23-10-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

23-10-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Russia says FYROM parliament vote to back name change was rigged

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that a vote in the parliament of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that backed changing the country’s name was rigged through a combination of blackmail, threats and vote-buying.


Kotzias says Prespes accord will stabilize Balkans, halt Turkish influence

The agreement signed with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will bring stability in the region and undercut Turkey’s influence in the region, former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias said on Monday, during a speech in Crete.


Former minister denies money-laundering charges

Former defense minister Yiannos Papantoniou denied charges of money laundering on Monday during a marathon deposition before a corruption prosecutor.


Dijsselbloem: Turning back pension reforms would reset the problem

The painful reforms Greece had to implement to make its pension system sustainable were necessary and any deviation from these policies would bring back the problem, former Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said in an interview with state-run news agency ANA-MPA, published on Monday.


Migrant inflows fuel concern, as EU commissioner calls for more solidarity

European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos emphasized the need for a European solution to a migration crisis that has weighed heavily on Greece and other countries on the EU’s southern flank.


Greek primary budget surplus for 2017 slightly reduced, calculated at 3.9% of GDP

The primary budget surplus for 2017 was revised from the figure released last April, standing at 3.9 percent of GDP, slightly down from the previously calculated 4.0 percent.


BoG: 910-mln€ deficit in current accounts for Jan-Aug 2018 period

A deficit of 910 million euros in current accounts, increased by 857 million euros, was reported (yoy) on Monday by the Bank of Greece (BoG) for the first eight months of 2018, with the central bank referring to a worsening in the balance of goods and in the primary income account. The BoG added that this trend was partly offset by improvements, primarily in the services balance as well as in the secondary income account.


ATHEX: Athens stocks edge higher as investors remain wary

After posting a 20-month low at the end of last week, the benchmark of the Greek stock market ends Monday’s session with a marginal increase. Investor caution was evident in the fact that prearranged packages outweighed ordinary transactions.







KATHIMERINI:  Russia slams the USA on the FYROM issue

ETHNOS:  Pensions: Games with retrospective payments

TA NEA:  Retrospective payments for pensioners and public employees: 15 myths and truths

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  The government fights back with 8+2 measures

AVGI:  The measures announced in September’s International Fair of Thessaloniki are going to be implemented

RIZOSPASTIS:  Call for coordinated strike on 14 November

KONTRA NEWS:  Government spokesman Tzanakopoulos: “We will rule even without Defense Minister Kammenos”

DIMOKRATIA:  Rehearsal for naval battle in the Aegean Sea

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Last changes in the omnibus bill regarding taxation



GOOD MORNING. Under the tutelage of the infallible Pierre Wynants, the doyen of Brussels’, if not Belgium’s, chefs, a jury on Monday selected the best croquettes de crevettes in town. (In Brussels, that’s about an easy a task as choosing whose mother is the best cook.) The winner: Fernand Obb of St. Gilles. A few other good options made it into the Top 10, but my personal favorite and the actual best croquette-maker didn’t bother participating in the contest. But that’s my little secret. And now on to the menu the Commission is cooking up today: its work program for next year.


THE JUNCKER COMMISSION’S LEGACY: The College of Commissioners will today adopt its 2019 work program. Playbook has seen the latest internal draft of the Commission’s communication and, perhaps more importantly, its annexes listing initiatives to be proposes, reviewed, prioritized, withdrawn and repealed.

Coming soon: The Commission plans to put forward proposals on a move to switch to qualified majority voting on some taxation issues as well as on energy and climate policies in 2019. It also plans to propose a “further strengthening of the 2014 Rule of Law framework” and the adoption later this year of a proposal on “strengthening the international role of the euro,” spelling out President Jean-Claude Juncker’s idea — discussed at last week’s summit — to make the euro a more serious competitor to the dollar as a reserve currency.

The Berlaymont is holding back: The Commission will propose only 15 new — all non-legislative except for Brexit preparedness items — initiatives next year, a clear sign the cycle is coming to an end and the focus is shifting to tying up loose ends. Seventeen pending proposals or existing laws will be nixed, and the Commission will put pressure on Parliament and Council to speedily move forward on 45 priority proposals out of the 286 that are with the legislators at this point. (The next EU budget, for the purpose of the work program, counts as one file, despite being composed of 49 single items.)

BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: The Commission will put forward a “proposal to place the United Kingdom on either the ‘visa required’ list of third countries or the ‘visa free’ list” and to “adapt references to EU energy efficiency targets” for 2030 for the EU27. Those two need to be done in any case — and the preparations for a possible no-deal scenario are the top priority. They’re not spelled out in today’s papers but hinted at in the text as “delegated and implementing acts that are necessary.”

Theresa May, survivor: As much as the obituarists relish in predicting Theresa May’s demise, the U.K. prime minister has held on for this long for one big reason: Her Tories have no alternative. Charlie Cooper breaks it down.

BACK TO BRUSSELS: Juncker isn’t a comitology fan (remember, “people do not want us to regulate toilet flushes!”). He has pushed the Commission to be more politically sensitive on that front. To that end, after the summer, deputy heads of Cabinets were tasked every week with looking through the list of upcoming comitolgy decisions and identifying those that could raise red flags, EU officials told Playbook.

SUBSIDIARITY RULES: There’s one final thing to expect today, and it’s a gift to the Austrian Council presidency and to S&D Spitzenkandidat hopeful Frans Timmermans, and another legacy item for Juncker. It’s a communication on subsidiarity: The Commission will include, according to officials, relevant delegated and implementing acts into the “fitness tests” carried out under the so-called REFIT evaluations, which so far applied only to legislation.


ITALIAN PASTICCIO: Before moving on to next year’s fun, commissioners will have to consider this year’s mess in their Strasbourg meeting today. The College has Italy’s (and some other countries’) budgets on its table, and given the recent exchange of views (and letters), we don’t need a Deep Throat to tell us that Brussels will be considering the best way to tell Rome that no, you can’t just play with everyone’s currency however you please.

Poor Tria: Italy told the Commission in a letter Monday that the government is well aware of the fact that its budget plans violate the rules, but that it won’t change them. But the plan relies on its ambitious expectations of economic growth coming to fruition. Should reality really disappoint Italy’s government, “we would intervene,” Finance Minister Giovanni Tria wrote, in what was meant to be a concession.

But don’t worry: “We aren’t nuts and before putting together the budget, we studied Italy’s economy thoroughly,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told reporters in Rome. Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli reports.


ITALIAN SHIFTS: 5Stars leader Luigi Di Maio vowed to convene a political group of “new forces that are being born everywhere” in Europe. According to his analysis, a group of parties “uniting those disappointed by the left and by the right” is emerging. (He didn’t identify the parties in question, but it’s not the Greens, he admitted.) Reality check: Most “new forces” big or small are either on the left, such as Podemos in Spain, or are flirting with others, such as Ciudadanos.

Problematic bedfellows: Being a member of a far-right government doesn’t particularly help if you’re looking for partners. And being associated with UKIP in a joint group takes away any pro-EU street cred, even when it comes to the most desperate — former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis immediately rejected the 5Stars’ advances. In theory there’s still Guy Verhofstadt’s ever-open arms, but he has tried to lure the 5Stars into ALDE before — and it almost cost him the allegiance of his group.

Poor M5S: Rather than being kingmakers, they’re political refugees searching for asylum — or at least shelter.

THE RENZI SHOW: Meanwhile, former Italian PM Matteo Renzi announced he stands with Macron. That doesn’t say much about his Democratic Party (which is an S&D member), but it does give an indication of Renzi’s own sense of timing and entertainment. He’s touring Italy with a proper show rather than just a citizens’ dialogue.

MACRON’S CHOICE: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire will be in Strasbourg today to meet MEPs and search for allies for a digital tax. After that he’ll meet citizens at a Strasbourg town hall together with his boss’ alleged favorite for any European top job, liberal Danish Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

ARE THEY REAL? László Kövér, president of Hungary’s parliament, suspects Macron, Verhofstadt and Frans Timmermans were created via a 3D printer by a “background power” with “devilish genius,” he said Monday. Lili Bayer asked his people whether he was speaking literally or figuratively. We’ll keep you updated.

SPEAKING OF MACRONIAN CONSPIRACY THEORIES: French far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon is on a mission to convince the world he’s the victim of a “Macronism-media-prosecutor” conspiracy, reports Zachary Young.

NIMBYISM TAMPS EUROPE’S GREEN AMBITION: Activists across Europe are blocking and delaying billions of euros of investments in new power cables and wind farms that countries say are crucial to the EU’s renewable energy ambitions, reports Anca Gurzu.


BOLTON’S RUSSIA WARNING: John Bolton, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, is in Russia. “The point I made to Russian colleagues today was that I didn’t think, whatever they had done in terms of meddling in the 2016 election, that they had any effect on it, but what they have had an effect in the United States is to sow enormous distrust of Russia,” Bolton said in Moscow on Monday. “I said, just from a very cold blooded cost benefit ratio, that you shouldn’t meddle in our elections because you’re not advancing Russian interest.” CNN has more.

Side note: Could it be that the move by two of the world’s (arguably waning) superpowers to nix their landmark arms control treaty came as a result of wanting to be free to compete with an ascendant China? Or at the least to push Beijing into a new treaty? Gregory Hellman has more.

DEBATING THE FUTURE: Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă appeared before European Parliament last month to defend the rule of law in her country, which will hold the next Council presidency. President Klaus Iohannis, meanwhile, got a very different invitation from the institution: This morning at 10:30 a.m. he’ll share his ideas on the future of Europe with MEPs in a debate in Strasbourg.

Also on the agenda: Parliament President Antonio Tajani shared more of the line-up for the series of debates. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Denmark’s Prime Minster Lars Løkke Rasmussen will speak in November; Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in December; Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in January and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in February.

LEARNING FROM MALTA: I found an interesting invitation in my inbox: The Maltese and German permanent representations are holding an event this afternoon on intersex rights. How come? Malta very much considers its 2015 Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act to be European best practice, while Germany’s Constitutional Court last year ruled in favor of a third gender option (with Austria following suit this summer). But most EU countries are nowhere that — some don’t even provide the most basic LGBTI rights.

EUROPE’S SAUDI CONNECTIONS: The killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has prompted calls for Europe to reconsider its economic relationship with Riyadh. Hanne Cokelaere takes a deep dive into the ties that bind them together. (Check out the graphics.)

PLASTICS VOTE: After a debate Monday, Parliament will vote Wednesday on the Commission’s proposal to ban single-use plastics wherever possible. The report by Belgian Liberal MEP Frédérique Ries is likely to win a majority, judging from the fact it passed the environment committee earlier this month with a 51-10 vote. Among the last-minute amendments: a move to save balloons. EPP MEP Peter Liese emailed Parliament calling for a rethink. “It will not be received well by the public, especially ahead of the European election, when we give the impression that we want to prohibit that people let balloons fly,” he wrote in his email, which POLITICO has seen.

APPLE’S SORROWS: After a rather disastrous meeting with Margrethe Vestager ahead of a state aid sanction in 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook again descends on Brussels this week (after stopping over in Berlin and Paris). He will be speaking at a privacy conference Wednesday, but first, he’s expected to make a guest appearance at a party at the Apple store in central Brussels tonight. Will Vestager be there?