25-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

25-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dozens killed in fires amid signs of inadequate state planning

A massive effort was under way on Tuesday to extinguish the most disastrous wildfires Attica has seen in decades, with the official death toll at 74 though rescue workers warned that this number would rise as dozens of people remained unaccounted for and 11 in intensive care.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/231069/article/ekathimerini/news/dozens-killed-in-fires-amid-signs-of-inadequate-state-planning

Greek PM declares 3-day period of mourning for wildfire victims

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared a three-day period of mourning for the victims of a deadly wildfire that swept through a coastal stretch of eastern Attica prefecture over the previous 24 hours.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1375504/greek-pm-declares-3-day-period-of-mourning-for-wildfire-victims

Italy, Romania sending more aircraft, minister says

Greece’s public order minister has said Italy is dispatching two Canadair firefighting planes and Romania is sending a third aircraft to help combat wildfires near the Greek capital that have claimed the lives of at least 74 people.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/231079/article/ekathimerini/news/italy-romania-sending-more-aircraft-minister-says

EU offers states funding to take in migrants

European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos Tuesday proposed financial incentives to European Union member-states to take in migrants from Mediterranean rescue boats as Italian authorities continue to turn away such vessels.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/231061/article/ekathimerini/news/eu-offers-states-funding-to-take-in-migrants

Tax revenues underperformed in the first half

The course of tax revenues in the first half of the year is a cause for concern at the Finance Ministry, as they came in 25 million euros below the target set for the January-June period, according to the latest official data.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/231072/article/ekathimerini/business/tax-revenues-underperformed-in-the-first-half

ATHEX: Early gains vanish in the Athens bourse

Afternoon selling at the Greek stock market offset all of Tuesday morning’s gains, leading the main index at Athinon Avenue lower for a fourth consecutive day.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/231070/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-early-gains-vanish-in-the-athens-bourse

www.enikos.gr


www.protothema.gr

www.newsbomb.gr

www.cnn.gr

www.newsbeast.gr

KATHIMERINI:  National tragedy, huge responsibilities

ETHNOS:  Armageddon

TA NEA:  Rage and sorrow

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Mourning, agony and solidarity

AVGI:  Greece mourns

RIZOSPASTIS:  Never-ending catastrophe

KONTRA NEWS:  Constant crime by mayors and forest authorities

DIMOKRATIA:  It’s a crime

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

EUROPE GETS MOVING TO HELP GREECE: Cyprus, Italy and Romania are sending aircraft, ground forces and vehicles to help Greece fight wildfires that have killed dozens. Cyprus, Spain and Bulgaria had already offered assistance. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aide Christos Stylianides arrived in Athens late Tuesday, his team said, to coordinate with Greek authorities. Sweden and Latvia, which also requested support to fight their own fires, are getting help too.

MINDSET AWARENESS I: U.S. President Donald Trump struck a threatening tone (“tariffs are the greatest!,” he tweeted), but then appeared to send the message (without resorting to ALL CAPS) that he was ready to talk when Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker visits today. Trump tweeted: “Countries that have treated us unfairly on trade for years are all coming to Washington to negotiate. This should have taken place many years ago but, as the saying goes, better late than never!”

Irony alert: Later, Trump followed up with another tweet: “The European Union is coming to Washington tomorrow to negotiate a deal on Trade. I have an idea for them. Both the U.S. and the E.U. drop all Tariffs, Barriers and Subsidies! That would finally be called Free Market and Fair Trade! Hope they do it, we are ready — but they won’t!” The missive came on the same day Trump announced plans for $12 billion in subsidies for U.S. farmers to compensate them for trade losses as a result of his tariffs (and the foreign retaliation in response to them).

Trump’s $12B plan isn’t playing well with the EU, nor with free-trade-loving Republicans: “This is becoming more and more like a Soviet-type of economy here: Commissars deciding who’s going to be granted waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits,” said Republican Senator Ron Johnson. “I’m very exasperated. This is serious.”

MINDSET AWARENESS II: The Europeans’ best hope is that Juncker, an old fox in politics, will pull something off — without giving away anything that’s dear to Europe, such as its self-esteem, or its commitment to a multilateral order. Trump claims to be a transactional guy. If he really is — and if that means he really wants a deal more than an escalation — things may just work out. Remember: There’s no better school for learning how to forge compromises than Brussels.

Two ideas that Juncker has in his bag: Juncker will present two ideas for ending the trade impasse — but any negotiations will depend on Trump lifting tariffs on EU steel and aluminum and not imposing new tariffs on European autos, according to an EU official. The first idea would be for the United States, the EU, Japan, South Korea and other nations that are significant makers of autos and auto parts to negotiate a “pluri-lateral” agreement aimed at reducing tariffs on those products to zero. The second idea would be to negotiate a limited free trade agreement between the United States and the EU focused only on industrial tariffs. More here by Doug Palmer. Both (fudge) ideas have been around since an EU summit in Sofia in May.

MINDSET AWARENESS III: Juncker may be Europe’s best hope, but don’t get those hopes up too high. “The negotiating view of Donald Trump is unconditional surrender of the other side,” Ivo Daalder, who served as the U.S. ambassador to NATO during the Obama administration, told Andrew Restuccia and Doug Palmer. “If you’re a betting person, it’s not going to be a great meeting.”

GOOD MORNING: It’s showdown day in Washington. Juncker will be at the White House at 7:30 p.m. Brussels time and will give a speech on “Transatlantic relations at a crossroads” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at 10 p.m. More on this saga below, before we move on to Brexit, a satellite launch and Emmanuel Macron’s bad company.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF JUNCKER’S TRUMP ENCOUNTERS

NO KISSES: There have been no public displays of affection so far from the EU’s head-kisser-in-chief. Sure, Trump was decent enough not to make any insinuations about Juncker’s troubles walking at a NATO summit in Brussels earlier this month. Perhaps there is even some grudging respect?

But let’s consider, for a moment, the personal relationship between the two, which began just over a year ago in Sicily. We’ve talked to diplomats, officials and aides of those present or briefed on what happened. Here is what they told us …

Chapter 1: Taormina. It all started at last year’s G7 meeting. Or actually in Brussels the day before, when Trump attended an EU-U.S. meeting. That was where the American president said “Germans are very bad” in a private conversation — and it didn’t take long for the quote to appear in newspapers.

At the G7 table, Trump — showing rare insight — accused Juncker of leaking his criticism, diplomats present at the meeting recalled. Juncker didn’t get defensive. He’d talked about the incident at a press conference, he told Trump. He confirmed the comments when he was asked about them, but also broke down the linguistic nuance, saying that “bad” didn’t necessarily mean “evil,” (as German newspaper Spiegel had translated Trump’s comments).

Juncker also reminded Trump that Gary Cohn, then head of Trump’s National Economic Council, had said on the record that Trump thought Germany was “bad.” What Juncker wanted to convey, one diplomat said, was the message: Don’t mess with me. (Side note: Juncker’s still around, Cohn isn’t.)

Chapter 2: Charlevoix. Fast forward to this year’s G7 in Canada. In a session on trade, Juncker confronted Trump with some figures. He sought to set the record straight on some of Trump’s favorite talking points — for instance, the disparity in American and European car tariffs. The EU’s don’t seems so massive if you take into account pick-up trucks — America’s best-selling vehicles, Juncker said. If Europeans built any, they’d face a 25-percent U.S. import tariff.

Juncker also pointed to the “Buy American” preference in Washington’s public procurement and the lack of such a thing in the EU. He argued that while all 50 U.S. states can export beef, poultry, eggs, fruit and vegetables as well as cheeses to the EU, just a few European countries are allowed to export agricultural products to the U.S.

Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk didn’t participate in watering down this year’s G7 communique. A photo taken from a different angle than the now-iconic one of Angela Merkel shows both sitting and watching the spectacle. Were they letting Europe’s real leaders take the lead, or were the EU chiefs demonstrating a toughness that national capitals have been reticent to adopt? More crucial is how Trump interpreted the scene. Was his comment — “Jean-Claude, you’re brutal, you’re a killer” — meant to be appreciative? It was at least enough to win Juncker an invitation to the White House.

Next chapter: Washington. This visit may not be pretty. After Trump labeled the EU a “foe,” Juncker said last week from Spain: “I was very surprised to see the president of the United States declare that Europe is an enemy, after growing up in the naive belief that the U.S. and Europe were brother and sister.” But Juncker knows politics begins at home. “In every family it happens that the big brother does not respect the little brothers,” he said, adding that during his visit to D.C., he would  “defend the European cause.”

IF ALL ELSE FAILS: European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has a very clear idea on how to respond to Trump’s tariff threats. “I’m on the side of the hardline approach,” Hogan said on Monday. “Because as you know well, I don’t like this softly-softly approach. And you can only deal with someone who is trying to bully you into a certain course of action in an irresponsible way by bullying them back.”

COUNTERPOINT: Dalibor Rohac from the American Enterprise Institute argues that the EU “needs to meet Trump’s fire and fury not with retaliatory measures but with liberal leadership by example.”

MORE FUEL FOR THE FIRE: If Donald Trump wants more evidence for his claim that the EU is picking on the Americans, there’s some potentially coming later today. The European Court of Justice’s Advocate General Juliane Kokott will deliver her opinion on the Commission vs. UPS. (Reminder: The Commission prohibited the big logistics mash-up between UPS and TNT in January 2013. In 2017, the EU’s General Court annulled that decision, and the Commission appealed.) While Brussels eventually cleared another American giant, FedEx, to buy TNT, never let details get in the way of some good kindling.

FEMEN’S SHACHKO FOUND DEAD: Oksana Shachko, a founding member of the Ukrainian feminist protest group Femen, was found dead in her apartment in Paris, Femen announced overnight. More from the Guardian.

BRITAIN LATEST

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Theresa May took back control of Brexit Tuesday afternoon. The U.K. prime minister said in a government statement — sent out hours before parliament went into recess — that she would now lead the negotiations with the EU, with new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab “deputizing” for her when she is not available. That won’t amuse Brexiteers in her party, who felt reassured by Raab’s appointment, but it does make a deal with Brussels — and on terms closer to the EU’s line — more likely.

Why is that? Consider this: Perhaps May has successfully executed a coup d’état of her own. She pushed her Chequers plan for a soft-ish Brexit, knowing it could trigger David Davis’ resignation, which would in turn force Boris Johnson out of her Cabinet too, leaving the path clear for her to get her preferred Brexit through parliament. Are we dreaming? Well. It’s going to be a hot autumn in Britain.

Fallout: “What we will make sure is that there is adequate food supply [after Brexit],” Raab told MPs an hour or so after he was shunted into the Brexit passenger’s seat.

Elton John isn’t convinced: “There’s a new cereal called Brexit. You eat it and you throw up afterwards,” he said. Paul Dallison has more.

NEWS FROM THE FRINGES

LONDON’S KING OF PAKISTAN FIGHTS FOR HIS THRONE: Saim Saeed has an extraordinary tale as voting in a general election gets underway in Pakistan this morning. “For decades, Altaf Hussain all but governed Pakistan’s biggest and richest city from an apartment in north London. Politicians in Karachi took his orders by speakerphone or Skype. Businesses and workers carried out strikes at his command. Rights groups and the U.S. State Department accused his party of carrying out kidnappings, assassinations and armed robberies. ‘Prepare the body bags,’ became Hussain’s familiar tagline. Today, as Pakistan holds a parliamentary election, Hussain is the one fighting for his political life.”

NO LOVE FROM THE RADICALS: Steve Bannon’s chances of conquering the old Continent so far seem limited to newspaper articles about him announcing he’s going to conquer Europe, most recently by banding together anti-EU forces. The EU’s far right isn’t convinced — either that a guy too radical even for Trump will be of much help to them, or that they need to join forces. Maïa de La Baume and Laurens Cerulus report on why the far right doesn’t love Bannon back.

QUESTIONS OF NATIONALITY: Italy’s government, minted by the far right, is annoyed, to put it mildly, with its Austrian brothers in arms about reports that Vienna is planning a bill that would give Austrian nationality to Italian citizens of Alto Adige (aka South Tyrol), next September. To that end, Rome has called the Austrian ambassador to the Farnesina this week to clarify the move, which it considers “inappropriate and substantially hostile,” according to a statement.

Vienna confirmed the substance of the reports, but not the timing. “The possibility to grant Austrian citizenship to ethnic groups of German and Ladin mother tongue [that refers to South Tyrol] takes place in the spirit of European integration and the European peace project,” a government spokesperson wasn’t shy to say in a statement. “The legal requirements for the granting of citizenship will not be met until 2019/2020 at the earliest.” Well, then.

ACHTUNG ACHTUNG BERNE: German AfD leader Alice Weidel asked her Twitter followers to “take our country back,” accompanied by a picture of her hiking and speaking of, but most probably not from, Germany. The Twittersphere was quick to point that out, based on some basic geolocation tools and Alps knowledge. Not that Switzerland (where Weidel lives) needs any help shifting to the right.

NOW AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH: The Hungarian Helsinki Committee has translated a Hungarian law, passed last week, that imposes a “special tax” on “immigration-supporting activity taking place in Hungary.” It’s a document that rails against George Soros, civil society and anyone who doesn’t share Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s views on immigration — or, as the law puts it, against anyone who undertakes “propaganda activities that portray immigration in a positive light.”

ACROSS EUROPE

MACRON’S BODY MAN: Nicholas Vinocur probes the crisis that has engulfed French President Emmanuel Macron since his deputy chief of staff (and ex-bodyguard) Alexandre Benalla was caught attacking protesters while dressed as a police officer. Macron’s opponents are comparing the scandal in seriousness to Watergate, Nick writes.

MEET TARA FROM SLOVENIA: She’s one of the four new Galileo satellites that the EU will today launch from Kourou in French Guyana. There’s also Samuel from Slovakia, Anna from Finland and Ellen from Sweden. (They’re named after kids who won a drawing competition years ago; their artwork is here.) The launch, to be attended by Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, expands the Galileo system to 26 satellites. It is expected to be fully operational in 2020 with 30 satellites.

CASE CLOSED: European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said that the Commission should have formally told its former President José Manuel Barroso that he can’t lobby it once he took on his Goldman Sachs job (which he repeatedly said he’s never done). O’Reilly published her decision in the Barroso case on Tuesday. More from Magdaline Duncan.