21-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

21-12-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Coalition MPs block hearing over Saudi arms deal

The coalition on Wednesday blocked a request from New Democracy MPs for Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias to appear before Parliament’s Institutions and Transparency Committee to respond to questions about the alleged scandal involving the sale of ammunition to Saudi Arabia.


Draft amendment aims to safeguard court officers participating in property auctions

A draft amendment tabled in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon foresees the automatic prosecution (proprio motu) against anyone targeting a court officer participating in a property auction with simple assault or threats of violence or any other illegal action.


ND slams migration minister over Moria camp violence

Opposition New Democracy on Wednesday challenged Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas over a violent brawl on Tuesday night at the migrant processing center of Moria, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos.


Benefit for islanders who are to lose VAT discount

Some eastern Aegean island households will receive an extra 500-2,100-euro handout as part of the “social dividend,” aimed at offsetting the blow they will suffer due to the abolition of the 30 percent discount on value-added tax as of January 1.


EIB announces renewable energy investment on various Greek islands

The European Investment Bank (EIB) on Wednesday announced it was backing renewable energy generation on various Greek islands and the mainland through a new investment program implemented by state-run PPC.


ATHEX: Local stocks continue to head higher

Wednesday’s sixth consecutive session of gains for the benchmark of the Athens stock market took it to a new three-month high, on respectable turnover and significant gains for the majority of blue chips, including banks.







KATHIMERINI: Protection net for auctions

ETHNOS: Triple support for thousands of households

TA NEA: Carrot and stick. Allowances for weak social groups and… prosecution for protesters against auctions

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Trump threatens the planet

AVGI: Violence in Moria hotspot signals the alarm for the refugee crisis

RIZOSPASTIS: The government’s downward slope: Law and order dogma by ruling party SYRIZA

KONTRA NEWS: They wish for casualties in protests against auctions

DIMOKRATIA: Brussels’ technocrats are eating and drinking at our expense

NAFTEMPORIKI: Writing-off of pending taxation cases explained

THE GRINCH WHO STOLE POLAND’S SOVEREIGNTY: The EU would hardly be the EU if there wasn’t a year-end dose of drama to keep watchers guessing about the future of the Continent’s “ever closer union.” This year’s yuletide reminder of the EU’s dysfunction wasn’t Greece or refugees or even Brexit, as many had expected, but Poland.

Warsaw got an early delivery of switches and ash courtesy of its favorite Commission Grinch, Frans Timmermans. Though it wasn’t exactly a surprise that Poland ended the year on the EU’s naughty step, Timmermans’ pathos (the EU acted “with a heavy heart”) and self-righteous indignation (“the facts leave us no choice”) put the determination of Juncker’s “political Commission” to inject itself in the affairs of EU countries in stark relief. If Timmermans thought he was tightening the rope around Poland’s neck, Warsaw wasted no time in telling the Dutchman what to do with it. POLITICO’s Jan Cienski reports from Warsaw on why Poland is unlikely to back down.

Theatrics aside, the question at hand is right at the core of where the EU is headed. Are Europeans pining for a more centralized Brussels with the likes of Timmermans and Juncker telling their governments what to do? Or do they still believe in national sovereignty, even when things get ugly, like in Poland and Hungary (the deputy prime minister of the latter called the Commission’s action against Warsaw “unbelievable”).

But don’t worry, the questions surrounding Europe’s future are unlikely to be decided anytime soon.

For one thing, Germany looks likely to remain governmentless well into next year. The good news is that Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz have stopped exploring exploratory talks. The bad news is no one knows at what moment Schulz (“I don’t want a grand coalition”) will change his mind again. Official exploratory talks are set to begin January 7. If those succeed and if a party convention approves, the two sides can begin formal coalition talks. Confused? That might be the point. Our own Janosch Delcker in Berlin has worked it all out.


RIGHTS FOR PLATFORM WORKERS: European Commissioner for Employment Marianne Thyssen will today launch a reform of a 25-year-old law that lays out the information that workers are legally entitled to receive in their employment contracts. The proposals, which must be signed off by governments and MEPs before they come into force, will extend those rights  as well as include ideas for new ones — for up to 3 million individuals currently not covered, including to so-called gig economy workers.

EU WINS BATTLE AGAINST UBER, BUT NOT THE WAR: The European Court of Justice handed a big win to European taxi unions on Wednesday when it ruled that Uber, the San Francisco-based ride hailing app, was a transport firm that must now comply with existing safety rules, rather than an internet intermediary — a description that would have shielded it from protectionist regulation across the bloc. But it’s not all bad news for Uber — POLITICO’s Nicholas Vinocur writes that European labor has won the battle, but not war.


AUSTRIA — TYROL VS. ST GERMAIN: No, not the football team. More than a few of you no doubt reached for your Encyclopedia Britannica this week upon hearing the news that Austria’s new government plans to grant South Tyroleans Austrian citizenship. Why don’t they have it already? The answer lies in Italy’s crafty WWI decision to ditch Germany and throw in its lot with the Allied forces. In return, Rome won (among other goodies) the half of Tyrol south of the Brenner Pass, a key strategic vantage. The deal was done in the 1919 Treaty of St Germain, the accord that cemented the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The fact that South Tyrol has been part of Italy ever since has been a bee in the bonnet of Austrian nationalists (read German nationalists resident in Austria) for decades. So it’s not surprising the far-right Freedom Party has taken up the cause.

Rome, of course, is not amused. Italy has extended South Tyrol sweeping autonomy and many consider it a model for similar disputes around the world. With Schengen and the euro, the border between the two Tyrols, one of Europe’s most prosperous regions, has effectively been erased. As a result, the tensions between Austria, which sees itself as German-speaking South Tyrol’s protector, all but evaporated. Until now. Anyone still wondering what impact the Freedom Party will have on Austria’s politics need look no further than the Brenner.

Back in the former imperial capital of Vienna, meanwhile, neo-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz gave his first address to parliament as the country’s leader, promising “respect, character and common sense,” in no particular order.

SPAIN — CATALAN ELECTION TODAY: After months of political chaos, Catalans go to the polls today in an election triggered by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s activation of Article 155 of the country’s constitution after an illegal independence referendum was held earlier this year. The pro-independence Republican Left of Catalonia are neck-and-neck in the polls with the unionist Ciudadanos, although neither is expected to win enough seats in the region’s 135-member chamber to conclusively end the dispute with Madrid. Diego Torres reports for POLITICO from the L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Catalonia’s second biggest city, that Rajoy is betting on massive turnout in Catalonia to get unionists over the line. How did we get here? Arnau Busquets Guàrdia has this handy timeline that outlines how Catalans went from dealmaking to confrontation.

FRANCE — PM DEFENDS PRIVATE PLANE JOURNEY: French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe defended on Wednesday taking a private plane journey between Tokyo and Paris that cost €350,000, saying the trip was urgent.

HUNGARY — THE FAR LEFT’S RIGHTWING DILEMMA: Some Hungarian leftists are considering the unthinkable: teaming up with far-right Jobbik ahead of next year’s election in order to beat Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, currently trouncing opposition parties in the polls. “If you want to defeat Fidesz, then you have to collect as many seats as you can in the individual districts, and in this you need to somehow cooperate with Jobbik,” Márton Gulyás, a prominent left-wing activist who has been campaigning for the opposition to work together, told Lili Bayer, who reports from Budapest for POLITICO.

ITALY — SALVINI REJECTS BACKING 5STARS: Matteo Salvini, leader of the rightwing Northern League, ruled out supporting a 5Star Movement-led government, in an interview with Radio Capital months before Italy goes to the polls.

GERMANY — MERKEL, STILL QUEEN OF EUROPE: Following her poor electoral performance, German newspapers declared Merkel-Dämmerung — the twilight of Merkel. Paul Taylor in his latest Europe at Large column for POLITICO suggests calling time on the EU’s longest-serving leader may be premature. Instead, 2018 could be the year the Franco-German motor starts revving again, with Merkel and her youthful French counterpart Emmanuel Macron driving the EU integration process forward.

ROMANIA  — IOHANNIS WARNS ON RULE OF LAW: The day the European Commission started the Article 7 procedure against Poland, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis warned that the same fate awaited his country. “If someone thinks that changing justice laws will not have any consequences, [that someone] has fallen from the moon, and the consequences will depend on the gravity of the changes,” Iohannis said.


BEHIND GREEN’S DOOR: Big, late breaking story out of the U.K. last night. Remember hearing about Damian Green, Theresa May’s closest adviser and de-facto deputy, allegedly having “extreme porn” on his government computer several years ago? Green denied being aware of a police investigation into the allegations. Trouble is, that wasn’t accurate. A government report released last night found he lied, forcing May to fire him. Green continues to deny that he viewed the pornography, and the investigation reached no conclusion on the matter. Green is the third U.K. Cabinet minister to resign in less than two months and will leave a hole in May’s government — he was brought in as the prime minister’s Cabinet fixer after the election, chairing important committees and brokering compromises between the warring “hard” and “soft” Brexit tribes in the government.

TICKETY, TICKETY TOCK: Meantime, the Brexit clock is running a bit faster than anticipated. The EU’s negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday that he wants Britain’s post-Brexit transition period to expire on December 31, 2020, leaving the U.K. just 21 months to figure out the rest of its life. London was sanguine: “We are currently looking at around two years, 24 months; the Commission have said just over 21 months, but it is a negotiation, and that will begin shortly.”

CARNEY VS. BARNIER: “I don’t accept the argument [made by Michel Barnier] that just because it hasn’t been done in the past, it can’t be done in the future,” said Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, testifying at the U.K. parliament’s Treasury committee on Wednesday, in response to Barnier’s refusal to countenance passporting rights for U.K.-based banks.


KOSOVO — SERBIA WANTS RUSSIA TO PLAY ROLE IN PRISTINA TALKS: While on a visit to Moscow, Aleksandar Vučić, Serbia’s president, said he wanted Russia to mediate between Belgrade and Pristina, a suggestion that the Kremlin declined to comment on. Talks between Serbia and Kosovo have been deadlocked, even though both countries’ EU accession prospects rest on their relations being normalized.