24-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

24-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Athens wildfires: Death toll rises to 24 as huge fire sweeps through holiday resorts

Gale-fanned wildfires raged through holiday resorts near Greece’s capital, killing at least 24 people by early Tuesday and injuring more than 100, including 11 in serious condition, in the country’s deadliest fire season in more than a decade.


Tsipras cuts Bosnia visit short due to wildfires back home

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was cutting short his visit to Bosnia on Monday, in the wake of a bevy of wildfires that erupted almost simultaneous around the greater Athens area the same day.


Fresh warning for Greece to stick to reforms

European Stability Mechanism chief Klaus Regling issued a new clear warning to the Greek government that if it deviates from the course of reforms, the debt-easing measures decided last month will be suspended.


State’s arrears to private sector reach 2.38 bln€

Τhe general government’s arrears to the private sector reached 2.385 billion euros at the end of May 2018.


Unemployment in Greece up in June 2018 after 5 straight months of dropping

The official unemployment increased in Greece in June 2018 after five successive months of decreasing, with more than 923,000 people registered on jobless rolls in the month, up by nearly 12,000 from the previous month.


Tax inequality gets greater every year

The pool of businesses and households in Greece that is being called on to pay ever-increasing taxes keeps shrinking so that 19 percent of taxpayers are responsible for covering 90 percent of the overall income tax.


ATHEX: Bourse sees turnover drop to lowest level in 18 months

With August more than a week away, daily turnover at the Athens stock market fell to the lowest point in 18 months on Monday, while the benchmark lost ground for a third consecutive session. Athinon Avenue appears to be on auto-pilot in the absence of any notable factors that might change its course.







KATHIMERINI:  Blazing bane in Attica

ETHNOS:  Attica into ashes

TA NEA:  Dante’s inferno


AVGI:  Difficult hours for Attica and Greece

RIZOSPASTIS:  The policy that sacrifices anti-fire protection is guilty of the wildfires’ casualties

KONTRA NEWS:  The wildfires are the result of an organized plan

DIMOKRATIA:  Days of 2007 [when large wildfires burned the Peloponnese and resulted in large human casualties]

NAFTEMPORIKI:  5 taxes worth 2,5 billion Euros that will have to be paid within 7 days

BREXIT PREPAREDNESS: The German government is mulling sending a rather bold signal to U.K. citizens (less so to the government) via a first draft bill, which Playbook has seen, on how to transpose a potential Brexit transition period into national law.

Two main legal points: During the transition, Britain will be regarded as an EU member, period. Plus, British citizens who want to become German nationals (and fulfill the requirements to do so) will be allowed to request a bordeaux passport until the very last day of the transition, and won’t need to worry about being treated as non-EU nationals afterward if they do so. That makes a difference for the right to keep their British nationality in addition to the new one.

The bill is called ‘Brexit-Übergangsgesetz,’ or BrexitÜG for short. (Shame on you for poking fun at the German umlaute.) Linn Selle, the new president of the European Movement Germany, told Playbook she was pleased with these “generous rules for British nationals,” which will send “the right sign for the Europe-friendly Britons.” Who does she expect will make the best use of the German invitation? “After all, only [52 percent] wanted Brexit. Most of them would probably know by now that they better remain Europeans. A German EU passport can certainly help.”

Service entry: Perhaps those U.K. government translators deserve a second chance, after the rather disastrous outcome of an exercise to make the Chequers white paper accessible in the EU’s other languages. Here’s your training material guys.

GOOD TUESDAY MORNING. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was in Berlin Monday. Joshua Posaner reports that Hunt called for the friendship to continue after Brexit, “similar to that between Australia and New Zealand, Germany and Switzerland,” and described Germany as one of Britain’s “best friends in the world,” standing “shoulder-to-shoulder” for a rules-based world order since 1945.

But then look at this quote: “Without a real change in approach from the EU negotiators … we do now face a real risk of a Brexit no deal by accident,” said Hunt, indicating the U.K. plans to blame the EU for such an outcome. Now is that part of a new strategy to normalize the scenario of a no-deal Brexit? Discuss.

Winning battles, losing wars: The latest New Yorker has an extensive profile on Theresa May, and the wars she’s fighting on all fronts — with Trump, Europe and her Tory party — as she pushes through Brexit.


COMMISSION TO THE RESCUE: The European Commission will today promise to help reduce tensions among EU countries — at a boiling point over the past weeks — about who takes in people rescued at sea. It will no longer be Italy by default, as the government and in particular its strongman Interior Minister Matteo Salvini made clear. It won’t be small Malta. France, in cases like these, gets selective amnesia about the existence of its pretty Mediterranean coastline. And the new Spanish government has shown its goodwill once, but will it continue to do so?

‘Coordinating’ to keep Italy on board: The Commission, in a paper due to be presented today, will promise to act as a coordinator over the summer for new boat arrivals. It won’t be determining the port of disembarkation, but it will coordinate between countries willing to accept some of the people on board, an EU official briefed on the matter told Playbook. That would mean following up on Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s promise, made in a letter to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte last week, that Brussels will help resolve Italy’s migration woes, as we first reported here.

Beyond that, the Commission in today’s paper is going to spell out what “closed centers” within the EU mean. Remember, it was part of the summit compromise to create such centers, but no leader put their hand up to host one. Today, the Commission will say how much support it is planning to offer. According to officials, “mobile teams” consisting of up to 300 staff could be deployed to help with the whole process, from registering and processing asylum requests to guarding borders. Also part of the Commission’s ideal team: “escort officers for returns,” interpreters, “experts in voluntary relocation,” Europol staff for security checks and doctors (who would need to come from EU countries).

The second paper of the day will be on the “disembarkation centers” in third countries. (Side note: The term “disembarkation centers” has been translated into German in ways which few throughout history have suffered.) The Commission will stress its readiness to deliver support to “the specific political, security and socio-economic situation of interested third countries,” an official said. (Of course, that presupposes that there are interested third countries, and we’ve yet to hear of any.) “No country will be approached” until the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration and the European Commission “agree on a joint approach at a meeting on July 30,” the official added.

BOTTOM LINE: Keep reading Playbook because there’s no sign of this issue going away over the summer. And this is key: The Commission’s two papers have the potential to actually define that which the summit in June left open: What do the centers, which made both Angela Merkel and Giuseppe Conte happy, actually mean? EU ambassadors will take the discussion from there at a meeting today.


GREEK FIRE UPDATE: Greece has asked other countries for help fighting a number of fires raging out of control around the country. Latest on the fires here from Kathimerini.

MR. JUNCKER GOES TO WASHINGTON: On his visit to Washington on Wednesday, Juncker wants to defuse the tensions between the EU and the U.S. — to “stay engaged in dialogue,” to use the EU’s latest favorite phrase — his spokesman Margaritis Schinas said. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the Commission president will put a concrete offer on the table.

(Un)political businesses: CEOs of European companies have been silent on the topic of a rules-based global trade system, which has been one of the key drivers of their success. Why is that? Die Welt has a story on what CEOs are most afraid of: one of those Trump “revenge tweets.”

Those brave Germans: Some 56 percent of respondents in a new poll reckon Europe can defend itself without American help. Which prompts two questions: Do they also think that would be possible without raising defense spending? And does the rest of Europe think it’s a good idea for Germany — the one country that Europe needed America to defend it from in two world wars — to lead such efforts?

AI ON MERKEL’S MIND: One of the first things Angela Merkel told a group of experts in artificial intelligence during a closed-door meeting in late May was that they should be frank with her. “I’m used to bad news,” Merkel said, according to a participant’s recollection. After three hours, Merkel left concerned, Janosch Delcker reports, and made her worries public a month later. “For centuries, or let’s say since the age of Enlightenment, we in Europe were used to being the first ones to come up with technological innovations,” she told a tech conference. “That’s not the case anymore today. And this should worry us.”

JUST A HELPING HAND! Emmanuel Macron’s former top bodyguard said through his lawyers Monday that he was “lending a hand” to police when he was caught on film assaulting protesters earlier this year. The statement was the latest ripple in a scandal that has knocked the French president off balance for the first time since he swept to power in 2017, forcing allies to face questions from lawmakers and prompting allegations of a “cover-up” by the Elysée. Gabriela Galindo and Nicholas Vinocur have the story.

OPINION — DON’T CUT FUNDS TO POLAND OVER RULE OF LAW CONCERNS: Robert Biedroń, the mayor of Słupsk in Poland and the founder of Campaign Against Homophobia, writes in an op-ed that Brussels’ plans to link funding to rule of law risks harming the people it wants to help.


WILL WE EVER KNOW WHAT TRUMP TOLD PUTIN? “When you hear the Fake News talking negatively about my meeting with President Putin, and all that I gave up, remember, I gave up NOTHING,” Trump tweeted Monday morning. Under virtually any other president, the meeting would have been recorded, allowing intelligence agencies to confirm this was so. But American spies are instead resorting to top-secret tools to find out what the Russians say was said in Helsinki, reports Josh Meyer.

No friend of ours: Congressional Republicans want nothing to do with Vladimir Putin, and hope Trump yanks his invitation to visit Washington this fall, report Elana Schor and Burgess Everett.

Preparing for life after Sarah: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says publicly she has no plans to leave the administration — but some Trump advisors are contemplating “life after Sarah,” report Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook.