29-08-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

29-08-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Light reshuffle seeks balance

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave his cabinet a light reshuffle on Tuesday, promoting certain close associates and bringing in some new faces while keeping key ministry posts untouched.


EWG to discuss disbursement of Greek bond profits

Representatives of the eurozone’s finance ministers are expected in their next meeting on Thursday to prepare the ground so that profits made on the country’s bonds by the European Central Bank (ECB) and euro area central banks during the economic crisis can be transferred to Greece, according to sources.


Rouvikonas anarchists scale gates of Foreign Ministry

The anarchist group Rouvikonas struck again early on Tuesday when some of its members scaled the gates of the Foreign Ministry in central Athens and left a bag containing a Palestinian flag and photographs of people killed in recent clashes with the Israeli army.


NGO members on Lesvos suspected of facilitating illegal entry of 3rd country nationals, collusion with migrant smugglers

Police authorities on the island of Lesvos, which has borne the brunt of a migrant/refugee crisis in the eastern Aegean since 2015, have reportedly targeted 30 members of a NGO on suspicions of systematically facilitating the illegal entry of third country nationals onto Greek territory.


Fourth furlough granted for ’17N’ assassin Koufodinas

Convicted “17N” arch-assassin Dimitris Koufodinas has been granted yet another 48-hour furlough, this time from a farm prison near the central coastal city of Volos, where he was recently transferred from Greece’s main penitentiary of Korydallos, located in a working-class district southwest of downtown Athens.


Greek ferryboat evacuated after fire breaks out on board

All 875 passengers on a Greek ferryboat were safely evacuated at the port of Piraeus Wednesday morning after a fire broke out in the car deck of the vessel.


Greek stocks advance amid volatility

Greek stocks held on to their gains at the Athens Exchange on Tuesday, in a trading session marked by intense volatility, despite the positive climate in the European markets after the trade deal between the United States and Mexico.







KATHIMERINI:  Cabinet reshuffle without clear political message

ETHNOS:  More women and center-left politicians entered the government

TA NEA:  New government for the handling of the upcoming defeat

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  New government claims the Center

AVGI:  Facing new battles

RIZOSPASTIS:  The government continues the policies of older governments in order to devastate the insurance system and pensions

KONTRA NEWS:  The new government makes dynamic entry to the new era aiming at election win


NAFTEMPORIKI:  TAIPED’s plan for the 10 large ports of the country

Dubious record: Northern Ireland has now surpassed Belgium’s 589-day record for the longest period of time without a government. (H/t David Blevins‏)

ITALIAN BLACKMAIL: Ordinary EU business resumes today with a meeting of defense ministers in Vienna. Italy’s obsession with keeping migrants away from its shores will land on top of yet another table on Thursday: After dining on a Western Balkan menu, ministers will discuss Rome’s demands for altering the mandate of the EU’s Sophia naval mission in the Mediterranean. EU diplomats told Playbook that High Representative Federica Mogherini is expected to address the issue.

Addressing it won’t help: What Italy actually wants is not only a change in Sophia’s orders (it currently brings people rescued at sea to Italy, where the command is based), but also a new relocation scheme for those who arrive. There’s nothing defense ministers can do on this, even if they wanted to. The operational plan in place was agreed on unanimously and runs through to the end of the year.

Get your advice here (it’s free because it is so simple): If history shows us anything, it’s that it’s not that hard for an EU country to get the rest of the band to sing its tune on issues it claims are of huge domestic importance. There are countless examples, from the quality of Eastern European fish fingers to the fate of Germany’s carmakers. All you need is to fulfill two banal conditions: First, it’s a do ut des among partners, not a competition to see who yells loudest. Second — and this is where a civil service is vital for the greenest governments — they need to actually bother to figure out their leverage.

All about the numbers: According to the freshest numbers from the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration, 67,000 migrants entered Europe by sea so far this year. Spain was the destination for 42 percent of those who entered the EU via the Mediterranean, and received twice as many migrants as Greece and four times as many as Italy this year. The number of arrivals is down from the 123,000 who arrived by August in 2017 and 273,000 at this point in 2016, according to the IOM.

GOOD MORNING. Policymaking, like football, tends to be more efficient the more professionally it is done. But boy is it fun to watch the spectacular moves attempted by political loose canons. We’ll discuss Brexit below, as well as a TV star’s yearlong political experiment. And by the way, here’s how the Italian spread fared over the past few months (no similarly costly movements were detected in any other country in Southern Europe).


AWAY DAYS: Slowly but surely, the summer lull is receding. After the informal defense meeting, foreign ministers will meet in Vienna later this week. Also happening Thursday and Friday: European commissioners will mark the rentrée with a retreat in Genval to discuss their remaining year in office (and President Jean-Claude Juncker’s state of the union speech in Strasbourg, to be delivered mid-September).

A non-comprehensive list of upcoming business trips: German Chancellor Angela Merkel today travels to Africa to talk tech and women’s empowerment; Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is in Singapore today and will head to Hong Kong on Friday; Polish President Andrzej Duda heads to the States for his first official visit to the White House on September 18.

Big in Denmark: French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, is spending time in Denmark being introduced to the beauties of the north by Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, his alleged preferred candidate for a certain top European job. Their agendas overlapped at a citizens’ dialogue held by Macron and Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen. Macron’s meeting with the the other Margrethe, the Danish queen, is scheduled for today.

He’s got two new enemies … Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Italy’s Deputy PM Matteo Salvini picked Macron as a common foe at their meeting in Milan, Jacopo Barigazzi reports.

… and a big problem back home: Zachary Young reports on the political fallout from Tuesday’s resignation of Macron’s ally, the popular Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot. More on that next.


RESIGNATION IN FRUSTRATION: Nicolas Hulot’s resignation took both the French public and the French president by surprise. Though they had discussed his dissatisfaction last week, Hulot hadn’t informed Macron of his decision to quit before appearing on a France Inter radio program to declare he’d had enough of politics. Hulot’s remarkable resignation offers some more free lessons — and perhaps proves once again, some 100 years after Max Weber’s speech, that politics is a vocation.

Takeaways from the episode …

1. When it comes to job satisfaction, being popular — others would kill for Hulot’s poll numbers — wasn’t enough: Hulot was a key Macron ally and one of the most popular politicians in France, especially loved by voters who grew up watching his 1990s nature television program. But the polls proved cold comfort. Hulot wanted to achieve something meaningful, he said, citing an “accumulation of disappointments” as the reason he had decided to walk away from the job.

2. Hulot named pesticides, climate change and biodiversity as areas where the government has failed to make significant progress. The special skill set needed to survive politics includes a high tolerance for frustration. Deep policy knowledge and personal conviction mean little when it comes to having the political power to push policies through. (That’s especially true on an EU level, particularly if you’re an adamant absentee from EU ministerial meetings.)

3. It’s lonely at the top. “I do not have a single deputy or senator behind me to protect the wolf, or to reintroduce the bear,” Hulot said.


SONG AND DANCE: We’ve learned that Brexit has a cost, from ordering mobile toilets to cope with congestion at the borders and stocking up on food, to dancing “like a baby robot giraffe” in order to promote Global Britain, as Paul Dallison writes. But don’t fear further disaster, Prime Minister Theresa May said, in an implicit rebuke to her chancellor, Philip Hammond, for his assessment that a no-deal Brexit could spell financial ruin. “The chancellor was talking about a set of figures that I think came out in January,” May told reporters en route to Cape Town for a trade trip to Africa on Tuesday. “Those figures were a work in progress at that particular time.”

CHEQUERS, MATE: Michel Barnier fears Theresa May’s plan to ditch EU regulations on services would save British businesses billions of pounds a year, Jacopo Barigazzi reports. Jacopo reveals further details about the now-infamous briefing given by Team Barnier to EU27 ambassadors on the British PM’s Chequers proposals, revealing that the European Commission “quoted an internal study which estimated that if the U.K. was freed from just seven unspecified EU regulations, it would provide savings for British businesses of €6 billion a year.”

GOODBYE OCTOBER DEADLINE? The U.K. and EU now admit a Brexit deal is unlikely by October and are aiming for November instead, Bloomberg reports.

BRITAIN’S (ROMANIAN) WORKING CLASS: POLITICO’s Tom McTague has this postcard from Catford, where thousands of Romanian immigrants have traveled to find work. He speaks to members of Britain’s newest working class about their new lives and the ones they’ve left behind.


HOW MUCH IS A LIFE WORTH? EU and national regulators are trying to decide whether to lower the permitted concentrations of possibly cancer-causing chemicals allowed in the rubber pellets used on artificial football fields. It would cost between €40 million to €3.1 billion to make the changes that may prevent an estimated two to 12 cancer cases over a decade. So the question Ginger Hervey asks is how much should society spend to save a life?

STANDING WITH CANADA: On Monday, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called for German support for Ottawa’s campaign to promote human rights around the world. Translation: She wants Berlin (and the rest of the EU) to be more vocal in its support for Canada in its spat with Saudi Arabia. In response to Freeland’s call, 61 prominent folks have signed an open letter calling on Canada’s partners to join Ottawa and publicly condemn Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses. Signatories include Guy Verhofstadt and other fellow MEPs and former French presidential candidate Benoît Hamon, among others.

NOT STANDING WITH ANKARA: Berlin isn’t considering giving Turkey financial help to stem the lira’s collapse, a German official told Reuters.

ONE MAN’S FREEDOM FIGHTER … Former Polish President Lech Wałęsa is pushing for Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov to get the Nobel Peace Prize. “Oleg Sentsov in my deepest conviction, by his action, personifies all the ideals that guided me as well, when I led my peaceful struggle for the future of the world,” said Wałęsa, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner himself. Read the statement here. Russian state media is not impressed. (H/t Michał Broniatowski)

MCCAIN HAS THE LAST LAUGH: “Even in death, John McCain has one final burn planned for two of his biggest foes — Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump — at a moment when much of the world will be watching,” writes Josh Meyer. “The Republican senator from Arizona, who planned his own funeral, chose Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza as one of the dignitaries to carry his coffin to the front of the Washington National Cathedral at Saturday’s memorial service.”