23-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

23-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Monday, July 23, 2018

Greek ambassador summoned in Moscow as Athens seeks to defuse tension

Tensions between Athens and Moscow over the expulsion last week of Russian diplomats escalated further on Friday after the Greek ambassador in Moscow, Andreas Friganas, was summoned by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which expressed its “decisive protest against continued anti-Russian statements by the Greek side.”

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230930/article/ekathimerini/news/greek-ambassador-summoned-in-moscow-as-athens-seeks-to-defuse-tension

Greek president laments lack of European solidarity over migration

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Friday said Europe was losing the sense of shared solidarity in dealing with the ongoing migration crisis.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230898/article/ekathimerini/news/greek-president-laments-lack-of-european-solidarity-over-migration

Greek gov’t pushes ‘better days ahead’ narrative

The government intends to submit a series of legislative amendments during the Parliament’s summer sessions in a bid to cultivate its narrative that it will have more scope to ease the burden of austerity once Greece exits the bailout next month.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230878/article/ekathimerini/news/greek-govt-pushes-better-days-ahead-narrative

Mitsotakis says he’ll honor Prespes agreement if elected and pact is ratified

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader is profiled with a lengthy interview by the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung this week, where, among others, he pledges to honor a recently concluded bilateral agreement resolving the fYRoM “name issue”.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1374649/mitsotakis-says-hell-honor-prespes-agreement-if-elected-and-pact-is-ratified

Rouvikonas members throw paint at Greek Foreign Ministry

Members of the Rouvikonas anarchist group threw paint at the Greek Foreign Ministry in downtown Athens on Sunday afternoon, just over 12 hours after smashing windows at a tax office in a northern suburb.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230963/article/ekathimerini/news/rouvikonas-members-throw-paint-at-greek-foreign-ministry

Natural gas set to expand to all regions of Greece by 2022

The Greek natural gas network is seen expanding to another 43 cities and towns across the country, including some of its main islands, so as to offer this cheaper form of fuel to over 32,000 new consumers, most of them households.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230936/article/ekathimerini/business/natural-gas-set-to-expand-to-all-regions-of-greece-by-2022

S&P raises outlook on Greece, affirms rating

S&P Global Ratings said on Friday it raised its outlook on Greece to positive from stable while affirming its B-plus/B ratings.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230938/article/ekathimerini/business/sp-raises-outlook-on-greece-affirms-rating

ATHEX: Week closes with losses of 1 pct for benchmark

The significant declines recorded by most stocks on the Athens Exchange (ATHEX) on Friday wiped out all the benchmark gains recorded during the week, as sellers returned in the afternoon of July’s triple witching day. Banks led the slide, while Coca-Cola HBC contained the losses of the blue-chip index.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/230931/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-week-closes-with-losses-of-1-pct-for-benchmark

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SUNDAY PAPERS

KATHIMERINI:  The new examination system for University entry

TO VIMA: Loans worth 60 billion to be auctioned!

REAL NEWS: ‘War’ regarding pensions

PROTO THEMA:  Kotzias – Putin – Zaev: Stories with [Russian] bears

AVGI: 44 years after the fall of the Junta the struggle for democracy never stops

MONDAY PAPERS:

ETHNOS:  Collective labor agreements to be reinstated

TA NEA:  The authorities are going to open 150,000 bank accounts

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Large hospitals to be audited

KONTRA NEWS:  The Thessaloniki International Fair is going to be undermined by the ‘Black Front’ and Moscow’s networks

DIMOKRATIA:  Turkey on the edge of the cliff

NAFTEMPORIKI: The decisions regarding the reduction of pensions are going to be made in November

While you were sleeping: Donald Trump overnight issued a booming warning to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. “To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” the president tweeted in caps. “WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” More from Quint Forgey.

LAST EXIT BEFORE THE MOTHER OF ALL TRADE WARS: Summer may well be here, but we’ve still go a potentially important week ahead of us. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is off to Washington on Tuesday to meet with Donald Trump on Wednesday. Meanwhile, he’ll be steering clear of the Twittersphere.

What Juncker wants is to use the little leverage Europe has to avoid the worst — ie: tariffs on cars — by arguing, by offering something (but not too much) and by threatening the U.S. with potential countermeasures, which are currently being prepared. As you can’t take anything for granted in dealings with Trump, it might well turn into an exercise of keeping Europe’s self-esteem intact.

Expectations management is part of the mission: Juncker will try to avoid the tariffs, despite knowing that if Trump is consistent on one thing, it’s delivering on his campaign promises.

But expectations for Juncker’s visit are perhaps even higher among White House officials opposed to the auto tariffs than among Europeans. They hope the Commission president manages to head off the trade war, which even some of Trump’s top advisers think could be disastrous — meaning they expect Juncker to bring with him some concessions that will make it easier for Trump to declare victory and back off. Ben White has more.

Black humor: German MEP Daniel Caspary, from the EPP, has this advice for Juncker: Offer to reopen TTIP talks, under a new name — the Tremendous Trump Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. “Maybe it helps,” Welt newspaper quoted him as saying (alas, the story isn’t online).

The Nooch update: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin isn’t averse to the above, he said at a G20 meeting of finance ministers in Buenos Aires — assuming Europeans buy more American goods. (He also had his work cut out for him, trying to convince the world Trump didn’t mean it when he attacked the Federal Reserve.) It’s a pity Europeans don’t like their governments telling them what to buy, be it expensive American gas or cars made for a smooth ride at low speed, and not for driving pleasure.

ON POLITICAL DECENCY, IN 3 ACTS

ENTRY 1: “We are seamen, Italian seamen; we have 2,000 years of civilization, and we do these things,” said Admiral Giovanni Pettorino, commander of the Italian coast guard. He spoke of “an unwritten principle that resides in the soul of every sailor: that of providing help to anyone who risks losing their life at sea.”

It’s remarkable this has to be said (or that official EU statements have to reiterate that saving lives is part of the EU’s own naval mission, Sophia). But Pettorino’s audience was the Italian government, which hasn’t stopped short of any escalation that would stress the fact migrants aren’t welcome anymore.

Latest from this weekend in three steps: Italy announced it would deny Sophia boats entry into its ports. Sophia said well, then, there’s no reason to sail at all. Italy agreed that the mission should stay in place (until the end of August, for now), and the mandate will be reconsidered.

Remember: The Sophia mission was hailed as an important step in fighting human traffickers only two years ago, when its mandate was widened to help build a Libyan coast guard. No one openly questioned whether lives should be saved at sea back then.

ENTRY 2: German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a long press conference on Friday, as she does every year before she goes on holiday, and lamented a “certain brutalization of political speech” in the migration debate in Europe, but also in her own camp. She is trying “to pay even more attention to my language, to be precise, to make sure facts are accurate,” she said, in a not-so-subtle dig at Donald Trump but also at her coalition partners in the CSU.

Think, speak, act: “By setting an example, I try to keep this process of coarsening a bit under control — because I believe there is a pretty close link between thinking, speaking and acting,” Merkel said. Janosch Delcker has the write-up.

Meanwhile, in Munich: The CSU urged people not to take part in a protest rally and show “political decency” instead. Quote: Bavaria “would not be where it is today if the CSU had not always had the best for Bavaria in mind for six decades.” That went well: Some 25,000 protesters gathered Sunday in a cheerful march under a heavy summer rain against the radicalization of the political discourse. (Local Süddeutsche newspaper here.)

ENTRY 3: The tone of the conversation between Malta and its bigger neighbor Italy has become jarring. In a letter to Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Malta’s PM Joseph Muscat tells his colleague off, writing — in almost impeccable Italian — that he was “perplexed” by a note he received earlier. Italian “allegations that Malta had acted against the rules are totally unacceptable,” Muscat writes, going into detail about the recent case of a fishing vessel.

Helpful advice: “We understand Italy’s difficulties, but the solution is certainly not to attack a European partner facing the same challenges and continuously showing solidarity,” Muscat wrote in the letter, dated July 15, which Playbook has seen.

EUROPEAN WRAP-UP

MUSCAT’S ‘NIGHTMARE’ IS OVER: Let’s stay in Malta for a while. An emotional Muscat spoke at a press conference minutes after the conclusions of an inquiry that ruled that his family had no connection to a company linked to the Panama papers scandal were published. He said his “nightmare” was over, adding that “the day of truth has finally arrived.”

“Someone falsified the documents. This was nothing more than a frame-up against me and my family … They wanted to harm me and the Maltese economy,” Muscat said. The claims were made by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia — who was murdered by a car bomb in October 2017 — and backed up by an employee of Pilatus bank, Maria Efimova. Laurens Cerulus has the story.

The report is in Maltese; key graphs in English here: “The inquiry concludes the following: that no shares in the company Egrant Inc were found to belong to Michelle Muscat, or otherwise traceable to her, her husband Dr Joseph Muscat, to any of their family members; the inquiry did not find Joseph Muscat, Michelle Muscat … to have been involved in corruption and/or money laundering and/or suspect financial transactions.”

Who’s down: Opposition leader Adrian Delia, from the Partit Nazzjonalista, said his party “had made the … allegations its own, and I have therefore asked [former opposition leader and his predecessor] Simon Busuttil to shoulder political responsibility and suspend himself from our parliamentary group to focus on the ongoing inquiries,” Delia said at a press conference. “I have immediately removed him as shadow minister for good governance and took the portfolio myself. The fight against corruption is an important one and no one is bigger than the party or the country.”

BENALLA AFFAIR: French President Emmanuel Macron’s former aide Alexandre Benalla faced a judge on Sunday over his assault of a protester earlier this year. Macron himself has stayed silent, but Reuters reports he has ordered a shake-up of his office. Opposition politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon declared the affair to be akin to Watergate. (It’s quite a story, but enough of the lame comparisons.) Interior Minister Gérard Collomb will face questions from the Assemblée today.

BREXIT CHARM: British Prime Minister Theresa May and senior ministers are planning a Brexit charm offensive this summer. May will this week meet Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. Her de facto deputy, David Lidington, will go to France later this month and the new foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is in Germany today to meet with his counterpart Heiko Maas. Home Secretary Sajid Javid is being despatched to Spain and Business Secretary Greg Clark will go to Italy.

But Ireland’s PM Leo Varadkar is also on tour this week. He’ll travel to Zagreb today, Bucharest on Tuesday and Italy on Thursday.

BRUSSELS BRACES FOR BANNON: Donald Trump’s former chief of staff Steve Bannon is planning to set up a foundation in Brussels to support right-wing, anti-establishment groups in the run-up to next year’s European Parliament election, he told the Daily Beast.

SPAIN’S PP MOVES THE RIGHT: Pablo Casado is the new leader of Spain’s conservative Popular Party, and he has vowed to steer it to the right in a bid to make Socialist Pedro Sánchez the country’s shortest-serving prime minister. Diego Torres has the full details.

WHITE HELMETS SAFE: Israel has evacuated some 400 members of the White Helmets civil defense group from south-western Syria in a secret operation. Volunteers and family members were taken to Jordan and will find shelter in different Western countries, the U.K. and Germany included. BILD’s Paul Ronzheimer reports from the Golan Heights.

SWEDEN STRUGGLES OVER CHILD MARRIAGE: A row over how to deal with child marriage among immigrants has inflamed political debate ahead of a general election in Sweden, reports Nathalie Rothschild. “Although Sweden in 1973 banned marriages in which one or both parties is underage, it was possible under some circumstances to get special dispensation. The previous center-right government tightened the law in 2014, amid growing awareness of the prevalence of so-called honor-related oppression — including forced marriage — among some immigrant communities. Still, marriages between underaged partners are recognized — and not annulled — if carried out abroad.”

WHO INVENTED THE SELF-DRIVING CAR? As early as the late 1980s — decades before companies like Google, Tesla and Uber were founded — a team of German engineers led by scientist Ernst Dickmanns brought self-driving cars onto European streets. More than thirty years later, however, their pioneering work has fallen into oblivion. Janosch Delcker brings you the story of Dickmann’s invention, and how it came to be all-but forgotten.

POLAND — RULE OF LAW UPDATE: Poland’s Law and Justice government tightened its political grip on the country’s judiciary system by passing on Friday a law that lowered the number of Supreme Court judges required to nominate a new president of the court to 80, down from 110 (out of a total 120), our man on the ground Michał Broniatowski writes in to report. “The trick is they are about to nominate about 80 new judges (the job is being done by a completely politically controlled National Judiciary Council). The law also lowers professional requirements for candidates to the court. All that in order to quickly finalize the takeover of the court before the European Commission manages to send Poland’s new Supreme Court law to the European Court of Justice, which might then order an immediate suspension of it.” The law that passed on Friday also removed the requirement that judges are assigned cases randomly.

TRUMPWORLD

SEE YOU IN COURT: The first trial prosecuted by U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller, scheduled to begin this week, will offer the clearest public view yet of what his investigators have on Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. Full story from our U.S. team here.

POMPEO DEMOCRACY: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo compared Iran’s leaders to a “mafia” on Sunday and pledged to support Iranians unhappy with their government.

FROM PUTIN’S HIT LIST: Russian prosecutors have released a list of Americans they want to question in connection with their case against Hermitage Capital founder William Browder. David J. Kramer was on that list, and writes for POLITICO that Putin “is not our friend, he is not even our foe; he is our enemy.”