22-10-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

22-10-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Monday, October 22, 2018

Fragile balance in the coalition gets more precarious

The fragile balance in the ruling coalition has become more precarious following last Friday’s approval by the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) of the Prespes name deal, which puts the ball in Greece’s court.


Kammenos sharply condemns fYRoM Parliament vote, but staying firmly in coalition govt

Τhe head of the small right-wing party that continues to prop up the mostly leftist Tsipras government, Panos Kammenos, reiterated on Sunday that he’ll remain in the shaky coalition government until the Prespa accord is submitted to Greece’s Parliament for ratification.


Greece ready to extend western territorial waters, says former minister

Greece is ready to extend its territorial waters in its western flank from 6 to 12 nautical miles, former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias announced on Saturday, during a ceremony to hand over his portfolio to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.


Prosecutor orders probe into press leak describing distribution of foreign ministry discretionary funds

An Athens first instance prosecutor on Friday ordered a preliminary investigation into press leaks describing how “discretionary funds” are allocated by Greece’s foreign ministry.


Anarchist group targets Canadian embassy in Athens

The Canadian embassy in Athens was the latest diplomatic mission in the country vandalized by members of a notorious anarchist collective that has more-or-less operated with impunity over the past few years, with up to 10 perpetrators this time using sledge hammers to break a reinforced glass entrance before throwing red and black paint inside.


Highest pensions in Greece recorded for 56-65 age group; average monthly primary benefit at 723.23€

Pensioners in Greece between the ages of 56 and 65 receive, on average, the highest monthly benefits, and specifically 1,051 euros for the ages of 56 to 60 and 1,116.48 euros for the ages of 61 to 65.


Greek banks submit 3 proposals to revise expiring protection framework for primary residences

Greek lenders have reportedly submitted a proposal, based on three axes, in talks with the country’s institutional creditors to formulate a new legal framework in Greece that protects primary residences from creditors, especially mortgage holders, such as the former.


Greece is the eurozone’s indirect tax champion

Greece has the highest indirect taxes in the eurozone and is showing no signs of reducing them in 2019. This ominous conclusion for taxpayers stems from a comparison of the 2019 draft budgets submitted to the European Commission by the 19 members of the eurozone.


ATHEX: Banks slump to their lowest level since February 2016

The escalation of the conflict between Italy and the European Commission and the deepening instability within the Greek government continued to weigh on Greek stock prices on Friday, with the benchmark ending both the session and the week in the red.








KATHIMERINI:  Balance of terror for the government after FYROM’s ‘yes’ to the Prespes deal

TO VIMA:  Days of crisis for PM Tsipras

REAL NEWS:  Fears of a ‘hot incident’ in Cyprus or the Aegean Sea

PROTO THEMA:  Defense Minister Kammenos is tearing the government apart

AVGI:  Historical moment


ETHNOS:  120 installments for everyone indebted to the tax-office and social security funds

TA NEA:  Defense Minister Kammenos: The government c’est moi

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Truce within the government until further notice

KONTRA NEWS:  Seven black accounts incriminate former Defense Minister Giannos Papantoniou

DIMOKRATIA:  How to get back withheld by the state bonus salaries and retrospective payments

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Banks’ proposal regarding the protection of first residence


GOOD MONDAY MORNING. We’ll start with mood-testing elections in two big European countries on Sunday: In South Tyrol (known in Italian as Alto Adige), Matteo Salvini made his first moves to convert the north into Legaland. And in Poland, citizens voted for communal councils in the first nationwide polls since the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s 2015 general election victory.

SÜDTIROL: Salvini’s League made a big splash in Alto Adige. While it’s far from dethroning the South Tyrolean People’s Party (the region’s — and one of Italy’s various — EPP member parties, which won around 42 percent of the vote), the League rose from irrelevance to a double-digit result, getting roughly 11 percent of the vote. The 5Stars don’t rate a mention beyond the fact that Paul Köllensperger, a former member of the party who founded his own eponymous movement in July, won just over 15 percent. Latest results here.

Sibling rivalry: Italy’s governing coalition, meanwhile, negotiated a truce (with each other, not with the EU or the markets) by nixing a tax amnesty that proved a bridge too far for the 5Stars. A party that started life as an anti-corruption, anti-establishment movement suddenly found itself agreeing to the most Berlusconi-like measure possible in the Italian governments’ toolbox: collecting a small amount of previously evaded taxes in place of actually fighting tax evasion.

Watch today: Italy must respond to the Commission’s concerns about its draft budget by noon today.

PiS WINS AND LOSES: Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party won Sunday’s local elections, but with a worse-than-expected result that sets the scene for fierce fights in next year’s European and parliamentary elections and a presidential vote in 2020. Jan Cienski reports from Warsaw.


WILL LAW RULE? Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that “certainly after an exacting analysis we will respond” to an ECJ ruling Friday that ordered his government to “immediately” suspend changes to the country’s Supreme Court. The response is pending — and it’s definitely a litmus test for whether Warsaw is at all willing to compromise. Poland’s de-facto ruler Jarosław Kaczyński on Friday mulled lodging an appeal against the ECJ ruling. (Reality check: That’s not a thing.)

MALTA’S CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM: The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission has accepted a request by the Maltese government to look into the country’s “legal and institutional structures of law enforcement, investigation and prosecution” and will send a delegation to Malta on November 5-6, according to a note written by the commission’s president, Gianni Buquicchio. The note was sent to Malta’s Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and seen by Playbook. “The Commission envisages to adopt the opinion … in Venice on 14 and 15 December 2018,” Buquicchio wrote. Bonnici stated in his request that “Malta is open to a process of constitutional reform which may update theses structures as may be necessary.”

The constitution’s not to blame for everything: A witness who told the Daphne Project that Labor Minister Chris Cardona spoke to one of the suspects in journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder admitted to police that he had lied, Malta Today reports.

KHASHOGGI MURDER: It took the EU a while to issue strong statements against Saudi Arabia, but here they are, by Federica Mogherini on behalf of the EU, and by leaders of the big EU countries. What’s next, after the belated outrage? There are calls to stop arms exports to the country, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced support for the idea. But perhaps, as much as the EU wants to continue to keep the mullahs away from a nuclear bomb, disarming the counter-weight in the region needs a bit more thinking?

US Republicans and Democrats find common foe: Saudi crown prince. Members of U.S. Congress aren’t buying Saudi Arabia’s explanations, and they’re not pleased with America’s response, reports Patrick Temple-West.

HOW TO ENFORCE AN INTERNATIONAL TREATY: Donald Trump on Saturday pulled the U.S. out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, accusing Russia of violating the agreement. But this could be a case of Trump playing right into the Kremlin’s hands: Moscow violated the ban, but instead of enforcing it, Trump declared it pointless, giving Russia a good opportunity to blame the U.S.


TRANSPARENCY ISSUES: The European Parliament urged the Commission not to pull out of negotiations on a strengthened transparency register. MEPs Danuta Hübner and Sylvie Guillaume, who negotiate the file for their institution, on Friday wrote Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans an email, seen by Playbook, “following the information we have received from your Cabinet that the intention of the Commission … [is] to stall the negotiations.”

Meeting canceled: A meeting between the Commission, Parliament and Council had been expected this week in Strasbourg. Timmermans canceled, according to the MEPs. “We note that considerable progress has already been achieved in our tripartite negotiations and that both Parliament and Council have come to the table with serious offers that would, once implemented, foster and promote the culture of transparency in our institutions,” Hübner and Guillaume wrote.

Pressure on the Commission: The clock is ticking and the two MEPs want to “ensure that as much progress as possible is made in terms of advancing and enhancing transparency before the European elections in 2019 and before a new Parliament is constituted,” they wrote. “Delaying our discussions would not only send a negative signal to EU citizens, it would also endanger the aim of reaching an agreement during the current parliamentary term.”

Timmermans doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. The commissioner replied, saying there hadn’t been enough progress to justify movement from him, and noting that he wants to reconvene only after a plenary vote on Parliament’s own (unilateral) commitments, according to EU officials familiar with his response. That stance in effect means ignoring the fact that Parliament’s two negotiators have a mandate, accepting a delay (the plenary vote is foreseen in November at the earliest), waiting for a new Council presidency to take over, and perhaps putting up with the file not being concluded by next year’s EU election.


Latvia’s Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis has kept a low profile in Brussels since taking office in February 2016. But his experience running election campaigns in a country that neighbors Russia makes him influential. After a parliamentary election earlier this month, Kučinskis has been occupied with cobbling together a governing majority — which is proving more difficult than it ever has been, he told me during an interview on Friday afternoon, after last week’s summit marathon.

Forming a government or herding cats? “We have a lot of parties but with no clear majority, and a lot of new parties coming into parliament — we have 60 new MPs out of 100,” Kučinskis said. The public wants “change and new people.” But two of the parties Kučinskis has been in talks with “have absolutely no parliamentary experience, so the process will be very difficult.” Still, “the country can’t live without a government.”

Sticking to the program: Responding to concerns about whether Latvia will continue sailing its pro-EU course, Kučinskis told me: “One thing is clear … Our main concern is to maintain the existing foreign policy, it will remain as it is, and not be changed.”

Countering disinformation: Is Kučinskis concerned about Russia trying to meddle with the EU election? “It would certainly be very tempting for them, yes,” he said. When it comes to potential disinformation campaigns, Latvia has a monitoring system in place that, according to Kučinskis, could serve as a model for others. “For our recent national elections we were able to set up very good monitoring systems to monitor and oversee what’s going on on social media.

“I think that all of us should work together to prepare a similar method or system at the EU level. We could actually simplify the process. We had recently a proposal from our election supervising authority, proposing that advertisement in social media should be banned one month before the elections. But this of course doesn’t mean there could not be any manipulations in the elections in different ways.”

Budget sorrows: Latvia is bracing for a gap in the flow of EU funds at the end of the bloc’s current long-term budget cycle. “I don’t think we’ll manage” to find agreement on a new Multiannual Financial Framework, the EU’s seven-year budget, before the European Parliament election in May 2019, Kučinskis predicted, although he said he expected a deal would be reached eventually. “We’re happy to support Jean-Claude Juncker,” who is pushing for an early agreement, Kučinskis said, but “we are planning on having a gap between the two MFFs.”

The current MFF runs out at the end of 2020. Some EU leaders, including Juncker, have warned that if a new budget is not agreed well before that time, it may not be possible to have funds flowing to new programs right at the start of the next cycle.

Latvia’s main concern is proposed cuts to the EU’s cohesion funds. Kučinskis said his government would most likely have to accept cuts as “we are on the short end of the stick.” But he suggested that “it would only be logical to give member states more flexibility in deciding what they need most … Not all member states have the same needs. For Latvia, the most important things at the moment are innovation, education and infrastructure.”

GREEN WAVE SET TO FIZZLE? Empowered by strong showings in elections in Bavaria, Belgium and Luxembourg, Europe’s Greens are on a roll and threatening the traditional socialist parties for dominance on the center-left. This surge comes just in time for next May’s Europe-wide ballot, but the Greens don’t look poised to take advantage, reports Maïa de la Baume.


WEBER’S OPTIONS: Barbara Stamm, an elder stateswoman of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, proposed Manfred Weber as a new CSU chairman to replace German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (who currently seemingly has no plan to step aside). The question is whether Weber could be both the party leader and (assuming he’s successful in his run) the Commission president in Brussels. He thinks yes, but has yet to convince his party. Seehofer’s prospects if he really does resign as CSU chairman are much clearer: He won’t be Germany’s interior minister much longer.

STUBB’S SORROWS: Weber’s competition for the EPP lead candidacy, Alexander Stubb, asked EPP congress delegates to text him if they want to talk. Seems the party takes data protection very seriously and doesn’t share delegates’ contact info, even with people who’ve got a legitimate interest in getting in touch. A public debate between Weber and Stubb would be an option. Stubb would love one (POLITICO has offered to host it), but Weber and the EPP leadership have so far declined.

STUCK IN A RUTTE: Mark Rutte could be headed for Brussels, but Tom-Jan Meeus argues that that’s not particularly good news for the Dutch PM.

WHEN A ROLEX BECOMES A PROBLEM: Germany’s Twittersphere was busy over the weekend discussing whether a Social Democrat should be allowed to wear a good wristwatch. Sawsan Chebli, a secretary of state in the Berlin state government, has a really nice one. And it just so happens she has worked her way up from nothing to get it. But you know what they say: Haters gonna hate.