22-11-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

22-11-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

12 austerity measures to debut in 2018 draft budget

No less than 12 new burdens for taxpayers in Greece are included in the draft 2018 budget that will be tabled this week, with most of the austerity measures dating from last year’s “tax tsumani” – imposed by the leftist-rightist government to meet fiscal targets agreed to with creditors.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1297397/12-austerity-measures-to-debut-in-2018-draft-budget

Commission VP says Greece’s ‘social dividend’ in line with memorandum

The Greek government’s decision to use part of a budget surplus to provide some relief to individuals who have been hardest hit by the crisis is not in violation of the terms of Greece’s bailout agreement with international creditors, the European Commission’s vide president said on Wednesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223465/article/ekathimerini/business/commission-vp-says-greeces-social-dividend-in-line-with-memorandum

ECB’s Draghi lends support to under-fire BoG chief Stournaras

Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras is a trusted member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council who has worked hard for Greece’s benefit, ECB head Mario Draghi said on Monday in response to a question at the European Parliament about the probe into the Greek central banker in connection with the alleged leaking of the conclusions on Piraeus Bank and Attica Bank.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223457/article/ekathimerini/business/ecbs-draghi-lends-support-to-under-fire-bog-chief-stournaras

Commission spox on resumed internal border controls by German authorities on flights from Greece

An EU Commission official on Tuesday said a three-party meeting between EU experts along with representatives from Greece and Germany will examine recent high-profile charges that German authorities are bypassing Schengen procedures and conducting border checks on passengers arriving at German airports from Greek destinations.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1297320/commission-spox-on-resumed-internal-border-controls-by-german-authorities-on-flights-from-greece

Greece invites bids for privatizing Alimos and Chios marinas

Greece’s privatization fund invited investors on Monday to express interest in the sell-off of two key marinas in Athens and the Aegean island of Chios.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223470/article/ekathimerini/business/greece-invites-bids-for-privatizing-alimos-and-chios-marinas

Greek exports to US, China and Saudi Arabia soar this year

Greek exports to non-European Union states showed a considerable increase over the first nine months of the year, especially those heading to the US, China and Saudi Arabia.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223490/article/ekathimerini/business/greek-exports-to-us-china-and-saudi-arabia-soar-this-year

Airbnb locks horns with Athens

In its first public statement on Greek tax affairs, Airbnb took a tough stance against the Greek government and refused to share the tax details of the property owners with whom it cooperates with the Greek state.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223489/article/ekathimerini/business/airbnb-locks-horns-with-athens

ATHEX: Banking and power stocks boost the Greek bourse

Most Greek stocks registered gains at the end of Tuesday’s trading session, helped by the expected leniency of the European Central Bank on future provisions of eurozone lenders and the apparent agreement between Athens and Brussels on the sale of lignite-powered units that saw PPC’s stock climb 5 percent and ADMIE Holdings grow 5.75 percent.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223479/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-banking-and-power-stocks-boost-the-greek-bourse

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KATHIMERINI: Tension with Berlin due to security checks in airports

ETHNOS: The 2018 budget will lead to the country’s exit to the international markets

TA NEA: PM Tsipras ‘flees’ to Paris in order to gain distance from the involvement of his government partner Kammenos in a suspicious armament deal with Saudi Arabia

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: 2018 Budget: A bet for the country’s exit from the Memorandum era

AVGI: Parallel president: Vice President of New Democracy Adonis Georgiadis announces his own opposition strategy because he deems New Democracy “inefficient”

RIZOSPASTIS: Tax-heist and new cuts in order for capitalists to reach their targets

KONTRA NEWS: Merkel and Schaeuble messed up!

DIMOKRATIA: Cold war between Greece and Russia

NAFTEMPORIKI: The Budget’s triple bet

THE WEAK POWERFUL 

What is it with many of the West’s most powerful countries these days? Their political elites keep providing, and their citizens keep (barely) electing people unable to govern. Scandal is no longer the source of the political drama, but aimlessness. Even masters of the game like Angela Merkel are catching the virus, thanks to her coalition-building failure leaving her gravely wounded. Merkel joins Theresa May and Donald Trump today, and François Hollande and Matteo Renzi before them, as theoretically powerful leaders of powerful nations unable to get much done. Middle powers and growing economies from Spain (Mariano Rajoy) to Australia (Malcolm Turnbull) are stuck in the same boat. France’s Emmanuel Macron has so much executive power and rests atop a parliament so new — the majority of MPs were elected in 2017 — he doesn’t count as part of the sample. The upshot: A weakened Berlin is bad news for the entire EU, writes Matthew Karnitschnig.

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS

COMMISSION — ANNUAL GROWTH SURVEY TODAY: European commissioners meet this morning to discuss national budgets and to outline the most pressing economic and social priorities on which the European Union and its members need to take remedial action in 2018. The process is shrouded in secrecy and will be accompanied by a mountain of factsheets. Expect national reactions and political interests to dominate any Europe-wide angles.

Do EU countries actually implement EU budget recommendations? RAND Europe (for the European Parliament) looked at whether national governments follow the country-specific recommendations the European Commission sets for them each year. It also concluded it’s unclear whether the EU’s own spending helps countries meet their EU budget recommendations.

Upgrading civil protection: Commissioners will also adopt changes to the EU civil protection mechanism after several natural disasters — including forest fires and floods — hit Europe in recent months.

COMMISSION — WOMEN ON THE RISE, SLOWLY: A Commission official told Playbook’s sister German-language newsletter Morgen Europa that Commissioner Günther Oettinger will announce that today 36 percent of the Commission’s top and middle-management staffers are women. Juncker promised that by the end of his term he would lift the ratio to 40 percent from 31 percent.

COUNCIL — PROVISIONAL GEOBLOCKING DEAL, EMISSIONS, STARTUP SUMMIT: Amid all the fuss about EU agency relocations Monday night, Playbook was probably not alone in missing that ministers agreed on a new system to limit the blocking of digital content based on where it is consumed. Today when EU ambassadors meet, the Estonian presidency told Playbook, they will agree on revisions to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. The Estonian EU presidency is also hosting a Startup Nations Summit today in Tallinn.

PARLIAMENT — HIGH-LEVEL EU-AFRICA CONFERENCE TODAY: The real summit may be in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 29-30, but that isn’t stopping the European Parliament from promoting the debate on the Brussels side today. The event kicks off at 2 p.m. with top draws European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, Chairman of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat and President of the Central African Republic Faustin-Archange Touadéra.

Opinion — Africa’s young people need inspiration: By Shada Islam.

EU AGENCIES — MEET THE REAL WINNER OF MEDICINES AGENCY RELOCATION: Guido Rasi, the head of the European Medicines Agency, found strategic ways to ensure the preferences of the agency’s staff for the new host city were known, report Sarah Wheaton and Carmen Paun. He’s now very popular.

PARTY PEOPLE — VERHOFSTADT FIRM NAMED IN PARADISE PAPERS: Guy Verhofstadt, the Liberal group leader in the European Parliament, sat on the board of Belgian shipping firm Exmar between 2010 and 2016, earning €60,000 per year. Exmar used an offshore company mentioned in the recent Paradise Papers. The company’s board of directors also includes Howard Gutman, former U.S. President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Belgium, Laurens Cerulus reports.

ECHR — BERLUSCONI VS. ITALY: Get ready for Silvio Berlusconi versus the Italian government at the European Court of Human Rights at 9:15 a.m. today, when the court holds its first hearing on the former Italian PM’s appeal against a ban on running for public office as a result of a 2013 tax-fraud conviction. Berlusconi wants a verdict before Italy’s next election, due by late May.

What would a pro-Berlusconi judgement mean? The court will say only whether the case violates the European Convention on Human Rights. If there is a violation, Italy will have to take steps to put it right.

WONK CORNER 

CAN EU FUNDS PROMOTE RULE OF LAW IN EUROPE? A new report by Jasna Šelih with Ian Bond and Carl Dolan for the Center for European Reform

CHINA SYNDROME: The EU lags behind all other major industrialized nations in its response to China’s investment explosion in Europe’s sensitive sectors, according to political consultancy Rasmussen Global. Its new research, led by Jonas Parello-Plesner, shows since 2008 Chinese investments in the EU jumped tenfold. Only 12 EU countries out of 28 have investment screening systems. The report argues for obligatory national investment screening mechanisms and an EU definition of strategic sectors. Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomes a tepid European Commission investment screening proposal but blames an “unholy alliance of member states dependent on Beijing’s largesse and free-trading northern states,” who he says “are seeking to block it.”

PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW — HERMANN HAUSER, CHAIRMAN OF THE EU’S HIGH LEVEL GROUP OF INNOVATORS

The European Research Council, launched in 2007, has a global reputation for excellence, making it one the EU’s uncontested success stories. Now European Commissioner Carlos Moedas wants to replicate its success with a European Innovation Council pilot worth €2.7 billion for 2018-20.

Playbook spoke to Hermann Hauser, the chairman of a high level group of innovators convened by Moedas to make recommendations on how the EIC should work. Hauser has been involved in all eight of the EU’s long-term research programs dating back to the 1980s. The new council’s approach is to “empower the innovator.”

“Our research [in Europe] is as good as anyone’s. It’s our ability to translate the results into economic impact that’s the problem. We need a bottom-up program, where the only selection criteria is the quality of project put forward to the EIC,” Hauser said. To get there Moedas and the council are pushing not only the usual EU grants, but guaranteed loans and support for venture capital via a “fund of funds” that makes money available to firms to invest in long-term projects, not just the latest app.

“We have only one-fifth the venture capital as the U.S. does,” said Hauser, “Yet we know we have a phenomenal entrepreneurial class. For the first time in 30 years the very top people graduating Cambridge want to join a start-up, which is a huge cultural change.” His message to Brussels: help the money catch up with home-grown European ideas.

DIGITAL POLITICS

FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE PUT ON CHARM OFFENSIVE: Tuesday night Facebook fans hit the corporate photo booth at the behemoth’s biggest Brussels social occasion yet, and tonight Google’s YouTube presents its smooth annual effort to get to know and cuddle up to EU decision-makers. The party at Bozar is called “Europe on stage” and will be attended by hundreds of mostly mid-level officials who make day-to-day decisions on the policy files Google cares most about.

EU NATIONAL NEWS

GERMANY — 51 PERCENT WANT NEW ELECTION, CDU POLLING BELOW 30 PERCENT: Most Germans would rather vote again than have a minority government, according to a poll. Meanwhile, Der Spiegel reports that for the first time ever, Merkel’s conservative CSU is polling below 30 percent. The center-left SPD would attract 19 percent of voters, while the liberals on 13.2 percent are up since the September election.

GERMANY OPINION — IN DEFENSE OF CHRISTIAN LINDNER: Konstantin Richter argues the liberal leader’s decision to break off coalition talks is good for German democracy because “in times of change, democracy also needs debate and dissent.”

HUNGARY — HOW BRUSSELS LED BUDAPEST TO PAKS: The European Commission chose to broker a “global political solution” with Hungary over its controversial Russia-backed Paks II nuclear power station rather than escalate a fight with Budapest, according to internal documents seen by POLITICO’s Sara Stefanini and Nicholas Hirst. More than 200 pages of Commission memos, emails and meetings minutes from 2016 show that officials expressed serious doubts about Hungary’s attempts to justify awarding the contract to build Paks II to the Kremlin-owned Rosatom before ceding ground for political reasons. It dropped the case in November 2016. The full story, including a timeline and links to the documents, is available for POLITICO Pro Energy and Environment subscribers here.

ROMANIA — SENATE GREENLIGHTS NGO LAW: The Romanian senate passed a bill that will force NGOs to reveal more details about their financing, including the names of donors. More from Romania Insider. h/t Lili Bayer

SPAIN — FIGHTBACK OPEN LETTER: After around 100 academics wrote an open letter earlier this month claiming Madrid violated the rights of Catalans during the October constitutional crisis, Francesc de Carreras and Josu de Miguel, professors at the University Autonomous of Barcelona, respond in this letter.

SLOVENIA — GOVERNMENT COULD FALL OVER A REFUGEE: The case of a single 60-year-old Syrian refugee, who has learned to speak Slovene and integrated into his community, could see Prime Minister Miro Cerar ousted, writes Andrew Rettman.

CZECH REPUBLIC — POLICE CONTINUE TO PURSUE PM-ELECT: Czech police have asked the country’s parliament to lift the immunity of prospective PM Andrej Babiš, which would allow him to be prosecuted for fraud charges, Reuters reports.

UK — BUDGET MAY DAY! The Telegraph reports “Theresa May’s relationship with Philip Hammond is close to breaking point after Downing Street took control of a last-minute budget briefing amid fears Wednesday’s financial statement will fall flat. Number 10 ordered the Treasury to rush out an announcement on schools after alarm bells started ringing over the lackluster build-up to the most important budget of Mrs. May’s premiership.”

Hammond will deliver his budget based on an unknown Brexit: The U.K. chancellor will deliver his five-year plan today neither knowing the cost of the U.K.’s divorce bill, nor how much the country will continue to pay into the EU’s coffers. But there are signals showing the British government’s assumptions about the direction of travel for those who know where to look, writes Tom McTague.

BREXIT 360°

Theresa May is likely to make her upgraded financial offer Friday: May will speak to European Council President Donald Tusk on the margins of the Eastern Partnership summit, the Times reported. EU ambassadors meet today to discuss their next Brexit steps, which could include another round of negotiations in early December ahead of the leaders’ summit December 15.

Merkel’s woes make Brexit harder for London: British politicians’ schadenfreude over the collapse of German coalition talks will be short-lived, write David M. Herszenhorn and Matthew Karnitschnig. “Chancellor Merkel, the EU’s most prominent leader, was perhaps the one person in Europe who could have single-handedly shifted the position of the EU27 and the overall dynamic of the Brexit negotiations … [But] Merkel is now in no position to make any bold moves … Merkel and her caretaker government will need to take shelter in a position of firm solidarity with the rest of the EU27.”

Podcast du jour — Peter Mandelson: The former European commissioner speaks to Paul Adamson about the Irish Brexit question and how the embers of the Remain campaign can stay alive.