31-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

31-10-2017 | EYE ON GREECE | EU

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Greek PM under fire over migrants

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his migration minister came under a hail of fire Monday from a radical faction within SYRIZA over the plight of the thousands of refugees and migrants stranded in Greece.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222808/article/ekathimerini/news/greek-pm-under-fire-over-migrants

ND given 13-point lead over ruling SYRIZA in latest poll

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party shows a 13-percentage point lead over ruling SYRIZA in the latest opinion poll results broadcast on Monday evening by a local Athens television station.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1289993/nd-given-13-point-lead-over-ruling-syriza-in-latest-poll

Asset declarations deadline likely to be extended

The Greek government and the country’s creditors are considering an extension to Tuesday’s deadline for voluntary declarations of hidden incomes.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222800/article/ekathimerini/business/asset-declarations-deadline-likely-to-be-extended

Former DM Tsohatzopoulos again convicted on money laundering charges

A five-justice appeals court in Athens on Monday handed down a guilty verdict against a disgraced former Greek defense minister, who was freed earlier in the year from prison after serving part of a sentence on felony money laundering charges.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1289919/former-dm-tsohatzopoulos-again-convicted-on-money-laundering-charges

Ban on fishing trawlers extended by two months

The ban on fishing trawlers in the Saronic Gulf has been extended by another two months, authorities said on Monday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222797/article/ekathimerini/news/ban-on-fishing-trawlers-extended-by-two-months

Over 23,000 hectares razed in fires this season

Greece’s fires burnt 23,500 hectares of forest this season, slightly lower than the annual average of 27,500 over the past decade, according to an estimate from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) made public by the Greek branch of the World Wildlife Fund on Monday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222798/article/ekathimerini/news/over-23000-hectares-razed-in-fires-this-season

Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) drops in Greece in Oct.; reaches 17-year high in Eurozone

The Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) for Greece dropped in October to 98.3 points from 100.6 points in the previous month, September 2017.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1289961/economic-sentiment-indicator-esi-drops-in-greece-in-oct-reaches-17-year-high-in-eurozone

ATHEX: Bourse sees turnover slide to lowest level in two months

The slight uptick of the Athens bourse benchmark on Monday was likely just a blip and should not be viewed as a sign of price growth to come, especially given that it also came on the lowest daily trading volume seen in two months, as the market continues to await direction.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/222804/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-bourse-sees-turnover-slide-to-lowest-level-in-two-months

www.enikos.gr


www.protothema.gr

www.newsbomb.gr

www.cnn.gr

www.newsbeast.gr

KATHIMERINI: Ruling party fraction slams Migration Minister Mouzalas

ETHNOS: Correction of a huge injustice. Pensioners are going to receive 2,5 million Euros that were wrongfully withheld by the state for healthcare contributions

TA NEA: Migration minister Mouzalas is seeking refuge himself

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Candidates for the new center-Left party fight for second place [since PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata holds a strong lead]

AVGI: The social dividend to be handed out by the government to weak social groups may reach up to 1,2 billion Euros

RIZOSPASTIS: Alert for the protection of the right to strike

KONTRA NEWS: 150 billion Euros in bank deposits fled the country despite the implementation of capital controls

DIMOKRATIA: Double ‘present’ for pensioners

NAFTEMPORIKI: Banks are going to be more secure as far as NPLs are concerned [due to changes in the Code of Civil Procedure]

WHERE’S CARLES? CATALONIA’S FUGITIVE EX-LEADER IN HIDING IN BRUSSELS

Catalonia’s deposed President Carles Puigdemont is coming to this year’s Halloween party dressed as the EU’s worst nightmare. He will be trick or treating today at 12:30 p.m. at a Brussels press conference, expected to be held at Residence Palace, with up to five fellow ex-ministers: Joaquim Forn (interior), Meritxell Borràs (public administration), Dolors Bassa (employment), Antoni Comín (health) and Meritxell Serret (agriculture), in Belgium on the run from Spanish authorities.

Spanish attorney general files rebellion charges: Puigdemont and other Catalan independence supporters are accused of rebellion, sedition and misusing public funds.

The flight to Brussels of the Catalan politicians followed Belgian State Secretary for Asylum Policy and Migration Theo Francken, a Flemish nationalist N-VA member sympathetic to the Catalan independence cause, encouraging Puigdemont to apply for asylum in Belgium. EU nationals can apply for asylum via a fast-track procedure in Belgium. Reuters reports Puigdemont is now a client of migration lawyer Paul Bekaert.

Flemish nationalists deny involvement: A spokesperson for the N-VA, Joachim Pohlmann, told POLITICO that “in case Mr. Puigdemont is in Brussels, he’s certainly not here at the invitation of the N-VA.” According Catalonia’s TV3, Puigdemont is in a “discreet and safe place.” Amadeu Altafaj, Catalonia’s recently fired ambassador to the EU, said Puigdemont was not with him, but did share with Playbook this letter about his termination by Madrid.

BBC’s Katya Adler has this hot take: Adler’s has been the Twitter account to watch in recent weeks for accurate and neutral Catalonia news. Monday evening she tweeted: “Puigdemont flight works well for Spain. No messy arrest = no political martyr status.”

Barcelona’s feverish politics are giving Brussels a cold: Laurens Cerulus writes that the government risks splitting or even falling if the N-VA takes a line dramatically at odds with the liberal Francophone party of Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Belgian politicians blasted the move: RTBF compiled the main political reactions from French-speaking Belgian political leaders. Charles Michel declined to comment to reporters. The European Commission feigned ignorance.

Puigdemont as Tintin: Somebody had to the keep the Twittersphere amused as it waited for Puigdemont. First versionsecond version.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — PARLIAMENT’S CONFIDENTIAL HARASSMENT REPORT

The European Parliament faces major difficulties in investigating cases of alleged harassment in MEP offices, according to a confidential report obtained by Playbook. Efforts to deal with the problem are also taking their toll on Élisabeth Morin-Chartier, the MEP charged with leading Parliament’s anti-harassment effort, who described the work to POLITICO as “really tough” because “you end up absorbing the victims’ despair.” Full story here.

Alleged victims of harassment waited up to 17 months for a decision on their complaint, the report said. That’s despite the EU ombudsman reprimanding the Parliament in 2013 for taking more than a year to process a sexual harassment complaint filed by an intern. MEPs voted October 25 for a task force of independent experts to evaluate the harassment committee’s work and propose changes.

Collective harassment: The committee said it officially investigated three cases of “collective harassment” — a term it developed to describe allegations by multiple staff against a single MEP. Only one MEP was found to have harassed staff. The report does not say if the MEP was punished by the president, as is allowed by Rule 166 of the Parliament’s rules of procedure.

Serious management problems: In some cases where harassment was not proven against an MEP, the committee found “serious management problems” in their office.

Web of irregularities: While investigating “psychological harassment” by MEPs, the committee uncovered other unreported harassment by both MEPs and their staff (the report did not exclude sexual harassment), proof of financial irregularities, and one harassment case linked to a whistleblowing procedure.

Biased witnesses and vulgar evidence: The committee wrote that it could not rely on many witnesses and asked: “Can a relative such as a mother or sister provide unbiased evidence?” External translators reacted to vulgar written evidence by refusing to accurately translate it, with the effect of misleading the committee.

MEP free pass: The committee recommended “on request” training for MEPs on harassment from 2019, but wanted Parliamentary assistants to undertake compulsory training from March 2017 onwards. While some of the Committee’s harassment prevention recommendations have been implemented, all have faced delay.

Playbook made repeated requests for comment from European Parliament spokespeople Sunday and Monday, but was turned down.

PARLIAMENT VOICE — MEP ÉLISABETH MORIN-CHARTIER

Sexual and psychological harassment are often inseparable at the European Parliament, according to the chair of its harassment committee. “We easily go from one to the other. Victims have trouble saying whether it is sexual or not. It’s often easier for them to denounce psychological harassment,” Élisabeth Morin-Chartier told POLITICO’s Maïa de la Baume. The comments underline the complicated and systemic nature of harassment in the institution. “Some of them [assistants] come to me and are psychologically crushed, and I need to help them recover their self-esteem,” she said.

More complaints expected: “In 2017, I got many complaints, which triggered other complaints, sometimes on the same case. There have been numerous cases of harassment and I think there will be more by the end of this year,” Morin-Chartier said. She also worries not enough people know her committee exists, potentially reducing the number of reported problems.

Online declaration system: Morin-Chartier will propose a website to enable victims to file “harassment declarations” online. She will also propose a “code of good behavior and ethics.”

Committee started from nothing: Morin-Chartier said the committee has come a long way after “starting from scratch” in 2014 and battling the fact “there was no culture of fighting against harassment” in Parliament. The processing time for the most recent complaints dealt with by the committee is now about three months, down from more than a year in 2016.

Wider management issue at Parliament: “Some of my fellow colleagues say ‘we are not managers’ but as long as they have a team working for them, they are managers,” she said.

PARLIAMENT HARASSMENT BY THE NUMBERS

3 — MEPs alleged to have committed “collective harassment” by multiple members of their staff.

17 — Months it took Parliament’s harassment committee to decide “no harassment” in one of the cases against an MEP.

54 — Hours the committee met between 2014 and 2016.

1,506 — Pages of evidence the committee dealt with, including pictures and screenshots from WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook.

In other harassment news: Two British female ministerial staff left their jobs after alleged sexual harassment by their minister. Kevin Spacey outed himself after decades of speculation, in what appeared to be a diversion tactic from sexual assault allegations involving a minor. Netflix announced the cancellation of the popular “House of Cards” series within hours. The Gentlewomen’s Club published this open letter to men, by Clara Sommier.

AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS

PLAYBOOK PREVIEW — JOUROVÁ’S PLAN FOR EU RULE OF LAW REFORM:

European Commissioner Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová will give a speech in Finland today laying out her new ideas on how to reform the EU’s rule of law framework by 2025. According to a copy of Jourová’s prepared remarks seen by Playbook, she says treaty change on rule of law is not realistic but that the Commission should in 2018 lay down a series of common characteristics present when rule of law exists in a country.

Thought bubble: Jourová wants a debate about linking criminal justice (in particular anti-corruption systems) into wider EU economic surveillance systems like the “European semester,” which monitors national budgets and economic reforms.

Top quotes: “The judicial system in the EU is like a chain of Christmas lights. When one light goes off, others don’t light up and the chain is dark.” She will criticize governments that attempt to cover up attacks on rule of law as “the will of the people” and will say: “In democracy, you cannot try to dismantle the judiciary because you won the elections.” She will argue “the essence of democracy is that the minorities know and trust that the law will protect them.”

The money shot: “We need to be sure that the European money is protected, that’s why we should in my view create stronger conditions between the rule of law and the cohesion funds. Countries where we have doubts about the rule of law should face tougher scrutiny and checks.” That’s an unsubtle warning that Warsaw and Budapest remain in the Commission’s crosshairs.

FRANS TIMMERMANS’ LATEST EU WARNING IN ATHENS: The Commission first vice president, who leads work on some of the issues Jourová will mention today, delivered this speech Monday upon receipt of an honorary doctorate. His message: nothing is irreversible, meaning each generation must choose rather than assume progress.

COMMISSION — DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY: Confidence in the euro is at its highest level since 2001, the Commission announced Monday, with eurozone economic sentiment at its best in 17 years.

COMMISSION — GOOGLE ALLEGES SPECULATIVE EU DECISION: Google’s appeal against a €2.42-billion EU antitrust sanction argues investigators misconstrued the basic facts of the case and failed to show the company actually harmed rivals, according to a summary published Monday. The wide-ranging appeal includes novel factual and legal pleas and may shape EU antitrust enforcement for years to come.

BIG IN ROMANIA — 7 COMMISSIONERS HAVE VISITED SINCE THE END OF SUMMER: What’s up in Romania? The country is getting commissioner traffic at rates usually seen only in Germany and France. Recent visitors, on top of the country’s own Corina Creţu, include Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and Commissioners Günther Oettinger, Vytenis Andriukaitis, Marianne Thyssen, Miguel Arias Cañete, Julian King and Mariya Gabriel.

MIGRATION — REFUGEE CRISIS REVERSES GENDER ROLES: At 18, Douaa Sakhnini got married. At 19, she enrolled in uni. At 20, she had her first child and dropped out. At 27, she fled. Now she’s a teacher, reports NRC.

WIM WENDERS’ REFLECTIONS ON EUROPE: The famed director addressed an event last week in Lisbon organized by the cultural heritage advocates Europa Nostra. Read the speech here.

EU NATIONAL NEWS 

CENTRAL EUROPE — VISEGRÁD GROUP COOLS ON EU, AND EACH OTHER: The EU’s Central European bloc found its groove with Europe’s migration crisis. But the region of “no” never found a coherent positive vision, and it’s starting to fray, Matthew Karnitschnig reports.

THE NETHERLANDS — NEW GOVERNMENT’S FULL PROGRAM: Everything you ever wanted to know, in English, about what the new four-party coalition has promised to achieve.

POLAND — PROTESTOR WHO SET HIMSELF ON FIRE DIES: A man who set himself on fire in Warsaw to protest the government’s policies died Sunday after spending 10 days in a coma.

BREXIT 360° …

Cabinet to discuss ‘no-deal scenario’: The U.K. Cabinet will discuss preparations for leaving the European Union without a deal at their weekly meeting Tuesday.

As Brussels and London trade accusations over talks schedule: In Brussels today, U.K. and EU negotiators will thrash out a format for the next round of Brexit talks ahead of a December meeting of the European Council. EU officials accuse the U.K. of dragging its feet, while the Brits argue the Commission has been inflexible about how negotiations are conducted. More from Tom McTague.

Acceleration in neutral: A Commission official told Playbook Monday night there is still no official date for the sixth rounds of Brexit talks. The Commission last week sent three proposed dates; a U.K. government source told Playbook there were active discussions on the dates last week.

Handy guide for understanding what the two sides say and hear. h/t Martin Mycielski

BEYOND EUROPE 

TRUMPED! CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS LOOMS AS CAMPAIGN AIDES CHARGED IN RUSSIA PROBE: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election has dramatically escalated. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and campaign official Rick Gates have been charged with 12 counts of money laundering, making false statements, and other charges. George Papadopolous, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, secretly pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI about the campaign’s outreach to Russian officials.

While the charges were a blow that partially caught the White House off guard, they also offered a measure of relief, reports POLITICO’s Josh Dawsey. And they’re not likely to stop explosive Trump tweets from arriving in coming days; nor would further revelations likely shake the faith Trump’s core voters have in the president. Where that leaves the rest of the country, and the viability of the Trump administration, is anyone’s guess.

MUST READ — JOHN BOEHNER, A MAN IN FULL: POLITICO’S Tim Alberta has a 12,000 word profile of former Speaker Boehner, who Playbook interviewed last week also.

NATO CHIEF URGES COUNTRIES TO IMPLEMENT NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS.