29-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

29-01-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Monday, January 29, 2018

Opposition leaders rap PM for lack of consensus in name talks

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held individual meetings with opposition party leaders on Saturday to discuss the state of negotiations with Skopje.


Regling: Linking debt reduction to growth rates not counter-productive

ESM Managing Director Klaus Regling expressed his certainty that linking further debt relief with growth in Greece will not be counter-productive, in comments carried by the Sunday edition of “Kathimerini” over the weekend.


Dolman replaces Velculescu as head of IMF mission to Greece

After three years as the head of the International Monetary Fund’s mission to Greece, Romanian Delia Velculescu is replaced by US official Peter Dolman.


New fast-track system planned for industrial investments

The Economy and Development Ministry is planning to introduce a fast-track process exclusively for investments in the industrial sector.


Bank deposits again rise in Greece over last month of 2017

Private sector bank deposits increased by 2.5 billion euros in December 2017, up from an increase of 273 million euros in the preceding month.


ATHEX: Positive end to week of gains

After a volatile session, the benchmark of the Athens stock market settled for a marginal rise at the end of a week with solid gains and increased turnover. The majority of stocks headed lower on Friday, including most banks.








KATHIMERINI: The name dispute with Skopje ignites a political ‘Big Bang’

TO VIMA: ‘Macedonian’ fever

REAL NEWS: The Skopje issue resembles sinking sand…

PROTO THEMA: Hide and seek on the Skopje issue

AVGI: Progressive alignment for a solution on the name dispute between Athens and Skopje


ETHNOS: Intellectual Property Fees-Collector AEPI scandal: Musical Omertà

TA NEA: Teachers are forced to sleep in their cars

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Whom does main opposition party New Democracy belong to?

KONTRA NEWS: Felony prosecutions for the Novartis scandal

DIMOKRATIA: Vicious provocation by Turkey at the Imia islets

NAFTEMPORIKI: Changes in taxation of real estate assets

Europe capped its big week in Davos with three presidential elections over the weekend. The incumbents in Finland (landslide) and Czech Republic (barely) won re-election, while Cyprus is headed for a runoff. Details below.

Meanwhile, Piers Morgan’s interview with his friend Donald Trump aired on the U.K.’s ITV. Did you know Piers Morgan is an anagram of “orange prism?”


BABIŠ IN TOWN: Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš visits to assure Brussels he’s not Europe’s Trump, but will tell European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that while he supports the EU he rejects mandatory refugee quotas.

Straight to Juncker’s heart: Forget Brexiteers with English food hampers, Babiš wins the gold medal for gift soft power. He’s bringing a bottle of Monnet Cognac, a company linked to Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of European integration. Cognac is also one of Juncker’s favorite drinks. More in Czech daily Hospodarske Noviny.

The real Czech Trump: Babiš might avoid the Trump tag, but the man he backed in the Czech presidential runoff, Miloš Zeman (who narrowly won another five-year term), can’t. Zeman is a Putin-admiring Euroskeptic alleged to have received funding from Moscow. Siegfried Mortkowitz has the full analysis here for POLITICO. Zeman’s was “a victory of the countryside over cities; Zeman lost 12 cities out of 15, but won 10 regions out of 14,” Atlantic Council’s Stefano Stefanini told Playbook. “Zeman got in thanks to strong support from a really racist and nationalist far-right wing that has an anti-Europe DNA; it joined forces with Babiš’ populists but it is much worse.”

Presidential aide throws punches: Supporting Stefanini’s point is a video of aides pushing and punching at journalists trying to film a Zeman supporter who passed out at an election party. Reporters Without Borders condemned the aides’ actions in a written statement. Watch the fracas in the second video here.

COMMISSION — JUNCKER IN MORE HOT WATER OVER LUXEMBOURG SPY SCANDAL: The European Commission president remains under fire over a scandal involving wiretaps that saw him forced from national office in 2013. The trouble for Juncker is not whether a wiretap occurred (he had the power as PM to authorize them) but whether he lied about it. Der Spiegel published a story over the weekend here (in German). 

COMMISSION — BIG FARMS FURIOUS OVER PLANNED EU CUTS: It’s supposed to stop landed aristocrats and huge multinationals from raking in EU cash they don’t need. In practice, the European Commission’s efforts to skate around Brexit budget holes might end up delivering a painful blow to former Eastern bloc farms that used to be vast cooperatives in the communist era. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and eastern regions of Germany stand to be particularly affected because they are nine times larger in size (an average 133 hectares per farm) than the EU average, report POLITICO’s Emmet Livingstone, Simon Marks and Emily Schultheis.

COMMISSION — RUTTE ON TIMMERMANS: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was asked about European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans’ performance at his weekly press conference last Friday, following POLITICO’s profile of him. “Timmermans is a man with great authority,” Rutte said.

ECB — DUTCH WANT QE TO STOP IN SEPTEMBER: Dutch central banker Klaas Knot says the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program must end “as soon as possible.”

PARLIAMENT — SOCIALIST LEADER PITTELLA TAKES LEAVE, SET TO ENTER ITALIAN SENATE: Gianni Pittella is to run (and likely will be elected) for the Italian senate in the country’s March election. The leading MEP will take a leave of absence to contest the seat, but will likely need to resign in March, putting names such as Maria João Rodrigues (Portugal) and Udo Bullmann (Germany) in the mix to replace him as chief of European Parliament’s second-largest party group.

What happens next? Scenarios include: Pittella loses and returns to his current job; Pittella loses and is replaced; Pittella wins and his PD party leaves the Socialists and joins Emmanuel Macron’s new European movement.

Could a Parliament ‘grand coalition‘ return? Playbook’s Socialist Parliament sources say that’s unlikely barely a year out from the 2019 European election.

In other Parliament moves, Anneleen Van Bossuyt was picked to lead the charge in the local election in Ghent (the second largest city of Flanders) for the N-VA.

Nobel committee gave MEPs a peace prize but won’t let them nominate: French Socialist MEP Sylvie Guillaume wrote to the chairman of the Nobel Prize Foundation to complain about MEPs not being included as qualified nominators for the prize.

EUROGROUP — POLICE RAID CENTENO’S OFFICES: Portuguese police searched the offices of the country’s finance minister and the Eurogroup president, Mário Centeno, reported to be linked to allegations of favorable tax treatment for family members of the president of Lisbon soccer club Benfica.

OPENTENDER.EU — PLATFORM FOR SEARCHING PUBLIC TENDERS IN 35 EUROPEAN COUNTRIES LAUNCHES: Part of an EU research project known as DIGIWHIST, the site “allows you to search and analyze tender data from 35 jurisdictions — 28 EU member states, Norway, the EU institutions, Iceland, Switzerland, Serbia, Georgia and Armenia,” Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, director at the European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State-Building, said in a written statement.


The strait at the center of the world: Bab-el-Mandeb, in Djibouti, writes Bruno Maçaes for POLITICO, is where scientists think all non-Africans spread out to other parts of the world. Today it’s a “strategic chokepoint through which passes almost all of the maritime trade between Europe and Asia: every year, about $700 billion in goods, some 25,000 ships, nearly 2 billion barrels of oil. Then there is an underground world, a secret current underneath, populated by pirates and rebels, fishermen, migrants, wild-hearted divers, sailors and everything in between.”

The growing danger of great-power conflict is the lead article in the current issue of the Economist, which has a longer special report on the future of war.


Slovenia’s top leadership returned to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2018 after a 15-year absence with a message: The country wants to be a home to progressive innovation. “I always emphasize modernization with [a] human face and human purpose,” PM Miro Cerar told Playbook.

The world’s most famous Slovene, Melania Trump, was a Davos no-show, but that didn’t dim the country’s enthusiastic sponsorship of the first hack-a-thon to take place alongside the WEF. Slovenia also pitched itself as Europe’s blockchain startup hub and promised to create the EU’s circular economy center of excellence.

The circular economy “has become a civilizational necessity,” Cerar said, adding that Slovenia is “ready to finance and open the European circular economy hub” after working with representatives of Finland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg on the theme. “We are already connected [with] more than 2,000 stakeholders from the private sector, from academia, non-governmental organizations and of course the government and local government,” he said.


WAR ON FAKE — MEET THE FOLLOWER FACTORY: The New York Times investigates hundreds of millions of fake accounts on social media, finding rampant identity theft, celebrities and politicians among the buyers, and big tech companies struggling to deal with what they enabled. In the wake of the revelations, New York’s attorney general announced an investigation into Devumi — the company featured in the NYT — and its apparent sale of bots using stolen identities. Axios’ Mike Allen on our fake new world.

FACEBOOK’S DOMINANCE OVER SOCIAL MEDIA MARKET IN ONE GRAPH: This graphic is sure to be of interest to Margrethe Vestager’s team at the European Commission. Facebook owns and operates four of the five most used social media platforms in the world: Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. Together there are well over five billion active accounts (some people and companies use more than one of the platforms), reports Felix Richter.


FINLAND — NIINISTÖ RE-ELECTED PRESIDENT IN FIRST ROUND: The unaligned incumbent Sauli Niinistö is the first candidate since 1994 to avoid a runoff, winning 62.7 percent of the votes cast.

CYPRUS — ANASTASIADES FORCED INTO RUNOFF: According to exit polls, incumbent President Nicos Anastasiades led the first round of Cyprus’ presidential election Sunday with between 38 and 42 percent, with Communist-backed Stavros Malas joining him in the second round on February 4.


EAST VS. EAST — HOW THE HOLOCAUST HAUNTS FORMER SOVIET BLOC COUNTRIES: As a Poland-Israel war of words exploded over the weekend in response to an effort by the Polish parliament to ensure the country isn’t tarred with responsibility for helping Germany commit the Holocaust during World War II, the New York Times writes that Eastern Europeans never fully recognized what happened to Jews on their soil.

SPAIN VS. VENEZUELA: Days after the EU imposed sanctions on a number of senior Venezuelan officials, Caracas expelled Spain’s ambassador. Madrid responded by ordering the Venezuelan ambassador to leave Spain within 72 hours.

FRANCE — ARE THERE BOOKSHOPS IN NIGERIA? As feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie took part in France’s annual Night of Ideas, Caroline Broué, a French journalist, asked Adichie if people in Nigeria read her work, and then: “Are there bookshops in Nigeria?” Adichie said the question reflected poorly on the people of France.


5 POTENTIAL BUST-UPS IN BREXT TRANSITION TALKS: Today the EU27 Brexit ministers will gather in Brussels to sign off on the basic principles of the U.K.’s transition period out of the bloc. The directives are set to cover the entire EU legal framework (“acquis”) and ensure the exclusion of Britain from the EU’s decision-making processes. Of the main potential fights, the bloc’s determination to exclude the U.K. for virtually all ministerial and decision-making forums is the most contentious, write Jacopo Barigazzi and David M. Herszenhorn.

OETTINGER ADDRESSES BRITISH EUROCRATS TODAY: The EU’s Commissioner for Human Resources Günther Oettinger will explain to staff what their options are likely to be come March 30, 2019. The numbers of Brits in the Commission is dwindling thanks to retirements (often by officials who joined from university in the mid-1970s), others are converting to another EU nationality, and yet others are jumping ship anticipating they will not be welcome — even if they are tolerated — after Brexit.

UK LORDS TO PUSH TO ACKNOWLEDGE ECJ PRECEDENTS IN UK LAW AFTER BREXIT: A change to the British government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill that demands judges take into account European Court of Justice rulings post Brexit looks set to receive cross-party support in the House of Lords. Lord Pannick, a human rights lawyer, told POLITICO’s Annabelle Dickson he is tabling the amendment, which would “require courts and tribunals to take account of European Court of Justice judgments delivered after the exit date if the domestic court or tribunal considers the judgment relevant to the interpretation of retained EU law.”


RUSSIA — NAVALNY FREED: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was released after being detained by police at a Moscow rally. More from the BBC.

TURKEY — ANKARA TO PROSECUTE MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Turkey’s interior ministry is to prosecute every member of the Turkish Medical Association central committee for issuing an anti-war statement.

AFRICA — HOW CHINA BUGGED AFRICAN UNION HQ: China gifted the African Union its headquarters, then bugged it. Expect this to be received as badly as Trump’s “shithole” comment. The full story in Le Monde.

READ IT: Paul Manafort, American hustler. A fantastic read that took a year to report and write, by Franklin Foer in the Atlantic.

WINNING: Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer won a record 20th men’s grand slam singles title Sunday at the Australian Open.

DIED: Ingvar Kamprad, founder of Ikea, at 91. For many, Sweden is synonymous with his company. Kamprad was an active Nazi when he founded IKEA in neutral Sweden in 1943 and continued to attend party meetings until 1948. His net worth is estimated to be close to €50 billion.