22-08-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom 22-08-2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Justice minister’s refusal to attend EU summit fuels political tension

A decision by Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis to turn down an invitation to participate in an international conference on crimes committed by communist regimes being organized by the European Union’s Estonian presidency in Tallinn on Wednesday intensified tensions between the leftist-led coalition and the conservative opposition on Monday.


Serbia-FYROM row fuels concern in Athens

Greek diplomats were monitoring developments in the Balkans with concern on Monday after Serbia withdrew the entire staff of its embassy in Skopje after accusing the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) of “offensive activity” in apparent anger at its neighbor’s improving relations with Kosovo, a former Serbian province.


Concerns peak amid spike in migrant arrivals

A sudden spike in the number of undocumented migrants arriving from neighboring Turkey has led to concern on the part of Greek authorities, who expect the next few days to reveal whether the rapid increase is a random occurence or the beginning of a new trend.


Greek government bond yields dip after Fitch upgrade

Greek government bond yields dipped early on Monday after Fitch became the second ratings agency to upgrade it to “Single B” status, marking another milestone in the debt-laden state’s slow journey away from default territory.


Supermarket sales drop just 1 pct in H1

Sales at Greek supermarkets dipped 1 percent in the first half of the year, data compiled by the IRI research company have revealed, pointing to the smallest decrease since 2015 and a significant improvement from the 8.8 percent drop recorded in the first half of 2016 – attributed in part to the collapse of the Marinopoulos chain.


Greece eyes global tourism’s ‘Top 10’ after landing in 14th place in 2016

Recession-battered and bailout-dependent Greece has nevertheless attracted up to nine million more tourists – not counting cruise ship arrivals – over the past five years, bringing the country to 14th place on the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) list for 2016.







KATHIMERINI: Window for retirement at 58

TA NEA: Confiscation e-mails by the tax-office

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Alarm signal for the Eurozone

AVGI: The second white-washing of Nazism by New Democracy leader Mitsotakis and the media

RIZOSPASTIS: Zero tolerance for the EU’s and its political parties’ anticommunism

KONTRA NEWS: Macron and Tsipras revive the crucial Greek-French coalition

DIMOKRATIA: Scandal in the “state” of Mykonos island

NAFTEMPORIKI: New wave of corporate bonds

This time next week, Britain’s negotiating team will be back in Brussels for the monthly jamboree of Brexit talks. Take a step back from the day-to-day minutiae, and it’s fair to say divorce proceedings are not in a great place.

QUOTE DU JOUR: “It means something, it really does, these are the chimes of freedom, they’ve got to be respected, we’ve got to keep them bonging.” Labour MP Stephen Pound on the silencing of Big Ben, London’s famous clock-tower bell, which because of maintenance work and to the chagrin of traditionalists will not routinely chime again for four years.


New position papers: No more bongs, but the U.K. continues its Brexit “big push,” with the latest in a series of negotiating position papers published this week. One covers cross-border legal disputes between consumers and companies, or small businesses and their investors. In another, London calls for minimal changes in standards and regulation of consumer goods, prompting some to ask: “Why not just stay in the single market?” Look out for clues on the British stance on the European Court of Justice, with another position paper on that issue coming later in the week.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is clearly unimpressed by the fact the U.K. published its position papers only now, ahead of the third round of talks. “EU positions clear and transparent since day one,” he said Monday night.

Will the Brits make the cut? All eyes are now on October, when the European Council will rule if “sufficient progress” has been made so talks can proceed to the second phase: trade and the future relationship. Slovenian PM Miro Cerar was the latest to cast doubt on that, saying the process will “definitely” take more time than expected.

All calm in London: Despite all that, the Brits seem relaxed. One senior cabinet minister told POLITICO suggestions last week that trade talks won’t start till December were mere “guessing or ill-informed briefing.” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said Monday the PM remained “confident.”

The only concern, according to one government official, is that the Brits’ attempt to push the EU into early talks about the future relationship will be seen in Brussels as an attempt to “leapfrog” issues like the Brexit bill. “We certainly are engaging on their arguments on financial matters, on a line by line basis,” the official said. “We’re just not writing them an alternative.”

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will meet with her Welsh counterpart Carwyn Jones today in Edinburgh to “discuss how the two governments can work together to protect devolution from a ‘Westminster power grab,’” the Welsh government said in a statement. Scotland and Wales have previously indicated they will reject the Great Repeal Bill when it’s brought before the devolved chambers in Cardiff and Edinburgh.

TERROR — MAIN SUSPECT SHOT DEAD: Younes Abouyaaqoub, the man Spanish police believe was behind the wheel of the van that drove into pedestrians on Las Ramblas on Thursday, killing 13, was shot dead Monday evening by officers in the town of Subirats, 30 kilometers west of Barcelona.

Death toll rises: At a press conference, police said Abouyaaqoub hijacked a car to escape after the Las Ramblas attack. The driver of the car was found stabbed to death in the back seat — bringing the death toll from the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils to 15.

Spain and Catalonia: The tragedy in Barcelona has fostered a rare unity between Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, more often at loggerheads over plans for a Catalan independence referendum, Diego Torres reports. But underlying tensions are beginning to surface.

HUNGARY — ORBÁN COURTS VOTERS: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is on the hunt for votes — but not in Hungary. As the spring 2018 election approaches, his ruling Fidesz party is ramping up efforts to get hundreds of thousands of Hungarian citizens living abroad to register to vote, Lili Bayer reports. With the party only two MPs’ votes short of the two-thirds parliamentary majority required to pass constitutional reforms, the stakes are high.

ECB — NON-COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY KEEPS INVESTORS IN THE DARK: The European Central Bank’s communications strategy (which some might call a non-communications strategy) is raising eyebrows among the Continent’s financial journalists, Johanna Treeck finds. With shorter press conferences, no sit-down interviews with ECB chief Mario Draghi and a communications director who spends little time in the bank’s Frankfurt office, journalists are wary of what they see as attempts to control public debate.

DEFENSE — US AGREES SECOND MISSILE SYSTEM SALE TO ROMANIA: The U.S. State Department authorized the sale of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System to Romania, worth €1.25 billion. It is the second U.S.-made missile sold to Bucharest this year.

Latvia buys missiles from Denmark: Latvia’s Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis announced the purchase of an undisclosed number of Stinger missiles from Denmark, describing the deal as “very symbolic.”

NATO scrambles jets: The Lithuanian defense ministry confirmed NATO fighter jets were scrambled three times last week to intercept Russian military aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.


How Erdoğan could end up helping Merkel: The Turkish president’s extraordinary attack on both Germany’s main parties — and the Greens — could given incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel an unlikely boost. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, against a backdrop of worsening relations between Berlin and Ankara, branded Merkel’s conservatives and Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats (SPD) “enemies of Turkey” and called on his fellow Turks living in Germany not to back them. But, Janosch Delcker writes, it’s the SPD that stands to lose out if many heed Erdoğan’s call.

Merkel criticizes predecessor Gerhard Schröder over Rosneft job: “I do not find what Mr. Schröder is doing appropriate,” said Merkel, before pledging not to enter the business sector after her time as chancellor is up.

AfD launches manifesto: “In the U.S., they have America First, so we can have Germany First,” said Alexander Gauland, the AfD’s vice chairman, at an event where he launched his party’s manifesto for next month’s election. The party wants to tie development aid to a country’s willingness to taking back asylum seekers.

The full list of parties: Forty-two parties are competing in next month’s federal election in Germany. Read the full list here.

GREECE — MINISTER REFUSES INVITATION TO ESTONIAN COMMUNISM EVENT: Greek Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis, a member of the left-wing Syriza party, sparked controversy in Estonia after he turned down an invitation to attend a meeting in Tallinn this week on crimes committed by Communist regimes. “The initiative to organize a conference with this specific content and title sends a wrong and dangerous political message,” the minister said in a letter to organizers.

CZECH REPUBLIC — SOBOTKA WANTS FINANCE MINISTER AT EUROGROUP: Despite not being in the eurozone, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is expected to demand the country’s finance minister be given observer status at Eurogroup meetings.

FRANCE — BRIGITTE WON’T HAVE HER OWN BUDGET: French President Emmanuel Macron’s wife Brigitte will not receive a salary or get her own budget, the Elysée Palace announced Monday, after weeks of speculation about her role.

UK — FORMER CHANCELLOR TAKES SWIPE AT MAY: George Osborne challenged Theresa May over investment in the north of England, a key agenda of his time in government. The “idea has proved more enduring” than her key advisers (Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, ousted in June), he joked.

MACEDONIA — SERBIA WITHDRAWS DIPLOMATS FROM SKOPJE: Belgrade withdrew its diplomats from Macedonia Monday after a Russia Today report suggested Skopje was helping Kosovo, regarded by Serbia as a breakaway province, draft a proposal to join UNESCO. Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić said later in the day the government had obtained “evidence of very offensive intelligence against the institutions of Serbia.”

TRUMP WORLD — AMERICAN’S LONGEST WAR TO GET LONGER: U.S. President Donald Trump pledged a new strategy in Afghanistan overnight. He said he had changed his mind on whether to pull out of the nearly 16-year-long war. Steve Bannon is not impressed.

RUSSIA — NEW US AMBASSADOR: Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Antonov is the country’s new ambassador to the U.S., replacing Sergey Kislyak, the Kremlin said in a statement Monday.