31-08-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

31-08-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Greece offers latest effort to reform public sector, a key bailout demand

Greece’s government presented a three-year plan to overhaul the country’s public sector on Wednesday, the latest attempt to fix a problem that helped plunge the country into its worst crisis in decades seven years ago.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221266/article/ekathimerini/news/greece-offers-latest-effort-to-reform-public-sector-a-key-bailout-demand

Greek FM in Skopje on Thur.; meeting with neighboring country’s top leadership scheduled

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias will visit the foreign Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) on Thursday, where he is scheduled to meet with his counterpart, Nikola Dimitrov.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1271270/greek-fm-in-skopje-on-thur-meeting-with-neighboring-countrys-top-leadership-scheduled

Stavros Theodorakis expected to formally announce candidacy for new party

The head of centrist To Potami, Stavros Theodorakis, is expected to formally announce on Friday his running for the leadership of a new center-left party that will be formed in October.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221244/article/ekathimerini/news/stavros-theodorakis-expected-to-formally-announce-candidacy-for-new-party

Modification of capital controls, rather than relaxation, set for Friday

A further modification of capital controls in Euro zone member Greece – a continuing “byproduct” from shambolic negotiations with creditors in the first half of 2015 – will come on Friday, Sept. 1

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1271305/modification-of-capital-controls-rather-than-relaxation-set-for-friday

Greece’s economic sentiment improves

Greece’s economic sentiment index edged higher this month, according to a Eurostat survey published Wednesday, although it remained in pessimistic territory.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221255/article/ekathimerini/business/greeces-economic-sentiment-improves

Strengthening euro has Greek exporters worried

Greek exporters are quite concerned about the euro’s significant rise against the dollar and other key foreign currencies since March, fearing Greek commodities could start to lose the favorable momentum that took both time and no small effort to build.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221251/article/ekathimerini/business/strengthening-euro-has-greek-exporters-worried

European investors seen in pole position for DESFA stake

The executive board of Greece’s privatization agency, the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED), is set to approve a short list of candidates for the acquisition of a 66 percent stake in natural gas transmission system operator DESFA.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221234/article/ekathimerini/business/european-investors-seen-in-pole-position-for-desfa-stake

Eurobank, Piraeus post Q2 profits

Piraeus Bank turned profitable in April-to-June, while Eurobank saw profits rise. Piraeus posted small net earnings from continued operations as provisions for impaired loans were flat compared to the previous quarter, Greece’s largest lender by assets said Wednesday. Piraeus, which is 26.2 percent owned by the country’s bank rescue fund HFSF, reported a net profit of 7 million euros after a net loss of 7 million euros in the first quarter.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221252/article/ekathimerini/business/eurobank-piraeus-post-q2-profits

Small recovery for Athens Exchange

The benchmark of the Greek bourse recovered some ground from Tuesday’s 1.88 percent sell-off, with investors reflecting on a series of wide-ranging issues from North Korea and the Brexit negotiations to local banks’ first-half financial results.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/221253/article/ekathimerini/business/small-recovery-for-athens-exchange

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KATHIMERINI: Ministers’ feuds: They reject expenditure cutbacks that would finance social benefits

TA NEA: Government in search of lifejacket from already-drowned businesses. Regulation of debts below 20,000 Euros

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Institutions in the mist: The truth about the ENFIA real estate tax and private donations

AVGI: Fake news seriously damages health

RIZOSPASTIS: Capitalists and their governments are accomplices to the 18 workplace accidents that took place in the last two months

KONTRA NEWS: The whole world is laughing at the Center-Left’s leader elections

TO PONTIKI: The electoral and members base of the Center-Left rejects any… right turn!

DIMOKRATIA: ‘Special favors’ for MPs and elected officials

NAFTEMPORIKI: Road map for the activation of the Greek energy market

As the Brussels bubble returns to full capacity, the top floors of the Berlaymont will empty out from 3:30 p.m. today until Friday 2:30 p.m. The annual commissioners’ retreat, or “seminar” in EU language, will take place in Genval, a genteel garden suburb of Brussels.

A Commission source said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker asked his team to report on the political temperatures in their home countries. They are also expected to provide input for Juncker’s September 13 State of the Union speech, which lays the groundwork for the Commission’s 2018 work program.

A year ago, Margrethe Vestager dropped her €13 billion Apple tax bill bombshell in the hours before the retreat. This year, Juncker will meet former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at 1:30 p.m., just as Brexit negotiators potentially drop their own bombs at a press conference expected at roughly the same time.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — EU-LATIN AMERICA OCTOBER SUMMIT MAY BE CANCELED OVER VENEZUELA DISPUTE: According to two diplomatic sources, one from the EU side one from Latin America, Peru has led 10 other nations in requesting the EU and El Salvador, the president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, cancel an EU-CELAC summit planned for October 26-27.

The reason for the request is Venezuela’s recent violent and disputed election. None of the 11 countries seeking the cancellation recognize Venezuela’s new parliament and don’t want to appear at a summit with President Nicolás Maduro. It would suit them for the EU to do the dirty work of canceling the summit rather than for CELAC to clean house by suspending or ejecting Venezuela.

In addition, “We want the EU to condemn even harder the situation in Venezuela,” said Playbook’s Latin American diplomatic source. An EU diplomat responded that the bloc is ready to attend the summit, and that any cancellation is up to CELAC, whose foreign ministers will meet mid-September to make a final call.

COMMISSION — COPERNICUS ACTIVATED FOR US DISASTER RELIEF: The EU’s emergency Copernicus Emergency Management Service has been activated at the request of FEMA, the U.S. emergency agency, and is providing damage assessment maps to several affected areas in Texas. Maja Kocijančič, spokeswoman for the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said Washington had asked for EU help four times since 2012 and the bloc also provided assistance after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

COMMISSION — TERROR, TAX AND THE SILVER SCREEN: It’s not often the Commission hosts a film night and it has certainly never mixed tax and glamor before. On September 5, that unlikely combination of ingredients will be on show at Bouche à Oreille, at a film screening hosted by Commissioner Pierre Moscovici.

PARLIAMENT ROUND UP …

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — WESTERN SAHARA REPRESENTATIVES SLAM EU OVER MOROCCO TALKS: MEPs on the foreign affairs committee are today expected to discuss EU-Morocco relations in a closed-door session with Claudia Wiedey, the newly appointed EU ambassador to Rabat. The debate comes as the European Commission attempts to circumvent a 2016 ruling by the European Court of Justice that goods from Western Sahara — a former Spanish colony now occupied by Morocco — should not fall under the EU trade deal with Morocco.

A group of organizations representing the Sahrawi people has slammed the Commission’s move. “Seeking to circumvent the ECJ’s ruling directly challenges the credibility of the EU, and significantly damages the potential for progress through the U.N.-led negotiation process,” said the groups in a letter to Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers, obtained by Playbook’s own Harry Cooper.

TODAY IN PARLIAMENT …

Timmermans to discuss Poland: Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans will discuss rule of law in Poland with MEPs of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. Watch live starting 9 a.m. MEPs from Poland’s opposition Civic Platform will hold a live streamed press conference at 11 a.m.

Discussions with new EU ambassadors: The Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold closed-door discussions with newly appointed EU ambassadors to Russia (Markus Ederer), Nigeria (Ketil Karlsen) and Venezuela (Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa).

Qatari foreign minister in town: Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani will meet Mogherini, Commissioner Julian King and Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, in addition to a group of MEPs in Parliament.

PARLIAMENT — EARTHQUAKE CASH APPROVED IN COMMITTEE: The Committee on Budgets has approved €1.2 billion aid to Italy after several earthquakes in 2016 and 2017. The European Parliament plenary will finalize its support for the payment in September.

PARLIAMENT’S TRANSLATION TRAUMA: The new EU-funded European House of History museum has a rare EU problem. It’s too popular. Unexpected demand for Irish language translations explaining its online exhibitions has helped the museum overspend its annual €8.2 million website budget by €3.7 million. Another element driving the cost up is that freelance Irish translators needed to plug the gap often cost double that of translators of other languages. Euroskeptics have used the high spending to slam the whole museum, a move Irish speaking MEPs have called a deliberate distraction from stalled Brexit talks.

NATO — ATTACK OF THE BOTS: NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu wasn’t thrilled to gain nearly 9,000 new Twitter followers in just 24 hours Wednesday. After tweeting a Daily Beast article on a bot attack directed against analysts working for the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, she watched as the tweet racked up thousands of retweets and likes in less than an hour, often from faceless accounts with Russian names. Some of the accounts had lain dormant for up to eight years. Lungescu replied, noting “busy day for bots.” NATO told Playbook 9,000 of the last 15,000 new followers are registered as Russian-language, most with less than 20 followers. Read more about the attack here.

VISEGRÁD GROUP AND EASTERN PARTNERSHIP FOREIGN MINISTERS MEETING: Ministers from Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine meet in Budapest. Watch for Russia related-news.

BREXIT CORNER …

Negotiators to finish around lunch time: Negotiators are meeting in a plenary format this morning and both EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and the U.K.’s David Davis will speak to reporters in the early afternoon.

Latest from the negotiations: Noises from both sides are pessimistic. The Telegraph reports “total amazement” from the EU side after “British negotiators spent three hours launching a painstaking, line-by-line rebuttal of the EU’s demands” for between €60 and €100 billion. The atmosphere in the room, report Charlie Cooper, David M. Herszenhorn, Maïa de La Baume and Simon Marks, was “very tense,” with British negotiators reacting angrily to the idea they aren’t “serious” about the talks.

EU diplomats to Britain: flexibility has a price tag. The best way for David Davis and his team to push for the EU to be flexible is to finally start talking seriously about the money issue.

Theresa May’s brave face: The prime minister told reporters in Kyoto, Japan she plans to stick around and fight the next U.K. election, probably in 2022. “I’m in this for the long term because there’s a long-term challenge for the United Kingdom,” the PM said. Annabelle Dickson has the story.

May’s trade strategy: copy and paste. It’s logical, but has an Alice in Wonderland feel at the same time. Simon Marks reports May wants the U.K. to copy-and-paste new and nearly finished EU trade deals to ensure continuity after Brexit. In other words: U.K. sovereignty will be expressed by leaving the EU in order to copy it. Unsurprisingly that position was drowned out by North Korean sabre rattling, writes Simon Marks.

Barnier bites: Michel Barnier was not amused by British claims he lacks flexibility and told Bloomberg: “We need to know their position and then I can be flexible.”

Barnier clarifies: In Wednesday’s Playbook, we reported on a gloomy speech by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator delivered in French to EU ambassadors. According to a source, Barnier said on Tuesday that the EU will need to renegotiate a host of global agreements struck while the U.K. was a member. Barnier’s team offered Playbook a transcript of his remarks, saying he did not claim the EU would need to renegotiate the many EU bilateral agreements, but simply that the U.K. would exit those pacts. For “multilateral mixed agreements,” such as World Trade Organization membership or the Paris climate accord, the EU would remain committed to working with the U.K.

GERMAN ELECTION CORNER …

Far right down, not out: Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) won’t be polling in the mid-twenties as it did in some regional elections in 2016, but it’s still on course become the first far-right party to enter the German parliament since World War II, reports Victor Brechenmacher.

Key moments from Germany’s small-party election debate: Candidates from the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the left-leaning Greens, far-left Die Linke and the AfD — the four parties expected to enter the German parliament in the September 24 election — discussed migration, terrorism and security.

FRANCE — CRUNCH TIME FOR EMMANUEL MACRON AS REFORMS REVEALED: Today, French President Emmanuel Macron details his labor reform plans. While the exact contents are secret, a trade union boss told Nicholas Vinocur they would deliver “the most profound overhaul” of France’s rules “since World War II.” Failing to follow through on the planned reforms may not break Macron, but success would go a long way to making him.

Each-way bet with the left: Meanwhile, sources say France will oppose the EU-wide renewal of glyphosate, a controversial weed-killer, when national experts meet in September on the subject. The upshot: As Macron makes economic reforms from the right, he is also attempting to cuddle the left on social issues.

ROMANIA — PRIME MINISTER WANTS GOLD MINE REMOVED FROM UNESCO LIST: Environment groups are furious that Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose wants UNESCO to disregard a request made by the previous government to declare the Rosia Montana gold mine a protected area. Balkan Insight has the details.

UKRAINE — PREVENTING DISASTER IN DONBAS: The Soviet Union as Ukraine’s master gave the world the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Now, Ukraine is a “ticking time bomb,” writes Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz for POLITICO. The conflict in Ukraine “has the potential to create pollution of a very real kind — as continued fighting threatens chlorine storage facilities, chemical plants, metallurgical factories, hazardous waste storage sites, and coal mines.”

DIGITAL POLITICS: Le Monde published a series of articles and columns on the latest moves of tech giant Amazon. While some are enjoying Amazon’s discounting of healthy foods, Le Monde smells a hidden motive. “The Amazon empire is worrying. By attacking the food retail industry [it has bought the food giant Whole Foods] while investing on its own infrastructures, the online shopping giant is putting its own competitors under surveillance.”