30-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

30-07-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Monday, July 30, 2018

Authorities finally release number of missing persons from wildfire, 25; death toll at 91

The number of missing people from last Monday’s deadly wildfire at the coastal Mati settlement in east Attica prefecture is 25, according to the fire brigade on Sunday, while the death toll has risen to 91.


Tsipras assumes political responsibility for deadly wildfire, but also blames ‘past distortions’ for catastrophe

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras offered a partial “mea culpa” on Friday, four days after a deadly wildfire swept through a pine-covered coastal resort east of Athens, saying “past distortions” led to the catastrophe.


IMF reiterates call for gov’t to meet pledges

The International Monetary Fund is due to published its Article IV Report on the course of the Greek economy on Tuesday. This will include the much anticipated Debt Sustainability Analysis, which was carefully examined at a meeting last Friday, with the board confirming the medium-term sustainability of the Greek debt as well as the need for the government to remain committed to reforms.


HRW slams ‘appalling’ conditions of migrant camps in northern Greece

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a scathing report on the “appalling” conditions that migrants and refugees face in northern Greece.


Three out of 10 households in Greece to pay more income tax, beyond declared taxable income

Three out of 10 Greek households that submitted a tax return for incomes generated in 2017 – amid a looming deadline this week – will be called upon to pay additional income taxes, or, will lose tax breaks and welfare benefits.


Folli Follie creditors see protection as invalid

Folli Follie creditors – banks and bondholders – are expected to determine their stance this week toward the listed company’s recourse to protection from bankruptcy.


ATHEX: Autopilot sees stocks lose more altitude

A day of losses from start to finish sealed the fate of another week of devaluation on the Greek stock market, with the benchmark only just staying above the 750-point level and trading volume remaining below 20 million euros for yet another session. Barring a major surprise in the upcoming debt sustainability analysis by the International Monetary Fund, the market is set to remain on autopilot for at least the next three weeks.








KATHIMERINI: Half apology, no resignation

TO VIMA: Crime with limited responsibility [on behalf of the government]

REAL NEWS: The dead demand answers

PROTO THEMA: 7 deadly mistakes are ‘torching’ the government for its responsibilities

AVGI: The responsibility of the next day


ETHNOS: Investigation for the wildfires will be based in three axes

TA NEA: The government was hiding the news about the dead in the wildfires

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Reboot through the ashes

KONTRA NEWS: Illegal constructions throughout Attica will be torn down

DIMOKRATIA: The government knew [about the dead of the wildfires]!

NAFTEMPORIKI: Parallel market of 1 trillion for the funding for small and medium-sized businesses

GOOD MONDAY MORNING. It’s implementation time. Before Brussels takes a breath and things slow down in August, there are a few things left to follow up on. First things first: the in-principle (or should that be in-vagueness?) agreement that U.S. President Donald Trump and Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker forged last week. Plus: Read on to learn stuff you didn’t know about Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.


NO MEANS NO: Agriculture is definitely not part of the deal Jean-Claude Juncker made with Trump last week, the Commission president told ARD in an interview that aired Sunday. “Agriculture is being left out of it,” he insisted, noting that talks had “almost failed” over that very issue. “The Americans put massive pressure, especially the president, on agricultural issues to be put into the overall deal, and for us to make concessions. I strictly rejected that, well aware of the situation in Europe,” Juncker said, adding that “in return,” he refrained (for now) from insisting the U.S. should open public procurement to EU companies.

Who kissed whom? “In contrast to my usual behavior, the initiative surprisingly did not come from me … But it actually summed up the ambience of the moment well,” Juncker said, referring to that kiss.

NOW THAT WE’RE PALS AGAIN: The Commission is increasing the pressure on Donald Trump’s administration to make the changes necessary to uphold the 2016 EU-U.S. data transfer agreement known as the “privacy shield” ahead of a stock-taking exercise scheduled for October.

“I would like to clarify my expectations from the second annual review,” Europe’s Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová told America’s Trade Secretary Wilbur Ross in a letter seen by POLITICO. Jourová asked for “the swift appointment of a permanent ombudsperson” who would defend Europeans’ privacy rights in the U.S., among other things that are still yet to be implemented by the Americans. The European Commission is getting heat from the EU’s data protection authorities, with Jourová telling POLITICO in an interview last week that “already at this moment we are under incredible pressure” over whether to keep the privacy shield mechanism in place at all. Laurens Cerulus has more for POLITICO Tech and Data and Digitization Pros here.

G20 AGAINST PROTECTIONISM: G20 agriculture ministers criticized protectionism in a joint statement this weekend, saying they are “concerned about the increasing use of protectionist non-tariff trade measures, inconsistently with WTO rules.” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed off on the statement, Reuters reports.

VESTAGER AGAINST SILOS: With only about a year left in her post, competition cases involving video games and Barcelona football shirts look like the last big opportunity for antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager to rip down Europe’s online barriers to cross-border commerce, Simon Van Dorpe and Joanna Plucinska write.


BIOGRAPHY OF A 31-YEAR-OLD: Paul Ronzheimer is Bild’s crises and war reporter, writing dispatches for Germany’s highest selling newspaper from Ukraine, Syria, the Balkans and from Israel when the White Helmets were evacuated last week. Getting close to people he writes about is what he is good at. He has now written a biography of Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s chancellor and unofficial leader of the conservative bloc within the Europe Peoples’ Party.

The book, simply titled “Sebastian Kurz. Die Biografie,” is well worth a read (though German is required). It’s a striking tale of young ambition. In one fascinating section, Kurz’s parents discuss how amazed and concerned they were with Kurz’s meteoric rise to Austria’s highest executive office. And Ronzheimer offers insight into how the system around Kurz works — he is surrounded by super loyalists — and how the 31-year-old turned Austrian politics upside down. Ronzheimer sat down with Playbook to discuss his book.

How close did he get to Kurz? “As close as he would let me,” Ronzheimer said. “Kurz of course is a pro who knows very well what impact his words have. Even when he talks about himself, he’ll always be a politician.” But, he added, “talking to his parents was the most enlightening thing. I don’t think he ever let that happen before.”

Kurz can be fun in smaller groups, or less serious than his job requires him to be, but he has learned from experience to keep a lid on this in public. “I believe what happened in 2010 and 2011 had a very strong influence on him, when he would be beaten up in the press, when he was even an object of hatred in Austria. He swore to himself that he would leave his family and friends out of the press,” Ronzheimer said, speaking of Kurz’s first and so far his last defeat, in a local election in Vienna, after a controversial campaign.

When your son enters government at 24: In the book, Kurz’s mother talks about how she felt when her son was named state secretary for integration at the age of 24. The media couldn’t believe this youngster, who gave up studying law to take up the role, would now a) really be in government and b) ever take his job seriously. “That was really horrible for me,” Elisabeth Kurz said. “It has changed my worldview; I noticed only then that there are people who want to destroy others.”

Down to earth: She also recalls difficult times in the Kurz family’s life, when her husband Josef lost his job as an engineer and was unemployed for a year. A 16-year-old Sebastian insisted on working to contribute to the family. He jogged home from inner Vienna to Meidling, where the family lived, when public transport wasn’t running at night. “We didn’t want that at all,” Elisabeth Kurz is quoted in the book as saying. “But he only said he has to do sports anyway.”

A few years later, Kurz’s first political achievement was a successful campaign for the Vienna subway to run through the night at least on weekends.

Impeccable manners: One aide in Kurz’s inner circle tells Ronzheimer that he had never heard him raise his voice or be rude. “I don’t think he only plays a role here,” Ronzheimer told Playbook. “That isn’t artificial, it’s his upbringing. It’s astonishing.” And in politics, that can work to your advantage. “People don’t perceive Kurz as so radical due to his friendliness,” Ronzheimer said.

Big little Austria: Kurz’s political career is based on foreign policy and convincing Austrians that while their country may be small, it punches above its weight. “I believe he was upset that Trump and Putin met in Finland, not in Vienna,” Ronzheimer said. “My feeling is that he’s really into performing on the European and international scene.”

No crisis looming — for now: Austria’s economy is doing well, so Ronzheimer says Kurz doesn’t have much to fear on the domestic front at the moment. “But look how much headwind he gets with the social reforms [the Austrian People’s Party is] pursuing.” The heat is coming from the party’s powerful regional leaders, too: “They all have a score to settle with him, and some would like him to fail.”


COUNTRIES TO COMMISSION: DON’T FORGET THE ENVIRONMENT: Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Norway have sent a letter to the European Commission demanding it continue working on four key pieces of legislation related to chemicals and the circular economy until the end of its current mandate. In a copy of the letter obtained by POLITICO’s Kait Bolongaro, environment officials stress they’re worried about possible delays to the files — and the Commission giving in to the temptation of leaving it up to the next college to make potentially controversial proposals. Read more in today’s Morning Food and Agri newsletter, available for subscribers here.

ORBÀN DECLARES WAR ON BRUSSELS, AGAIN: “The European elite has failed, and this failure’s symbol is the European Commission,” Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán said in his annual speech to Fidesz party supporters. “The good news is that the Commission’s days are numbered.” Lili Bayer has the story on Orbán’s declaration of war on Brussels, and the European Peoples’s Party — his own party family.

MEANWHILE, EUROPE’S LEFT LOOKS TO CORBYN: Traditional left-wing parties across Europe are searching for a savior, and some believe that could be Jeremy Corbyn, reports Naomi O’Leary. “‘It’s not up to me to tell parties who to elect or how to do it,’ Corbyn told POLITICO on a trip to the Netherlands earlier this month, where he was invited to speak about his party’s experience. ‘My message is simply this: If the left as a whole across Europe stands up against austerity, fulfills its historic mission of the redistribution of wealth and power across society, then we are taking away the space that the far right are trying to invade at the moment.’”

SPAIN’S MIGRATION SURGE TESTS TOLERANCE: Spain has become the top European destination for migrants, but their arrival comes at a trying time for Madrid, reports Guy Hedgecoe.


CHIEF IN NAME ONLY: Retired Marine general John Kelly was brought into the White House to tame the president. But a year into the job, Kelly’s attempts to implement traditional processes have failed, writes Eliana Johnson.

SHUTDOWN THREAT: Trump on Sunday threatened to shut down the government this fall if congressional Democrats don’t support more funding for a border wall with Mexico and tougher immigration policies. More from Brent D. Griffiths.


TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is visiting Trump today.