29-11-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

29-11-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

MPs to discuss scrapping controversial Saudi arms deal

A day after a bitter clash in Parliament between the leftist-led government and the conservative opposition over a controversial defense deal with Saudi Arabia, the coalition appears poised to cancel the agreement.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223676/article/ekathimerini/news/mps-to-discuss-scrapping-controversial-saudi-arms-deal

Name of center-left grouping to be Movement for Change

The name of the new center-left party comprising PASOK, To Potami and other social democratic forces will be Movement for Change, it emerged on Tuesday following a meeting in Parliament between PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata and the head of Potami, Stavros Theodorakis.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223692/article/ekathimerini/news/name-of-center-left-grouping-to-be-movement-for-change

OECD forecast for Greece: 2.3% in 2018, 2% in 2019

The Organisation of Economic Co-operation Development (OECD)  foresees economic growth in Greece at 2.3 percent for 2018, up from 1.4 this year, while repeating the need for a further restructuring of the Greek debt.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1299464/oecd-forecast-for-greece-23-in-2018-2-in-2019

Greek minister on arrest of 9 Turkish citizens in Athens: No cooperation or info received from Ankara

Greek authorities are continuing a search of the apartments where nine Turkish citizens detained – and subsequently arrested – on Tuesday morning by members of the anti-terrorist squad, the relevant alternate public order minister said hours later.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1299657/greek-minister-on-arrest-of-9-turkish-citizens-in-athens-no-cooperation-or-info-received-from-ankara

Unions call general strike for Dec. 14

Greece’s biggest labor unions have called a new general strike next month against bailout-linked austerity policies, as the government launches new talks with its international rescue creditors.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223682/article/ekathimerini/news/unions-call-general-strike-for-dec-14

OTE CEO: We refuse to give company’s keys to independent telecoms authority

The chairman and CEO of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), the former state-run telephony utility that still enjoys a commanding market share in Greece, on Tuesday blasted the country’s independent telecoms authority as “creating obstacles to investments in order to simply maintain and perpetuate” its presence.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1299629/ote-ceo-we-refuse-to-give-companys-keys-to-independent-telecoms-authority

ATHEX: Field day for credit sector

Investors gave a thumbs-up on Tuesday to news that notaries had ended their boycott of property auctions, as Greek bank stocks jumped 4.25 percent at Athinon Avenue. However, the rest of the market didn’t see much of a knock-on effect.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/223699/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-field-day-for-credit-sector

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KATHIMERINI: Turkish terrorist-organization cell dismantled in Athens

ETHNOS: Black list in paradise: EU and ECB promote measures against tax-evasion

TA NEA: The government is manufacturing alibis and mitigating circumstances as regards the shady arms deal with Saudi Arabia middle-man

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Today a villa, tomorrow what? Online auctions begin with an expensive villa in the region of Kifisia, Athens.

AVGI: Tangible support for the flood victims of Western Attica

RIZOSPASTIS: Government and Eurozone members sign a contract for the implementation of old and new anti-popular measures

KONTRA NEWS: Storm of corruption-related revelations by PM Alexis Tsipras

DIMOKRATIA: Vested interests want to buy out MPs in order to destabilize the government

NAFTEMPORIKI: The bonds swap exceeded targets

HEARTWARMING: The Dutch are on a mission to reduce loneliness in rural Croatia, which is struggling with depopulation and often lacks the people and resources to create inclusive communities for its elderly.

HEARTBREAKING: Emmanuel Macron believes French can be the number one language in the world. In the very long term that may be possible, assuming sub-Saharan Africa adheres to French and avoids contraception. For the Macron presidency however, the goal is to overtake Korean, Vietnamese and Telugu to claim the number 15 spot in the world language rankings.

HEARTWRENCHING: Poor Angela Merkel. There was one party left that actually wanted to govern with her CDU/CSU team: the Greens. Then Christian Schmidt, her agriculture minister, went rogue and voted to reauthorize the weedkiller glyphosate (as he was legally entitled but not political mandated to do) without even talking to her, explicitly contradicting the environment minister’s wishes. It’s lonely at the top sometimes.

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS

EU-AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT STARTS TODAY

The fifth EU-AU summit kicks off today with prime ministers, presidents and commissioners jetting in from Europe and Africa to Abidjan to discuss how to boost relations between north and south. While many remain skeptical that this time will be different — the same lofty ambitions have been outlined at summits for years — EU diplomats claim the migration crisis means Europe can no longer ignore Africa the way it has done. One diplomat closely involved in preparing the two-day summit in Abidjan said previous initiatives to aid Africa were born only out of “political will, now it is out of necessity.” POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi has the details.

Summit declaration highlights: Playbook obtained a 12-page draft of the declaration from November 26 to be signed off at the summit, which starts by saying a 10-year old strategy signed off at a similar event in Lisbon “remains the framework for our partnership.” In addition to emphasizing the need to boost opportunities for young people, as well as lay out four “joint strategic priority areas,” the declaration also notes the signatories’ “commitment to uphold the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states to reject unconstitutional change of government as well as interferences in the domestic political processes by external forces.”

See you in 2022: The next summit has already been penciled in for 2022 “in a European Union country.”

Libya declaration: Playbook obtained a separate declaration to be signed by EU and AU leaders that deals specifically with the situation of migrants in Libya that “[demands] the opening without delay of a thorough, credible and independent investigation into the alleged sale at auctions of African migrants.”

Youth NGOs not allowed to speak: Some African governments forced a last-minute change to the summit’s agenda meaning civil society organizations representing young people won’t be permitted to speak, despite the summit’s theme being about young people.

Juncker wants legal pathways: “I believe that if we don’t offer legal ways of emigrating to Europe, and immigrating within Europe, we will be lost,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW — UN PEACEKEEPING CHIEF JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX

Ahead of the African Union-EU summit in Abidjan, POLITICO’s Andrew Gray and David M. Herszenhorn sat down with United Nations peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix. The U.N. has eight peacekeeping missions in Africa, and EU countries contribute some 35 percent of the world body’s peacekeeping budget.

Hey PESCO! The U.N. hopes the EU’s fledgling military cooperation initiative, PESCO, will produce units that can be used in peacekeeping: “It’s something that we look at with interest, a lot of interest,” Lacroix said. Lacroix specifically mentioned a possible EU military unit that could help with medical assistance and evacuation.

Trump ≠ trouble: The Trump administration wants to reduce commitments to international organizations and its ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, has hailed cuts to the peacekeeping budget. But Lacroix said the U.N. was fully on board with U.S. calls to boost cost-effectiveness and performance in its missions. “I have no problem signing up to what Nikki Haley said about peacekeeping — quite the opposite. We need to work on performance, conduct and discipline, raising the level of training, equipment.”

Women wanted: Lacroix noted EU nations take part in peacekeeping across Africa, from a Portuguese commando unit in the Central African Republic to Swedish, Dutch and German troops in Mali. But he said they could do even more by providing additional helicopters, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance units — and more female peacekeepers. “We very often deal with populations that are traumatized, displaced, harassed. In many cases, we’re talking about women and children and you can’t interact with that population if we’re male only.”

COMMISSION — MEET ACTING PRESIDENT ANSIP: With Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini in Côte d’Ivoire, Vice President Andrus Ansip will chair the College of Commissioners today. Frans Timmermans doesn’t have any trips or meetings listed in his calendar, but isn’t in the chair. Commissioners are set to approve new guidance on intellectual property rights, as well as a communication on food and farming and new measures on VAT fraud. Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner for the Internal Market Elżbieta Bieńkowska will present a readout of the meeting to reporters at lunchtime, followed by Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan on the food and farming communication.

COMMISSION — EU AGENCY LEGISLATION: Today the European Commission is expected to present changes to the laws underpinning the European Medicines Agency and European Banking Authority legislation to enable their moves to Amsterdam and Paris. That shouldn’t involve more than changing “London” to “Amsterdam” and “Paris” and inserting a date. The real question is whether Parliament will attempt to add any of its own spice into this theoretically simple recipe.

EUROGROUP — ITALY, PORTUGAL EMERGE AS CENTER-LEFT FRONT-RUNNERS: Italy’s Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan is now making calls to his conservative peers, while Portugal’s Mário Centeno has been an undeclared frontrunner for weeks. A vote among eurozone finance ministers will take place Monday, December 4 in Brussels. France’s Bruno Le Maire pulled out of the race, as did European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. Udo Bullmann and Pervenche Berès, the Socialist & Democrats’ finance bigwigs in the European Parliament, issued a statement insisting the post stay in Socialist hands to ensure the conservative European People’s Party does not hold all the EU presidency posts. Bjarke Smith-Meyer has more for POLITICO Pro Financial Services subscribers.

ESM to EMF: El País reports Jean-Claude Juncker will propose the European Stability Mechanism transform into a European Monetary Fund, as well as propose at a later date the merger of the Eurogroup presidency role and the commissioner for economic and financial affairs.

TODAY IN PLENARY …

Budget vote: MEPs will OK a deal signed off by Parliament negotiators and the Estonian presidency that will see the EU spend €144.68 billion next year.

Multilateral investment court: The Commission will explain its plans for a new multilateral investment court dispute system that would be part of future free trade deals.

Development aid for militaries: MEPs will vote on a proposal that will allow €100 million of development aid to be spent on boosting security in developing countries.

More details here from the Parliament’s Clare Ferguson.

ECA — PASSENGER RIGHTS AUDIT: For the first time, the European Court of Auditors is conducting a survey of plane, boat, bus and rail passengers in the EU to check if their rights have been respected. Survey here.

EU NATIONAL NEWS

IRELAND — DEPUTY PM RESIGNS, ELECTION AVERTED: Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Frances Fitzgerald, resigned Tuesday in a move that looks to have saved Leo Varadkar’s government. Fitzgerald came under pressure over her handling of information about the treatment of a police whistleblower.

POLAND — JUSTICE MINISTER FIRES JUDGES OVER CORRUPTION PROBE: Using powers he recently obtained, Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro fired three court presidents and seven court directors over allegations they are involved in a “network, preying on the Polish judiciary.”

MALTA — ODDS STACK UP AGAINST GAMBLING BET: The EU’s smallest member country has made itself the European online gambling center thanks to its low corporate tax rates. A clampdown by the European Commission and proposals to introduce a new tax on digital companies could threaten that status, reports Joanna Plucinska.

ROMANIA — DRAGNEA PUSHES BACK AGAINST US CRITICISM: Liviu Dragnea, leader of the ruling Social Democrats, and his coalition counterpart Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, leader of the Liberal Alliance, rejected suggestions made by the U.S. State Department that reforms to the judiciary should be knocked back by Romania’s parliament due to fears they may undermine the rule of law.

CROATIA — BANKING ON TITO’S YACHT FOR CULTURAL CAPITAL: POLITICO alum Barbara Surk’s story for the New York Times on Rijeka, a European capital of culture, wading into a nationalist controversy.

BREXIT 360°

Budget deal: The U.K. has made an offer to the EU on the Brexit bill of between €45 billion and €55 billion, according to the Telegraph. The Financial Times, citing “several diplomats familiar with the talks,” followed later with its own report, saying that Britain has also agreed to assume EU liabilities worth up to €100 billion, though could fork out less than half of that in net payments.

A senior EU diplomat told POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi that “No agreement has been presented to member states. Agreement has to be on paper, not in papers. We let the negotiators do their work and can’t comment [on] rumors.” Another senior EU diplomat said “it’s something fed to press that has not been translated yet into a negotiating position.”

Barnier does Berlin: Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator and formerly Jean-Claude Juncker’s special adviser on defense policy, starts his day early at a security conference. There he will lay out his vision for the future of European defense cooperation (no Commission presidency campaign to see here folks, move right along!) before two separate Brexit speeches (at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) organized by Germany’s business lobby. POLITICO’s Janosch Delcker told Playbook Barnier is expected to stress the importance of the single market for the remaining EU27 along the lines of: “Here’s what it means to be in, and what it will mean for the Brits — who once helped build it — to soon be out.”

Keir Starmer to pursue David Davis for contempt of parliament: Labour’s shadow Brexit minister is supported by Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said the government was “in serious constitutional waters” after Davis’ department withheld material from reports on the economic impact of Brexit shared with a select committee.

Britain looks to China: POLITICO’s Charlie Cooper reports on attempts by London to make the U.K. one of China’s closest trading partners.

BEYOND EU

TURKEY — ERDOĞAN’S FAMILY ACCUSED OF FUNNELING CASH ABROAD: The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party claims to have proof that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s brother and son made transactions worth around $15 million to an offshore company in the tax haven Isle of Man at the end of 2012. Hürriyet has the details.

UKRAINE — KIEV WORRIED ABOUT COUNCIL OF EUROPE POSITION ON CRIMEA: Ukrainian officials are concerned about reports the Council of Europe might lift sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Crimea in a bid to stop Moscow leaving the Strasbourg-based institution.

RUSSIA — HOW TO TROLL PUTIN AND SURVIVE: Peter Zalmayev, director of the New York-based Eurasia Democracy Initiative, describes how he went on Russian TV and “used [his] time to address the Russian president directly and engage in some over the top satire: [he] urged him to pursue an aggressive plan for continent-wide domination and brought out kitchen knives as a reference to his saber-rattling.”

NORTH KOREA — MISSILE TEST: Pyongyang overnight successfully launched a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which can strike anywhere on the U.S. mainland, according to a newsreader on state-run North Korean Central Television. The missile was airborne for around 53 minutes, reached a height of up to 4,500 kilometers and landed in waters around 210 kilometers west of Japan’s Aomori prefecture, according to Japanese and South Korean authorities. CNN | The Guardian

BRUSSELS CORNER

WOMEN OF EUROPE AWARDS HANDED OUT TONIGHT: Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is a judge. Playbook wonders if that was the only way of preventing her from winning. Details here.

FLEMS WANT OWN COURT: The mayors of Flemish-speaking districts that surround the city of Brussels are demanding their own private court, with one mayor accusing the French-speaking Brussels court of being “understaffed and slow.”