EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom 07-03-2017

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Reports: Creditors push for ‘Danish model’ regarding tax-free threshold in Greece

A “Danish model” is apparently favored by creditors for Greece’s tax-free annual income threshold, which currently stands at roughly 8,600 euros, compared to the 5,781-euro figure calculated for non-Euro zone member Denmark.


Greece turning a page, poised to show strong growth-PM

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Monday the economy of the country was turning a page, and poised to show ‘exceptionally high’ rates of growth this year.


German-language media highlight downward Greek GDP revision

German-language media on Monday pounced on the same-day announcement by Greece’s statistical service overturning a much-publicized forecast of Greek economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2016 – and instead revising figures to show a continuing recession.


Europe migrants: Tracing perilous Balkan route to Germany

For many thousands of migrants heading to Europe from the Middle East, the long route to a new life now lies through Greece and the Western Balkans with the ultimate destination in Germany and other northern EU countries.


Greece’s National Bank agrees to sell South African unit

Greece’s second-largest lender National Bank (NBG) agreed to sell its entire 99.8 percent stake in its South Africa Bank of Athens (SABA) subsidiary to AFGRI Holdings as part of an EU-approved restructuring plan, the bank said on Tuesday.


Alexandroupoli port to be conceded within this year

A tender for the concession of Alexandroupoli Port Authority (OLA SA) will be announced during the course of this year according to state privatization fund TAIPED’s asset development plan.


Three makeshift bombs go off in Thessaloniki overnight

Explosives experts in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Tuesday were examining the remains of three gas-canister bombs that went off in different parts of the city in the early hours.







KATHIMERINI: Greece is “stuck” on recession

ETHNOS: New law in Highway Code which allows fines’ reduction to 50%

TA NEA: We (Greece) are sinking to… development

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: “Games” with the temporary results of ELSTAT

AVGI: Compromise requires two parts

RIZOSPASTIS: “Spring of economy” for the capital, “heavy winter” on popular rights

KONTRA NEWS: We can’t stand more measures. It is better to argue rather than agree on 4th memorandum

DIMOKRATIA: Wolves who “played” with the fate of Greece

NAFTEMPORIKI: Signs of convergence

IMERISIA: Dangerous development

EIN VOLK, EIN REICH, EIN ERDOĞAN. No sign of tensions cooling between Ankara and Berlin after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan compared the German government to Nazis over the weekend after several German cities canceled Turkish referendum rallies, citing security concerns. Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “saddened” by Erdoğan’s remarks, which she called “misplaced.

Behind the scenes, German officials were less constrained, expressing both exasperation and anger. To be accused of fascism by a Turkish strongman whose government has arrested thousands of officials and cracked down on the press, detaining German journalist Deniz Yücel just last month, was a jaw-dropping moment, even for the most cynical Turkey watchers. Officials in Berlin view Erdoğan’s salvo against Germany as an attempt to rally support at home for his constitutional referendum. Turning Germany into Turkey’s enemy could help tip the scales in his favor, but German officials fear that, in the process, he will end up dousing the little goodwill that remains for Turkey among Germans. Given that Germany is both a NATO ally and Turkey’s largest trading partner, that would be a big price to pay.

In Austria, leaders debated how they should they should respond to the Turkish campaigning. Like Germany, Austria has a sizeable Turkish minority and Erdoğan’s AKP has been keen to win their support. Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, a member of the center-right Austrian People’s Party who is widely seen as a candidate for the chancellorship, made it clear where he stands on the rallies: “We are going to do everything we can to prevent this where possible,” Kurz said.

TWO-SPEED VERSAILLES TREATY — For once, German officials were happy to be in Versailles. With Britain’s departure looming, the leaders of the four largest remaining EU powers — Germany, France, Italy and Spain — met in Versailles Monday and endorsed the concept of a multi-speed Europe, in which members of the bloc will pursue greater integration but at each country’s chosen pace. POLITICO’s Maïa de la Baume and David Herszenhorn report.

ORBÁN GOES NUCLEAR — Brussels has de-escalated a potentially major bust-up with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán by giving him what he wanted — the final green-light for the construction of the Paks II nuclear reactors. The project, which is financed with a Russian loan and will be built by Russia’s Rosatom, is a big issue in Hungary and approval — even with tough conditions from Brussels — will be seen as a major achievement. Russian-built nuclear power plants under Hungarian management: Why worry?

THE TUSK HUNTER — Jacek Saryusz-Wolski’s “unrealized aspirations for higher office and longstanding grudges” are behind his insurgent bid to unseat European Council President Donald Tusk, report David Herszenhorn and Jan Cienski. By most measures, Saryusz-Wolski’s play seems “a bizarre political moonshot: a virtually unknown Polish member of the European Parliament seeking to deny Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, a second term despite overwhelming support from EU leaders.” Read about the man who would be Tusk here.

HEAR THE ONE ABOUT THE EU ARMY? No one laughed as EU defense ministers “unanimously” agreed Monday to set up a new military unit that would be in charge of several EU military missions. As reported previously by POLITICO, this new Military Planning and Conduct Capabilities — or  MPCC for EU jargons fanatics — will be a team of 20-30 staffers responsible for EU military training missions in Somalia, Mali and the Central African Republic and “the source of military expertise” for the EU diplomatic service. Its director will be Finnish general Esa Pulkkinen and the new military mission is likely to be up and running in the coming weeks. But a centralized military HQ is far from a done deal as a diplomat from an EU country pushing for this military mission told Playbook “I don’t see much appetite to drop national HQs [even] among supportive countries.”

HUNGARY VS CIVIL SOCIETY— The Hungarian government is moving to limit the influence of NGOs that promote democracy and the rule of law, seemingly emboldened by Donald Trump’s election victory, reports Lili Bayer from Budapest. The Hungarian government says NGOs lack “democratic legitimacy” and that many represent foreign interests. Goran Buldioski, director of the Open Society Initiative for Europe, calls it “an unprecedented attack on dissenting voices by an EU member.” Read the story here.
Humanitarian visa at the ECJ today: Judges in Luxembourg will rule today on whether Belgian authorities should have granted visas to a Christian family from Syria in October 2016. The family claimed that because of their religion, they were facing prosecution and the ECJ’s advocate general said last month that EU countries must provide humanitarian visas for asylum-seekers if they are entitled to international protection.

Wikström proposes EU asylum system overhaul: Swedish Liberal MEP, Cecilia Wikström, today launches her proposals to reform the EU’s asylum procedure, known as the Dublin regulation. “We need to make sure the member states actually fulfill their obligations,” she told Playbook. Having asylum seekers registered on arrival in the EU, as she proposes, would remove the incentive for refugees to attempt to travel across the bloc to their country of choice, she said. Read a summary of her proposals here and the amendments to the existing asylum laws here.

COUNCIL — GENERAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL TODAY: EU affairs ministers are in Brussels to prepare the economic side of this week’s European Council.

MACEDONIA MIRED IN POST-ELECTION LIMBO — An EU-backed election meant to end a crisis in Macedonia has led to a deeper one, putting a dangerous strain on relations between the country’s two biggest ethnic groups, reports Boryana Dzhambozova from Skopje.


MISCONCEPTIONS: The Dutch election looks different up close. Coverage to the contrary, it doesn’t feel like a country in the grip of a populist upheaval. There are few visual clues that an election is imminent, just some orderly signs showing all the parties’ posters together on a single billboard.

It’s not all about Europe: Strident opposition to the European Union is not a defining issue in the campaign as the Dutch await the outcome of U.K.’s Brexit adventure. Pepijn Bergsen of The Economist Intelligence Unit believes Dutch Euroskepticism is overplayed. “The projection of Brexit onto the Netherlands by much of the international media frustrates me to no end,” he told Playbook.

It’s not all about Geert Wilders: Local media is sometimes amused at the international focus on the Freedom Party leader, who, as one of the longest-serving lawmakers in the Dutch lower house, is somewhat old hat in the Netherlands. Few expect him to become the next prime minister and even if he were to carry off an upset, the Dutch have seen him close to power before: he supported the minority government of conservative liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte between 2010 and 2012.

UNDECIDED WILDCARDS: Even though the election is next week, 40 percent of voters still don’t know how to cast their ballots, according to political scientist André Krouwel of the Free University of Amsterdam. The upshot? Expect more centrist parties to make poll gains late. “Moderate voters are deciding how to vote slowly, crowding out the convinced voters,” who back parties with strong positions early, Krouwel said.

One to watch: Keep an eye on D66. Socially progressive believers in the free market — they’re the second choice for many voters. “Everybody loves them a little bit but not a lot. Everybody’s eyeing them,” said Krouwel.

POTENTIAL BEDFELLOWS: In the last two elections, Christian Democratic Appeal were crushed at the ballot. But now there is a flicker of life in the poll numbers and the party is once again courted by coalition suitors. Rutte’s VVD and the CDA would make a logical team, according to Arjen Siegmann, a senior economist at the party’s research institute. The main obstacle: bad blood between CDA leader Sybrand Buma and Rutte over last year’s Ukraine referendum. “Buma does not like Rutte,” Siegmann said.

DEBATE TAKEAWAYS: Eight party leaders faced off in a television debate on Sunday night. The four themes of the night were: healthcare, retirement, the protection of national culture (read: immigration) and the European Union.

Snow White: Despite the variety of Dutch parties, their leaders can tend to look rather similar. Party for the Animals leader Marianne Thieme was the lone woman among seven men.

The invisible man: Geert Wilders didn’t participate, pulling out in retribution for broadcaster RTL’s interview of his brother Paul, who opposes him. Wilders and Rutte, as the two leaders in polls, are still set to clash one-on-one two days before the vote. It’s a risky strategy that relies on a last minute tour de force.

Social media shade: As the debate unfolded, Wilders issued missives from afar. “More than 100,000 Muslims, Mark Rutte has nothing against Islam,” read a tweet. Rutte’s agile social media team replied quickly. “Whole day on Twitter, still gets nothing done.”

We have a winner: The leader of the Greens, 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, was named the winner of the debate, which he accepted as an “enormous honor.” But the result merely underlined the fragmented political landscape: the poll of viewers gave him 17.4 percent, with three other leaders just a point or two behind him. Still, polls indicate Klaver may quadruple the party’s current four seats in parliament, making it a potential supporting part of the next coalition.

THE CONTROVERSIAL VIDEO BLOGGER: “Ismail Ilgun is the Netherlands’ most hated first-time voter. In an election campaign in which Dutch concerns about immigration have often taken center state, the 19-year-old video blogger has been held up to personify the worst stereotypes about young people of a foreign background.” Read the story here.


Juppé is out once and for all: Former Prime Minister Alain Juppé ruled out that he would replace François Fillon as the conservative candidate for the center-right Les Républicains. But Juppé delivered a scathing indictment of Fillon’s campaign which, he said, has reached “a dead end.”

Le Pen strikes back on euro critics: The leader of the National Front is arguing that leaving the euro won’t be a catastrophe for the French economy and blasted her opponents for fearmongering, AFP reports.

GERMANY — SCHULZ GOES ON A SPENDING SPREE: The German center-left leading candidate promised Monday to extend social and unemployment benefits if he is elected in September.

ROMANIA — PROTESTS UNCOVER GENERATIONAL DIVIDE: “Amid the astounding victory of Romanian society over corruption, some of the wounds from this battle cannot be merely licked away,” writes Ileana Grigorescu, an assistant in the Parliament. “The people who have found their voice in the fight against a corrupt government have provoked a counter-reaction from another previously silent contingent with their own political views — their parents.”

HIBERNIAN ASIDE: In Ireland, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, pretender to the seat of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, pitched himself as the inheritor of former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s ill-fated quest to reform the EU in a radio interview widely picked up around the country. Varadkar wants some of the changes offered as sweeteners for Britain to remain in the EU to be enacted despite Brexit, such as a ban on granting child benefits to offspring living in another country. “We should continue to pursue the whole package of reforms that still make sense even if Britain’s leaving,” Varadkar said. He said Ireland, Austria, Denmark and Germany would all push for this.


Europe 101: The Trump administration may still need some course work on the EU. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Monday accused Germany of using its membership of the eurozone as an excuse for not engaging in direct trade talks with the United States.

Rex Who? Foreign affairs officials in the U.S. administration are concerned that America’s chief diplomat Rex Tillerson appears to be allergic to the spotlight and is doing little to clarify Donald Trump’s mixed foreign policy messages.


EUROCITIES SUMMIT: Commissioners Frans Timmermans, Jyrki Katainen, Corina Cretu and several EU mayors are attending EUROCITIES’s Mayors Summit today “to find solutions to the rising tide of Euroscepticism and populism.” Livestream starts at 10:45 here.