24-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

24-09-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Monday, September 24, 2018

PM, DM Kammenos to kick Prespa agreement ‘down the road’ until March; Zaev quip quickly revised

Government sources on Friday quickly revealed that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, the head of a small right-wing party that props up the mostly leftist coalition government, have agreed to “revisit” the ostensibly divisive “Prespa Agreement” in March 2018.


Greek DM irked by front-page article; files criminal libel suit that jails publisher, two journalists for a day

The publisher of an Athens daily, an editor and a political reporter were freed from custody on Sunday morning after spending the night at a police precinct following a lawsuit by Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos over a front-page article that criticized him over alleged mismanagement of European funds to deal with the refugee crisis.


Tsipras-Erdogan meeting in NYC on Tues

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday in New York City, on the sidelines of the 73rd UN general assembly.


Political parties condemn beating of SYRIZA MP

Political parties on Sunday evening condemned an attack on SYRIZA MP for Messinia, Petros Konstantineas, near the Kalamata soccer ground.


Members of Rouvikonas anarchist group storm Athens church

A group of around 20 or 30 people believed to be members of the Rouvikonas anarchist group entered a church in central Athens on Sunday morning, shouting slogans during mass.


VAT takings fall, evasion grows

The Finance Ministry hiked value-added tax rates in the hope of reaping an extra 1 billion euros in revenues per year, but what it got was less than half of that – and an explosion in the phenomenon of tax evasion.


Greece to abolish capital controls by early 2019

The Greek Finance Ministry and Bank of Greece are planning to completely abolish capital controls by late this year or early next year, according to sources.


ATHEX: Stock benchmark rises 2.6 pct

The September triple witching and the restructuring of the FTSE indexes saw most Greek stocks posting healthy gains on Friday on a daily turnover of more than 100 million euros, leading to a weekly rise for the benchmark.








KATHIMERINI:  FYROM’s crossroad and the geopolitical poker game

TO VIMA: Mitsotakis’ confession: Agony and expectations for the next day

REAL NEWS:  Last chance for 120,000 debtors

PROTO THEMA:  We are paying 190 million Euros for the SYRIZA-affiliated workers in national broadcaster ERT

AVGI:  Progressive response to the European crisis


ETHNOS:  Traps in the procedure regarding the exemption from municipal charges

TA NEA:  70,000 ‘hot’ food portions: Unanswered questions regarding the transparency in the alimentation of refugees

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Lynching in broad daylight in Omonia square [downtown Athens]

KONTRA NEWS:  The Prespes agreement will pass through the parliament with broad majority

DIMOKRATIA:  They are snatching the coffers of archeological spaces

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Significant changes in taxation linked to real estate transfers

EU BIG IN NEW YORK: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has been a money man for decades, in his past lives as finance minister and chairman of the Eurogroup. But he has recently discovered a new love for foreign affairs, making reform of the EU’s common foreign policy a main priority for the remainder of his term. This week he’ll get hands-on, attending the United Nations General Assembly week in New York. Council President Donald Tusk will address the General Assembly on the EU’s behalf on Thursday and is around all week; his schedule here.

Africa on the agenda: The main thrust (and selling point) of Juncker’s visit is promoting the Commission’s Africa plan — and that’s reflected in his appointments. He’s calling for a shift from development aid to economic partnerships with Africa, as set out in his State of the Union speech. Consider this an attempt to export something that has arguably worked within Europe: The “Juncker plan” started a shift from subsidies to guarantees, which is perhaps a concept only a long-time finance minister could have come up with.

A plea for multilateralism: When the U.S. steps aside, the EU fills the void — that was Juncker’s message at the beginning of his trip. “We are also here to say that the multilateral approach is not dead, it has to be maintained — it is the only chance we have to shape the future of the globe in a way which is acceptable for all the stakeholders,” said Juncker at a joint press statement with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres Sunday night (Brussels time). “We do not like the unilateral approach. We do think that multilateralism has to have a chance.” He promised that the EU “will remain the close partner of the United Nations and of António Guterres” and “that we are supporting the initiatives of the secretary-general to reform the Organization of the United Nations.”


THE EU’S NEXT SALVO: The Commission this week — as early as today — is expected to start the next phase of an infringement procedure against the U.K. for “failure to make customs duties available to the EU budget,” according to EU officials. In layman’s terms, action is being taken because British authorities for years failed to uncover the fact that importers evaded some €2.7 billion in customs duties by using fictitious or false invoices for Chinese goods, according to a 2017 report from the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF. The U.K. now has two months to react; the next step is a court referral.

Why is this happening, and why is it happening now? The rebuke comes days after EU leaders (minus British PM Theresa May) discussed their stance on Brexit. Wasn’t Salzburg enough of a humiliation (as our British confrères saw it)? Consider this another reality check for the U.K. from the EU: Why should Brussels allow Britain to collect customs duties on the EU’s behalf after Brexit (which is part of the proposals in the PM’s Chequers plan) when London can’t even do things properly while still a member? Plus, in more prosaic terms, Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger wants his money, and he’d like it before Brexit Day. Finally, you can never have too many bad cops, as far as some in Brussels and other EU capitals are concerned.

HOLD YOUR NOSE: Advice to Continental folk: Brexit is going to stink over the next few weeks. You got a shot of it on Friday when Theresa May doubled down, disappointed that her own perhaps too literal understanding of the Chequers plan didn’t go down well with her peers, when she threatened to poison all European cherries and, her voice trembling, demanded “respect.” You got the chaser when the Sun newspaper, which had previously been very vocal in its criticism of Chequers, branded European leaders criticizing the PM’s plan as “mobsters” and “dirty rats.”

We might even see this unfortunate British habit reemerge: Underestimating the EU’s readiness to support and defend Ireland — which is and will remain an EU member — and overestimating its own hand as a soon-to-be third country. But anyway, here’s where we stand: Britain, the Brexiteers’ dearest tabloids included, is rallying behind May. And that’s perhaps not the worst outcome of the Salzburg summit for the next few weeks (until the Tory conference is over) — at least if you’re an EU leader who wants to strike a deal with a Prime Minister Theresa May.

OPINION — Your fault, marm: In the search for someone to blame for Britain’s Salzburg disaster, some have identified the prime minister’s Europe adviser Olly Robbins, and others pointed the finger at May’s political team. But former British diplomat Arthur Snell writes that the fault lies in the ecosystem of Theresa May’s government, rather than the individuals involved. “British government machinery tends to be more comfortable executing a task than questioning fundamental assumptions,” Snell writes in an op-ed for POLITICO.

PRO TIP: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras might be a good person for May to talk to at some point soon. He’s the one with the most and (most painful) experience of the EU’s ability to stick to its red lines. In the Greek case, Brussels told him not to mess with the euro area’s joint currency, and made Tsipras look ridiculous for a quite some time to his own people when he had to perform a 180-degree U-turn back in 2015. And yet, he’s still around and in power.


END OF A CHAPTER: On Friday, a group of about 120 Commission officials gathered in the Berlaymont. An improbable couple — Jean-Claude Juncker and Pierre Moscovici, the commissioner for the euro — invited the group of people who were directly involved in managing the Greek crisis to raise a glass to the country and the end of its odyssey, after all those years under European rescue programs. The Commission president in his speech praised the people involved, according to officials present, for their commitment, which “nobody had bothered to say thank you for,” said one participant. Juncker also praised the Commission for having done the right thing — and for being the one to do it, despite the many others who claimed to be Greece’s saviors once the crisis was over.

THE NEXT FINANCIAL CRISIS? The Juncker-Mosco drinks may have come during an interlude between financial crises. Later this week, the Italian government is due to present its budget for 2019 to parliament, which is a crucial moment that could either calm markets or stir new turmoil. The government has made potentially conflicting promises to the EU (that Italy will respect budget rules) and voters (money, money, money), and is moving closer to a freak out.

In a leaked audio recording, Rocco Casalino, spokesman to Italy’s prime minister, said that the 5Star Movement, a member of the ruling coalition, would embark on a “vendetta” to remove civil servants if they serve the state, not the government. “If in the end they tell us ‘ah, we couldn’t find the money’ then we’ll devote the whole of 2019 to getting rid of all these pieces of shit at the [Treasury],” Casalino said, adding that a “mega-vendetta is ready.”

FAR RIGHT ATTACK IN ITALY: MEP Eleonora Forenza and her assistant were among several people attacked and hospitalized by members of the far-right CasaPound organization during anti-racism protests in Bari in southern Italy on Friday night. Lili Bayer has the details.

NEXT ANTITRUST STANDOFF: Margrethe Vestager and her fellow antitrust regulators worldwide are investigating whether tech companies’ use of data harms consumers. “It’s going to be a bare-knuckle fight,” writes Mark Scott. “In one corner stand some of the world’s largest tech companies like Google, Facebook and Apple, whose ever-expanding economic might comes to a large extent from data … In the other corner are the world’s most powerful antitrust authorities from Brussels to Berlin to Washington, who increasingly question if a small stable of Silicon Valley companies should be the sole gatekeepers for data on all aspects of our activities online.”

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ’S VENEZUELA PROBLEM: A growing number of Venezuelans are fleeing hunger, violence and political chaos and taking refuge in Spain, writes Diego Torres. And for Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez, the controversial role played by one of his predecessors, and the links between Caracas and Sánchez’s parliamentary allies, could have a big impact on his political future.


KUSHNER’S MISSION: WINNING OVER WEALTHY TRUMP SKEPTICS. After the Trump campaign dismissed elite donors in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. election, the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has recently taken on the role of ambassador to the Republicans’ moneyed set, reports Alex Isenstadt.

SECOND KAVANAUGH ACCUSER COMES FORWARD: Brett Kavanaugh’s prospects of being confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court suffered another major setback on Sunday night when a second woman accused him of sexual assault decades ago, and a prominent lawyer took to Twitter claiming a third woman has “credible information.” POLITICO’s U.S. team has the latest.


LATEST FROM THE MAAßEN FRONT: The German governing coalition takes its dispute over the fate of intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maaßen so seriously that it came together for the third time within 10 days to discuss how to remove him from his current job (which the SPD wants) without firing him (because the CSU’s Horst Seehofer thinks highly of him) and without breaking up the government. It’s resolved (for now): Maaßen will not be promoted to secretary of state (which was the outcome of last week’s crisis meeting) but will get a new role as a “special advisor” of sorts in the interior ministry.

HOLDING ON, BUT FOR HOW LONG: Liviu Dragnea, Romania’s de facto ruler, managed to keep his job at the helm of the Social Democratic Party after an intense full-day group meeting Friday, our own Anca Gurzu writes in to report. Dragnea has been under growing pressure to resign, as dissatisfaction with him continued to mount within his group. But after negotiations with his opponents, Dragnea managed to get the vote of confidence he needed. However, an internal S&D poll showed that if Dragnea ran for the presidential election today, only 4 percent of the population would vote for him.

ADIOS: The Commission’s current Director-General for Health and Food Safety Xavier Prats Monné will start work as special advisor for the Teach For All NGO, he wrote in an email to friends, colleagues and Brussels folk Sunday. “I have received an offer I cannot refuse to return to a policy area I am passionate about: education,” he wrote. Prats Monné will remain in Brussels. Earlier this month, the Commission nominated French national Anne Bucher to succeed Prats Monné as DG.

NEW ROLE: Former Austrian Health Minister Pamela Rendi-Wagner is set to become the new chairwoman of the country’s opposition Social Democrat Party (SPÖ). The party’s 16-member leadership team unanimously elected Rendi-Wagner in a specially convened meeting Saturday. The decision will be formally endorsed by the 70-strong party executive Tuesday.