ballot that could see the unionist Ciudadanos come first ahead of secessionist parties. This could be in part due to a fear campaign being waged against the pro-independence camp, with Ciudadanos arguing that breaking away from Spain would plunge the region into economic chaos, Diego Torres reports for POLITICO from Barcelona.

UK — WHAT DOES £3B BUY YOU NOWADAYS? A LEAKY SHIP. The U.K. defense ministry has acknowledged that Britain’s biggest ever warship, the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, has a big leak that unsurprisingly needs plugging. The 65,000 ton ship, which took eight years to build, lets in 200 liters of water every hour and has to be fixed to the tune of several million pounds, according to the Sun, which first broke the story. The words “metaphor” and “Brexit” come to mind, but we’ll abstain for now.


Spain to bring Gibraltar into withdrawal treaty: London fears Spain is trying to bring Gibraltar into discussions on the post-Brexit transitional period, having scored a diplomatic victory earlier this year when it secured a veto over the deal on the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU. “If Britain’s overseas territories aren’t included in the transition guidelines it would be a total contradiction in the EU’s own position,” one U.K. official told POLITICO’s Tom McTague and David Herszenhorn, pointing to the EU’s April negotiating guidelines.

Brexit and inequality: The idea that Brexit could serve as an opportunity to rebalance one of the developed world’s most unequal societies was a key message that came out of a brainstorming session key policymakers held as part of POLITICO’s Global Policy Lab series. “The terms of our political debate have shifted,” said Anand Menon, professor of European politics and foreign affairs at Kings College London. “It’s now a question over whether we can harness that shift for social change.”

Yet another way to have Harry Potter and Brexit in the same headline: We all know how best-selling author J.K. Rowling feels about Brexit (sample here), but her publisher Bloomsbury is now warning that the U.K.’s exclusive English-language rights to books sold across the Continent might be lost, opening the way for ruthless competition from U.S. publishers.“Quite often now, a British publisher of a work will have exclusive rights in Europe — because Britain is part of Europe,” Bloomsbury CEO Nigel Newton told the Guardian. “Europe is the biggest export region globally for U.K.-published books, accounting for more than a third of the almost £1.2 billion annual sales of English-language print titles,” the paper notes.

City thanks Barnier for hard line: Michel Barnier’s latest comments — nixing the possibility of financial services in a post-Brexit free trade deal — appear to be the City of London’s worst nightmare. But City figures say his rhetoric may help their cause by forcing the government to come out fighting, writes POLITICO’s Cat Contiguglia.

A bespoke deal: A statement released after the U.K. government’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday in London noted: “The PM said it was clear what the Cabinet’s objective is: a deal which secures the best possible trading terms with the EU, enables the U.K. to set rules that are right for our situation and facilitates ambitious third country trade deals.”


In his office at the Italian embassy in Brussels, Maurizio Massari, Italy’s ambassador to the EU, told POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi that the U.K.’s exit from the EU must not be an excuse to avoid much-needed work overhauling the eurozone. “Brexit cannot be an alibi to avoid going ahead on more challenging dossiers like the eurozone reform … it cannot and it must not delay them,” he said, adding that completing the banking union “is the first step, but we cannot exclude the fiscal union of the eurozone.” He also described the Commission’s proposal to create a European Monetary Fund and European finance minister as “a very good basis to deepen the debate.”

Migration reform: He dismissed suggestions that a deal on migration reform is out of reach due to irreconcialable divisions between the Visegrad 4 countries and Italy, saying: “We have facilitated the progress on the different regulations.” Even so, “solidarity is a key principle of a democratic union, it cannot be just voluntary or transactional. We need the reform of Dublin and Italy will work for it. Each member state however has to make some compromise.”

Russia sanctions: Italy, which traditionally takes a dovish line towards Russia, backed an extension of sanctions against Moscow at last week’s summit of EU leaders for another six months. Massari said when EU leaders discuss Russia in June, it should be a moment to relaunch the dialogue with Moscow. “Strategic dialogue must be reactivated … in a way that is feasible for the European Union,” he said, adding that sanctions can be in place at the same time discussions are under way. The hope, he said, is that “with a more substantial dialogue, we can also restore a climate of greater trust that can bring a more concrete collaboration also on the Ukrainian dossier.”

Pro-Europeans: Recent surveys suggest former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party is losing steam ahead of next year’s election, with the Euroskeptic 5Star Movement ahead in the polls. Even so, Massari wasn’t concerned about Italy becoming another source of trouble for Brussels. “In the last 60 years there was a continuity in the pro-European approach of the Italians, it’s very consolidated,” he said, adding that “clearly in democracy there are different views, but Italians in general would not support a departure from such a pro-European attitude.”


TURKEY — ANKARA’S MOST WANTED MAN HAS VANISHED: Adil Öksüz, known as “the runaway imam,” is believed by the Turkish government to be the mastermind behind last year’s failed coup, acting as Fethullah Gülen’s man on the ground. Should he be captured and brought to testify, he could provide the government with its most solid evidence yet that Gülen masterminded the failed coup. Zia Weise for POLITICO profiles Öksüz.

US — WATCH FOR THE BUBBLE: Thanks to Swiss bank Pictet for reminding us that U.S. imports of French Champagne are up 15 percent so far this year (in the January-October period, compared to same time last year.) That may be a sign “the U.S. economy is beginning to look frothy in some segments,” Pictet says. Since 2010, U.S. Champagne imports have grown 8.4 percent a year, more than twice as fast as GDP growth. Verdict on the U.S. economy: “effervescence, not exuberance.”