EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom 05-04-2017

EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom 05-04-2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Talks continue in Brussels as gov’t aides blame Berlin for impasse

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and other top Greek officials on Tuesday continued talks with officials in Brussels aimed at breaking an impasse in bailout negotiations as European officials highlighted the risks of further delays.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/217434/article/ekathimerini/business/talks-continue-in-brussels-as-govt-aides-blame-berlin-for-impasse

EZ official: No staff-level agreement expected at Friday’s Eurogroup meeting

A top Eurozone official on Tuesday morning estimated that Friday’s Eurogroup meeting in Malta will not be greeted with a staff-level agreement between Athens and institutional creditors, a sentiment now more-or-less shared by practically all sides involved in gasping negotiations over the Greek program.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1221377/ez-official-no-staff-level-agreement-expected-at-fridays-eurogroup-meeting

Firms forced to emigrate, shut or break rules

In today’s adverse business environment, the excessive taxation of corporate profits favors the illegal economy and pushes organized enterprises and their workers out of the market, according to the weekly bulletin of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV).

http://www.ekathimerini.com/217438/article/ekathimerini/business/firms-forced-to-emigrate-shut-or-break-rules

Greece to open Thessaloniki port financial bids this week

Greece will this week ask for improved financial bids from shortlisted investors seeking to buy a majority stake in its second-largest port, two officials said on Tuesday.

http://www.reuters.com/article/greece-privatisations-port-idUSL5N1HC1OJ

Food and drink trade deficit shrinks

It appears that the domestic food industry has found in exports the ideal way to offset its losses at home. In 2015 the country’s food and drink trade deficit reached its lowest point since 2010, not only because imports dropped but also due to the considerable increase in exports of fresh as well as manufactured food after 2010.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/217439/article/ekathimerini/business/food-and-drink-trade-deficit-shrinks

Greeks show keen interest in e-commerce

Greek consumers are making more and more online purchases and tend to use or are particularly interested in new methods of payment, such as digital wallets and the special apps developed by banks for cell phones, according to Mastercard’s Masterindex survey.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/217440/article/ekathimerini/business/greeks-show-keen-interest-in-e-commerce

ATHEX: Ongoing talks vex investors

The benchmark at Athinon Avenue continued to reflect the nervousness of a market held hostage to the protracted negotiations between representatives of the Greek government and the country’s creditors in Brussels ahead of Friday’s Eurogroup meeting, with stocks posting a small decline on Tuesday on limited turnover.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/217436/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-ongoing-talks-vex-investors

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KATHIMERINI: Delays in the bailout programme review will bring additional measures

ETHNOS: Just one step before an agreement between Athens and the creditors

TA NEA: Government flirts with disaster and snap elections again

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: They are toying with the agony of students

AVGI: Nearing an agreement

RIZOSPASTIS: Friday’s rallies are the response to the government’s measures

KONTRA NEWS: Pay the 6,3 billion Euro installment and send the Troika to hell!

DIMOKRATIA: Bank of Greece governor joins the creditors

NAFTEMPORIKI: High-volume alert for the economy

IMERISIA: Asphyxiating noose strangles the economy

THE UK IN BRUSSELS NEEDS A TWITTER MANAGER: Required competencies include: “Seeing the Big Picture,” “Collaborating and Partnering” and “Building Capability for All,” (capitalization is all theirs). Key benefits: This is “a particularly exciting time to join UKRep as the U.K. prepares to leave the EU.” Full vacancy details here.

DRIVING THE DAY — SYRIA CONFERENCES AND CRIMES …

The European Union, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United Nations will co-chair the “Brussels conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region,” aka a donors’ conference to which Russia and Turkey won’t send their top teams. First media appearances will be from EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini solo at 8:15 a.m. and with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres at 9:15 a.m.

Russia and Islamists blow up Syria, and hand EU the bill: That’s a scenario Mogherini rejected Tuesday. “Somebody breaks everything and we pay the bill — it’s simply not going to happen,” Mogherini told reporters. Yet the reality is the EU has been the biggest donor to Syria since 2011 (giving more than €9 billion) without a military presence there. Jacopo Barigazzi and David Herszenhorn with more details here.

REAL SYRIA: France and the United Kingdom have called for emergency U.N. Security Council talks after a suspected chemical weapons attack killed scores of people in a rebel-held town. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson led the widespread international condemnation, saying: “Bombing your own civilians with chemical weapons is unquestionably a war crime and they must be held to account.” It was the third claim of a chemical attack in just over a week in Syria, reported AP.

**A message from the EPP Group: The EU is not for sale. When necessary, we can change trade routes and reorganize production chains. But we will never allow the division of EU citizens into first and second-class citizens. Ahead of today’s vote on the EP’s input to the Brexit negotiating mandate, here are our red lines.**

COMMISSION — NAVRACSICS BREAKS WITH HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT ON UNIVERSITY CONFLICT: Hungary’s government has fast-tracked and deepened its attack on the George Soros-backed, Budapest-based Central European University. A new law passed Tuesday night could see the university disrupted or shut down within six months.

Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s former deputy prime minister and now European commissioner for education, distanced himself from his ally Viktor Orbán over the move. Navracsics is a former academic and said the “Central European University is one of the most important higher education institutions not only in Hungary but also in the European higher education system.” The European Commission said only that it would “follow developments” on the issue.

The CEU accused Hungary of wilfully misinterpreting US law: Official statement here. The CEU was the last major Hungarian university free from government meddling. Non-academic watchdogs suspect the move against it is about more than education policy. “George Soros is a useful smokescreen behind which countries can dismantle the civil society sector,” said Goran Buldioski, head of the Open Society Initiative for Europe.

Pressure will now mount on the EPP to act: Outsiders often fail to appreciate how much support Orbán has within the EPP. At the height of the refugee crisis in 2015 he received a bigger round of applause than German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the EPP congress in Madrid. That said, there’s also many in the EPP acutely embarrassed by Orbán’s illiberal streak. His university crackdown will encourage other parties (led by figures such as Germany’s Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth, a Social Democrat) to pressure EPP moderates to punish Orbán in some way.

COMMISSION — MEETING IN ‘SEMINAR FORMAT,’ COMMISSIONERS RATE THEMSELVES HIGHLY: When EU commissioners start brainstorming, the real fun starts (not), writes David Herszenhorn.

COMMISSION — NEW SPECIAL ADVISERS AND EX FILES: The Commission updated its lists of special advisers to European commissioners on Tuesday. New names include former Bulgarian MEP Ivailo Kalfin, who will advise the Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger on budget matters and how to handle MEPs and MPs. Catherine Day, the former secretary general of the Commission, is also still advising Juncker on budget issues.

EUROGROUP — PORTUGUESE FINANCE MINISTER IN LINE TO REPLACE DIJSSELBLOEM: Reuters reports Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said his Finance Minister Mário Centeno has been contacted to become the next Eurogroup president, and has Costa’s support. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is less enthusiastic, though he couched his criticism in terms of what a loss it would be Portugal if Centeno was distracted with Eurogroup tasks. More on Reuters.

EUROGROUP — PARLIAMENT BARK WITHOUT BITE AGAINST DIJSSELBLOEM’S BOYCOTT: The European Parliament is never tougher than when it is defending its own ego. And so it was Tuesday on the topic of Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s refusal to address plenary over the Greek bailout and his comments on Greek economic policy.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani will formally protest the move but admitted “there’s no legal obligations for him to take part in our work.” Dijsselbloem sent Parliament two letters saying he was busy and all but apologizing for his recent comments.

Who’s correct? The heart of the spat is different perceptions of what the Eurogroup is and should be. MEPs want a more developed eurozone, with some calling for a eurozone finance minister and treasury, and they want additional oversight over those functions. But as it stands the Eurogroup is an informal body of the Council and unlike the European Central Bank and its president, for example, does not have treaty obligations to appear before MEPs.

The difference between correct and right: As the Eurogroup wades ever-deeper into the mess of the third Greek bailout, Tajani said “it will be expected that someone who asks European citizens to make huge sacrifices also feels the duty to answer to their representatives.”

While EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly says she is encouraged by Dijsselbloem’s moves to open up Eurogroup processes, she told Playbook it is difficult for citizens to understand why it is not accountable to them via Parliament. “It would therefore be preferable, in the future, for such inter-governmental informal groupings to become fully-fledged EU bodies, subject to the usual democratic checks and balances,” O’Reilly said.

A bad job application: Right or wrong, Dijsselbloem isn’t doing himself any favors in his bid to stay on as Eurogroup president, after his party was nearly wiped out in the March 15 Dutch elections. The Socialists and green party groups again called for his head Tuesday (notable because Dijsselbloem is affiliated with the Socialist group).

PARLIAMENT VOTES DOWN IDEA OF A CENTRAL EU CAR SURVEILLANCE AUTHORITY: European Parliament on Tuesday rejected an effort to create a new agency giving the EU wide-ranging powers over national car-testing authorities, a sign of skepticism over a further centralization of EU power, even in light of the Dieselgate scandal. Anca Gurzu with more info for POLITICO Pro Energy subscribers.

REGISTRATION OPEN — BRUSSELS ECONOMIC FORUM: The forum will take place June 1 in Flagey on the themes of inequality, the future of Europe and migration. In addition to Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, key speakers include French Central Bank Governor François Villeroy de Galhau, George Soros, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and former Finnish PM Alex Stubb.

ECA — EU MAKING PROMISES IT CAN’T KEEP ON YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT: The EU’s Youth Guarantee, aimed at helping young Europeans without jobs or education, has had a limited effect and failed to reach initial expectations, according to a report by the European Court of Auditors released on Tuesday. More than 4 million EU youths had no job in 2016.

BREXIT CORNER …

MEPs tell UK: ‘Without us, there’s no Brexit deal.’ Britain has never had much time for the European Parliament. But as Brexit looms large, MEPs are keen to remind London they have the power to kill the country’s final exit deal with the bloc, Maïa de la Baume reports.

How the two Brexit letters compare: The U.K.’s Institute for Government compared Theresa May and Donald Tusk’s guidelines.

Why private equity is sweating Brexit: London-based firms fear losing investment and access to talent, writes Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli.

WHAT BRITS ARE TALKING ABOUT — EASTER EGG HUNTS: Theresa May and the Church of England have accused Cadbury and the National Trust of pushing religion out of public life. Both the chocolate maker and the National Trust have refuted the accusations.

CYPRUS — IF ERDOĞAN CONSOLIDATES HIS GRIP ON TURKEY, HE MAY LOOSEN IT ON CYPRUS: “While there is concern that Erdoğan’s sweeping constitutional reforms would push Turkey one step closer to authoritarianism, on the plus side — at least for Cyprus — it would stabilize and secure Erdoğan’s position at home, potentially making him more amenable to an agreement,” reports Sara Stefanini.

THE NETHERLANDS — DUTCH INTELLIGENCE CONFIRMS RUSSIAN ATTEMPTS TO INFLUENCE ELECTION: Russia tried to influence last month’s Dutch election by spreading fake news, according to the annual report of the Dutch intelligence service AIVD.

FRENCH ELECTION CORNER …

The biggest surprise from Tuesday’s second televised presidential debate was that health and safety inspectors didn’t storm the TV studio: the 11 candidates on stage did, after all, have less space to move than caged chickens. On the substance, check out POLITICO’s five takeaways here, by Nicholas Vinocur, and relive the debate as it happened via the POLITICO live blog.

Election tweet du jour: “For politicians struggling to make ends meet, caviar is back at Lidl 15 grams for €9.99.” That was supermarket chain Lidl trolling François Fillon (and much of the rest of the political class).

Understanding the Socialist meltdown: Left-wing leaders and activists alike are deeply divided, according to a survey by the Jean Jaurès foundation. Handelsblatt Global notes that Martin Schulz, the leader of the SPD and its candidate for chancellor, has prevented a Socialist meltdown in Germany, in contrast to the France debacle.

SERBIA — EU THE BIGGEST LOSER FROM SUNDAY’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: Support for EU membership has fallen from 70 to 43 percent since 2012, writes Srdan Cvijic. Not only that, but a million Serbs now prefer to live abroad “rather than face a future inside an autocracy.” Just 1 percent of those residing overseas bothered to vote in the election, and of those still in Serbia, nearly half didn’t show up. “Of those who did, nearly 10 percent registered a protest vote with comedian Luka Maksimović (better known as Beli Preletačević). Brussels should be paying close attention to the dissatisfied.”

RUSSIA DANCING ON ITS OWN …

Sergey Lavrov rejects dance date with Rex Tillerson, citing mama’s advice: When U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited NATO headquarters last week, he cheekily said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov isn’t allowed to tango because President Vladimir Putin is the one who calls all the moves in Russia. Asked at a Moscow news conference Tuesday about the comment, which was first reported by POLITICO, Lavrov joked: “My mama, also, forbade me to dance with boys.”

David O’Sullivan survives two hours of US Senate testimony on Russia: O’Sullivan, head of the EU delegation to the United States, glided around the political storm surrounding the White House’s potential connections to the Kremlin and instead spent much of his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reassuring lawmakers that Europe is eager to work with the United States. Katy O’Donnell has the wrap here from Washington.

TRUMP WORLD …

Failing to deliver: After the health care reform debacle, Trump’s promise to end NAFTA now sounds far-fetched.

Florida is the diplomatic hub: Will Chinese President Xi Jinping have the roast beef buffet when he meets Team Trump at Mar-a-Lago Thursday?

The coolest job in DC now? Former Trump staffers are pushing to work as lobbyists for foreign governments trying to understand the Trump machine.

REAL EUROPE …

New €50 banknoteThe new banknote is the fourth in the ECB’s new Europa series with tougher security features. New €100 and €200 banknotes will be issued at the beginning of 2019.

European alliance: Is it time, as the Onion suggests, to reunite the Windsor and Bourbon families to soften Brexit talks?

Multi-speed Europe means devolution: By former Dutch Socialist MEP Dorette Corbey in Social Europe.

BRUSSELS CORNER …

MAP OF THE EU QUARTER IN BRUSSELS: Issued by the Council, this printable PDF map marks out the 28 permanent representations to the EU from its member countries, and more than 50 Commission, Parliament and other institutional buildings.

APPOINTED: Jānis Citskovskis is the new director of the Latvian state chancellery, shifting from the interior ministry. The previous director, Mārtiņš Krieviņš, stepped down in March without explanation.