22-06-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

21-06-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Friday, June 22, 2018

Eurogroup agreement over Greek debt relief, post-bailout supervision

A marathon session at the Eurogroup for the better part of Thursday concluded in the early morning hours of Friday with an agreement – called “historic” by European partners – for medium-term debt relief measures for Greece.


Greece bracing for pressure at emergency summit

Athens is heading to this Sunday’s emergency ‘mini-summit’ of EU leaders in Brussels on migration with two key demands: that its conclusions include a specific reference to a more progressive common asylum system, and that countries of first arrival receive the means and staff to expedite the examination of applications.


Tsipras heads to London for three-day visit

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will travel to the United Kingdom on Monday for a three-day visit where he will meet with his counterpart, Theresa May, and the head of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.


Athens, Tirana seeking to resolve bilateral issues

Greece and Albania are heading for an agreement in the coming days to resolve their pending bilateral differences.


Greek phone executive’s death in wiretap case ruled murder

A Greek prosecutor has brought murder charges against unknown perpetrators over a telecoms executives death – initially dismissed as suicide – on the eve of a major wiretap scandal in 2005.


US roadshow lags in interest

Far from enthusiastic, investment funds have been reserved about the prospects of Greek stocks and the country’s post-bailout period at the annual Greek Investment Roadshow, which ends on Friday in the US.


ATHEX: Optimism for Eurogroup boosts stocks

Positive statements ahead of Thursday’s Eurogroup, combined with the draft agreement presented by Kathimerini, gave the local stock market the push it needed to make up some vital ground and push the trading volume above the 50-million-euro mark.







KATHIMERINI: Supervision and measures for debt alleviation under conditions

ETHNOS: The great night for the Greek debt

TA NEA: Debt extended for ten years

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Agreement that puts an end to the Memorandum era

AVGI: The Greek debt is viable

RIZOSPASTIS: Anti-popular escalation behind the bargain between the government and the Eurogroup

KONTRA NEWS: Alexis Tsipras is dragging the country out of the Memorandum-nightmare

DIMOKRATIA: Noose instead of a tie

NAFTEMPORIKI: White smoke for the debt at the Eurogroup

A TELLING LITTLE STORY TO BEGIN WITH: EU ambassadors on Thursday put three legislative proposals on the massive migration file into the deep-freezer, according to three diplomats, after a successful, or so participants thought, trilogue last week. The files concerned asylum qualifications (harmonizing protection standards), the resettlement of recognized refugees from outside the EU and harmonizing reception conditions across the EU. The Commission, in its related note for the European summit, counts the three proposals among those “ready for adoption,” which “should now be rapidly concluded.”

So what’s happening with the files? They’re still a “work in progress,” said one EU diplomat. Another cited technical issues. A third had bigger files to work on, namely the big divide in migration policies. For Angelika Mlinar, an Austrian liberal MEP involved, the delay is a big enough deal that it spurred her to write a letter to Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, telling him that she and her ALDE (rapporteur) colleague Sophie In’t Veld suspect “the Council has conducted sham negotiations from the outset and has never been interested in implementing the asylum package.” She calls on him to urge the Austrian government — which is about to take over the Council presidency after all — to support the trilogue result, and not to “torpedo” the EU’s legislative process.

That’s quite an accusation. It’s also, from whatever angle you look at it, a change of course. It would have made sense to finalize as quickly as possible whatever files you can on the contentious migration beat to build consensus bottom-up. But here EU governments let their (first) opportunity to do so pass, allowing the files to be thrown into the big wild mix of the migration crunch time in days to come.

Austrian credo: “We believe that if we have a success on the border checks, this might ease and relax other issues within the migration area,” Austria’s EU ambassador, Nikolaus Marschik, told reporters in Brussels.

GOOD FRIDAY MORNING. What a week. Domestic affairs took over the European debate. It’s old news that leaders bring their domestic issues to Brussels (think of double fish-finger standards, the fate of the German car industry, the Danish opt-out-and-opt-in-again exercise when it came to sharing sensitive Europol information, or the Netherlands’ Ukraine referendum).

But for Angela Merkel, this is uncharted territory.

Never has her political survival depended on her interior minister’s party. Never has she asked Brussels to come to her rescue in this way. Never has her success or failure relied on the Italian interior minster’s political agenda. Never has an American president (and perhaps also an Austrian chancellor, by siding with Bavaria’s CSU at every opportunity at hand) appeared to want to get rid of the EU’s largest country’s leader. French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, is so at ease he can afford to patronize and shame an unruly teenager in front of his 3 million Twitter followers.


IT’S OVER: “The Greek debt problem is behind us,” said France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, following a Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg that ran past midnight this morning. “Greece can now go forward in confidence.”

Show me the money: Athens secured a final payout of €15 billion in bailout cash from its eurozone creditors, paving the way for its program exit in August. The creditors also granted Athens some debt relief by extending loan maturities due from 2023 by 10 years to help ease the country’s repayment burden over the next two decades. Bjarke Smith-Meyer has the latest from Luxembourg.

Reminder: Eurozone finance ministers “need to invent something new” to ensure Greece sticks to its reform commitments once it exits the rescue program, European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told Playbook earlier this week.

Not all aboard: Finance ministers at the Eurogroup meeting fell short of finding a full agreement on how best to boost economic safeguards within the single currency bloc. The inability to reach a full consensus means that it’ll be up to the eurozone’s 19 leaders to officially figure out how best to reform the bloc’s economic and monetary set-up when they meet next week in Brussels. Failure to reach a political decision next week would leave the 19-country bloc vulnerable to another economic crisis.

OPINION — IT’S NOT OVER: Miguel Otero-Iglesias and Raymond Torres write for the POLITICO Global Policy Lab that the eurozone isn’t ready for the next big shock — but they have a plan to fix that. Also, check out the latest GPL newsletter by Pierre Briançon for free here.


ITALIAN CIRCUMSTANCES: German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer takes inspiration from Italian colleague Matteo Salvini in making clear that he’s not just a normal minister, but large and in charge: “When the chancellory is unhappy with the work of the interior minister, they should end the coalition,” Seehofer told Passauer Neue Presse. But under no circumstances should the minister in question be fired, because “that would be a world premiere.”

Make no mistake: The CSU has escalated the power struggle to such an extent, there aren’t many ways back.

QUESTIONS OF PROTOCOL: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will now indeed come to Sunday’s migration mini-summit, he wrote on Facebook, as long as there’s no joint statement of the participants. “There will be no written text,” he wrote, and the discussion will “center around the Italian proposals.” That means he wants to talk about how to close Italy and Europe to migrants rather than about taking those who were previously registered in Italy back from Germany. Bye-bye, European solution.

Now, what do you get if you organize an off-protocol event? Confusion about how to proceed and more chaos than there is on the German-Austrian border. Then again, doing things the traditional way hasn’t exactly brought the EU anywhere close to a compromise on new common asylum rules.

Breaking down Conte’s Facebook post …

  1. A pre-write is a write-off:Conte said that “it would have been impossible for me to participate at this summit with a prepackaged text.” Let’s see whether he comes to the European Council next week; or whether the EU has to stop the practice of drafting, negotiating, redrafting and renegotiating conclusions and statements because that’s unacceptable for Rome.
  2. Power play:Conte made a point of highlighting that he didn’t call Jean-Claude Juncker, who sent out the invite to the mini-summit, to express his dissatisfaction. “I just got a phone call from Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was preoccupied about the possibility of me not participating in Sunday’s pre-summit,” Conte wrote on Thursday.

NB: Merkel was in Jordan on Thursday. Her spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed to Playbook that Merkel and Conte spoke on the phone. Revealing the content of private conversations is another way, of course, of brewing conventions among leaders.

  1. Where’s that bus when you need it?According to Conte, Merkel said the Commission sent out the draft statement as a result of “a misunderstanding” and promised it would be dropped. And all that after Juncker organized a summit especially for Merkel. Nothing tastes so bitter as ingratitude, but that’s politics.
  2. Tusk’s job is safe:Sherpas will meet today despite the Italian prohibition on preparation. But it seems as if appetites for a second convenor-in-chief for European meetings isn’t that big, and the Commission’s excitement to present a (more ambitious) alternative to Council President Donald Tusk’s migration agenda wasn’t quite to anyone’s liking — not even Merkel’s.

NEVER WASTE A GOOD CRISIS: The mini-summit statement was “a supremely audacious move, even by the standards of Martin Selmayr, whose audacity often seems to know no bounds,” write Jacopo Barigazzi and David Herszenhorn. Welcome to Selmayr vs. Serafin, Round XIV, Battle of the Bureaucrats edition. “They are the right hands of the most powerful men in Brussels. And they keep their own left hands clenched so they can punch each other.”

NOBODY ASKED YOU: What’s clear at least is who’s not coming to the mini-summit on Sunday: Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán let Europe know on behalf of the Visegrád 4 group that they won’t attend. (Curiously, his Czech colleague Andrej Babiš had said before that he’d be there for sure — look no further for confusion among friends.) Also, they weren’t invited …

ITALIAN BULLY: Laura Boldrini, the former president of Italy’s lower house of parliament, accused Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of pursuing a “terrifying campaign” of attacks against her. “He blamed everything on me, including terrorist attacks,” she recalled at POLITICO’s Women Rule Summit, adding that it was clear the far-right leader’s “vicious attacks” were “a political strategy.” Boldrini, a well-known advocate for women’s rights, recounted an incident in which Salvini attended a rally with a sex doll that he told his supporters represented Boldrini. His attacks “were always sexist” and “never on my merits,” Boldrini said, adding there is a “great need” for women’s rights advocates in Italy’s machosphere.


  1. On solitude:“A man on his own in the desert is sovereign. He also dies of thirst. But he is sovereign,” said Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.
  2. On togetherness: “Our bond is strong. But today, some are doubting the strength of that bond. And yet we see differences between the United States and other allies. Over issues such as trade, climate and the Iran nuclear deal. There are disagreements within Europe too. Over the future direction of the European Union. Over values and populism. These disagreements are real. It is not written in stone that the transatlantic bond will survive forever. But I believe we will preserve it,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at Lancaster House.
  3. On blood being thicker than water:“There are those who think that the other 26 countries will abandon Ireland at the last minute for a sectoral deal that suits them. Those people have not understood what being part of our Union means. Ireland’s border is Europe’s border — and it is our Union’s priority,” said Jean-Claude Juncker in his address to the Irish parliament. Speech here; story here.

Plus: Naomi O’Leary on Ireland’s Brexit dividend — she writes that momentum is gathering on both sides of the border for reunification.


ROMANIA — JAIL FOR DRAGNEA: Romania’s High Court sentenced Liviu Dragnea, head of the ruling Social Democrats, to three-and-a-half years in jail Thursday in a case involving fake jobs for party workers. He is expected to appeal.

TAX — NEW IDEA: The French and German finance ministers proposed resuming talks about a financial transactions tax (FTT) — and extending it to the whole EU, Bjarke Smith-Meyer writes in to tell us from Luxembourg. So far, talks involved only a coalition of (more or less) a willing 10. Austrian Finance Minister Hartwig Löger confirmed the news, saying that “we need to evaluate this proposal … and will speak about it further at our next meeting.” Here’s the carrot: The new FTT would be deducted from the amount countries pay into the EU budget, one official said. Bjarke has more for POLITICO Financial Services and Budget Pros.

HUNGARY — UN SLAMS NGO LAW: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has condemned as “shameful and blatantly xenophobic” the decision by the Hungarian parliament to pass legislation that criminalizes individuals and groups deemed to be supporting asylum seekers, refugees and undocumented migrants. Under the legislation, individuals could face up to a year in prison and organizations could be banned. Hungarian authorities also announced this week that they would introduce a 25 percent tax on funding for NGOs that “support immigration.”

FRANCE (AND BEYOND) — EN MARCHE VERS L’EUROPE: Christophe Castaner, En Marche’s boss and French President Emmanuel Macron’s junior minister for parliamentary relations, continues his friendship tour of European capitals. Castaner, flanked by Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, the Assemblée member who also pilots En Marche’s EU plans, will next be in Madrid to meet with Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera (Italy was their previous stop). The tour is meant to “build contacts and discuss issues” with like-minded parties, a parliament official said. More unofficially, the party is trying to expand its ranks to have a significant contingent of MEPs after the 2019 European election. Whether it does that by hijacking the liberal ALDE group or forming a group of its own group, telle est la question, Maïa de la Baume writes in to tell us.

TURKEY — WHAT’S AT STAKE: For both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his opponents, the stakes are higher than ever as Turkey heads to the polls this weekend, writes Zia Weise in this primer ahead of the vote.


DON’T GO TO RUSSIA: Green MEP Rebecca Harms — who called on leaders to boycott the World Cup in Russia — has a suggestion for those who just can’t resist: Don’t forget to mention political prisoners and the human rights situation in Russia. Vassili Golod followed up with her about her open letter published in April. “The relations between Europe and Russia are far away from normal for many reasons. I think Chancellor Merkel should watch the matches together with the German fans in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. She should not be going to Russia and give Putin this satisfaction,” Harms said. “But if she decides to go to Russia, Merkel should also visit the high-security prison ‘Polar Bear’ and meet the Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov.” An affront toward Putin? “No, rather a strong political statement,” Harms said.