22-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

22-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Friday, September 22, 2017

Eldorado postpones decision over suspension of mining activities in Greece; Mitsotakis praises development

Canadian multinational Eldorado Gold on Thursday announced that it temporarily postpone a decision on whether to suspend the bulk of its activities at its northern Greece gold and copper mining concession.


Center-left ballot in doubt due to technical barrier

The process to elect a center-left leader is in danger of being thrown into disarray due to difficulties in finding a company to organize the ballot.


Municipalities cling onto their cash reserves

The Finance Ministry has issued a circular calling on all general government entities to transfer their cash reserves – currently sitting in bank accounts – to the country’s central bank, which has generated concerns among local authorities. Commercial lenders are also worried about the loss of deposits.


Authorities planning to boost city security in Athens

Officials from the Greek Police (ELAS) and the Ministry of Citizens’ Protection are in talks with Athens municipal authorities regarding a plan to place bollards (permanent or retractable) around the perimeter of the Greek capital’s historic center.


Former bank executives charged

Greece’s corruption prosecutor has brought criminal charges against 30 former executives of the now defunct Agricultural Bank of Greece for approving loans over a 10-year period to the ATTIKAT construction company and a private citizen who did not meet the necessary requirements.


Exports keeping industry afloat

Industrial output in Greece declined a total of 30.3 percent from 2008 to 2013, with more than 50,000 jobs lost in manufacturing over the same period, according to a survey jointly conducted by the Panhellenic Exporters Association and the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


ATHEX: Piraeus, index revert to gains

After Wednesday’s battering, when it lost 21.7 percent, Piraeus Bank shares recovered 9.26 percent on Thursday, helping to send the benchmark of the Greek stock market higher too.







KATHIMERINI: Crucial turning point regarding investments

ETHNOS: Conservative arrangement between New Democracy and the Democratic Alignment

TA NEA: The marathon for the election of a new leader for the center-left

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The tensions between the government and Eldorado mining company cool down

AVGI: PM Tsipras: Fight against inequality

RIZOSPASTIS: Thousands of people and youngsters filled the Tritsis Park for the 43rd Festival of Communist Party Youngsters

KONTRA NEWS: Eldorado Gold’s extortion failed

DIMOKRATIA: Former PASOK minister Akis Tsohadjopoulos and his wife Vicky snatched 66,8 million Euros in kickbacks

NAFTEMPORIKI: GDP and taxes under scrutiny [just before the negotiations with Greece’s creditors resume]


Who: Theresa May is winging it with no official host. Her team organized the trip through a private events company and bypassed the Italian state and city administration, writes Giulia Paravicini.

 3:15 p.m. local time.

 The cloisters of the Santa Maria Novella, a 14th century basilica in Florence.

 The British PM will say that in hindsight the Brexit process will be remembered “not for a relationship that ended but a new partnership that began,” according to extracts of her speech released by Downing Street overnight. She will call for a time-limited transition period once the U.K. leaves the bloc and will need to offer a method or number regarding Britain’s financial obligations. POLITICO’s Tom McTague has the full write-up.

Why: Florence because it symbolizes European success before the EU. Santa Maria Novella because May would not have been welcome at the Palazzo Vecchio (scene of the EU’s annual State of the Union conference) or the European University Institute.

The underlying tension: May gives set-piece speeches because they’re her political strong suit. But the EU27 aren’t interested in her words, they’re interested in her money. They think they’ve already been waiting too long to get it. Fly-in, fly-out flattery among frescoes in Florence isn’t going to change that dynamic. As such, the U.K. is at risk of confusing its own relief at a temporary cabinet ceasefire with sympathy and interest from the EU27.

Odd: Florence was for centuries a bridge for Britons to Europe (the rich and aristocratic at least); it was the entry point not the exit.

Fun facts: The venue was constructed from 1340 and hosted by the 1439 Council of Florence, convoked to bring about the reunion of the Greek and Latin churches, and was part of the set for Cher’s 1999 film Tea with Mussolini … about British women in Florence who called themselves The Scorpions.

The British spin: Downing Street is calling the speech “bold,” “confident” and “ambitious.” FT reports the U.K. cabinet is selling it as “constructive.” The Times writes May could call to bypass the EU’s negotiator Michel Barnier.

The EU reaction: It will come from Barnier around 30 minutes after May finishes speaking. Barnier told Italian parliament Thursday: “We expect clear commitments from Britain.”

Eurointelligence’s Wolfgang Munchau: “There will be a polite but not positive reply from Michel Barnier and others … Angela Merkel is still in an election campaign. Emmanuel Macron is focusing on his eurozone agenda, and Leo Varadkar will side with whatever the EU’s position is.”

Flemish friend: Geert Bourgeois, the premier of Flanders, told BBC’s Newsnight that “45 percent of the trade, of the export, from Zeebrugge is to the United Kingdom, so that’s why I do my best to influence all the people, the ambassadors of the surrounding countries, to work together. There’s a lot of other countries also pleading for the soft Brexit.”

Opinion — May’s Florence speech is an overdue opportunity: Matthew O’Toole for POLITICO writes that communicating frankly about the reality of Brexit trade-offs is crucial if Britain wants to secure a deal that has the backing of its people.

PARLIAMENT — UPDATE ON MARKUS FERBER CONFLICT ALLEGATIONS: MEP Markus Ferber responded to Bjarke Smith-Meyer’s scoop on his potential conflict of interest by claiming there is no issue with him pitching a financial services product in the area he directly regulates because he received no payments for the endorsement. That didn’t stop him updating his declaration of interests to include his financial foundation in the hours after POLITICO published the story. Read Ferber’s email to colleagues here.

Ferber’s peers have started to express discontent, alongside both investors and anti-corruption watchdogs. German radical-left MEP Fabio de Masi argued Ferber’s conflict should have disqualified him from his role in negotiating financial regulation. Transparency International also sent a formal complaint to Parliament President Antonio Tajani.

COUNCIL — READY FOR TALLINN: Read European Council President Donald Tusk’s letter to EU leaders ahead of next week’s Tallinn Digital Summit. Tusk warned “we should all be aware that Brexit remains one of the main tasks for us.”

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Theresa May will join the other 27 EU leaders at dinner Friday, to the annoyance of some EU27 governments.

COMMISSION — ENERGY UNION GOES LOCAL: European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič and Commissioner Corina Creţu are in Riga today, attending the EU capitals’ summit, in an effort to connect more cities with green financing instruments.

ECB — MARIO DRAGHI LECTURE IN DUBLIN TODAY: Draghi will give the Henry Grattan lecture at Trinity College at 9:30 a.m. local time.

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS — MUSLIMS IN EUROPE REPORT: A majority of Muslims in the EU trust democratic institutions despite experiencing widespread discrimination and harassment, according to a survey released by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency. You can read the whole publication here.

FRA’s chief Michael O’Flaherty told Playbook: “We’re not investing enough in an effective and respectful integration effort with those coming with Muslim backgrounds into the European Union.” O’Flaherty says there is a systemic problem, not merely a recent backlash, in how Muslim communities are treated by authorities, and that Muslim women bear the brunt of harassment, crime and lack of integration.

Muslim communities also aren’t using the rights and organizations that exist to support them: “It’s lack of confidence but it’s also in part a lack of awareness. We find surprisingly low levels of knowledge of equality bodies … these are these are solvable problems.”


Just for fun — the amazing world of German election posters: If the vote was decided on posters, the FDP’s Christian Lindner would win by a mile, BuzzFeed reckons.

Looking forward — POLITICO live blog: It will run all day Sunday.

Looking back — The big recap: Top 15 must-reads on Germany’s election from POLITICO’s campaign coverage.

The unknowable chancellor: Konstantin Richter on the catalogue of theories, books and political critiques that swirl around someone we should know well given she stands alongside Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan among the longest-serving G20 leaders.

Choose your own coalition adventure: Grand, Jamaica or tiger duck, how will Germany’s next government be formed? Matthew Karnitschnig looks at the polls, handicaps the possible permutations in our coalition calculus and gauges the likelihood of each outcome.

Prospect of another term as Merkel’s sidekicks splits Social Democrats: Social Democrats are wary of propping up a Merkel government — but that remains the most likely option, reports Janosch Delcker.

Far right not going anywhere: Joerg Forbrig for POLITICO writes that the fact the Alternative for Germany stands no chance of joining a governing coalition may reassure neighboring nations, but for a majority of Germans who reject extremism, it’s not much consolation.

The view from Paris: POLITICO’s Nicholas Vinocur has key insights on how Paris and Emmanuel Macron will watch the election unfold Sunday.

Youth behind Merkel: A YouGov poll shows the German chancellor’s CDU/CSU-EPP has 34 percent approval from 18-24-year-olds, triple that of the opposition.

FRANCE — NATIONAL FRONT CRISIS: Florian Philippot, the former vice president of the National Front (and an MEP), quit the French far-right party Thursday. The move followed months of internal disputes between him and party leaders including Marine Le Pen. Philippot, as POLITICO’s Nicholas Vinocur explains, was instrumental in transforming the National Front as an electoral force. He also cemented the party’s anti-euro stance, a policy that became a liability for Le Pen in the 2017 presidential run-off vote.

AFP reported Thursday afternoon that Sophie Montel MEP and some party executives, aides and advisers also resigned. Le Monde has a nice recap of the Philippot-Le Pen falling out.

European Parliament consequence: Nicolas Bay, a National Front MEP and co-chair of the far-right ENF group, would not tell Playbook whether Philippot and Montel will remain in ENF.


Taking the fight at the international level: President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont wrote in the Guardian that Madrid’s moves on the referendum violate “European values, civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of information and freedom of assembly.”

EU reaction: Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas did not budge on whether the Commission would ask Madrid to calm tensions, despite pressure from reporters. An EU official told EU Observer the Catalonia topic was “a taboo” in Brussels.

Rajoy chooses to confront the separatists: Diego Torres writes that “faced with the dilemma of being labeled a dictator or being ridiculed for inaction, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has chosen the former approach to the outlawed Catalan independence referendum planned for October 1.”

What are Rajoy’s options?

— Refuse all discussion on the Catalonia-only referendum on independence as per the Spanish constitution.

— Maintain the referendum is illegal, while running an informal No campaign.

— Maintain the referendum is illegal and offer enticements for Catalans to vote no. For example by offering more autonomy, nation status, or tax rebates to the region.

— Offer a nationwide referendum in which all Spaniards can vote on whether Catalans are entitled to vote for independence in a second Catalan referendum.

— Offer Catalans a non-binding plebiscite run by Madrid to create a gauge for future constitutional action.

— Offer Catalans a plebiscite or referendum with specific conditions and thresholds: For example, require 75 percent turnout and/or a super-majority support for independence.


The UK’s Brexit hostage — the next EU budget: “Nothing substantial will be negotiated before the Brits are out,” a senior EU official familiar with the budget talks told David Herszenhorn and Quentin Aries. Budget planning is already five months behind schedule.

What Britain needs to do to be ready for a ‘no-deal’ scenario: If no deal was really an option, the U.K. would need to already start reserving space in ports for immigration officers and facilities and have a pool of up to 5,000 extra customs officers at its disposal, the BBC calculates.

TURKEY PRESIDENT INTERVIEW: Bloomberg interviews Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his relationship with Russia, the West, and more.

NORTH KOREA THREATENS H BOMB: North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho threatened to test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to annihilate his country, South Korean media reports.