23-01-2019 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

23-01-2019 | EYE ON GREECE 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Main opposition weighing censure motion

As MPs prepare to debate the Prespes deal in Parliament’s plenary session on Wednesday, conservative New Democracy was said to be weighing the possibility of lodging a censure motion against the government to underline its objections to the accord and postpone proceedings.


‘Bad debt’ plaguing Greece’s systemic banks reportedly dominates post-bailout supervision

Post-bailout negotiations between creditors’ top auditors and the Tsipras government will be dominated by the specter of “bad debt” hanging over Greece’s four systemic banks, an issue considered as paramount by the SSM.


Newspaper publisher Themos Anastasiades dies, aged 61

Greek newspaper publisher and journalist Themos Anastasiades died on Tuesday, aged 61, after 18 months of fighting cancer. He published the daily Proto Thema.


Lanthimos’s ‘The Favourite’ receives 10 Oscar nominations

Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Favourite,” an absurdist period comedy about two cousins courting the favor of Queen Anne in the 18th century England, has received 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best director and Best supporting actress.


Fitch: HFSF, BoG plans to help lenders

The quality of Greek banks’ assets and their levels of capital constitute the biggest challenges for the sector in 2019, and these two factors will also determine the course of Greece’s assessment by its creditors, Fitch analysts noted on Tuesday at an event in Athens.


Eurostat: Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio at 182.2% in Q3 2018, highest in EU

Greece’s debt in the third quarter of 208 reached 182.2 percent of its GDP, or 334.98 billion euros in absolute terms, according to statistics released this week by Eurostat.


ATHEX: Fitch boosts bank stocks, benchmark

A Fitch Ratings statement, saying that the plans proposed in Athens for the reduction of bad loans in Greece could offer genuine hope for the credit sector’s redemption, boosted local bank stocks on Tuesday, which had a positive knock-on effect on the rest of the market too. The rise of the benchmark, accompanied by a jump in turnover, combined with the further decline in bond yields, point to a positive outlook for the Greek bourse in the short term.







KATHIMERINI:  Main opposition contemplates censure motion

ETHNOS:  Public sector employees may claim [the previously abolished] a 13th and 14th salary

TA NEA:  120 installments for debts owed to the state: Three adjustments will change our lives

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Main opposition New Democracy sinks inside its contradictions

AVGI:  New Democracy will play extreme right games to the very end

RIZOSPASTIS:  Communist Party rallies are the response to the ‘beautification’ of the NATO agreement regarding the FYROM name issue

KONTRA NEWS:  7,5 billion euros to save the banks

DIMOKRATIA:  Former PM Kostas Karamanlis steps forward

NAFTEMPORIKI:  As of March everyone will have the option to regulate debts owed to the state

HAPPENING TODAY: The College of Commissioners will adopt an adequacy decision for Japan’s data protection rules, according to EU officials familiar with the matter. That means Brussels will certify that data transferred from the EU to Japan enjoys protection standards in line with European ones. And with that, the two can lay claim to having created the world’s largest area of data flows reciprocally considered safe.

Isn’t an element missing here? Voilà: Japan’s PM Shinzō Abe, speaking in Davos, is expected to announce his government will make the same decision today, according to diplomats.

GOOD MORNING. The EU and Japan put yet another piece in place for the biggest trade and economic partnership agreement ever concluded by the EU, which is yet another occasion of the so-far endless series of their joint efforts to demonstrate that rule-based trade is alive and kicking.

Side note: “FREE TRADE IS GREAT,” proclaims Davos’ most expensive billboard. (Just underneath the all-caps message, in much smaller print, the banner says: “Britain and Northern Ireland.”) U.K. Trade Secretary Liam Fox heads to the World Economic Forum today “to discuss post-Brexit trade deals with key countries,” as the U.K. tries to cut ties with its biggest trading partner, MEP Marietje Schaake observed. To be fair, what Fox is actually going to do, according to a press release put out by his ministry, is beg countries to continue to apply existing EU trade agreements to post-Brexit U.K. trade.


IN SAFE WATERS AGAIN: After a peek into Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s “new Brazil” Tuesday, it’s Europe Day in Davos, with leaders of three out of the five biggest economies speaking today. German Chancellor Angela Merkel gets the special 45-minute treatment (plus her session is chaired by WEF founder Klaus Schwab). Italy’s Giuseppe Conte and Spain’s Pedro Sánchez follow later in the afternoon, with half an hour each.

Europe’s self-evaluation: “It’s a fact that in the past two years, Europe has provided much-needed ‘life-support’ to the global multilateral order, and that’s despite all the internal challenges we faced, especially Brexit,” Ann Mettler, head of the Commission’s in-house think tank EPSC, told us. Read the latest EPSC paper here.

BRAZILIAN OFFER: On Tuesday, Bolsonaro gave the crowd another opportunity to choose between their collective sense of responsibility as citizens of everywhere and the business opportunities that a strict — or brutal — anti-corruption agenda might bring. “Our measures will certainly provide you with incentives to do business,” said Bolsonaro, presenting the “new Brazil that we’re building” as a place open to trading with the world and to investment, with law and order restored.

Bolsonaro (who wore an overcoat on stage — is that a new thing?) said environmental issues “need to go hand in hand” with economic development. “One must not emphasize one over the other,” he said, and insisted only 9 percent of Brazil’s soil was used by farmers today. That leaves a lot of room to manoeuver, he insinuated. His interviewer Schwab resorted to the harshest form of criticism at hand: an invitation to the audience to admire the natural beauties of Brazil.


Legendary naturalist David Attenborough has a new Netflix series to promote (it’s called “Our Planet” and looks spectacular, judging from a clip the audience previewed), and an 11th commandment for the Davos crowd and everyone else to observe. “Care for the natural world, and treat it with a deal of respect,” Attenborough told Prince William, who got to interview him on stage.

WHAT’S ALL THIS ABOUT? A “New Deal for Nature,” as a follow-up and extension of the Paris Climate Agreement. I sat down for a chat with WWF International’s Director-General Marco Lambertini to discuss it.

We need to worry about more than climate change: “There is nature as well, oceans, forests, rivers,” said Lambertini. “If climate is dangerous enough for business, don’t think that a collapse of the ocean, of the forest system, will be less dangerous … We are calling for a new deal for nature, that should be endorsed by world governments in 2020.”

What is that new deal? “We need to produce more food with less of everything. Less water, less land, less energy, fertilizers, less pesticides. Today, the food system is broken, is clearly not sustainable, we’re heading towards a collapse … We need to green that system, with clear targets.”

His challenge for Davos participants: “This is the group of people that accounts for most of the carbon footprint today, so it goes without saying that it must also be the group of people that must start to design the solution,” he told Playbook. “And business is beginning to get it.”

A wholly new Davos atmosphere: Davos Man couldn’t care less about the environment decades ago. Then they wanted people to believe that they did care, because it looked good. Now, the Davos crowd knows that ignoring the environment harms their business.

After years of confrontation with business, “today, we’re working together,” Lambertini said. “We’re seeing a lot of change — cultural change — at the top of major groups and companies in terms of the awareness for environmental issues. These issues are beginning to be less and less something nice to do, and more and more to be actually part of companies’ strategy, pressured by consumers. But also science has never been clearer than today in telling us: actually environmental risks are beginning to hit the bottom line of business. The business is beginning to get it.”

Which brings us back to Brazil’s Bolsonaro. The strongman president started his term by making it easier to deforest the Amazon — though he’s by no means alone in his approach to the environment, Lambertini said. But “look what happened when Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from [the] Paris [Climate Agreement]: A wave of companies, states and mayors stepped up and said, ‘We’re still in, we want to contribute even if the government doesn’t.’ Sometimes, these kind of radical views trigger and accelerate reaction from society. But of course they are a concern.”

What would Lambertini tell Bolsonaro if he ran into him in Davos? “I would like to say that people like Trump, Bolsonaro — sovereignists, unilateralists, populists — were not elected on anti-environmental agendas. The majority in America are concerned about climate change. They experience it three or four times a year now. That’s what we are trying to convey to these leaders: Don’t embrace an anti-environmental agenda, because you’re failing a large part of your electorate.”

The state of the earth? “We are in a transition period,” Lambertini said, with ups and downs, “but the bottom line is that people are aware more than ever before about the risks we are facing, the young people in particular. I have to tell you that paradoxically, despite the state of the planet is deteriorating, I see so much response growing as well that I never felt more optimistic.”

China, climate champ: Which country is the world’s climate champion, I asked. “Tricky question,” Lambertini answered. “But let me tell you which is the government that has impressed me more than any other in terms of a vision and implementation: It’s China. The revolution on renewable energy that has spread around the world was led by China. If China hadn’t invested on such a large scale, the world would still have solar energy three, four, five times more expensive than fossil-fueled energy. Today, solar energy is cheaper … China was really the leader.”

Don’t have a cow: “China is even beginning to think about capping beef consumption in the country,” said Lambertini. “The country has the luxury of a long-term vision, because of their structure, but to tackle long term challenges, you need to have these visions, and the capacities to take bold action.” Perhaps China also has a better-equipped toolbox to tell its citizens what they’re allowed to do? “There are pros and cons to everything, don’t get me wrong,” Lambertini said. “But if you ask me about climate, China is a leader.”


HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE: Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans is in Krakow today for a Citizens’ Dialogue with Auschwitz survivors and students from Poland and Italy, “providing the last living survivors a chance to convey their story to a young generation,” a Commission official said. The survivors, Italian sisters Andra and Tatiana Bucci, and Lidia Maksymowicz, a Polish citizen, will take the stage from 11:30 a.m. You can follow via this link.

Here is the Eurobarometer survey on perceptions of anti-Semitism, which Playbook previewed and Timmermans and Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová presented Tuesday. “As the last Holocaust survivors are passing away, the responsibility to keep the memory of these darkest pages in our history alive rests on the shoulders of our and future generations,” Timmermans said Tuesday. “It is our sacred duty to honor the memory of 6 million victims.”

ONE AACHEN TREATY, 4 VERY DIFFERENT SPEECHES: Ensuring the Franco-German friendship is felt by both nations’ peoples has never been easy and will not be, Chancellor Angela Merkel said during the vowel renewal ceremony Tuesday in Aachen. But it has to be done, said French President Emmanuel Macron, dismissing the far-right freak-out over an innocuous agreement. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, as a good Luxembourger, translated for the rest of Europe in his speech, saying that if the two “keep on agreeing with each other, it allows us to agree — the rest of us.”

Alas, European Council President Donald Tusk spoiled the party, and badly: “I will put it bluntly — today Europe needs a clear signal from Paris and from Berlin, that strengthened cooperation in small formats is not an alternative to the cooperation of all of Europe. That it is for integration, and not instead of integration.” And that, in the words of a resident POLITICO wordsmith, was truly pissing on their chips and telling them it’s vinegar. Tusk’s speech here. Hans von der Burchard was on the ground for POLITICO, read his story here.

SPACE RACE: The European Commission has a vision to boldly go where no European has gone before. But as always, the problem is money and red tape, report Josh Posaner and Saim Saeed.

OPINION — DON’T IGNORE THE NORTHERN IRELAND BOMBING: The past 72 hours have seen one of the worst outbreaks of violence in two decades in Northern Ireland. Naomi O’Leary warns: “Old divisions and tensions remain below the surface … Dissident paramilitaries from both sides of the conflict, both Irish republicans and pro-British loyalists, remain active and are still recruiting. Particularly in Derry, some of the elements that first set the stage for conflict remain in place. In this context, Brexit is not a direct cause of the violence, but could serve as an accelerant.”

Don’t count on Labour for help: Faced with Theresa May’s imploding government, U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has two primary goals, writes Tom McTague: Force a general election to win power, and avoid being cast as the leader of those who wish to remain in the European Union. Which means if May needs Brexit help, she needs to look elsewhere.


NO MORE GOLDEN VISAS PLEASE: Brussels is today expected to warn EU countries that golden visa schemes that allow people to get citizenship through investing in a European country are a security threat and have exposed the Continent to corruption and organized crime. The Guardian has more.

OK OK: Bulgaria’s justice ministry is proposing scrapping its golden visas. The Cabinet council on development will next week discuss the proposals, drafted by a working group appointed by Justice Minister Tsetska Tsacheva early last year, according to the Independent Balkan News Agency.

SPAIN’S GENDER GAP: Spain’s far-right Vox party has its sights set on women’s rights, writes Guy Hedgecoe. The party’s leader, Santiago Abascal, is waging a campaign against what he sees as the criminalizing of men by former partners who falsely accuse them of violence. Abascal has claimed that 87 percent of accusations by women against men for alleged violence are dropped, suggesting many of them are false.

GRAPHICS DU JOUR I — WHERE EUROPEAN VOTERS DISAGREE: Ahead of the European parliamentary election, POLITICO breaks down the data on the issues about which voters are most concerned.

GRAPHICS DU JOUR II — HOW MUCH DO EUROPEANS TRUST THE MEDIA: Check out this graphic illustrating how much Europeans from different countries trust the media. Countries with the most faith: Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden. Bottom of the pile: Britain, Croatia, Slovenia and Greece.

SPEAKING OF TRUST: Russians’ trust in President Vladimir Putin has dropped to at least a 13-year low, the FT reports, citing a recent survey by a state-owned pollster. Public trust in Putin fell to 33.4 percent this month, down from 57.2 percent a year ago.