27-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

27-09-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

ANEL make U-turn on gender identity bill

The Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, SYRIZA’s right-wing coalition partners, made a U-turn Tuesday on a Justice Ministry bill paving the way for transgender individuals to be formally recognized by the gender they identify as.


Nikos Michos quits Golden Dawn, to continue as independent MP

Golden Dawn was left with 16 MPs in Greece’s 300-seat Parliament after deputy Nikos Michos announced his departure from the neofascist party, complaining that it had been hijacked by enemies of Greece’s nationalist movement.


Direct tax revenues in Greece over Jan-Aug period miss budget target by 619 mln€

A shortfall in projected revenues from income taxes and corporate taxes on individual taxpayers and businesses, respectively, widened by 216 million euros in August, Greece’s finance ministry announced this week.


State of emergency on NE island of Samothrace after heavy rainfall, flooding

The northeast Aegean island of Samothrace was declared in state of emergency late Tuesday after torrential rains hit the island, causing widespread flooding and related property damage.


Missing UK hiker may have been mauled by animals

A missing British tourist may have been mauled to death and devoured by wild animals while hiking between archaeological sites in northern Greece, authorities said Tuesday after a woman’s gnawed body was discovered in a remote hilly area.


Piraeus Bank says it will respond to BoG audit

Piraeus Bank said it will respond to a draft report of a Bank of Greece audit that found regulatory violations during 2014-16 and that a final report by the central bank would follow thereafter.







Due to the 24-hour strike of Athens journalists which began yesterday morning no newspapers were printed today while electronic media also suspended operations. Newsfeed is expected to resume as of today morning.

MACRO-VISIONS: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May called for creativity in her Florence speech and French President Emmanuel Macron delivered piles of it Tuesday, outlining his vision for a post-Brexit Europe. Unfortunately for May all the creativity was focused on how the EU27 should work. Macron will struggle to achieve much of what he proposed in his long speech (a bit less than two hours), but he can’t be accused of not trying, sweeping in at Angela Merkel’s weakest moment with endless ambition. If the Juncker White Paper on the future of Europe posed hard questions for European leaders to answer, Macron’s speech forces them to consider some hard proposals for action.

The lines Brussels loved best: “We always blamed problems on Europe, Brussels. But no, they are our problems.” And: “For some it is never a good time to talk about Europe. It is either too late or too early.”

What he proposed: POLITICO’s Pierre Briançon described it as “an ambitious and detailed reform agenda.” French readers will find a summary released to reporters by the Élysée communication team here.

The most eye-catching proposals …

On migration: Macron wants a harmonized asylum system and to wrap up within the next 12 months Commission proposals on migration. He also called for greater power for the European Asylum Office, specifically for joint processing of asylum claims.

On security: The security front was not forgotten, with a call for an EU-wide intelligence academy, as well as giving the recently agreed European public prosecutor the power to act on counter-terrorism and organized crime.

On defense: Macron backed the EU’s effort to boost defense spending with European money as well as the creation of an intervention force by 2020. He also signaled his willingness to allow EU citizens to join the French army and called for other countries to do the same.

On eurozone reform: Macron called for financial transfers between eurozone countries, to boost harmonization of corporate tax bases (and threatened to link such a convergence to receiving EU funds), a gradual EU-wide convergence of corporate tax rates and social security contributions, as well as a flexible minimum wage in each EU country. “I don’t have red lines. I only have horizons,” he said.

On the economy and trade: He called for a new EU prosecutor to investigate and punish breaches of international trade rules by non-EU countries (link for POLITICO Pro Trade and Tech subscribers), a renewed push for a European financial transaction tax with its funds spent on development and the creation of new European innovation agency.

On environment, energy and climate change: He wants to revive a proposal for a carbon tax on imports into the EU.

On culture and education: The president voiced his support for the creation of a European university and to have up to 20 of them by the mid 2020s. Half of young people should benefit from exchange programs across the EU for at least six months.

And his reforms for Brussels: In addition to reiterating his support for the 73 U.K. MEP seats left vacant after Brexit to be handed over to a pan-European election list in time for the 2019 European ballot, he suggested half of all MEPs should be elected on transnational lists for the 2024 election. He also called for a smaller European commission, reducing its size from the current 28 members to 15.

On Brexit: No strong words on Brexit, except to say the U.K. leaving the EU “doesn’t define the future of Europe,” adding negotiations in Brussels “are ongoing.” But he hoped the U.K. would “find its place” in Europe after Brexit.


Cem Özdemir, co-chair of Germany’s Green party: “Excellent, President @EmmanuelMacron. The future of our country rests in a united Europe. Need strong collaboration with Paris.”

Die Zeit’s Ulrich Ladurner: “Angela Merkel is the new François Hollande.”

Sophie In ‘t Veld, Liberal MEP: “Bravo @EmmanuelMacron for showing political leadership, setting out vision for Europe #EuropeanSpring #InitiativeEurope.”

Simon Nixon, Wall Street Journal’s chief European commentator: “Remarkable speech by Macron, optimistic, creative solutions to common European challenges. What a contrast to May in Florence.”

Henry Newman, Open Europe: “Macron’s speech, like Juncker’s State of the Union address, is in danger of confirming warnings of Brexiteers about real ambitions of EU.”

Martin Selmayr, head of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s private office, live-tweeted Macron’s speech with no less than 24 missives.

Ryszard Legutko, a Polish PiS MEP and co-chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists: “It is just more smoke and mirrors and more slogan driven politics to disguise the lack of solutions to the challenges the EU faces.”

COMMISSION — COLLEGE MEETING TODAY: Commissioners meet today to discuss new rules on migration and the Schengen border-free zone, which Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas described as the “next steps for European migration and asylum policy.” European Commissioner for Home Affairs and Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos will deliver the readout of the meeting.

COMMISSION — END OF ROAMING CHARGES STATUS UPDATE: A new Eurobarometer survey found 31 percent of European travelers used data on their phones when traveling abroad in the EU as of June 15, compared to 15 percent before an EU regulation ending roaming surcharges within the bloc came into effect. Over half of EU travelers still curtail phone use, a behavior that should be unnecessary under the new regulation.

COUNCIL — VENEZUELA SANCTIONS DISCUSSED: Officials representing EU governments discussed Tuesday an “options paper” prepared by High Representative Federica Mogherini that lays out the various approaches available to the EU in its response to the crisis in Venezuela. According to four individuals familiar with the discussions, Greece, whose Syriza-led government is close to that of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, has expressed the most hesitation about discussing introducing “restrictive measures” like asset freezes or travel bans. For them to be imposed — regarded as the nuclear option in diplomatic terms — all 28 EU countries must agree, usually after months of complex technical discussions.

‘A humanitarian crisis’: Coinciding with Tuesday’s discussion is a visit of exiled supreme court judges and politicians, organized by the Democracy in Exile group and the center-right International Democrat Union, who are calling for sanctions to be imposed on Maduro and his government. “We are calling on the EU institutions to force the regime of Maduro to negotiate and reinstate democracy in Venezuela,” Gustavo Marcano, mayor of Lecherias, told Playbook, describing “a humanitarian crisis” in his country as well as calling on reluctant governments to lift their opposition to sanctions. The group will hold a press conference at the European People’s Party headquarters at Rue du Commerce 10 at 9:30 a.m.


Tajani and 7 commissioners do … Brussels: Parliament President Antonio Tajani has decided to hold a high-level tourism conference in the Parliament chamber in Brussels, rather than a sunnier southern European destination. No fewer than seven European Commissioners will participate, four in the opening session alone. Tajani will also meet María Ángela Holguín, Colombia’s minister of foreign affairs, David Davis, the U.K.’s Brexit secretary of state, and representatives of the “3million” group, which campaigns on behalf of EU nationals living in the U.K.

Meet (1 of 2) power-brokers on the posted workers directive: Elisabeth Morin-Chartier — profiled by Le Monde — is the EPP’s rapporteur on controversial updates to the posted workers directive, and is working with the S&D’s Agnes Jongerius to agree a position a majority of MEPs can sign up to, at which point discussions begin with EU governments.

EU AGENCIES — EMA RELOCATION BIDS RANKED BY STAFF PREFERENCE: POLITICO’s Sarah Wheaton reports for POLITICO Health Care and Brexit Pro subscribers that Amsterdam would retain the most European Medicines Agency staff out of the 19 cities bidding to host the agency after Brexit, followed by Barcelona and Vienna. That’s according to a survey of the EMA’s nearly 900 staff at its London headquarters. At least nine in 10 said they would quit rather than relocate to Warsaw, Bucharest or Sofia.

DIGITAL POLITICS — GOOGLE ROLLS OVER: Ahead of a Thursday deadline, the U.S. search giant started modifying the way it displays certain results to its half-billion European users, in response to a record €2.4-billion European antitrust ruling that accused it of favoring some of its own services over those of rivals. POLITICO Pro Technology subscribers can read more here.

German privacy concerns trip up high-tech ventures: POLITICO’s Mark Scott reports on how the German government’s struggle to protect its citizens’ privacy is running up against its desire to encourage the growth of tech companies, many of which rely on the use of so-called big data.

UK — CORBYN, PM-IN-WAITING: Center-left parties are in decline across much of the western world, save for the U.K.’s Labour Party, which, after a surprise boost in this year’s snap election, is positioning itself as the next government-in-waiting, writes Tom McTague. Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s leftwing leader, has all but crushed an internal rebellion led by the Blairite wing, and is expected to today say: “We have become a government-in-waiting.”

GERMANY — ANGELA’S BAVARIAN FRENEMIES: Before Angela Merkel starts negotiating a coalition with the liberal FDP and the Greens, she’ll have to face down the Bavarian CSU — traditionally close allies of her CDU party — whose leaders are now making tough demands, Janosch Delcker reports.

SPAIN — THE NASTY SIDE OF THE CATALAN QUESTION: Tensions are rising in Spain ahead of a referendum on Catalan independence, Guy Hedgecoe reports. At the beginning of September, a woman tweeted she had just seen Inés Arrimadas, spokesperson for Spain’s centrist Ciudadanos party, on television and called her “a disgusting b–ch” who deserved to be gang-raped. A few days later, death threats against the anti-capitalist politician Anna Gabriel were painted on the sidewalk outside Valencia University, where she was due to talk later that day. “Shoot Ana [sic] Gabriel,” read one, with a crosshair below her name.

Rajoy cancels Estonia trip: Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy canceled his trip to Tallinn for an informal meeting of EU leaders, instead directly returning to Spain from Washington D.C. where he met President Donald Trump. “Spain is a great country and it should remain united,” Trump said at a joint press conference in Washington with Rajoy.

Where did the independence question come from? Le Figaro interviews Benoît Pellistrandi, an expert in Spanish history, who says the independence movement has gone mainstream due to the economic crisis, the weakening of the Spanish Socialist Party and the “Catalanization” of public media.

BREXIT 360 …

Tusk met Theresa: European Council President Donald Tusk said Tuesday there is “no sufficient progress yet” on Brexit negotiations with the U.K. “but we’ll work on it.” He added: “I feel cautiously optimistic about the constructive and more realistic tone of the prime minister’s speech in Florence and of our discussion today.” Tusk also said May’s speech indicated “this philosophy of having a cake and eating it is finally coming to an end.”

UK ministers on tour: British ministers are touring European capitals in what some EU officials say is a means to bypass the bloc’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his team in Brussels.

TRUMP WORLD — RUSSIAN-FUNDED FACEBOOK ADS BACKED STEIN, SANDERS AND TRUMP: The Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency bought Facebook ads that promoted U.S. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders and his platform even after his presidential campaign had ended, Josh Dawsey reports.


PROTESTING: Campaigners against Ireland’s restrictive abortion law are bringing — and broadening — their campaign to Brussels, calling for abortion rights across Europe. The Irish government will hold a referendum next year on whether to change the country’s abortion laws.