23-11-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

23-11-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Party leaders to clash over Kammenos in Monday showdown

The parliamentary debate over a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia which was postponed on Wednesday for Monday is set to take place amid heightened tension between the government and opposition conservatives over the role of Defense Minister and junior coalition party leader Panos Kammenos.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223524/article/ekathimerini/news/party-leaders-to-clash-over-kammenos-in-monday-showdown

General government debts at 4.49 billion euros

The government has created fresh debts in the 2015-2017 period to end up owing 4.49 billion euros, from 3.8 billion in 2014, despite receiving 5.1 billion euros from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) up until last month for the precise purpose of clearing its arrears.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223494/article/ekathimerini/business/general-government-debts-at-449-billion-euros

Only 30 pct of prior actions completed

The clock is ticking for the government, with just 11 working days before the December 4 Eurogroup, but its progress regarding the bailout review milestones is not at all encouraging so far.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223531/article/ekathimerini/business/only-30-pct-of-prior-actions-completed

Prosecutor reopens probe into mobile executive’s 2005 death

An Athens Appeals Court prosecutor on Wednesday reopened the case of the alleged suicide of a mobile telephone company executive implicated in a major wiretapping scandal in the wake of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223501/article/ekathimerini/news/prosecutor-reopens-probe-into-mobile-executives-2005-death

EBRD report warns of ‘middle-income trap’

Central and Eastern European countries have become stuck in a “middle-income trap” and need new growth strategies and infrastructure to kick off again, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said on Wednesday, adding that Greece, Slovenia and Kazakhstan have made progress with privatizations.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223519/article/ekathimerini/business/ebrd-report-warns-of-middle-income-trap

SEV: Rules on bankruptcy need fixing

The legal framework for streamlining insolvent enterprises and restructuring their loans – which is a key tool for banks in their battle to reduce nonperforming loans – remains inefficient, according to an analysis issued on Tuesday by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV).

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223492/article/ekathimerini/business/sev-rules-on-bankruptcy-need-fixing

Spar to return to Greek super market sector via agreement with Asteras group

The Dutch super market chain Spar will apparently return to the Greek market year through its participation in a consortium with local retailer Asteras, a year after the former ended its agreement with the Veropoulos group.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1297588/spar-to-return-to-greek-super-market-sector-via-agreement-with-asteras-group

ATHEX: High-volatility session sends banks into red

A very volatile session at the Greek bourse on Wednesday ended with mixed results, with banks sliding 2.71 percent while the majority of stocks posted gains as mid- and small-caps remained on the rising course set on Tuesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223520/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-high-volatility-session-sends-banks-into-red

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KATHIMERINI: Political storm due to Defense Minister Kammenos’ involvement in a shady armaments deal with Saudi Arabia

ETHNOS: They are setting a mouse-trap for “Golden boys”

TA NEA: The government is shaking and resorts to blackmail and threats

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Scandal involving the Ministry of Education’s institution for life-long education

AVGI: PASOK – New Democracy in vertigo after their failed attempts to target Defense Minister Kammenos

RIZOSPASTIS: The right to strike is non-negotiable. Fight regarding national labor agreements will escalate

KONTRA NEWS: Mitsotakis was planning to destabilize the government but failed because he did not find any accomplices!

TO PONTIKI: Rupture between USA-NATO and Turkish president Erdogan

DIMOKRATIA: Pensions: who, how much and when

NAFTEMPORIKI: Greece is nearing ‘normalcy’

A TALE OF TWO BUDGETS

On the British side of the Channel, a government forced to spend; on the French side, a government urged to save. Such are the diverging paths of Europe’s second- and third-largest economies. (We don’t know which is which anymore, considering the fluctuations of the euro and the pound sterling).

The much-anticipated U.K. budget day, always a solemn ceremony in London, showed Chancellor Philip Hammond pushing for a stimulus package in all-but-name — a sad chronicle of a crisis foretold. In France, on the other hand, the government basked in a eurozone recovery in which it had virtually no role and could claim little credit. Still, the European Commission reprimanded Paris for not moving faster to cut its deficit below the EU-imposed limit of 3 percent of GDP. Of course, it was a tad ironic considering the man urging France to put its house in order, Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, is a former French finance minister, who just a few years ago was the one being urged by Brussels to bring the budget under control.

Read POLITICO’s take on what the U.K. budget means — notably Hammond’s acknowledgement he has to set aside an extra £3 billion to prepare for a “no-deal” Brexit scenario, up from the £700 million already penciled in ahead of Britain’s departure, scheduled for March 2019.

Looking ahead, the cuts to official growth forecasts of the British economy, significant as they were, merely brought the estimates in line with those of the Commission and the IMF earlier this fall. The U.K. economy is now expected to grow 1.4 percent next year, according to the government, compared to 2.1 percent in the EU. But that’s not quite a fair comparison because Britain is still included in the EU number, dragging it down. That means the EU27’s performance is expected to be stronger.

Good morning, I’m Pierre Briançon in Paris, standing in for Ryan who’s out today. I can be reached at pbriancon@politico.eu and you can follow me on Twitter @PierreBri.

OTHER BREXIT NEWS

DON’T EVEN MENTION YOUR REBATE: POLITICO’s David M. Herszenhorn explains how the EU Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, seems to have chosen to simply ignore the infamous “British rebate” in his talks with the U.K. government. “Barnier repeatedly and pointedly pegs the U.K.’s financial obligations at 14 percent of the bloc’s budget … well above the 12.5 to 13 percent share that the U.K. actually pays into the EU’s coffers,” he writes. This is no small difference, and if Barnier has his way, that would mean some €10 billion or more added to the final Brexit bill the U.K. is being asked to pay.

Where Brexit hurts: Britain’s “treasured and already overstretched” National Health Service is already feeling the Brexit pain, the New York Times reports. Nurses and doctors are leaving London — or planning to — in droves. The paper tells the story of a nurse at Kings College Hospital, which is already short 528 nurses and midwives and 318 doctors.

Channel Tunnel update: Eurotunnel CEO Jacques Gounon is lobbying the EU to ensure there will be no disruption to the operations of the Channel Tunnel rail link between the U.K. and France after Brexit. POLITICO Transport, Brexit and Trade Pro subscribers can read more here. And ICYMI: In the best rebranding since Tronc, Eurotunnel is renaming itself GetLink in preparation for Brexit.

Op-ed of the day: Cambridge historian and leading Brexiteer Robert Tombs writes in Le Monde that the Brexit vote was not about nationalism but rather reflected the British people’s trust in its national political institutions.

FRENCH CORNER

SOCGEN VS. LE PEN: Speculation as to why Société Générale closed the accounts of the far-right National Front party earlier this month was rife in Paris on Tuesday after France’s second-largest bank officially confirmed it had done so. After the party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, complained she was the victim of a “financial fatwah,” SocGen felt obliged to issue a statement insisting that politics had nothing to do with the move. Still, no explanation was given for why the accounts were closed. Banks in France don’t have to disclose their reasons for such decisions.

A banker close to the situation however told Playbook there are only three major reasons banks take such action. The first is “incivility” — such as insults directed toward a bank employee. The second is fear the customer is unreliable. And the third is “uncertainty about the origin of the funds.” In recent years, French and European authorities have become increasingly wary of strange money transfers, Playbook’s source said, resulting in a tendency to err on the side of caution.

THE BOOK EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT (WITHOUT HAVING READ IT): “Deflagration” — actually best translated as “Detonation” — is the title Patrick Stefanini, the former campaign manager of conservative presidential candidate François Fillon, has given his book about his bitter experience. You may remember how Fillon, a former French prime minister, sank during the campaign on a string of scandals, notably allegations of misuse of public funds, which French judges are still investigating. Fillon’s fall was as fast as his surprising rise after he won the Conservative Party’s primary last November. Stefanini, who resigned after one scandal too many, and after Fillon refused to pull out of the race when placed under formal judicial probe, tells the story of a “slow-motion political disaster that looks unavoidable” in hindsight, according to Le Monde, whose reporter got a preview before the book’s formal release later this week.

A man hoping to avoid Fillon’s fate (or at least the part where it doesn’t end well): Laurent Wauquiez, the arch-right head of the Rhone Alpes region in South-East France, who hopes to become the next leader of the mainstream conservative Les Républicains party. POLITICO’s Maïa de la Baume and Nicholas Vinocur profile Wauquiez, who aims to position himself as the anti-Macron. He is also openly courting far-right votes, making many members of his own party so uneasy that a split now seems possible.

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS 

COUNCIL — PREPARING FOR EASTERN PARTNERSHIP SUMMIT: European Council President Donald Tusk on Thursday afternoon meets Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili ahead of Friday’s Eastern Partnership summit.

COMMISSION — NEW PROPOSAL FOR EU CIVIL PROTECTION MECHANISM: Christos Stylianides, European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, will update the EU’s civil protection mechanism, which aims to coordinate EU-wide responses to natural disasters. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tasked Stylianides with updating contingency plans after severe forest fires, floods and earthquakes struck different EU countries in recent months.

COMMISSIONERS ON TOUR: Juncker travels to Switzerland for a working lunch in Bern with Swiss President Doris Leuthard. First Vice President Frans Timmermans is in the Netherlands at Radboud University Nijmegen, while digital Commissioner Andrus Ansip and competition chief Margrethe Vestager are in Leuven for different events. Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis celebrates Latvian National Day in Brussels, while Vice President Jyrki Katainen is in his home country of Finland. Dimitris Avramopoulos, commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, is in Morocco on an official visit. Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan is home in Ireland for an event at the Irish Farmers Journal Dairy Day. Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Crețu is in Germany and Security Commissioner Julian King is at Oxford University to debate a serious matter on which all our readers, of course, have a strong view: “The house believes the decline and fall of the European Union is upon us.”

LOBBYING — APCO TO ADVISE BULGARIAN PRESIDENCY: Playbook’s Quentin Ariès reports APCO’s senior director, Nicholas Whyte, will lead efforts from the lobbying shop to advise Bulgaria’s upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU.

EU NATIONAL NEWS

POLAND — DIGITAL AMBITIONS: As Poland’s Euroskeptic Law and Justice party clashes with Brussels, the country’s digital policymakers have worked as part of a group of “like-minded” liberal states — including Sweden, Denmark, the U.K. and Estonia — leading the charge on digital issues. Joanna Plucinska profiles Digital Minister Anna Streżyńska.

LUXEMBOURG — LUXLEAKS TRIAL RESTARTS TODAY: Luxembourg’s High Court will rule on the appeal of LuxLeaks whistleblowers Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet. The two face legal action after sharing internal confidential documents and trade secrets with French journalist Edouard Perrin, who exposed the Luxembourg’s sweetheart tax deals with multinationals. Deltour was sentenced last March to a six-month suspended sentence and a €1,500 fine, while Halet received a €1,000 fine.

BOSNIA — MLADIĆ CONVICTED OF GENOCIDE: Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by a U.N. tribunal in The Hague.

BEYOND EUROPE

THANKSGIVING CORNER: POLITICO’s Christine Haughney reports how a recent Trump administration decision could crush small turkey farmers.

Donald Trump is not on vacation: The White House says the U.S. president, who arrived Wednesday at his palatial private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, to spend the long holiday weekend with his family, is not on vacation. Trump spent much of the day at the nearby Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.

Feast for the eyes (or not): Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas apologized for a nude selfie that circulated on the internet. Barton said he had consensual “sexual relationships with other mature adult women” while separated from, but before divorcing, his second wife.

Skip the thanks, straight to the shopping: Le Point has this story about the French going for “Black Friday”
sales big time even though they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. (In a nutshell: blame Amazon.)