22-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

22-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Monday, January 22, 2018

Thousands protest in Thessaloniki against ‘Macedonia’ name talks

Tens of thousands of Greeks gathered in Thessaloniki on Sunday to protest against the use of the name “Macedonia” in a solution to a dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).


Tractors to return to national roads this week

Greek farmers are expected to roll out their tractors onto national roads this week, as has become customary at the start of the year, protesting the latest round of austerity measures legislated by the government.


EWG gives nod on review completion

The Euro Working Group gave the green light on Friday for the completion of the third bailout review in principle, but property auctions are still causing concern as they are seen as crucial to determining the course of Greek banks and whether or not a new recapitalization will be required.


Greek-controlled companies control 16.72% of global maritime shipping

Greek-controlled shipping appears to have staked out a bigger share of the global sector over the recent period, according to the latest figures released by Petrofin Research, with the latter calculating that Greek shipowners and companies controlled 5,281 vessels in 2017, up from 5,230 in 2016.


Greece welcomes S&P credit rating upgrade

Greece welcomed on Saturday the upgrade of Greek economy’s credit rating by Standard & Poor’s to ‘B’ from ‘B-‘ as one more sign that the hard times come to an end and the country is moving steadily on the recovery path.


NBG frees itself from ELA dependence

National Bank of Greece has brought its dependence on the central bank’s emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) mechanism down to zero.


ATHEX: Stock market benchmark rises at end of losing week

Buyers made a comeback at the Greek stock market on Friday, as they took the benchmark more than 1 percent higher while turnover surged above 150 million euros. The market appeared to have been expecting that Greece’s credit rating would be upgraded by Standard & Poor’s.








KATHIMERINI: ‘Tremors’ in Athens and Skopje. Chess-game in the Balkans

TO VIMA: Poker-game in the summit of Davos [on the name dispute between Skopje and Athens]

REAL NEWS: Message from Tsipras to Skopje: “Change your constitution now!”

PROTO THEMA: The Germans and the Americans are pressing the Greek government to solve the name-dispute with Skopje

AVGI: ‘Macedonian’ issue and the economy to be discussed in the Summit of Davos


ETHNOS: Loud voice [at the rally regarding the ‘Macedonian’ issue]

TA NEA: Gordian knot. The government heads to the talks in Davos without a strategy

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: A new right-wing line-up is being born

KONTRA NEWS: Dangerous games may divide the nation

DIMOKRATIA: The voice of the people!

NAFTEMPORIKI: New weapons against tax-evasion

EUROPE SAVED (AGAIN): At least that’s what the Cassandras would have you believe, after Germany’s Social Democrats voted Sunday in dramatic fashion to allow formal coalition talks with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. If all goes according to plan, Germany could have a new government, its third “GroKo” (grand coalition) since 2005 by the end of March.

Why Europe should care: A host of European works in progress that require German input, from budget planning to Brexit and EU reform, can now proceed without further delay or uncertainty over Berlin’s direction. And for fans of stability, the good news is Merkel is likely to be around for a few more years.

Can the GroKo Express still be derailed? It’s possible, some would say desirable. But still unlikely. SPD members will have to vote on the final deal when it’s reached. By then, it will be six months since election day. Germans are already tired of waiting. A GroKo collapse, which would likely lead to new elections, could trigger a deeper backlash against the established parties, already on their heels after recording substantial losses in September.

Who will run things in Berlin? Aside from Merkel in the chancellery, it’s too early to say. SPD leader Martin Schulz has been under pressure from some in his party to forgo a minister post (to prove he isn’t in it for power and glory). For now, he’s keeping his cards close to his vest. Some senior party officials predict the lure of a top government post will be too strong for the former president of the European Parliament to resist. One option would be for Schulz to replace Sigmar Gabriel, his predecessor as SPD leader, at the foreign ministry. Another would see the SPD chief take over the finance ministry. Late Sunday, he insisted personnel issues would “be decided at the end.”

Good Monday morning from the Rhineland. I’m Matt Karnitschnig, POLITICO’s Chief Europe Correspondent, bringing you today’s Playbook from a small town in Germany, the old capital of Bonn, where the SPD held its convention on Sunday. Ryan has retreated to the mountains for a few days to squabble with Alpine folk. 

WHO’S WHO IN THE RUSSIA PROBE: A POLITICO analysis of court documents, congressional letters, public testimony and media reports reveals that the investigations into the 2016 election and its aftermath now involve hundreds of people in Washington, Moscow and around the world. Some names sound familiar, like Steve Bannon and Donald Trump Jr., but most don’t. Taken together, they illuminate the way federal investigators are assembling the pieces of the Russia puzzle.

NINETY DAYS TO FIX THE EUROZONE: French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has a message for the eurozone: talk is cheap. In an interview with POLITICO’s Pierre Briançon, Le Maire left little doubt that time was running out to finish work on the banking and capital markets unions and other reforms. “We can’t afford to babble when there’s such urgency to take the eurozone to the next level,” he said.


EUROGROUP — CENTENO TAKES OVER THE REINS: Finance ministers from eurozone countries meet today in Brussels for the first time with Mário Centeno, Portugal’s finance minister, as president. They’re expected to appoint Hans Vijlbrief as the Eurogroup preparatory body’s new president. He’ll succeed Thomas Wieser, in charge since since January 2012. They will also sign off on Greek reforms and discuss proposals to overhaul the governance of the eurozone.

How Europe is bursting Bitcoin’s bubble: POLITICO’s Fiona Maxwell reports on how Europe’s financial watchdogs are turning the screws on bitcoin and its cryptocurrency pals, helping to let the air out of a price boom that many economists warn is a bubble. The increased scrutiny coincides with a leveling of bitcoin’s price, quoted Friday at $11,841 (€9,652), down from a high of nearly $20,000 at the end of 2017, but still up from about $1,000 at the start of last year.

Centeno’s job description: Bruegel’s Guntram Wolff lays out what Centeno’s top priorities should be.

COUNCIL — FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTERS MEET TODAY: Foreign ministers will have lunch with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. He is expected to demand the EU recognize Palestine as a state, according to AFP.

COMMISSIONERS’ DIARY: Vice President Frans Timmermans is in Bulgaria to meet Bulgarian Minister for Justice Tsetska Tsacheva and Lilyana Pavlova, the minister responsible for the Bulgarian Council presidency … Vice Presidents Maroš Šefčovič and Valdis Dombrovskis meet Moldova’s Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Iurie Leancă … Vice President Jyrki Katainen meets Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development … Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is in Paris to meet French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe.

COMMISSION — CORPORATES FOLLOW TIMMERMANS’ PLASTIC LEAD: Companies are lining up to make green pledges in the wake of the release of the Commission’s Plastics Strategy. Here are some of the latest promises: Danone’s water brand Evian pledged to make all its bottles from recycled plastics; British brand Costa Coffee plans to replace all straws with non-plastic alternatives this year; and McDonald’s said it will use only recycled or certified packaging by 2025.

PARLIAMENT — TAJANI INTERVIEW WITH LA REPUBBLICA: A senior member of Italy’s Northern League commented last week that the migrant influx could wipe out the country’s “white race,” prompting criticism from the European Commission. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani — a close ally of Silvio Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party is in an electoral coalition with the League — shot back in an interview with La Repubblica published Sunday: The Commission, he warned, “should confine itself to general comments … to not provoke reactions contrary to the objective of the criticism.”

PARLIAMENT — GREENS TAKE AIM AT BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT: Ska Keller, one of two MEPs who lead the Parliament’s Greens, has threatened to alert the Commission about plans greenlighted by Sofia to expand a ski resort in a protected region.


Terrorism: MEPs on the special committee on terrorism will hear from Fabrice Leggeri, executive director of Frontex, the EU’s border guard agency.

Trade: MEPs on the international trade committee will hear from Bulgaria’s far-right United Patriots economy minister, Emil Karanikolov, about the presidency’s trade priorities. They will also discuss the implementation of the EU’s association agreements with Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine.

Defense: A hearing on the future of the EU’s defense industrial policy will take place in the committee on industry, research and energy.

Internal market: MEPs on the internal market and consumer protection committee will debate a package of measures recently launched by the Commission designed to enhance the functioning of the single market.

You can watch all the committees live here.


This year is set to be Trump’s Davos (provided he makes it amid the U.S. government shutdown) and the question is whether the world’s elite will be his puppet or whether they’ll boo or otherwise reject the president’s world view. Snow has been falling heavily since Saturday, with slopes closed and many snowed in until help arrives in the morning.

EU PARTICIPATION IN DAVOS: There’s a big EU presence in 2018. European leaders in Davos include the big four: Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Paolo Gentiloni and Theresa May. Also speaking are the new Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki and his president Andrzej Duda, Mark Rutte (Netherlands), Sebastian Kurz (Austria), Antonio Costa (Portugal), Leo Varadkar (Ireland), Dalia Grybauskaitė (Lithuania) and Joseph Muscat (Malta).

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will address the Davos plenary Thursday, and is expected to meet Bill Gates and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last year, Juncker complained about 12 of his commissioners going to Davos. This year, he decided to send only seven — including himself, Cecilia Malmström, Valdis Dombrovskis and Pierre Moscovici.


GOOGLE BEWARE: Google scourges Barry Lynn and Lina Khan are in town this week. Bloomberg has just profiled the team, who are part of the group that got expelled from the New America Foundation, allegedly at Google’s behest, after criticizing the search giant and NAF sponsor. Next week they’ll meet Europe’s data protection supervisor and will speak at a conference called “The Internet of Bodies.” They are also participating in a lunch hosted by law firm Dechert.


ROMANIA — PROTESTORS RETURN TO STREETS: Between 30,000 and 60,000 people marched in Bucharest and other cities Saturday evening to protest against legal changes they believe will allow political corruption to go unpunished.

DENMARK — PUIGDEMONT RISKS ARREST: The Spanish authorities are expected to issue a European arrest warrant for Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont who is due to make a speech at a Copenhagen university today.

GREECE — PROTESTS IN THESSALONIKI OVER MACEDONIA TALKS: Around 90,000 people took to the streets of Thessaloniki in protest against U.N.-mediated talks between Athens and Skopje over the name of the country’s northern neighbor.

HUNGARY — FAR-RIGHT JOBBIK TAKES AIM AT ORBÁN: Gábor Vona, the leader of far-right party Jobbik, which is currently second in the polls, accused Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of hypocrisy after it emerged that Hungary has accepted over 1,000 refugees. “He has turned from a fiery democrat into a burnt-out and corrupt tyrant who has brought authoritarianism back to Hungary,” Vona said in a statement.


NOT THERE YET: “Friendly reminder: ‘Sufficient progress’ in withdrawal questions meant: We are not there yet. More work to be done… Point here is: Legal text has to be clear,” Peter Ptassek, the German government’s Brexit lead, tweeted as negotiations get under away this week. Here’s POLITICO’s guide to what to expect from the Brexit talks this year.

FARAGE TO OPEN ANOTHER CIRCUS RING? With UKIP imploding, the Times reports that Nigel Farage may be about to launch a new Brexit party. Politics academic Matthew Goodwin writes for POLITICO on what it all means for UKIP and the hard Brexiteers — and what Farage will do next.

BRITISH BUSINESS WANTS UK TO REMAIN IN CUSTOMS UNION: “There may come a day when the opportunity to fully set independent trade policies outweighs the value of a customs union with the EU … But that day hasn’t yet arrived,” Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, will say in a speech today. Boris Johnson, the U.K.’s foreign secretary, shot back on Sunday, saying on Twitter: “Makes no sense for @cbitweets to keep calling to stay in customs union… I’m confident British business can profit from the new opportunities.”


UNITED STATES — A RECORD SHUTDOWN: President Donald Trump is the first U.S. president to lead a government shutdown while his party controls the House and Senate. It’s also a little awkward that it’s happening just a year into his presidency. Follow the action with live updates from our D.C. colleagues here.


BELGIUM TO LOWER TERROR THREAT LEVEL: De Standaard reports the Belgian government is likely to lower the terror alert level from 3 to 2 on Monday. The highest level of alert is four.