23-02-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

23-02-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Friday, February 23, 2018

PM Tsipras in Brussels for the informal EU Summit

Turkey’s provocative actions, the latest developments in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus, EU-Turkish relations, the FYROM naming dispute and Greek-Albanian relations will be the main issues on the agenda of the meetings of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Brussels, on Friday, on the occasion of the informal EU Summit, which will discuss institutional issues regarding the course of the EU, as well as the Multiannual Financial Framework for the period after 2020.


Work has begun on whether Greece needs debt relief, EU rescue fund head says

Technical work has begun to determine if Greece requires debt relief after its expected exit from a bailout program later this year, the head of Europe’s rescue fund said on Friday.


Greek high court clears major hurdle for closely watched Helleniko privatization

Reuters quoted Greek judicial sources on Thursday afternoon in reporting that the Council of State (CoS), Greece’s highest administrative court, has ratified a presidential decree that includes a Comprehensive Development Plan for the Helleniko privatization, essentially the project’s master plan.


Greece approves port sale in Thessaloniki

Lawmakers have approved the sale of a 67 percent stake of the Thessaloniki Port Authority in Greece’s second largest city, in a deal worth 232 million euros ($285 million).


BoG: 2017 a record-breaking year for travel receipts, arrivals to Greece

Travel receipts for Greece increased by 10.5 percent in 2017, compared to 2016, reaching 14.596 billion euros, while the number of visitors to the country also increased by 9.7 percent from 2016 – just more than 27.19 million, up from 24.79.


SEV: Greece is the European champion in corporate taxes

Corporate taxation in Greece is burdensome and anti-competitive, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) says in a report published on Thursday, stressing that Greek taxes also fail to draw revenues above the average rate of other European countries that as a rule have lower corporate taxation.


ATHEX: Bank stocks lead bourse rise

The surprise sovereign rating upgrade by Moody’s and signs of a recovery on Wall Street boosted activity on the Greek stock market on Thursday, with buyers regaining the upper hand and trading volume posting an improvement.







KATHIMERINI: Confiscations worth 1 million Euros to take place in 2018

ETHNOS: How to avoid fines for uninsured vehicles

TA NEA: Deep division in light of snap elections

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Revolt inside New Democracy against former chief Kostas Karamanlis

AVGI: The upgrading of Greece by rating agencies is the passport for a clean exit to the markets

RIZOSPASTIS: Government and Eurozone draft “growth plan” which will lead anti-popular policies to escalation

KONTRA NEWS: Who stole the money of political parties?

DIMOKRATIA: Pensions: How to retrospectively claim the funds illegally withheld by the state

NAFTEMPORIKI: ‘Safari’ by the Independent Authority for State Revenues


COUNCIL — INFORMAL EU27 SUMMIT TODAY: The topics of course are Brexit and the next EU budget. David M. Herszenhorn gets you up to speed on talks that could get “disgusting.” POLITICO’s traditional summit live blog will kick off at 10 a.m.

The pre-summit summit: The half of the EU not invited may have their noses out of joint this morning. Belgian PM Charles Michel hosted 11 government leaders — including Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron — for dinner at Château de Val-Duchesse. It was the culinary equivalent of a European Commission non-paper, and one of the perks available only to Belgium, as the regular host of the wider EU leaders’ summits. The dinner hosted by Michel was larger than most mini-summits and included a broader cross-section of leaders than is normally found in the EU’s various “clubs” such as the Visegrád Four (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) or the southern Club Med (Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain). Playbook hears the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte initially turned down the invite, but reversed course when he learned it would be more than a Benelux cocktail hour.

Where the leaders stand on budget and top job: Maïa de La Baume has this at-a-glance pre-summit guide to where the key countries stand on the two big issues of how to deal with the budget hole created by Brexit and choose the next Commission president.

Merkel calls for structural funds link to migration: “With the distribution of structural funds, we must ensure that the allocation criteria in future reflect the engagement of many regions and municipalities in absorbing and integrating migrants,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Bundestag. “Solidarity cannot be a one-way street.”

First in Playbook — Calls for more climate in EU budget: An alliance of EU members grouped together as the green growth group (including Germany, France and the U.K.) is expected to ask that EU funding be “coherent with the EU mid- and long-term climate and energy targets,” according to a draft statement POLITICO’s energy and climate team has seen. The countries argue that the yearly investment gap to meet the bloc’s 2030 targets is almost €180 billion in the period from 2021. The EU’s Committee of Regions is lobbying in a similar vein. It says around 25 percent EU regional subsidies are spent on climate-related projects and that any cuts would impact climate action efforts. The committee president, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, is calling for the EU budget to be increased to 1.3 percent of GDP (up from just over 1 percent now).

CONFERENCE ON THE SAHEL: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, High Representative Federica Mogherini and International Cooperation Commissioner Neven Mimica participate in the high level conference on the Sahel with U.N. and African Union representatives, as well as the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

COMMISSION IMPOSSIBLE — (SECRETARY) GENERAL SELMAYR HEADS INTO BATTLE: Martin Selmayr will be more general than secretary, writes POLITICO’s David M. Herszenhorn, as he attempts to secure Jean-Claude Juncker’s legacy and takes on national governments who are not on board with the Berlaymont’s more federalist tendencies. His goal: for you to think of Juncker and Selmayr more than Jacques Delors and Pascal Lamy.

“Officials in the Council believe that Selmayr is engaged in an eternal, if self-created, power struggle, constantly trying to one-up Council President Donald Tusk and his staff … he will likely employ a range of tactics, from special forces-style hybrid warfare and disinformation (such as when Juncker’s transition team, led by Selmayr, leaked different draft organizational charts to media outlets to test reactions), to the overwhelming force of a tank battalion (as when he infamously rewrote testimony to be given before the European Parliament by incoming Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström).”

Obscure fact du jour: Selmayr will become a member of the European Council as a result of his promotion, according to a senior Council source, as the secretaries-general of the Commission and Council have seats.

Catch up on some of Martin Selmayr’s greatest hits: Monster at the Berlaymont | June 2016 podcast with Paul Adamson.

COMMISSION — MEMBERSHIP TALKS WITH ALBANIA AND FYROM THIS SUMMER: Speaking to Die Welt, Commissioner Johannes Hahn said he expected the Commission to recommend accession talks begin with Albania and FYROM in the summer. “We believe that both countries have made important reforms in the past, and thus qualified for this step,” he said. From Sunday, Juncker, Mogherini and Hahn will be in the Western Balkans to launch the Commission’s new strategy for the region. The itinerary is the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania on Sunday, followed by Serbia on Monday, Montenegro on Tuesday and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo on Wednesday.

COMMISSION — DANISH PM SAYS HE HAS NO REASON TO REAPPOINT VESTAGER: Despite a poll showing most Danes would like Margrethe Vestager to remain in Brussels, and despite being in the same liberal European political family as Vestager (though in a different national party), Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen says there’s no reason for him to grant her another term as European commissioner. You can read the original interview, by Thomas Lauritzen for Danish online publication Altinget, translated into English here. It’s not clear if it will be Rasmussen’s call though: Denmark is due to hold a parliamentary election before summer 2019.

COMMISSION — ŠEFČOVIČ TO LAY OUT 20-POINT BATTERY PLAN TODAY: As part of a wider “EU industry day,” expect a sketch of how Europe can compete with Asia on battery development to be launched at the clean energy industrial forum in London. It’s part of European Commission efforts to broker a deal between countries and industry, and build a production system on European soil. Vice President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič says Europe needs up to 20 home-grown versions of Tesla’s giant gigafactories, capable of churning out enough lithium ion cells to supply the automotive industry and meet household use. Šefčovič will present the outline of his 20-point plan (streamlined from an earlier 49-pointer).

EU AGENCIES — MEDICINES AGENCY CHIEF BATTLES DUTCH OVER RENT HIKE: The European Medicines Agency, which is due to move to Amsterdam from London next year, and the Dutch government are battling over rent. “In recent weeks, the EMA accused the Dutch government of unjustifiably ramping up the rent by more than a third, while Dutch Health Care Minister Bruno Bruins argued that the EMA was trying to sidestep commitments to pay for fittings … On Thursday, however, the Dutch government suggested that it had given up trying to charge extra for the fittings.” More here for POLITICO Health and Brexit Pros.


Listen to the latest EU Confidential podcast, featuring a review of the Munich Security Conference and an interview with Ben Hodges, who recently retired as commanding general of the U.S. army in Europe. Also on the podcast: Our panelists give their verdict on Martin Selmayr’s big new job, look forward to the Italian election and, once again, test their knowledge of members of the European Parliament.

Listen immediately by clicking here | Download to listen offline via Apple Podcasts.


KEEP UP TO DATE AT MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS: From Sunday, more than 80,000 people will descend on Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress, a weeklong event that attracts global policy makers like Andrus Ansip and Ajit Pai, as well as the latest gadgets and trials for 5G, drones and everything else that’s happening on people’s smartphones. Mark Scott will be there for POLITICO and can keep you up to date on gossip, news and the latest tech through WhatsApp updates sent directly to your phone. Sign up here.

MEPs STILL WANT TO BREAK UP GOOGLE: What’s new, hey? A group of influential MEPs have hardened their position on Google’s dominance, approving an amendment to European Parliament’s draft annual competition report — Parliament’s only chance to get vocal on competition, which is a Commission executive power — that threatens the “structural” separation of Google’s search engine from its product search service, Google Shopping. The plenary of MEPs will now vote on the non-binding recommendation. In 2014, MEPs approved a non-binding resolution calling for the Commission to consider the possibility of breaking up Google. Get the full story in our Morning Tech newsletter for POLITICO Tech subscribers.


SPAIN — ETA PLANS TO FULLY DISBAND: Describing it as the “end of the cycle,” the leaders of ETA, the separatist Basque group behind the deaths of over 800 over the past four decades, have asked members to vote on disbanding. “It is now time to close the era of the armed conflict … to offer all our strength to foment the political process,” the statement published in the newspaper Gara reads.

ROMANIA — CORRUPTION RECOMMENDATIONS: ‪Romanian Justice Minister Tudorel Toader presented a report on the country’s anti-corruption agency, DNA, to the parliament, calling for its leader Laura Kövesi to be fired for “excess of authority.” President Klaus Iohannis, who will be in Brussels today for the European Council, is expected to block the dismissal, reports POLITICO’s Carmen Paun.

SWEDEN TAKE ON RUSSIAN MEDDLING: Ahead of an election next fall, Sweden is taking action to avoid a controversy like the one plaguing the U.S.

Latest poll by YouGov: It’s a three-way battle between the Social Democrats (S&D) on 22 percent (-4), the right-wing Swedish Democrats (EFDD) also on 22 percent (+1) and the Moderates (EPP) on 21 percent (-2).

CZECH REPUBLIC — GOVERNMENT RISK EU WRATH OVER NUCLEAR POWER AMBITIONS: The Czech Republic looks set for a confrontation with the European Commission — and its anti-nuclear neighbors — over its ambitions to expand nuclear power, writes Nicholas Watson for POLITICO.

POLAND — WHY THE PM’S COURT CLAIMS ARE INCORRECT: Laurent Pech undertakes a surgical, data-driven takedown.

ITALY — PREPARE FOR NO GOVERNMENT, SAYS JUNCKER: In a speech that literally moved markets, Jean-Claude Juncker warned: “We have to brace ourselves for the worst scenario and the worst scenario could be no operational government” after Italy’s election next month. That prompted an immediate response from Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni: “I will reassure him, in any case all governments are operational, governments govern.”


BREXITEERS LAUNCH BROADSIDE AT NORTHERN IRELAND: It is lauded near universally as a highlight of modern British statecraft that has saved countless lives — but Brexit has unleashed a swath of attacks on the Good Friday Agreement, which has brought peace to Northern Ireland, writes Peter Geoghegan.

CHEQUERS MATES: Theresa May on Thursday secured the agreement of both the Remain and Leave sides of her Brexit “war Cabinet” for a major speech next week setting out her vision for the U.K.’s future relationship with Europe. The agreed position broadly matched that set out by Brexit Secretary David Davis in his speech in Vienna on Tuesday — for a so-called “three baskets” approach of  “managed divergence,” where Britain takes back control over rules and regulations, but maintains the equivalent high goods standards of the EU in key areas to protect trade and jobs. But that approach is unlikely to be popular with Brussels, report POLITICO’s Jack Blanchard and Tom McTague.

NEW DOCS: Read the EU’s negotiating documents on Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom. The upshot is that the U.K. is going to receive something like a Canada trade deal unless there is a change of government or a policy U-turn.

BREXODUS UNDERWAY: Some 130,000 EU nationals left the U.K. in the year to September, the highest number since 2008, according to the U.K. Office of National Statistics. Net EU migration — the difference between arrivals and departures — was 90,000, the lowest for five years.