21-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

21-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Thursday, September 21, 2017

EWG head Wieser: Supervision of Greek state finances even after bailout, until 75% of debts covered

Euro Working Group head Thomas Wieser was quoted by a Greek website this week as leaving open the possibility of additional austerity measures needed in Greece over the 2019-2020 period.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1277895/ewg-head-wieser-supervision-of-greek-state-finances-even-after-bailout-until-75-of-debts-covered

PM cites voter support for measures on two-year election anniversary

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his government’s re-election in September 2015 was tantamount to voter approval of a package of new measures agreed with the country’s creditors.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221817/article/ekathimerini/news/pm-cites-voter-support-for-measures-on-two-year-election-anniversary

Sunken tanker reveals signs of fuel smuggling

Speculation intensified on Wednesday about the activities of fuel smuggling rackets in Greece following the arrest of the captain and first engineer of a vessel helping to clean up the oil spill from the sunken Agia Zoni II tanker.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221832/article/ekathimerini/news/sunken-tanker-reveals-signs-of-fuel-smuggling

Hellas Gold staff call two-day strike as deadline looms

The Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold and the government appeared to remain at loggerheads Wednesday over mines in northern Greece whose operation Eldorado has threatened to suspend unless Greek authorities issue a series of pending licenses.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221831/article/ekathimerini/news/hellas-gold-staff-call-two-day-strike-as-deadline-looms

Reuters: Greek govt eyeing bond issues, swaps ahead of bailout’s end in Aug. 2018

Greece’s finance ministry is reportedly planning new bond issues until August 2018 – when the current bailout ends – as well as swaps of 2012 issues worth 32 billion euros.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1278161/reuters-greek-govt-eyeing-bond-issues-swaps-ahead-of-bailouts-end-in-aug-2018

Greek banks expect to escape an extra AQR

There will be no extraordinary asset quality review (AQR) of Greek banks, senior credit sector officials have told Kathimerini following the public statements by the European Central Bank and based on various high-level meetings. They also note that local banks may spend more than 10 billion euros of their operating profits in the next three years on reducing bad loans.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221804/article/ekathimerini/business/greek-banks-expect-to-escape-an-extra-aqr

Piraeus Bank sees no material impact from audit

Greece’s largest lender by assets, Piraeus Bank, said Wednesday it did not expect any material impact on its capital and financial state as a result of an audit by the country’s central bank. “The bank clarifies that it does not expect any substantive impact on its financial and capital situation as a result of the Bank of Greece supervisory audit in relation with older compliance issues and internal procedures,” it said in a statement.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221826/article/ekathimerini/business/piraeus-bank-sees-no-material-impact-from-audit

ATHEX: Piraeus Bank plunge drags index lower

The small and unconvincing rise registered by the benchmark on Tuesday was followed on Wednesday by fresh losses for the majority of Greek stocks that were contained toward the end of the session. As usual, the decline came with a notable increase in trading volume.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221833/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-piraeus-bank-plunge-drags-index-lower

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KATHIMERINI: Oil smuggling network comes to light

ETHNOS: Set the Mps free! New Democracy and the Democratic Alignment stated that they will vote against bills even if they agree in order to exploit the differentiations between SYRIZA and the Independent Greeks

TA NEA: Government majority in the parliament experiences arrhythmia

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Bill for the regulation of illegal constructions includes installments and discounts

AVGI: Teachers, youngsters and professional drivers say “No, Mr. Mitsotakis!” due to his neoliberal stance

RIZOSPASTIS: The 43rd Festival of Communist Youngsters begins today at Tritsis Park

KONTRA NEWS: Who licensed the smuggling ship

TO PONTIKI: Who is going to pay the ferry-man? Government efficiency stuck in the oil spill of the Saronic Gulf

DIMOKRATIA: Fees for the legalization of illegal constructions may be paid in 80 installments!

NAFTEMPORIKI: The plan for the automatic function of the extrajudicial mechanism regarding businesses’ debts

If there’s a theme to this week it’s that the action comes flying at us from all angles. Today’s no different. Things are getting out of hand in Barcelona ahead of a planned independence referendum. Brexit anguish continues as the clock ticks down to British PM Theresa May’s Florence speech. And POLITICO takes you behind closed doors with the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and with Markus Ferber, an MEP who stands accused of flogging investment products he regulates.

BREXIT SCOOP — WHAT MICHEL BARNIER SAYS BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: Barnier has been delivering uncharacteristically blunt assessments in a series of meetings and briefings for elite audiences across the Continent, according to several attendees who described the sessions for POLITICO. At venues such as the exclusive Cercle Gaulois club in Brussels and Strasbourg’s European Parliament, Barnier said the U.K. is unrealistic and has done little to earn the trust it expects from the EU27. He says it will take years to complete the details of the future EU-U.K. relationship and he is also using a prop originally prepared for David Cameron. By Giulia Paravicini, Maïa de La Baume and David Herszenhorn.

COMMISSION — NEW GUIDANCE ON ‘FAIR AND EFFICIENT’ TAXATION OF DIGITAL ECONOMY: European Commission Vice President for Financial Services and Capital Markets Union Valdis Dombrovskis will today launch a “communication” setting out paths for national governments to secure tax revenues from complex virtual cross-border enterprises. The goal: fair taxation without jeopardizing the EU’s internal market.

Why is it an issue? In practice, the average international company pays double the tax rate of companies with internet-based business models, and the internet-based companies are growing much faster. With an aging population and its attendant costs, that’s a tax base that doesn’t add up. POLITICO’s Florian Eder reports in his Morgen Europa newsletter that Brussels is far from getting the unity it needs for the Commission to force its view on national governments, so it will instead urge countries to take coordinated action to help themselves.

COMMISSION — HIDDEN COPYRIGHT STUDY LEAKED: Julia Reda, a pirate party MEP whose raison d’être is to fight restrictive copyright rules, got her hands on a €360,000-study suppressed by the Commission since 2015. Reda summarizes the study’s conclusion: “With the exception of recently released blockbusters, there is no evidence to support the idea that online copyright infringement displaces sales.”

What the Commission said: “This academic study provided important — even if statistically limited — estimates on the displacement rate of copyright infringement.” A spokesperson said 40 percent of legal blockbuster sales were displaced by illegal downloads, but didn’t respond to POLITICO’s question about why the study was not published in 2015.

TRADE — EU-CANADA TRADE DEAL ENTERS INTO PROVISIONAL FORCE TODAY: Bernd Kölmel, the European Parliament’s chairman for relations with Canada, told Playbook he wants to extend the success of the trade pact into bilateral agreements on climate change, migration and security.

PARLIAMENT EXCLUSIVE — MARKUS FERBER’S QUESTIONABLE FINANCE LINKS: Ferber, a member of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, negotiated the EU legislation that regulates providers of financial products like shares, bonds and derivatives, and platforms where they are traded (known as MiFID II). The problem: Ferber used his Parliamentary email and office to promote a product he is regulating, POLITICO’s Bjarke Smith-Meyer reports.

Ferber wrote to investors endorsing a risk-management product called TIPER as compliant with the MiFID II regulation. The pitch was offered through a foundation Ferber co-founded with the CEO of the company that produces TIPER, which says its aim is “to empower small investors.”In this case Ferber’s pitch made investors on the receiving end feel uneasy rather than empowered. Ferber told POLITICO: “I only have to declare those things where I have capital engaged or I get reimbursements.”

PARLIAMENT — TAJANI IN FRANCE: European Parliament President Antonio Tajani is in France today for an official visit. Agenda items include a lunch debate “with key players in the French gastronomy sector” and dinner with French business lobby MEDEF. Friday, Tajani will meet French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

UN — EUROPE’S POLITICAL WEATHERVANE IS GETTING WORRIED: Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, known for her Nostradamus-like predictions of what will eventually happen at EU summits, tweeted: “Peace is threatened as never before. We draw red lines in the sand & then pretend they don’t exist.” Here is her U.N. speech.

DALIA FOR COMMISSION PRESIDENT? Playbook’s eyebrows were raised by a separate Grybauskaitė tweet: “Facing geopolitical challenges Lithuania & Poland can always count on each other.” In most moments of politics that would count as standard diplomacy. In 2017, with the Polish government a near-pariah in Brussels, it counts as a hint Grybauskaitė is keeping her options open for the European Commission presidency in 2019.

Grybauskaitė ticks a lot of boxes. She is a head of state and former commissioner, from the largest EU political family, would be both the first female and Baltic Commission president, and doesn’t come with baggage like Christine Lagarde. Send Playbook any thoughts you have about Grybauskaitė and her possible rivals for the EPP nomination, including Enda Kenny, Michel Barnier and Jyrki Katainen.

MACRON, MOGHERINI AND TUSK’S NEW YORK REMARKS: Federica Mogherini interviewed by Admiral Mike Mullen at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum. Donald Tusk speaking to the United Nations general assembly. ICYMI, Emmanuel Macron’s CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour.

QUOTE DU JOUR: “Did you know two-thirds of decisions in Brussels are taken by unanimity? Meaning, all [EU] member states approve? … Often, it is not ‘Eurocrats’ patronizing us — it’s rather our own ministers,” said Caroline de Gruyter, Europe lecture for the Montesquieu Institute in The Hague. Full text here.

DIGITAL POLITICS — TO LEGISLATE OR NOT, THAT IS THE QUESTION: Nearly everyone agrees terrorist content and hate speech online is bad. So what next? Europe is struggling to adopt a united front. While British PM Theresa May told Google and Facebook they must remove terror content within two hours or face potential hefty fines, the Commission prefers to nudge, report POLITICO’s Mark Scott and Laurens Cerulus.

TRANSPORT — RYANAIR TRYING TO CALM THINGS DOWN: Michael O’Leary doesn’t like to say he’s sorry. But the outspoken Ryanair CEO apologized to customers after the airline’s botched flight cancelation solution to a glut of pilot leave led to it getting rapped on the knuckles by the European Commission (link for POLITICO Pro Transport subscribers).

WHAT THE DAVOS CROWD WILL BE TALKING ABOUT: “Strengthening cooperation in a fractured world” is the theme of the 2018 World Economic Forum, January 23-26 in Davos.

FRANCE — MACRON’S ARROGANCE ISSUE: The French President has a relatability problem. With off-script speeches and comments slamming “slackers” and “illiterates,” Emmanuel Macron risks alienating the public just as he needs them on-side to push through labor reforms.

GERMAN ELECTION WATCH … 

Still hungry like the Wolfgang: POLITICO’s Matthew Karnitschnig delves into what comes next for Wolfgang Schäuble, Angela Merkel’s current finance minister. “If Merkel is forced to trade away the finance ministry to secure a coalition, finding a place for Schäuble will be difficult. Any other Cabinet position she could offer him would pale in comparison. While the foreign ministry and the presidency of the German parliament are both possibilities, neither position would easily accommodate Schäuble’s often acerbic wit. And retirement doesn’t appear to be an option.”

Why German labor loves robots: Union bosses might be the last people you’d expect to embrace automation. And yet, in Germany at least, they’re among the most enthusiastic, writes Matthew Karnitschnig. This insight comes from the Global Policy Lab, which is looking at ways to address the challenge of automation. Join the conversation here.

BREXIT 360 …

Theresa and Boris’s big New York adventure: May will arrive in London this morning with Boris Johnson at her side on her RAF jet and seemingly cowed, reports POLITICO’s Annabelle Dickson from New York. But it was quite a chapter of the Tory Brexit show, which began at the weekend with Johnson’s 4,000-word article about his own vision for how to leave the EU that didn’t quite gel with the government’s.

May to be greeted by protests in Florence: “New Europeans” is organizing a series of events in the city center of Florence on the theme “Day of solidarity with EU citizens abandoned by Brexit.”

Great Brexpectations: May will be flanked by her top ministers, but it’s an open question of whether they will make her look strong or leashed. Her ex-adviser Nick Timothy lays out his hopes here. Pro-Tory Matthew D’Ancona is scathing about cabinet disunity. “It is a measure of how weak and introspective her government has become that the question of Britain’s future place in Europe — and, to a great extent, the world — has been reduced to a party disciplinary matter … At the center of this woeful mayhem stands Johnson.”

The OECD’s 2018 growth expectations demote the UK to the back of the rich-country pack, behind even Italy. Catherine Mann, the OECD chief economist, stressed: “Brexit will represent a serious [economic] shock.”

The City of London must give in order to get: The key to keeping jobs in the United Kingdom could be allowing EU regulators to have more power, writes Cat Contiguglia.

Boris Johnson’s £350-million smokescreen: Tom McTague on the idea Johnson knowingly uses false information about the U.K.’s EU payments in order to “increase the salience of the cost of EU membership in voters’ minds.”

Phil Hogan, the European commissioner for agriculture, thinks Johnson is irrelevant: The foreign secretary has been making “strange statements” and is “completely out of the loop” on Brexit, Hogan said in an interview.

CATALAN CORNER …

Arrests continue as Rajoy insists he has moral and legal high ground on referendum: Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy went on television Wednesday evening to claim the moral high ground in a debate that saw Spanish police raid several Catalan government offices in Barcelona and arrest 13 officials in connection with independence referendum preparations. Catalonia’s high court confirmed neither the Madrid central government nor the public prosecutor’s office ordered the arrests.

ICYMI — Playbook’s interview with former European Parliament President Josep Borrell: The socialist luminary warned of a Catalan “domino effect” and showed how the middle ground of the debate could be ploughed.

PODCAST DU JOUR: Paul Adamson talks to Kaja Tael, Estonia’s ambassador to the EU.

JAPAN HEADED FOR SNAP ELECTION: Shinzō Abe, hoping to exploit a divided opposition, has set Japan on course for a snap general election this October, reports the Financial Times.

BRUSSELS CORNER …

ESTONIA’S GRAMMY-WINNING CHARM: It was a packed house at BOZAR Wednesday evening for the official opening concert of the Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Grammy-winning Estonian National Male Choir boomed its way into Brussels hearts, and because it is Estonia, many sang from music scores on digital tablets. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas was the warm-up act.

EU STAFF SICKNESS ALERT: Six EU staff trade unions are alarmed about what they say is up to €18 million in “lost” staff health insurance claims. The Commission furiously pushed back on the claims when approached by Playbook Wednesday evening. A spokesperson acknowledged there are some time delays with hospital billing, but said: “This relates exclusively to reimbursement claims made by hospitals. In no way does it affect the reimbursement of costs incurred by EU staff.” In other words, the Commission says to staff: you’ll be paid.