21-01-2019 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

21-01-2019 | EYE ON GREECE 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Disturbances outside Parliament, tear gas-reaction by riot police mar otherwise peaceful anti-Prespa rally in Athens

Disturbances marred a large protest rally on Sunday in downtown Athens to express opposition to the Prespa agreement, with riot police using tear gas to block several dozen protesters from reaching the front of the Parliament building.


Landmark Prespa agreement tabled in Greek parliament; vote expected on Fri.

A highly expected draft bill containing the Prespa agreement was tabled in Parliament over the weekend, with political party representatives to convene on Monday at noon to discuss the schedule for debate of the landmark accord and the date for a ratification vote.


Centrist Potami MP Giorgos Amyras quits, putting party out of Parliament

Centrist Potami MP Giorgos Amyras resigned on Monday to become an independent, citing differences with the party’s leadership on the Macedonia name issue and effectively putting the party out of Parliament.


Small leftist party supports Prespes deal, leader booted from socialist alliance

Democratic Left (DIMAR), a small leftist party created as a result of a breakaway from Syriza back in 2010, has voted to approve the Prespes deal.


Opinion poll: 66% of respondents against Prespa agreement; ND at 32%

Results of a poll published in the Sunday weekly “Proto Thema” show that 66 percent of respondents are against the Prespa agreement, whereas main opposition New Democracy garners 32 percent in the terms of political party preferences, a figure that in a general election – and only with five parties in parliament – translates into 158 deputies out of a total of 300.


Three major hurdles to clear before release of 750 mln euros

The Katseli law, the minimum wage and privatizations will be the three main stumbling blocks in the talks between the government and its creditors that start on Monday in Athens in the context of the second post-program assessment.


S&P affirms Greek rating as Athens eyes bond issue, experts suggest caution

Standard & Poor’s rating agency affirmed on Friday Greece’s credit rating at B+, with a positive outlook, as the market anticipates the first bond issue by Greece after almost a year.


ATHEX: Banks’ losing streak brought to an end as turnover leaps

The closing auctions saved the day for the Greek stock market’s benchmark once again on Friday, leading to the highest daily turnover in 30 sessions. The banks index also ended its six-day losing streak, during which it had shrunk by almost 20 percent.








KATHIMERINI:  The Prespes deal and the political big bang

TO VIMA:  Inside the trap of the Prespes deal

REAL NEWS:  ‘Red alert’ for banks

PROTO THEMA:  66% says ‘no’ to the Prespes agreement

AVGI:  The Prespes agreement with FYROM will be the catalyst for the formation of an alliance between progressive forces


ETHNOS:  Large crowd with passion but also Golden Dawn party supporters and chemicals

TA NEA:  Chemical warfare with orders from ‘high above’

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Storm troopers in action

KONTRA NEWS:  Parties disintegrate and bring about radical changes

DIMOKRATIA:  We bow before the grace of the Greek people!

NAFTEMPORIKI:  The 10 tax changes for 2019

CRUNCH TIME? NEXT TIME: Today was meant to be crunch time for the overhaul of the EU’s copyright legislation. The EU was finally going to adapt its analog rules to the digital age (or maybe it was going to “kill the internet,” as the critics put it). Or so everyone thought. As first reported by POLITICO’s Laura Kayali (link for for Tech Pros), the trilogue scheduled for today was called off Friday evening by the Romanian presidency, after an almost 10-hour meeting of EU ambassadors.

What happened? A group of countries big enough to form a blocking minority (Germany, Poland, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Hungary and the Netherlands) told Romania the meeting should not go ahead because they could not approve the updated mandate.

Next steps: The trilogue hasn’t been rescheduled yet. The latest refusal to strike a compromise makes any new legislation less likely — after all, this Parliament’s term is almost over. Chalk this one up as a big win for Big Tech.

GOOD MORNING. Playbook comes to you from Davos today and throughout this week. POLITICO’s team flew in this weekend in time for the final preparations for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, and to test the slopes. Let me tell you: They are gorgeous. But first things first.


ACTUALLY CRUNCH TIME: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is set to present her Plan B to the House of Commons at 4:30 p.m. Brussels time this afternoon, amidst what some British papers this morning are calling a “plot to derail Brexit.” (Translation in less charged language: MPs who support Tory rebel Dominic Grieve want to take control of Brexit.)

Part of May’s plan, according to the Sunday Times: A bilateral agreement with Ireland to circumvent the backstop. Dublin was not impressed. “We remain united [and] focused on protecting Ireland,” Foreign Minister Simon Coveney wrote on Twitter. “That includes continued support for the EU/UK agreed [Withdrawal Agreement] in full, including the Backstop as negotiated.”

May’s plan also left some on the Continent puzzled, including German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who told ZDF’s Berlin Direkt show Sunday evening that what the British government wants to negotiate with Dublin seemed “a little opaque” to him. Such a possible “supplementary agreement” would “have no effect on what has been agreed with the Commission,” Maas said. EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels today.

NOT HELPING: Four men were arrested on Sunday over a car bomb attack in Londonderry, with police looking into whether the New IRA militant group was responsible. Reuters has the latest.

A CLUMSY KIND OF LOVE: Seems like a bunch of senior German political figures have suddenly realized they’d never really told the Brits how much they love them. A *remarkable* group including CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, SPD leader Andrea Nahles and Green leaders Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck resorted to a letter to the Times to make up for lost opportunities and to persuade Britain “from the bottom of our hearts” to please stay. Three takeaways …

1) It’s a kind gesture. But not even those who are most stubbornly convinced that Germany will come to Britain’s rescue reckon this was the moment they’ve been waiting for. Why? There was a lot of love in that letter, but no call to action to the EU to be nicer to its departing member.

2) Merkel isn’t moving: Chancellor Angela Merkel made a declaration this weekend: She urged her partners in the EU to work with the U.K. on a compromise to avoid a no-deal Brexit. “We have a responsibility to pursue this separation process responsibly so that in 50 years, people won’t shake their heads and say ‘Why weren’t they able to find a compromise?’” Merkel told members of her Christian Democrats at a party event Saturday in the city of Rostock.

But but but: Merkel will work on finding a “treaty-based solution” for Brexit, she said. Translation: Things like limiting the freedom of movement and other cherries are still not on the menu.

3) It’s all about tea and beer: “We would miss the legendary British humour and going to the pub after work hours to drink an ale,” the letter says. Strangely, the German pols also said they would miss “tea with milk,” which when we last looked around POLITICO’s newsroom was available and widely popular outside Britain. They’d also miss “driving on the left-hand side of the road,” which really no one should ever mourn the end of.

Is that really what the UK wants to be remembered for? Perhaps it’s better than being famous for voluntary self-destruction. There are now 67 days until Brexit Day — not much time for this political class to work on its legacy.

OPINION — HOW BRUSSELS BLEW BREXIT: The Continent is fond of looking on with an air of pitying superiority as Britain eats itself over Brexit. But Bruno Maçães reckons the blame for the mess lies squarely with Brussels. He asks in this provocative op-ed: “What if we’re the baddies?”


THE CONTEXT: An avalanche of populism (and of Western leader withdrawals) greets the 3,000 powerful delegates from over 110 countries this week. Despite the loss of Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May, the visitors still include more than 60 heads of state and government and top international organizations. European headliners: German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Italian PM Giuseppe Conte; Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez; Dutch PM Mark Rutte; Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz; Irish PM Leo Varadkar.

On their minds: Slipping global growth, which is down to 3.1 percent in 2019 and is projected to fall further, according to IHS Markit. Watch today: The IMF presents it World Economic Outlook.

As for democracy, it’s hard not to notice populism and nationalism flooding the high offices of the world’s largest democracies: among the European Union’s (still) 28 members, as well as in India, the United States and Brazil. The latter’s President Jair Bolsonaro is the first head of state on stage Tuesday morning.

Of some comfort to the Davos crowd: The World Economic Forum released a new poll Sunday suggesting global public opinion “overwhelmingly favors multilateral cooperation, is open to immigration and rejects the notion that countries’ best interests are achieved at the expense of others.” Less comforting: Europeans are the least likely to agree with those sentiments.

FRESH OUT TODAY: The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer — a Davos classic — indicates the U.S. has plunged off a cliff. Trust among the general population fell 9 points to 43, placing the States in the lower quarter of the 28-country index. Trust among the “informed public” in the U.S. imploded even further, plunging 23 points to 45. The report says the lack of trust in the U.S. is driven by a “staggering lack of faith in government.”

Now look at China, which finds itself atop the trust index for both the country’s general population (74) and the informed public (83). Of course in China, you’d better say you trust the government and the country, should anyone ask.

Most trusted: Employers — 72 percent of respondents saying they trust the company they work for. Sixty-four percent reckon a company can increase profit and improve economic and social conditions at the same time. The Davos crowd will like that. Fun report here.

Follow us: Read more in the first edition of our Davos Playbook by Ryan Heath and myself, and register to ensure you don’t miss any of our newsletters between now and Friday. POLITICO’s Global Editor Matthew Kaminski and Editor-in-Chief John Harris will join us on the mountain today.

MANU’S OWN DAVOS: French President Emmanuel Macron has invited global business leaders to the Château of Versailles again today. This time last year, he collected about €3 billion of investment commitments. Macron will have face-to-face meetings with six global corporate bosses: Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Aliko Dangote of the Nigerian conglomerate Dangote; Lakshmi Mittal CEO of ArcelorMittal; Larry Culp, CEO of General Electric; Evan Spiegel, co-founder of the Snap; and Procter & Gamble’s David Taylor. More details in the Journal Du Dimanche.


GREEK PROTESTS: Tens of thousands of Greeks demonstrated outside parliament in Athens on Sunday in protest of the Macedonia name deal. Police fired tear gas at the crowd, Reuters reports. According to official police figures, 60,000 took part in the protest, down on the 140,000 who attended a similar rally last February and much fewer than the “over 600,000” organizers said they expected, Kathimerini reports.

HUNGARIAN PROTESTS: People also took to the streets in Hungary on Saturday, as unions and opposition parties protested a controversial overtime law, Lili Bayer writes in to report. “I think that since across the country many regional towns other than Budapest joined the protest series, something has begun that can no longer be stopped,” Blanka Nagy, an 18-year-old high school student, told Lili.

ITALIAN IN-FIGHT: Italy’s envoy to a conference of Mediterranean countries in Malta, Emanuela Del Re, said she believed migration is a “natural aspiration of humankind and so it should be protected in principle and understood as a phenomenon.” Del Re is a 5Star and the deputy of Italy’s Foreign Minister Moavero Milanesi. (France, Spain, Portugal, and of course host Malta sent their actual foreign ministers to the meeting.)

No, grazie: Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, from the League, meanwhile assured voters he’d continue to “control, seal, and close ports” to migrants. While the joint declaration of the five EU and five African countries might not be the most meaningful political document of this young year, the conference helped ruffle some feathers within the Italian government.

MORE TRADE TENSIONS TO COME? EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said Friday that trade talks with the U.S. could be  “quite quick,” despite the EU’s refusal to discuss agriculture and the looming threat of Trump’s car tariffs. Speaking to reporters in Brussels at the presentation of two draft negotiation mandates, covering talks on regulatory cooperation and eliminating industrial tariffs, Malmström said the EU was “ready to engage with something that could be quite quick … and beneficial to all of us.” Hans von der Burchard has more for POLITICO Trade, Agriculture and Food, Tech, Health Care, Mobility and Brexit Pros.

How or when such talks could start is still unclear. The U.S. demands the inclusion of agriculture, while the EU says farm goods have to be left out, as agreed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.S. President Donald Trump in July 2018. So each wants something the other doesn’t.

That’s perhaps a good way to preserve the truce. On that note: The deadline for America’s investigation into whether Europeans are threatening U.S. security, which could see the imposition of Trump’s threat of car tariffs, will expire in early February. Malmström said the EU is “very advanced” in its preparations for retaliation with its own duties on U.S. exports.



EUROPE’S MOST HACKABLE ELECTION: Laurens Cerulus has this morning’s must-read story ahead of May’s European parliamentary election — which is uniquely vulnerable to hackers, given their “dispersed nature and comparatively long duration,” European Commissioner for Security Julian King told Laurens. “Everyone needs to take responsibility for this — a system is only as secure as the weakest link in the chain.”

THE EPP’S WHOLE SPECTRUM, AUSTRIAN STYLE: MEP Othmar Karas will head up the Austrian ÖVP list for the European election, Chancellor (and ÖVP leader) Sebastian Kurz said over the weekend. Karas has occasionally clashed with Kurz over fellow EPPer Viktor Orbán, among other issues. The chancellor took the opportunity to remind folks that regardless of who the national lead candidate is, under the Austrian voting system, it’s up to voters to rank candidates.

WHAT KEEPS SLOVAKS FROM THE BALLOT BOX? At the last European election five years ago, Slovakia trailed every other country on voter turnout, with only 13 percent casting ballots. Gabriela Bulisova traveled home to find out why.

ICYMI: Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission’s vice president for the energy union, formally announced his candidacy for Slovakia’s presidency last week.