21-11-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

21-11-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tsipras: Athens floods show criminal political choices in construction, town planning

The deadly floods that killed 20 people and wrecked houses, businesses and infrastriucture in western Attica last week is the result of “criminal and inexcusable” construction and town planning of the past decades, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Monday, speaking in parliament during a debate on the financial aid the government will distribute to low-income earners and pensioners.

http://www.amna.gr/en/article/206780/Tsipras-Athens-floods-show-criminal-political-choices-in-construction–town-planning

Ruling SYRIZA reduces gap with ND by 1 percentage point in latest poll; still trails heavily by 12 points

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party retained a comfortable 12-percentage point lead over ruling SYRIZA in the latest edition of a monthly opinion poll conducted by the Thessaloniki-based University of Macedonia’s political studies department (PAMAK).

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1297044/ruling-syriza-reduces-gap-with-nd-by-1-percentage-point-in-latest-poll-still-trails-heavily-by-12-points

Greece to overshoot primary surplus targets

Greece expects to overshoot its budget surplus targets for a third consecutive year in 2018, a senior government official said on Monday, an outcome that could help ease the austerity burden imposed on a recession-weary population.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223436/article/ekathimerini/business/greece-to-overshoot-primary-surplus-targets

Commission orders return of 55mln€ given to Greek state-owned defence contractor

The Commission on Monday publicized a ruling ordering the Greek state to recoup 55 million euros in public monies previously given as subsidies to the state-run Hellenic Defence Systems (HDS or EAB), saying the aid was for civil activities and not related to the country’s defense needs.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1296955/commission-orders-return-of-55mln-given-to-greek-state-owned-defence-contractor

Four in 10 children in Greece at risk of poverty

Four in 10 children aged up to 17 years old in Greece are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, Europe’s statistical agency has found, putting the crisis-hit country at the top of the eurozone child poverty scale.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223430/article/ekathimerini/news/four-in-10-children-in-greece-at-risk-of-poverty

Study shows improvement for small and medium-sized enterprises

The financial conditions and performances of small and medium-sized enterprises are improving, according to a survey of 17,000 such companies across all sectors of economic activity conducted by Piraeus Bank.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223455/article/ekathimerini/business/study-shows-improvement-for-small-and-medium-sized-enterprises

Russia’s Rosneft signs oil supply deal with Greece’s Motor Oil

Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft and Greece’s Motor Oil Hellas Corinth Refineries have signed a deal on mutual supplies of crude oil and oil products for the next five years, Rosneft said on Monday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223423/article/ekathimerini/business/russias-rosneft-signs-oil-supply-deal-with-greeces-motor-oil

ATHEX: Utility stocks contain losses for bourse benchmark

The collapse of coalition talks in Germany and the ongoing concerns over Greece’s banking sector saw sellers return to action at Athinon Avenue on Monday, although the benchmark contained its earlier losses toward the end of the session.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223437/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-utility-stocks-contain-losses-for-bourse-benchmark

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KATHIMERINI: Instability in Germany worries Athens and the EU

ETHNOS: Nobody will be left alone in the mud

TA NEA: Execution! Tax hikes and cuts in allowances are the final blow against workers, pensioners and businesses

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Labor pains in Germany. Agony in Europe.

AVGI: Social dividend

RIZOSPASTIS: The bloody surpluses and the upcoming anti-popular measures cannot be covered up

KONTRA NEWS: Novartis bribed 3 ministers

DIMOKRATIA: 12,500 subsidiary pensions to be issued immediately

NAFTEMPORIKI: Surplus of optimism

DRUGS TO AMSTERDAM, MONEY TO PARIS — THE GREAT EU AGENCY RACE IS OVER 

It took a coin toss to decide which cities would host the European Medicines Agency (900 staff, 36,000 visitors per year) and the European Banking Authority (160 staff and 9,000 annual visitors). Amsterdam is now the EU’s drug capital, beating out favorite Milan after its name was drawn from a bowl. Dublin lost an early lead and the final bowl-draw to see Paris take the cash capital title. Frankfurt, favorite for the banking authority, crashed out before the final round of voting with just four votes out of 27. POLITICO’s takeaways here.

Veneer of objectivity: The lots drawn from a bowl were merely the exclamation point on a quirky process that was at once the most transparent bidding process in EU history, and yet had little to do with a smooth transition for the agencies and their staff. Bloomberg summed it up as a “veneer of objectivity.” To ensure victory, as POLITICO reported across a series of article in recent weeks, countries offered up favors, money and jobs: from NATO troops to support in Eurogroup presidency bids. Catch up on how it all went down with POLITICO’s live blog.

Winners: Lifestyle capitals | Losers: Germany and Eastern Europe.

Halbe Zijlstra, the new Dutch foreign affairs minister, told Playbook: “Amsterdam is ready to receive the staff of EMA, all 900 of them and their families. They are very welcome in the Netherlands,” a pointed reference to concerns of some LGBT EMA staff that other candidate cities would not be as welcoming as Amsterdam.

The gossip from the vote sidelines …

Slovakia refused to vote in the EMA run-off. Health Minister Tomáš Drucker said it abstained because none of the newer EU member countries made it past the first round. Slovakia was not shy in tweeting its frustration, but left out the part about the 11 eastern countries allocating less than half their 66 votes to cities from their neighborhood in the EMA race.

Sweden did not vote for neighboring Denmark for the EMA: Causing a petulant Anders Samuelsen, the Danish foreign minister, to say it had “betrayed the Nordic cooperation by voting for Milan.”

Ireland was either very lucky or very unlucky: Nine years ago the country’s banks and its rash finance minister helped the EU tumble head-first into financial crisis, yet Dublin almost became home to bank enforcement.

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS

POLICY PILE-UP RISK FROM GERMAN GOVERNMENT GRIDLOCK: The political impasse in Berlin could impact EU policies on finance, tech and pesticides regulation. At the level of high politics, a sidelined or limited Chancellor Angela Merkel makes it harder for Emmanuel Macron to push forward his EU reform ideas (but also make him pre-eminent) and leaves Theresa May with little comfort that a pragmatist will come to her rescue in Brexit negotiations.

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER: President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Council Donald Tusk and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg are having a working dinner this evening in Brussels.

COUNCIL — EU MISSION TO UKRAINE EXTENDED: Ministers agreed to extend the European Union Advisory Mission (EUAM) in Ukraine until May 31, 2019, with a budget of €32 million for the next 18 months. Ministers also agreed to develop a coordinated EU-level response to large-scale cyber incidents and crises.

COMMISSION — TAXES ARE FUN! AND THAT’S AN ORDER: A new tax portal called TAXEDU launches today. It’s “fun and colorful” according to a Commission spokesperson. The platform, developed jointly with the European Parliament, includes “a strangely addictive Sim City-esque interactive game.”

COMMISSION — TIMMERMANS TO CNN: ‘WOMEN TREATED UNEQUALLY IN EUROPE.’ It’s at once an obvious and yet startlingly frank admission from European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans to Christiane Amanpour. Watch the video.

Timmermans also told an EU fundamental rights meeting Monday: “The problem is not that most men want to vigorously defend their privilege. The problem is that they are not even aware of their privilege. They believe it is normality.” He added: “Parental leave should not be transferable from parent to parent. Parents should have equal time to raise their kids.”

PARLIAMENT — KEY VOTE ON TECH FILES TODAY: MEPs in the Parliament’s internal market and legal affairs committees vote today on EU-wide rules for online shopping for digital goods. The legal affairs committee will also vote on broadcasting reforms.

ECJ — ROMANIAN-US COUPLE FIGHTS TO OVERTURN LACK OF LGBT PROTECTION: Adrian Coman and Clai Hamilton were married in Belgium, but Hamilton can’t get a visa to join his husband in his Romanian homeland because Bucharest offers no such visas and rejected his application. The couple argues this is a breach of their EU freedom of movement rights, and the court will rule on their case this morning. The couple’s claim is supported by five NGOs.

DIGITAL POLITICS

UBER BUYS 24,000 SELF DRIVING VOLVO CARS: The ride-hailing service will spend an estimated $1 billion on autonomous versions of Volvo’s XC90 SUVs between 2019 and 2021, Volvo’s largest sale of the vehicle.

INVESTMENT IN EUROPE: Global investors say they’ll increase the cash plowed into Europe thanks to eurozone stability and broad growth, regardless of Brexit, according to an Ipsos MORI survey of 360 investors commissioned by Invest Europe. Europe is lagging behind the U.S. in capital market efficiency however, thanks to its incomplete cross-border capital market. Full report here.

Europe leads on sustainability: When asked to compare Europe, the U.S. and China as investment destinations, 74 percent of respondents listed Europe as the strongest performer on its commitment to sustainability and the environment.

CONSUMER RIGHTS … 

“The dynamic currency conversion ‘scam’: If you’re offered the chance to pay in your home currency when paying with a card online or while traveling, Europe’s consumer champion BEUC urges you to reject the offer, which it refers to as a “scam” because you are almost always being ripped off. Infographicposition paperfact sheet.

Instant inter-bank payments launch today: You might be one of the lucky 15 percent of Europeans who will get to use instant credit transfers from today, the latest step forward for the Single European Payments Area. The scheme means you can send up to €15,000 anywhere in Europe 24/7, in just 10 seconds. Around 585 payment service providers from Austria, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Spain are part of the first stage of the scheme.

EU NATIONAL NEWS

GERMANY’S NON-GOVERNMENT DRAMA …

Merkel prefers new election to minority government: That moves Germany closer to a new poll.

Social Democrats call for new election: Germany’s SPD, which finished second in the September election, wants to head back to the ballot box, rather than re-form a grand coalition government with the CDU/CSU alliance.

What were the Liberals thinking? Unafraid of elections, or simply afraid to govern? Berlin can’t decide what FDP leader Christian Lindner is up to, writes Matthew Karnitschnig.

What’s next for Germany? “The next steps — and political pace — will now be set by the constitution, the main figure of authority has suddenly become its guarantor, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier,” Eurasia Group’s Mujtaba Rahman wrote to clients. Steinmeier could force a confidence vote on Merkel but will likely give her more time to find an alternative arrangement. The German constitution sees snap elections only as a last resort, and we’re not there yet. Another election in January might suit some political parties but is unlikely to be welcomed by most of Germany’s stability-craving voters.

What if Merkel is pushed out? Pierre Briançon analyzes the impact on Emmanuel Macron, who would stand unchallenged as Europe’s leader if Merkel goes. At an EU level there would be a clear effect on Russia sanctions policy and a potential shift in how EU reform proceeds. Any other German chancellor would be as tough or tougher on the U.K. in Brexit negotiations.

WHAT EUROPEANS THINK ABOUT COALITION TALKS BREAKDOWN …

Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter: “This dramatic night could mark the beginning of the end of the Merkel era.”

Zeit Online: Minority government the best option now.

La Stampa: The AfD benefits most.

Le Monde: The German political crisis is bad news for Europe.

The Guardian: The start of the post-Merkel era?

h/t Eurotopics

HUNGARY — SOROS HITS BACK AT ORBÁN: George Soros published a list of seven myths he says Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government is circulating about him and the NGO work he funds. “It’s really Orbán who has changed, from being a leader of the rebellion against the then-prevailing regime to having converted into the leader of a mafia state,” Soros told the FT.

SPAIN — VIEWS BEAT NEWS IN CATALAN PROPAGANDA WAR: Horror-movie soundtracks, stacked panels and partisan coverage all help muddy the water in the Catalonia independence debate, writes Guy Hedgecoe.

BREXIT 360°

BARNIER SPEECH: Around 300 people watched the livestream as the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier engaged in some plain talking at the Center for European Reform Monday. Every carrot had a string attached, and the sticks were many. Full speech here.

What he said: “There will be no ambitious partnership without common ground in fair competition, state aid, tax dumping, food safety, social and environmental standards.”
What he meant: If you leave the customs union and try to be an Atlantic Singapore, don’t cry if your trade deal gets vetoed.

What he said: The divorce costs are a matter of “settling the accounts accurately.”
What he meant: Our way of counting is the only accurate way.

What he said: EU27 unity is the only way “to stay at the table where decisions are made” in global terms.
What he meant: Britain will be pushed off the top table by Asia, Latin America and Africa.

What he said: “Those who wanted Brexit must offer solutions.”
What he meant: David, Liam, Boris! Come to principal’s office immediately.

What he said: There are currently about 100 examples of shared all-Ireland economic regulations, such as the “all-Ireland electricity market.”
What he meant: We can read English too. We have 100 reasons to believe an all-Ireland economic system is possible.

What he said: “Soundbites do not serve as a basis for moving forward.”
What he meant: Except when I say them.

What he said: “The single market is a package.”
What he meant: Do I really have to say it again?

Money, money, money: Theresa May’s “inner” Cabinet met Monday afternoon to come up with an improved financial settlement offer for the EU. EU diplomats told Jacopo Barigazzi it will need to be more than €40 billion if trade talks are to be approved at the December EU leaders’ summit.

UK electoral commission investigating more Leave campaign payments: The British Electoral Commission will investigate the Vote Leave campaign for attempting to circumvent spending limits after it gave £625,000 to student activist Darren Grimes and £100,000 to the Euroskeptic group Veterans for Britain days before the referendum. Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay have the backstory.

MUST READ — LUCY KELLAWAY ON RETRAINING AS A TEACHER AT 57: The beloved former FT columnist is exhilarated, at least when she doesn’t feel annihilated, after setting up Now Teach, a charity to encourage fifty-somethings to quit their jobs and hit the education frontline.

BEYOND EUROPE

MYANMAR — ROHINGYA MEETINGS AT HOME AND ABROAD: Independent Diplomat and Ana Gomes MEP will today from 1 p.m. host a roundtable discussion alongside Rohingya civil society delegates at the European Parliament. On Monday, European and Asian foreign ministers attended a meeting ahead of the ASEM gathering in Myanmar, on the situation in the Rakhine State, presided by Aung San Suu Kyi. The ministers discussed the humanitarian situation and the importance of ensuring access to aid workers, though they reported no specific outcome.

DIED — TENNIS GREAT JANA NOVOTNA: Jana Novotna, the Czech tennis star who famously cried on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulder after losing a Wimbledon singles final in 1993 and then triumphed at the same tournament five years later, died after a cancer battle, aged 49.