22-01-2019 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

22-01-2019 | EYE ON GREECE 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Bitter political clashes erupt over responsibility, perpetrators of violence at anti-Prespa pact rally on Sun.

Fallout continued on Monday over the previous day’s mass rally in downtown Athens against the Prespa agreement, with the leftist Tsipras government pointing to “far right” elements behind the short-lived but violent scenes directly in front of the Parliament building.


Ex-foreign minister Kotzias to sue Kammenos after Prespes vote

Former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias indicated on Monday that he is planning to sue his onetime cabinet colleague, former defense minister Panos Kammenos, over recent comments by the latter accusing Kotzias of corruption.


Military officer, British national remanded near military facility

A Hellenic Air Force officer and a British national who were detained on Sunday after allegedly taking photographs of military installations in a restricted area near the Evros border with Turkey will remain in police custody in the town of Orestiada until they appear before an investigative magistrate Wednesday, according to reports Tuesday.


Top prosecutor orders probe into new Communist Party wiretap claims

Supreme Court prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou has ordered an investigation into claims by the Greek Communist Party (KKE) on Monday that the telephones at its Athens headquarters in the district of Perissos have been wiretapped, the state-run news agency ANA-MPA reported.


Public health professor: Greece’s population down 355K in a decade

Greece’s population between 2008 to 2017, essentially the entire economic crisis period, decreased by roughly 355,000, according to an epidemiology and public health professor on Monday, who spoke on the country’s pressing demographic problem.


Over 141,000 jobs created during 2018

The slowdown in the rate of job creation in the last few months of 2018 averted the achievement of an all-time high in new jobs, according to the official data of the Labor Ministry’s Ergani hirings database.


ATHEX: Credit sector losses are offset

The Capital Market Commission’s report showing foreign funds maintaining their short positions in local bank stocks resulted in a notable decline for the credit sector at the start of the week. However, non-bank blue chips managed to push the benchmark into positive territory at the end of the session despite the bank sector slump.







KATHIMERINI:  Everyone against everyone else on the Prespes agreement

ETHNOS:  85% of illegal constructions within forests to be integrated in state planning

TA NEA:  Attempt for the elimination of the political center – Backstage activity with politicians changing sides

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Behold the plan for the invasion of the parliament

AVGI:  Hear nothing say nothing on behalf of New Democracy [regarding the presence of the extreme right in Sunday’s rally]

RIZOSPASTIS:  The Greek Communist Party rejects the agreement between Tsipras and Zaev and the plans of the USA, NATO and the EU

KONTRA NEWS:  Former Defense minister Kammenos and Golden Dawn MP Kassidiaris put on an extreme-right show for the Prespes agreement

DIMOKRATIA:  Toxic government in panic

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Banks under pressure

FRESH, WORRYING NUMBERS: Denying the Holocaust is seen as most anti-Semitic by 53 percent of Europeans, according to a Eurobarometer survey out today, which Playbook has previewed. That’s a significantly lower number compared to a survey conducted among the EU’s Jewish community, 95 percent of whom say the statement “the Holocaust is a myth or is being exaggerated” is anti-Semitic. (We previewed the survey among the EU’s jewish community back in December.)

Question: If denying the Holocaust isn’t anti-Semitic, what is?

A survey to worry about: “The lower the education level, the lower the awareness” of the Holocaust, Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová is expected to say in a speech today at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, according to prepared notes Playbook has seen. “Education is key to not only understanding the Shoah as the abyss of humanity, but also to increasing awareness of anti-Semitism and how it is still very much alive in Europe today.” Jourová will announce she’s setting up a working group to help educate people on the matter.

GOOD MORNING. It truly is the end of an era, after European Parliament’s longest serving member, the CDU’s Elmar Brok, announced he would not seek renomination at a party convention this week. But here’s what Brussels will actually be talking about today: Hours after Brok made his announcement, POLITICO’s Maxime Schlee and Ryan Heath revealed the veteran MEP charged constituents €150 per head to cover the costs of visiting him at the European Parliament — while also claiming many of the same costs back from the legislature. The €150 charge was still being applied to Brok’s visitors last year. Pretty cheap for a legacy.


PLAN B: MUTTON DRESSED AS LAMB. It seems Theresa May has finally heard what her Continental counterparts have been telling her, and is passing on the message. The British PM told her parliament Monday that the EU27 will need a good reason to extend the Article 50 Brexit talks negotiation period (without which there isn’t really even any point in asking). The U.K. crashing out of the EU without a deal cannot be excluded, and as discussions in London continue, May said, at some point she might go back to Brussels to pursue further compromises.

Let us translate that for you: May took any vaguely available option off the table, and stuck with the one that has proven hardest to achieve: getting her deal, plus some minor tweaks, through the House of Commons.

She comes in peace: “The government has approached these [cross-party] meetings with a constructive spirit and no preconditions,” May said.

Here’s some quid for your quo: EU citizens registering for settled status in the U.K. after Brexit will no longer have to pay a £65 application fee, May said.

POLAND GOES OFF-MESSAGE: It was Warsaw, not London, where more remarkable Brexit news was made Monday. The impasse could be resolved if Ireland were prepared to accept a time-limited backstop of five years, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz told Rzeczpospolita newspaper. “It would obviously be less favorable for Ireland than an unlimited backstop, but much more favorable than a no-deal Brexit, which is inevitably approaching,” he added. The comments had diplomats in Brussels scrambling, POLITICO’s Brussels and London teams report in this must-read analysis of the episode.

Reactions: Czaputowicz’s suggestion represents a significant departure from the unity EU capitals have so far displayed on Brexit (but it’s not the first such example of Polish exceptionalism). Berlin, Dublin and Brussels were quick to slap the idea down. “Putting a time limit on an insurance mechanism — which is what the backstop is — effectively means it is not a backstop at all,” Coveney said after Monday’s foreign affairs ministers’ meeting in Brussels. “I don’t think his intervention reflects EU thinking here, in fact I know it doesn’t.” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas backed Coveney. “I am completely with my Irish colleague, he has already said what he thinks of it, which is nothing,” Maas said.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier meanwhile told RTE: “We agreed the backstop and we agreed on the original agreement along these 18 months … and I think it is the best possible deal now.” He ruled out the idea of a bilateral deal between Britain and Ireland, saying “we are working as a 27, as a team, as a single team, and we are negotiating as one.”

THROWBACK TUESDAY: When did Brexit get so weird? Perhaps back in 2016, when then-Prime Minister David Cameron came to Brussels to seek a better deal for Britain. That’s what European Council President Donald Tusk suggested in an interview for a BBC 2 documentary series. “If you try to force us, to hurry us, you will lose everything,” Tusk recalled telling Cameron. “And for the first time I saw something close to fear in his eyes. He finally realized what a challenge he was facing.”

Tusk verbatim: “I told him bluntly ‘come on David, get real. I know that all prime ministers are promising to help you, but believe me the truth is that no one has an appetite for revolution in Europe only because of your stupid referendum.’”

‘Mistake of his life’: Tusk also told the BBC about his telephone conversation with Cameron when he learned the British prime minister was going to resign after the Brexit vote. “It was like his day of reckoning was coming, reckoning for his biggest mistake in his life.” Episode one of the the documentary, “Inside Europe: 10 Years of Turmoil,” will air Monday January 28. Paul Dallison has more details here.

FRENEMIES WITH BENEFITS: While Brexit has been destabilizing for European politics, when it comes to the composition of the next European Parliament, “it’s likely to make things easier,” writes Andrew Duff in an op-ed for POLITICO.

END OF AN ERA: The European Medicines Agency’s office in London will close on March 1, four weeks before Brexit Day. Katie Jennings has more for POLITICO Brexit and Health Care Pros.


COLD SHOWER: The International Monetary Fund revised (downwards) its outlook for the world economy, with the expectation for expansion being at 3.5 percent for 2019 and 3.6 percent for next year. The “global expansion is weakening and at a rate that is somewhat faster than expected,” the IMF’s new chief economist, Gita Gopinath, wrote on her blog.

“The downward revisions are modest; however, we believe the risks to more significant downward corrections are rising,” Gopinath continued. Markets are starting to realize that trade tensions might affect them at some point: “The two have become intertwined more recently, tightening financial conditions and escalating the risks to global growth.”

WHAT DAVOS MAN IS THINKING: Close to one out of three CEOs globally believe economic growth will decline over the course of this year. That’s about six times as many as last year, “a record jump in pessimism,” as PwC’s annual survey of 1,300 CEOs around the world notes. “CEOs also reported a noteworthy dip in confidence in their own organizations’ revenue prospects over the short (12-month) and medium (three-year) term.”

The report, launched Monday evening at the WEF in Davos, has been a good indicator of the mood of the globe’s economic elite in the past — and of how the real economy is performing, the authors say. “CEOs’ revenue confidence can be considered a leading indicator of the direction of the global economy,” according to the report. Meaning: “If CEOs’ confidence continues to be a leading indicator, global economic growth will slow down in 2019.”

Silver lining? Some 42 percent of the respondents — CEOs from 91 countries — still foresee an improved economic outlook (down from 57 percent last year). Also, the U.S. is still considered a top market for growth, though China is narrowing the gap.

NO WORRIES, PERSONALLY: “The global elite descending on Davos are richer than ever,” Bloomberg reports. “It’s a remarkable showing given the economic and political tumult of the past decade, from Lehman Brothers to Brexit to Donald Trump. The fortunes of a dozen 2009 Davos attendees have soared by a combined $175 billion, even as median U.S. household wealth has stagnated.”

TODAY: Brazil’s far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro makes his début on the international stage at 2:30 p.m. His speech will be the first by a global big wig at this year’s annual meeting. There will be no Q&A.

Cozier contrast program featuring two serious Brits: The duke of Cambridge (that’s Prince William to you and me) will interview broadcasting legend David Attenborough at 1:15 p.m. Watch live on the WEF’s website.

PODCAST DU JOUR: Our own Ryan Heath brings you a daily podcast from Davos. Listen here.

FOR THOSE PLAYING ALONG AT HOME: POLITICO’s Davos live blog kicks off from 8 a.m. this morning.


IRELAND VS. AUSTRIA IN ECB RACE: The Eurogroup kicked off the search for the European Central Bank’s new chief economist at its Monday gathering of eurozone finance ministers. Dublin nominated the governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Philip Lane, to the post (link for POLITICO Financial Services Pros). While no other finance ministers came forward with any other nominees, officials in Vienna have said Austria may propose its vice central bank governor, Andreas Ittner. Governments have until the end of the month to submit their candidates. Should both Ittner and Lane run, eurozone finance ministers will vote when they meet in Brussels again next month.

GAS TROUBLES AHEAD: The future of Ukraine’s gas transit route remains in limbo after Russia, Ukraine and Brussels on Monday failed to agree on how to define gas relations between the two countries from next year, report our in-house experts in today’s POLITICO Pro Morning Energy and Climate newsletter.

RUSSIA SANCTIONS: EU foreign ministers Monday imposed sanctions on nine people — four Russians and five Syrians — as well as the Scientific Studies and Research Centre, a Syrian entity responsible for developing and making chemical weapons. The sanctions are the first to be imposed by the EU under a new regime of restrictive measures against the use and proliferation of chemical weapons set up in October. Eline Schaart has the story.

MOON SHOTS: This morning at 9 a.m. Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska will present the opening speech at the annual Space Conference, Europe’s biggest space policy event. She’ll call for the EU to answer the challenges by China and the U.S. and embrace its position as the second space world power, such as by creating a “European Space Council” attached directly to the European Council, and for a true single market for space in Europe, with procurement of operational and civil capacity open to all European companies, regardless of their size. Livestream here.

PUIGDEMONT MANOEVERS: Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont hasn’t ruled out running in the European election, he said Monday, Europa Press reports. Of course, in order to take up his seat should he be elected as an MEP, he’d have to return to Spain to appear before the central election commission — thereby risking arrest.

EVENT DU JOUR: S&D MEP Michael Detjen is hosting a panel discussion on negative political campaigning and targeted disinformation today from 6-8 p.m. in room A5G305 in the European Parliament.


HE DID WHAT? Romania’s Justice Minister Tudorel Toader said Monday that he has prepared an emergency decree that could invalidate hundreds of corruption cases involving the country’s most senior officials, AP reports. That could be good news for Liviu Dragnea, chairman of the country’s ruling Social Democrats, who is barred from the prime ministership because of a fraud conviction, and whose trial has incidentally been postponed once again. European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen was unequivocal in his verdict about Toader’s proposal. “Unbelievable news!! Romanian people deserve #RuleofLaw,” Katainen tweeted.

KOVESI UPDATE: Laura Codruţa Kovesi, the former head of Romania’s Anti Corruption Directorate (DNA) who was controversially dismissed from her post, is running for the role of chief of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, reports G4 Media.


AACHEN TREATY DAY: At 11 a.m. today, Emmanuel Macron will be in Germany, for the signing ceremony of a new Franco-German pact on cooperation and integration. Matthew Karnitschnig’s verdict? “The Aachen Treaty is less a reflection of grand aspiration than what is politically palatable.”

FYROM VOTE SCHEDULED FOR THURSDAY: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appears to have secured enough parliamentary support to approve a deal that would see FYROM change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia (to distinguish it from Greece’s northern region, also called Macedonia), Reuters reports. The vote has been scheduled for late Thursday, with the debate beginning Wednesday.