30-08-2018 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

30-08-2018 | EYE ON GREECE |

Thursday, August 30, 2018

New government members sworn in

The new members of the government were sworn in on Wednesday afternoon, in a ceremony held in the presence of President Prokopios Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232103/article/ekathimerini/news/new-government-members-sworn-in

Name deal gaining ground in FYROM, opinion poll shows

More than half of the residents of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) agree that the Balkan nation should join NATO and the European Union under the name “Republic of North Macedonia” as part of the deal signed with Greece in June, a recent poll has shown.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232123/article/ekathimerini/news/name-deal-gaining-ground-in-fyrom-opinion-poll-shows

Mitsotakis promises farmers lower income tax

Main opposition New Democracy intends to implement a bold insurance and tax policy for farmers and livestock breeders when it comes to power, party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232101/article/ekathimerini/news/mitsotakis-promises-farmers-lower-income-tax

Tender for PPC’s lignite-fired power capacity on track

An international tender to sell-off Public Power Corp.’s (PPC) lignite-fired units in the Peloponnese and northwest Greece, along with the mines that provide lignite deposits, continues ahead of expected management presentations by the dominant electricity utility’s leadership to each interested investor.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1386007/tender-for-ppcs-lignite-fired-power-capacity-on-track

Overhaul of over-indebted ELTA starts at the top

Greece’s state assets fund has called for the resignation of the president and CEO of troubled state-owned Hellenic Post (ELTA) after the postal service reportedly incurred debts of more than 557 million euros in 2017.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232090/article/ekathimerini/business/overhaul-of-over-indebted-elta-starts-at-the-top

Motor Oil sees 17.6 pct jump in profits in H1

Greece’s second-biggest refiner Motor Oil reported a 17.58 percent rise in net profit after taxes and minority interests in the first six months of 2018, compared with the same period last year, the company said on Wednesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232121/article/ekathimerini/business/motor-oil-sees-176-pct-jump-in-profits-in-h1

Greek stocks end with gains on mid-cap buying

The intense buying activity of few market participants, particularly in the mid-cap category, led Greek stocks higher at the Athens Exchange on Wednesday, despite the cautiousness of European markets.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/232122/article/ekathimerini/business/greek-stocks-end-with-gains-on-mid-cap-buying

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KATHIMERINI:  The IMF insists on pension cuts

ETHNOS:  Difficult balance

TA NEA:  ENFIA real estate tax is the final blow against the middle class

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Turkey and Argentina are sinking

AVGI:  Growth in favor of society

RIZOSPASTIS:  ‘Post-Memorandum era’ with old and new burdens for the people

KONTRA NEWS:  The frontal collision between Tsipras and Mitsotakis will determine the outcome of the elections

TO PONTIKI:  Aunt Olga knows what needs to be done!

DIMOKRATIA:  The goons of Soros have been caught red-handed!

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Automatic sale of NPLs

How to trick the financial markets: “We are prepared to offer Britain a partnership such as there never has been with any other third country,” the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters in Berlin, prompting a 0.8-percent jump in the value of the sterling against the dollar. (When he spoke about a “partnership that has no precedent” a week or so ago, were traders still on holiday?) Also, when Barnier said a post-Brexit deal will be unlike anything the EU has ever struck with any country outside the bloc, was he actually just pointing out that there has never been an occasion to strike a deal with an ex-member of the club?

WESTERN BALKANS HISTORY REWRITTEN. EU foreign ministers will welcome guests from the Western Balkans at their meeting in Vienna today — from Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, to be precise. They’ll all be curious to know more about a potentially historic deal in the making between Serbia and Kosovo (which could produce a historic fail, as others in the EU fear, with Germany being most vocal about it). A senior government official who was briefed on the state of play between the two said they didn’t expect Serbia to say much in Vienna, but “they know exactly what they want.”

Key moments next week: Hashim Thaçi and Aleksandar Vučić are going to meet again on September 7 (in Brussels, with the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini as chaperone). A few days later, Vučić plans to deliver a speech (which he has referred to as the “speech of my life”) in Mitrovica in the north of Kosovo to spell out the border changes envisioned.

Appetite for another peace prize? The stakes are high, but if in the end the two countries manage to strike a deal, “who are we to say no” to another Nobel Peace Prize, a senior EU government representative said. An EU diplomat told our own Jacopo Barigazzi: “Mogherini, together with the two leaders, aims at the Nobel,” (and wants a deal to be concluded by spring next year).

BRUSSELS BUSINESS

EXTRA, EXTRA (SUMMIT): Brussels is mulling giving British Prime Minister Theresa May a proper, Brexit-full summit in November, EU officials told Playbook. It’s a matter of necessity and timing: The October (summit) deadline for an EU-U.K. withdrawal agreement is approaching fast and progress is stalling. But it’s also a question of common courtesy: In the words of on EU official, if David Cameron got a whole summit in 2014 and left with a deal (which was promptly shredded the moment the referendum result came out), “why shouldn’t we give May a summit too?”

Side note: Another reason for a standalone November meeting: The EU’s October summit is already packed with issues from global trade and security to defense and migration (plus anything else Rome issues an ultimatum about by then).

Meanwhile, back on the home front: Annabelle Dickson has this handy guide to the eight factions among U.K. Conservative Party MPs, and breaks down how they will react if and when Theresa May brings home a deal from Brussels. It’s required reading for those who want any hope of predicting how Brexit will play out from here.

COMMISSION COMPANY TRIP: Commissioners head to Genval for a two-day retreat today, with a bus leaving this afternoon — and no real formal program to follow, officials said. President Jean-Claude Juncker wants commissioners’ input for his September 12 state of the union speech, we’re told. There are two other things on the agenda for sure: Juncker promised to reveal proposals that would speed up the work being done to strengthen the EU’s coast and border guard; and he said he’d talk about how Brussels will deal with the citizens’ consultation on daylight savings time, which went bananas online.

Summer time, and the living is easy: Some 4.6 million EU citizens filled out the survey — by far an all-time record. An overwhelming 80 percent of them said they don’t want the time changing twice a year, according to Westfalenpost newspaper. Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc will brief her colleagues on the survey at the seminar, with the Commission expected to publish the results on Friday. But what is it going to do with them?

What’s next? Juncker framed the consultation as a part of a de-bureaucratization exercise. Summer time was harmonized EU-wide in the 1970s. Bulc said in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung earlier this summer that there are only two options: Keeping the system unchanged or abolishing it for the entire EU. But in truth, it’s not really up to Brussels — time zones are a national competence, and countries are free to decide for themselves what time they use.

ACROSS THE EU

MEDDLING IN ROMANIA: Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was being paid by a global consulting firm when he sent a letter to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis last week that contradicted an official U.S. government position on the country, Marianne Levine and Lili Bayer report in a hot scoop. Giuliani appeared to take sides in a fight at the top of the Romanian government over how to rein in high-level corruption. The letter criticized the “excesses” of Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate — contrary to U.S. State Department policy, which has been supportive of the agency’s efforts.

Mission accomplished: Liviu Dragnea, chief of Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party, fought hard to have the country’s top anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruţa Kövesi fired. Dragnea publicly welcomed the letter, portraying Giuliani as a representative of the U.S.

Romania holds the next presidency of the Council. Perhaps the need to avoid too much embarrassment is the reason the Commission isn’t looking too closely at the state of rule of law in the country.

Still in Romania: Romania’s Black Sea gas reserves should be a cause of national celebration, Anca Gurzu writes, but they’ve led to a political battle that risks scaring off big energy companies and jeopardizing the country’s hopes of becoming a gas exporter.

Meanwhile, in Arizona: Political elites of all stripes and average citizens alike are bidding farewell to John McCain as if he were a native son — one with no clear successor on the horizon to carry on his work, writes Bryan Bender.

CABINET RESHUFFLE IN GREECE: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras left most of his ministers in place in a Cabinet reshuffle this week, but one change raised the opposition’s eyebrows. Michalis Kalogirou, the new justice minister, has defended leftist terrorists and criticized judges for allegedly being politicized. The former “cannot be held against him in and of itself,” New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis noted in a statement — but the latter should be.

MALTA HAPPY: New Europol boss Catherine De Bolle visited Malta and “noted the very good relationship” between Valletta and the law enforcement agency, according to a Maltese press release. That’s nice, but so far it hasn’t helped Malta, or Europol, find whoever murdered investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

PROFESSIONALIZING ITALIAN DIPLOMACY: While Italy’s deputy PMs Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio keep attacking Brussels, the top echelon of their country’s diplomacy remains in the hands of officials with a strong pro-EU pedigree, reports Jacopo Barigazzi. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has appointed as diplomatic adviser Piero Benassi, a former ambassador to Berlin and Tunisia, who worked as head of Cabinet of then-Foreign Minister Emma Bonino.

Described by an Italian official as “pro-EU but within limits,” Benassi will work with Enzo Moavero, the current foreign minister and previously a minister in the Monti and Letta governments. Libero, a right-wing daily close to Salvini, criticized the appointment on the basis that it represented “too much continuity.” But with Rome’s relations with its EU partners in a tough spot, Benassi seems like a good choice to defuse tensions — or at least try.

MACRON SLAPS BACK: Emmanuel Macron hit back against Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán and Italy’s Matteo Salvini, saying they are “right to consider him a threat,” after they called the French president a common enemy and blamed him for Europe’s migration woes. Macron said he would not “cede any ground to nationalists and those who advocate hate speech.” He told reporters on a visit to Denmark that “if they want to see me as their main opponent, they’re right.”

CEU suspends programs: The Central European University is suspending its education programs for registered refugees and asylum seekers in order to avoid a new 25-percent tax. Lili Bayer writes in to tell us the move is controversial — CEU is choosing to comply with the Orbán government’s new rules instead of fighting them in the courts.

PARTEIFREUNDE: Bavaria’s Minister-President Markus Söder, from the CSU, backs his party colleague (and long-time political enemy) Manfred Weber for a top EU role after next year’s European election. “The CSU has room for many strong people,” he told Passauer Neue Presse newspaper in a joint interview with Weber. “If we have the chance to fill an important role in Europe, we should grasp it.”

Look closer: That was actually Söder’s response to whether Weber wanted to become Commission president — or rather could succeed Söder in Munich if things go wrong in the Bavarian state election in October. There are probably only a few people in the CSU who want to see Weber stay in Brussels more than Söder. (On the paper’s front page: a pick-up of Playbook’s interview with Günther Oettinger, in which the budget commissioner backed Weber as the EPP’s Spitzenkandidat.)

Doesn’t look good: The latest poll has the CSU in Bavaria at 36 percent, a world away from an absolute majority.

UK LABOUR’S CORBYN PROBLEM: “Jewish life in Britain is under greater threat than at any time since World War II,” author David Patrikarakos writes in an op-ed for POLITICO. “And it is because of one man — Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn — and the fetid politics that surround him.”