EYE ON GREECE | EU 25-07-2017

EYE ON GREECE | EU 25-07-2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

D-day for Greece’s bond market return

Tuesday marks Greece’s first attempt since 2014 to tap international markets with the issue of a five-year bond. The announcement of the book opening was made on Monday in a statement via the Athens stock market.


High court president to Greek govt: Respect role of the independent judiciary; feud escalates

A simmering feud between the leftist-rightist coalition government and a high-profile segment of the country’s independent judiciary continued unabated on Monday, with the president of the Council of State (CoS) saying the independent justice system must be fully respected by the executive and legislative branches.


Varoufakis immediately, sharply replies to Tsipras’ criticism

An increasingly combative Giannis Varoufakis responded within hours on Monday to a high-profile interview of Greek PM Alexis Tsipras in the “Guardian”, using the same outlet’s electronic pages to disparage his one-time political boss’ criticism of his (Varoufakis) advise and strategy, especially towards the end of the leftist government’sshambolic six-month negotiations with creditors.


Schaeuble: Greek crisis his most dramatic moment in last four years; Greece now on a ‘good path’

Influential German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble calls the Greek crisis in the summer of 2015 the most dramatic crisis in the last four years of his tenure at the post.


Spending cuts prettify budget data

Delays in the funding of hospitals, social spending cuts and low expenditure on the Public Investments Program served to prettify the picture of the state budget over the first half of the year, producing a primary surplus of 1.93 billion euros, Finance Ministry figures showed on Monday.


Average spending per holiday continues to shrink in Greece

Foreign tourists’ average spending per trip in the first five months of the year posted a decline of 1.5 percent from last year to reach 430.4 euros, according to Bank of Greece data.


Greece extends deadline for expressions of interest in gas grid

Greece’s privatisation agency TAIPED said on Monday it had extended the deadline for submission of expressions of interest in natural gas grid operator DESFA to August 7.


ATHEX: Benchmark edges higher

The Greek bourse had already priced in the issue of a five-year bond, so there was little reaction on the part of investors on Monday. A brief uptick in trade during the closing auctions proved enough to push the benchmark into positive territory and reverse losses for the banks index.







KATHIMERINI: The country faces an institutional crisis

TA NEA: Resist! Democracy targeted 43 years after its reinstatement

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Greece returns to the international markets

AVGI: Democracy demands virtue and courage… And so does justice

RIZOSPASTIS: EU Court – EU – Governments: They decided to make the employment and the lives of workers extremely flexible

KONTRA NEWS: New beginning with the country’s exit to the international bond markets

DIMOKRATIA: PM Tsipras sends letter to IMF’s Lagarde: “I will take any measures necessary”

NAFTEMPORIKI: Greece taps international bond markets

COMMISSION VOWS TO PIECE TOGETHER CAR EMISSIONS MESS: A sprawling scandal that may involve anti-competitive collusion by Germany’s top carmakers (Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Porsche and Audi) has dragged on for so long and gotten so bad it now has its own European Commission vice president. Step forward Jyrki Katainen. The latest furor is over whether the auto giants conspired in meetings dating back decades to rig the size of tanks for so-called AdBlue liquid so they were too small to effectively purify diesel exhaust.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — EU 2017 CONSUMER RIGHTS SCORECARD: European Commissioner for Consumers Vera Jourová will today launch her plan for the second half of her term and publish rankings on how EU countries fare on delivering and using consumer rights. Her message, according to Playbook’s Commission source: “We live in a world where the big ones get bigger so the EU’s job is to empower the smaller ones and level the odds.” The source pointed to the car emissions mess as an example of why sitting back and letting the market sort itself out is a flawed strategy. The source added Jourová wants European consumers to have better options for group lawsuits (known as class actions in some jurisdictions), so EU victims of emissions cheating could be compensated the same way Americans have been.

On the business side, Jourová calculated a retailer needs to invest €250,000 to be sure it is legally compliant when selling across the whole EU. While that sounds very high, barely half of Europe’s retailers can answer basic questions about consumer rights correctly, according to the results of the scorecard, seen by Playbook.

EU-TURKEY HIGH-LEVEL POLITICAL DIALOGUE TODAY: Talks start at 6 p.m. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini kicks things off at the opening press conference at 5 p.m. Watch here.

Germans on the political attack: Manfred Weber, chairman of the European People’s Party in European Parliament, told Albrecht Meier: “Turkey’s EU accession makes no sense. The EU should set itself the goal of ending the accession talks.” Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “is jeopardizing the centuries-old partnership,” between Germany and Turkey, adding: “We can’t allow ourselves to be blackmailed,” in an interview with Bild.

Amnesty also applying pressure: Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, will urge Mogherini to urgently raise the issue of jailed human rights defenders — including Amnesty International’s Turkey director and chair, Idil Eser and Taner Kılıç — at a meeting with the Turkish foreign minister.

Back in Turkey, press freedom on trial: Seventeen journalists, managers and board members of the opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet are in court on trial for allegedly being or aiding followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the government accuses of masterminding a failed military coup in July 2016.

Turkey withdrew its German business blacklist.

COUNCIL — EU-EGYPT ASSOCIATION COUNCIL: The parties are looking to agree on common priorities for the next three years but EU countries are divided on whether to keep Cairo close or condemn the government’s rights violations. Copying the illiberal playbook of leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi this year approved a new law governing the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that severely restricts their activities. Since May, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) told Playbook 123 internet sites have been blocked in Egypt and 21 media professionals are currently behind bars. “Egypt is one of the world’s largest prisons for journalists,” an RWB spokesperson said. Egypt is now ranked 161 out of 180 in the 2017 Reporters Without Borders press freedom rankings.


EEAS — NEW DELEGATION IN MONGOLIA: As Playbook flagged in June, the External Action Service has officially communicated it will open a new delegation to Mongolia (the EU’s 140th globally), with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker describing it as “a democratic country strategically located between China and Russia.” A new EU-Mongolia partnership agreement is currently under discussion.

BREXIT — CROATIA TESTS EU27 UNITY OVER CITIZEN CONCERNS: Unlike other EU citizens, Croats do not have the automatic right to work in the U.K. (they joined after Britain started to impose restrictions). They aren’t happy about the prospect of being offered different and lesser rights to other EU citizens in any Brexit deal, reports David Herszenhorn.

BREXIT EXTRAS … House of Lords launches attempt to maintain single market access for financial services. Deutsche Bank considers shifting €300 billion to Frankfurt. The New Yorker profiles Sadiq Khan, mayor of London.

POLAND — PRESIDENTIAL VETO AND DUELING TV SPEECHES BY SZYDŁO AND DUDA: Poland’s President Andrzej Duda announced he would veto two of three controversial laws that would have given the government more control over the judiciary, a surprising slap at his political patron Jarosław Kaczyński and the ruling Law and Justice party. Polish PM Beata Szydło went on state TV to declare her government “will not back down from the path of repairing the state. We will not give into pressures.” Duda followed her, saying he intended to produce his own version of the bills. “Without the reform of the justice system, there is no possibility of building a just state,” he said. “The bills prepared by the parliament largely met these goals, however I couldn’t sign them.”

Brussels veto reactions: The Commission adopted a wait and see approach but the move clearly plays into Brussels’ hands. While it’s too soon for opponents of the reforms to declare victory, European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans and his team have long been convinced a victory is only possible if Poles themselves step up to defend their institutions. Opponents of the Polish government told Playbook they will undertake a “silent stroll” at lunch today, from the Schuman roundabout outside the European Commission and Council to the Polish EU embassy nearby.

GERMAN ELECTION — SCHULZ PLAYS THE REFUGEE CARD: The Social Democrats’ candidate for chancellor Martin Schulz is taking a big gamble: He’s playing the refugee card. The tactic — deployed while his rival Angela Merkel is on a three-week holiday and can easily avoid engaging with him — is part of a plan to paint the chancellor’s reelection platform as devoid of content. But Janosch Delcker writes there are three problems with this approach for Schulz: 1) Some in his own party think he shouldn’t try to use refugees as a wedge issue against Merkel. 2) His party supported Merkel’s refugee policies in 2015. 3) Schulz’s own proposals are similar to Merkel’s efforts to make amends for her unpopular 2015 actions.

GERMAN ELECTION — SCHULZ LECTURES GERMANS NOT TO LECTURE: Martin Schulz reckons Germany should stop telling everyone else what to do.

SPAIN — CATALONIA’S PUIGDEMONT FACTOR: Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia, has been on a high-speed collision course with the Spanish state all year. He told Playbook earlier this month “nothing will stop us” from holding an independence referendum October 1. The Spanish government in Madrid says otherwise, and only one can be right. Diego Torres explains the obstacles, including: Court action over the budget that would be spent on the vote; a failed public tender for ballot boxes; the lack of an official list of voters (the Spanish state owns it and refuses to share); and some city halls refusing to allow their facilities to be used as polling stations.

SWEDEN — DATA BREACH CONTINUES TO SWAMP GOVERNMENT: Swedish PM Stefan Löfven can’t shake a scandal that involved classified data outsourced to Serbia and the Czech Republic in 2015 (refresher from Friday’s Playbook). The outsourcing is widely seen in Sweden as putting national security at risk. Löfven admitted the situation is a “mess” in an interview with Swedish public radio. Watch out for a no-confidence vote against the country’s fragile left-wing coalition government.

MIGRATION — OPINION: EUROPE’S RECIPE FOR CRISIS. Craig Spencer, a medical doctor working on a search-and-rescue vessel in the Mediterranean for Doctors Without Borders, has seen the results of EU migration policies. He writes new measures to “stem the migratory flow” recently approved by the EU and Italy “will only cause more to drown at Europe’s doorstep.”


Playbook liked the city so much he stayed for an extra day to host a happy hour with local readers. Thanks to all who joined, from government-supporting think tanks to Momentum activists, it was a pleasure to bring some unexpected conversations to the Anker Klub. Look out for the next edition in your city!

What Hungarians are talking about: Aside from their hero Katinka Hosszú winning her first swimming world title of the week, those who joined Playbook for drinks were most talkative about an 18-year-old arrested for spotting and telling authorities about a security vulnerability in a new Budapest transport e-ticketing system. Thousands of people have flooded the transport authority with complaints after hearing the story. The problem arose from a contractor trying to roll out the system with little or no testing in just a matter of weeks, despite the fact Budapest is a city of two million people with many types of public transport, and was hosting a major sporting event the day of the launch. Playbook’s Hungarian tech source said: “You release an app with so many bugs it is almost a feature, and then you arrest the one guy who is trying to help? That is why you have so much cynicism in Hungary.”

US — VOTE ON RUSSIA SANCTIONS BILL TODAY: The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote today on its proposed Russian sanctions bill, which has sparked the ire of EU countries and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, report our POLITICO Pro Energy reporters Anca Gurzu and Kalina Oroschakoff. The bill could deliver a blow to EU companies that are involved in Russian energy export pipelines or teaming up with Russian companies on energy projects — and could take a toll on the bloc’s energy diversification efforts. Republican and Democratic negotiators from the House and Senate announced a deal on the sanctions on Saturday, making it likely the bill will pass both chambers with overwhelming majorities, our U.S. colleague report. President Donald Trump is expected to sign it because it has strong support, according to CNN.


BELGIUM — MAGNETTE TO RESIGN AS PRESIDENT OF WALLONIA REGION: Paul Magnette will step down from Wallonia’s regional assembly and retreat to his other job as mayor of Charleroi once the region installs a new government. A new center-right government is expected this week.

REAL EUROPE — GERMANY’S RURAL TROUBLES: The country is struggling to find doctors in rural and isolated outposts.


Angela Merkel and her four Frenchmen: The French version of Vanity Fair details the relationships between the German chancellor and four French presidents.

The forgotten actors: Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker lays out how cities can build trust between residents and refugees.

What should Europe do with the children of ISIS? Charlotte McDonald-Gibson for the New York Times.