24-01-2019 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

24-01-2019 | EYE ON GREECE 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

ND leader Mitsotakis rejects idea for censure motion

Greece’s main opposition party will not table a censure motion against the government over its disagreement on the Prespes accord, according to Kathimerini’s sources on Wednesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/236922/article/ekathimerini/news/nd-leader-mitsotakis-rejects-idea-for-censure-motion

Gov’t braces for vote on Prespes deal amid tension

A second day of debate on the Prespes name deal is to culminate in a vote in Parliament late tonight with the government expected to secure ratification for the contentious accord.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/236932/article/ekathimerini/news/govt-braces-for-vote-on-prespes-deal-amid-tension

Labor minister promises minimum monthly wage hikes, payment plan for social insurance arrears

Labor Minister Efi Achtsioglou told “Naftemporiki” newspaper this week that the Tsipras government’s planned increase of the minimum monthly wage, as well as the abolition of a “sub-minimum” scale for wage-earners under the age of 25, will also affect – upwards – no less than 24 different subsidies and stipends related to the wage scale level.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1437211/labor-minister-promises-minimum-monthly-wage-hikes-payment-plan-for-social-insurance-arrears

Political storm, NPLs delay issue

The Finance Ministry is putting off the issue of a five-year bond, which is all set in technical terms, until the domestic political dust settles and the effort to reduce the credit sector’s bad-loan stock results in a breakthrough.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/236935/article/ekathimerini/business/political-storm-npls-delay-issue

One non-binding bid for bankrupt Elefsina shipyard

A prospective buyer of the troubled Elefsina shipyard, in the same-name industrial district due west of greater Athens, has reportedly cited 13 conditions for the sale, all included in a non-binding offer tabled to KPMG, the firm hired by the creditor bank to seek out possible suitors.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1437437/one-non-binding-bid-for-bankrupt-elefsina-shipyard

ATHEX: Index edges higher on late price rally

A late rally by Greek stocks during Wednesday’s closing auctions at Athinon Avenue sufficed to offset all of the session’s losses, with the benchmark ending in positive territory and rising stocks outnumbering the losers by one.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/236933/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-index-edges-higher-on-late-price-rally

www.enikos.gr

www.protothema.gr

www.newsbomb.gr

www.cnn.gr

www.newsbeast.gr

KATHIMERINI:  Prespes accord: Hazy spots and the final showdown

ETHNOS:  Minimum wage to increase 10%

TA NEA:  The Greek parliament is going to ratify FYROM’s… invisible constitution

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Date with history

AVGI:  Historical responsibility for everyone

RIZOSPASTIS:  Everybody join the Communist Party’s rallies against the accord between Tsipras-Zaev, NATO’s plans and nationalism

KONTRA NEWS:  Full speed astern by New Democracy leader Mitsotakis

TO PONTIKI:  Clash between Tsipras and Mitsotakis: “All in” – “Call”

DIMOKRATIA:  The Skopjans are attempting to deceive us!

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Green light for the placement of funds in Greece


ALL EYES ON SOUTHERN MACEDONIA TODAY: A vote in the Greek parliament on the agreement with Macedonia on its new name is scheduled for late today. The debate started Wednesday with the usual brouhaha, followed by another no-confidence motion in the government. And while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ coalition formally broke apart earlier this week, he not-so-miraculously survived opposition (EPP) party New Democracy’s attempt to oust him. After all, getting a result on the Macedonia question is in all parties’ interest for an upcoming election.

Perhaps that’s an omen for today’s vote. Predictions range from a tight win to a relatively comfortable one, given the circumstances, with 153 out of 300 votes for Tsipras’ deal. The hope in Brussels and beyond is that Greek MPs will be gracious enough to allow their neighbors to call their own country North Macedonia.

GOOD MORNING. “If only British politics were Balkanized, just that little bit,” a Western Balkans connoisseur told me over a Davos nightcap of sparkling water. While in public the fight in Greece over North Macedonia has been as brutal and unforgiving as the one being waged in London over Brexit, in the end, one way or another when it comes to Hellenic affairs, the votes in parliament are always there.

LEADERS LIVE

MERKEL, MULTILATERALIST. German Chancellor Angela Merkel used the World Economic Forum in Davos to launch an appeal to the world’s remaining multilateralists to gather round the embers and reignite the fire. It was always going to go down well with a crowd that runs on the conviction (and some would go as far as to say the evidence) that trade increases wealth, and that tackling global issues *is* a global issue. Admitting that the state of the world looks “rather gloomy,” Merkel said she’s looking for multilateralism-champion allies — as “anything else would lead to misery.”

Japan puts its hand up: “Japan is determined to preserve and further develop the free, open and rule-based international order,” declared Prime Minister Shinzō Abe Wednesday, presenting his government’s agenda for the G20 presidency, which Japan holds this year.

She’s not done yet: Merkel called on her allies to reform the world order they believe in. Presenting a pretty clear agenda, the chancellor acknowledged how hard it is to reform international organizations. The crux of Merkel’s dilemma: She needs Trump and friends, and she knows it. “I must say unequivocally, a global architecture will only work if we are willing to compromise,” the chancellor noted.

Was it a legacy speech and a farewell to Davos? Merkel is spending noticeably more time in the Swiss Alps in 2019 than she has in previous years, and attended a WEF-organized dinner Wednesday (a rather unimpressed participant told Playbook she “spoke at length.”) The forum’s founder Klaus Schwab told Merkel after her afternoon speech in the Davos main auditorium that he hoped she’d keep coming many more times, preferably not as a retiree but as an active leader. Merkel’s response: “Well, you have me today,” adding that he should be happy with what he’s got.

CONTE, EXPLAINING HIMSELF: At the beginning of her speech, Merkel reminded her audience that she couldn’t attend the summit last year because of ongoing German government coalition talks. She assured folks that Germany now has a stable government that’s working on an international agenda. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte followed a very different path in his address, defending his government against presumed criticism.

Conte’s defensive strategy: Telling everyone they’re on the wrong path. “For too many years, Italian and European politicians have got the sequencing wrong … in the past they have asked people to make sacrifices in the name of a more sparkling future … fearing state failure, they have asked people to tolerate market failures. Citizens are now are aware that sacrifices have resulted in a much worse society,” Conte said.

Italy must have been a horrible place! Italians believed the EU was the solution to their problems, Conte said, but “reality turned out to be very different instead.” And so, “everyone with a few exceptions senses that tomorrow will be worse than today.”

Here’s the kicker: “My government is the institutional answer to the wish of the Italian people of finding a way forward,” Conte said.

FRANCO-ITALIAN BRAWL: In the customary style of today’s Italian politicians, Conte made an undiplomatic reference to the French protestors in yellow jackets: “History teaches us that anything can happen if people feel deceived,” he said. Italian citizens, he said, have been wise, as they “have not taken the streets to actively voice their rage. Rather, they use democratic elections to dismiss the old elites.”

SPEAKING OF THE FRANCO-ITALIAN BRAWL: Conte’s not the first high-ranking Italian politician to pour salt into France’s wounds. Paris is already furious with Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio for supporting the Yellow Jackets and linking French foreign policy to the drowning of about 170 migrants at the weekend. Hannah Roberts explains why Italy’s 5Stars are lecturing France on Africa. Spoiler alert: It looks like a calculated attempt by the party to win back votes from the populist right and left fringes ahead of May’s election for the European Parliament.

AND SPEAKING OF MIGRATION FIGHTS

(ANOTHER) LOOMING CRISIS: A Maltese official told our own Maxime Schlee Wednesday that “we have another migration crisis looming.” The Sea Watch 3 migrant rescue ship, carrying about 50 migrants, was refused entry into Lampedusa, Italy after spending “hours awaiting authorization,” the official said.

Malta bound: “Obviously Sea Watch 3 will now be sailing to Malta and Malta would have to sort out the problem once again after just one week,” the official added. “It cannot be that Europe, a continent of 500 million people, cannot be able to sort out this problem. As Malta, we are very much willing to take our fair share of responsibility but we cannot base our action on ad-hoc measures.”

Not my problem, said Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini. In a statement in Italian distributed to journalists, the League leader said: “Sea Watch is sailing towards Malta as conditions are worsening. It’s necessary that Malta accepts [the ship] in its own port as the Netherlands — which calls on other countries to disembark migrants — has to be ready to collaborate with Valletta to run the disembarking and the reception under Brussels’ coordination.” (h/t Jacopo Barigazzi)

Background reading.

SEE YOU IN COURT

RULING DU JOUR: The European Court of Human Rights will hand down its ruling in the Amanda Knox v. Italy case at 11 a.m. this morning. Knox, who was convicted and sentenced to three years’ prison for making a malicious accusation in the investigation into the murder of her flatmate Meredith Kercher in Italy, argued the proceedings were unfair and that she wasn’t properly informed about the accusations against her. She also alleged that she suffered ill-treatment during a police interview. More details here.

Also happening at the ECHR: The court will hold its annual press conference at 9:30 a.m. in Strasbourg this morning. President Guido Raimondi will present a summary of the ECHR’s activities and statistics for 2018. You can watch live here.

DAVOS DISPATCH

EUROPE’S GOT TALENT: I had lunch with a very interesting high-level bunch of people (under Chatham House rules) Wednesday. They’re thinking hard about how to make Europe more than a self-appraised champion in privacy and data protection — but at the same time, to make sure the next big thing in tech is European. (Here’s an accompanying WEF report on the matter.)

The mood was upbeat: The consensus: Europe is a great place to live and work. Five observations …

It’s a European affair: “We just need to get a few things right,” Portuguese Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira told Playbook, citing “collaboration across countries, making sure that funding is appropriate to process that — and in that way we’ll do another favor to Europe, making sure that every citizen around Europe has an opportunity to thrive in the new economy.”

Make the beauties of Europe known: “If I had to make my decision today, I wouldn’t move to the U.S.,” said one participant, calling for the EU to make it known to masters and PhD students from India that they’re welcome on the Continent (and to change immigration laws accordingly).

Small can be beautiful: “Europe isn’t made for scale,” said another of my lunch-mates. But that doesn’t have to be a disadvantage, should the next tech wave not produce consumer-based platforms but solutions for businesses. French-American entrepreneur Hicham Sabir, who was at the lunch, told me afterwards: “I think Europe’s strength is in the small and medium enterprises, it’s in the innovation position it already has.”

So, adapt: “What’s missing is a framework to helps those companies,” said Sabir. “We need to catalyze investment — there is a lot of money in Europe, but we put it in the wrong places.” He added: “The kind of entrepreneurs we have in Europe is different from the U.S.” He hopes SME incubators could help trigger “growth in regions away from London, Munich, or Paris, in regions that today struggle economically.”

Invent useful things, not just anything: “I think it is about unleashing that potential — the passion, what we do well. And that you harness it to something that is useful to people,” European Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas told me after the lunch.

Speaking of harnessing… I questioned the title of the session I had the pleasure of moderating, which referred to “harnessing” innovation potential. Why wouldn’t one want innovation to go wild? “Innovation at the end of the day is something that is new, and useful,” said Moedas.

NEW ERASMUS NUMBERS: The European Commission will present its annual report on the Erasmus student exchange program today. Playbook got a sneak preview of the latest, 2017 numbers. More people than ever before participated, with 800,000 going abroad to study or train — up 10 percent. The price tag: €2.6 billion spent on Erasmus.

AROUD THE EU

BROK UPDATE: Veteran EU lawmaker Elmar Brok has asked a tax adviser to check allegations in a POLITICO story that he netted surpluses from charging constituents to cover the costs of visiting him at the European Parliament, reveals Maxime Schlee, who broke the initial story earlier this week. The comments by Brok are a change of stance, after he previously dismissed the allegations.

INSIDE FACEBOOK’S FIGHT AGAINST EUROPEAN REGULATION: POLITICO’s Laura Kayali has got her hands on dozens of Commission documents, which show how Facebook pushed back against rules on issues ranging from copyright to privacy.

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT: The Latvian parliament confirmed Krišjānis Kariņš as the country’s new prime minister, with 61 votes in favor and 39 against. Kariņš, who until now was an MEP for the EPP’s New Unity, presented his five-party coalition government to parliament Wednesday. The coalition theoretically had 66 MPs out of 100.

Steady as she goes: Latvia will “continue its Euro-Atlantic course,” Kariņš said in parliament. “That will not change.” His No. 1 domestic priority is to continue bringing order to his country’s financial sector, to ensure struggling banks avoid becoming “a threat to the whole of society,” according to public broadcaster LSM.

On the EU level, the EPP now has nine heads of state or government.

ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT BREXIT?

YES. DEEP BREATH.

BARNIER ON BREXIT: So here’s the EU’s Brexit negotiator on the record on the EU’s state of readiness and conditions for when Prime Minister Theresa May returns to Brussels: “I have the impression that the backstop is not the central issue. Ultimately, the debate in Britain is about what the future of the U.K. will look like. I believe that we can overcome the current difficulties when we discuss that issue together.” The comments were made in an interview with a number of papers. Pick your favourite language: German: Luxembourger Wort; French: Le Monde; Polish: Rzeczpospolita.

Let me translate Barnier for you: The higher the U.K. climbs back up the Barnier stairway to no-deal hell, the less important the backstop. Hammering that message home, Barnier said: “We cannot tie the backstop to a time limit.”

Extension? If Britain asks for an extension, EU leaders “will only agree if three questions are answered,” Barnier said. “First and second, why and how long? And third, will not that be a problem for holding the EU election in May? I have no clear legal answer to the third question yet. It is important the EU’s democratic processes are not disturbed by this, however.” He continued, “The first two questions are complex and interconnected: [There needs to be] a stable majority in London for all laws related to Brexit that need to be adopted. This will need time,” he said.

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES … of Michel Barnier becoming the next president of the European Commission? Betting company Ladbrokes has cut its odds on Barnier from 16/1 to 10/1, putting him in a tie for third place in the betting alongside Margrethe Vestager, but behind Manfred Weber and Frans Timmermans.

LISTEN IN: Ryan Heath interviewed former Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt for the latest Davos Confidential podcast. It’s worth a listen — she tears strips off Theresa May and her approach to Brexit, explains the critical value of supporting children raised in conflict and its aftermath, and says it’s time for a woman to hold one of the EU’s presidential positions (the customary “this is not a job application” included).

THE GREAT BRITISH STOCKPILE: From airplane food to car parts, companies are hoarding goods to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. Problem is, they’re running out of space to store it in, report Simon Marks, Kait Bolongaro and Joshua Posaner.