EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom 21-03-2017

EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom 21-03-2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Pressure on Greek government increases after Eurogroup

After Monday’s inconclusive Eurogroup in Brussels, the government has been forced, once again, to defer its deadline for a deal with the country’s international lenders. With the April 7 Eurogroup in Malta now ruled out, government officials are hoping for a staff-level agreement before then, and a comprehensive deal by May.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/217027/article/ekathimerini/news/pressure-on-greek-government-increases-after-eurogroup

Dijsselbloem: Negotiations will continue in Brussels; labor sector liberalization, tax issues pending

Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem referred to certain “key issues” that remain unresolved in negotiations between the Greek government and institutional creditors, following Monday’s Eurogroup meeting in the Belgian capital, although he added that there is no guarantee that enough progress will be made by April 7 to conclude the second review of the Greek review.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1216325/dijsselbloem-negotiations-will-continue-in-brussels-labor-sector-liberalization-tax-issues-pending

NATO’s Ramstein Guard called off after complaint

NATO has cancelled its electronic warfare exercise Ramstein Guard due to disagreements between alliance members Greece and Turkey.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/217020/article/ekathimerini/news/natos-ramstein-guard-called-off-after-complaint

Greek police intercept eight suspect packages following parcel bombs to IMF, Germany

Greek police intercepted eight suspect packages at a postal sorting center in Athens on Monday, after the dispatch of booby-trapped deliveries to the International Monetary Fund in Paris and the German Finance Ministry.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-greece-security-packages-idUSKBN16R29T

SETE says it expects a record 28 million tourists in 2017

Visitor numbers to Greece will top 35 million a year by 2021, while tourism revenues will range between 19 and 20 billion euros, contributing 6 or 7 percent of gross domestic product, Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) president Andreas Andreadis told Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during a meeting at Maximos Mansion on Monday in the presence of SETE vice president Yiannis Retsos and Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/217029/article/ekathimerini/business/sete-says-it-expects-a-record-28-million-tourists-in-2017

Further concentration seen in supermarkets

The supermarket sector in Greece expects to continue its market concentration that has been going on for seven years now. This concentration will take place on two levels: first, through the acquisition of small and medium-sized chains by larger ones, and, second, via their expansion into activities currently dominated by small stores such as butchers and bakeries, as well as food service outlets.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/217033/article/ekathimerini/business/further-concentration-seen-in-supermarkets

Higher taxes on tobacco products sink overall tax revenue from sector

Effects of a “tax tsumani” on tobacco products reportedly had the opposite result than the one desired, with the first figures of the year showing a dramatic decrease in related revenue for state coffers by 22 percent.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1216383/higher-taxes-on-tobacco-products-sink-overall-tax-revenue-from-sector

ATHEX: National Bank drags bourse index lower

The losses sustained by bank stocks at the start of the trading week weighed on the Greek bourse benchmark in what was a rather nervous session in view of Monday’s Eurogroup meeting. As a result, the main index ended lower, even though most other blue chips posted gains.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/217028/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-national-bank-drags-bourse-index-lower

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KATHIMERINI: Athens makes high-rick move by connecting the negotiations to the upcoming anniversary Summit in Rome

ETHNOS: Barrier against long waiting-queues in hospitals

TA NEA: The circle of unexploited Eurogroup meetings

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Overtime work in Brussels

AVGI: The next three days are going to determine the fate of the bailout programme review

RIZOSPASTIS: Call for revolt

KONTRA NEWS: They kept the Ministers hostages in Brussels

DIMOKRATIA: The demolition of illegal constructions is illegal when they are used as first residence

NAFTEMPORIKI: Brussels Group revived

IMERISIA: Draghi issues directive for Greek banks to end the NPL issue immediately

Theresa May is Voguing this month, as her government confirmed it will trigger Article 50 Brexit negotiations March 29.

FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE — AS IT HAPPENED …

Marine Le Pen mostly got a free pass. Emmanuel Macron took on François Fillon, hoping to crush him once and for all, and everyone else targeted Macron, hoping to steal away his place in the run-off vote. The moderators didn’t challenge Le Pen on her economic statements including her refusal to clarify whether she would take France out of the eurozone, nor when she claimed she would slap duties on EU imports (she can’t do that legally).

5 takeaways from the debate: Macron left the wow-factor at home, Le Pen rolled with the punches and was an obvious target, Fillon lives on and the EU barely rated a mention, writes Nicholas Vinocur.

Blow-by-blow account available on POLITICO’s live blog here. Macron was the most Googled candidate during the debate.

Benoît Hamon to meet Pierre Moscovici today in the Berlaymont: Playbook’s not sure which French constituency lives in the Berlaymont, but the meeting is set to take place at 3:30 p.m. regardless.

GREEK DRAMA IN ROME SUMMIT DECLARATION NEGOTIATIONS: European diplomats at a meeting on Monday reached an in-principle agreement on the Rome summit declaration, three diplomats told POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi. But the agreement is only in principle because Athens at the last second declared a “reserve” on the whole declaration. Greece has asked for a paragraph to be added saying that social and labor acquis should be respected in all EU states, a Greek diplomat said. Heads of government will speak over the phone in coming days, helping to iron out any last-minute issues. Given the Brexit fight and division with Poland at the last European Council, diplomats were proud to achieve even in-principle unity.

Unity has a price: The text diplomats agreed Monday was watered down for the second time in as many days on the issue of social policy, out of fears from central European countries that the Commission wants to obtain more social policy powers and use them to limit the competitive advantages of countries with lower labor costs. The new version says the pledge towards a social pillar takes “into account the diversity of national systems.” The EU would now also focus on “equal opportunities” rather than specifically “gender equality,” said one diplomat.

Unions and 230 other NGOs have signed a position paper ahead of this weekend’s gathering of EU leaders in Rome setting out their wishes for a union based on social justice.

COUNCIL — EU28 ECONOMIC AND FINANCE MINISTERS MEETING TODAY: VAT reform is on the agenda.

COUNCIL — DIJSSELBLOEM CALLS FOR ESM TO BECOME EUROPEAN IMF: “I think it would make a lot of sense for the eurozone bailout fund ESM [European Stability Mechanism] to be developed into a ‘European IMF’ in the medium to long term,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Spotted: Dijsselbloem having an early dinner (7 p.m., Dutch style) in Kafenio, the Greek restaurant opposite the European Commission headquarters. h/t Nicholas Hirst

EUROPEAN RESEARCH COUNCIL TURNS 10 TODAY: One of the more popular elements of the EU’s work, the ERC, will wheel out famous scientists it has funded to mark its birthday today. Those in the spotlight include Nobel laureate Ben Feringa at a 10:30 a.m. press conference and Belgian astronomer Michael Gillon (of the SPECULOOS project that discovered seven new exoplanets), who will share the first images taken by his new telescope, called Europa, based in the Chilean desert. The telescope is entirely funded by the EU’s European Research Council. Carlos Moedas, the European research commissioner, will deliver at 12:30 p.m. a press briefing from the Berlaymont.

PARLIAMENT SCOOP — EPP WANTS A UNION ACT TO DEFEND AGAINST MASS CHINESE INVESTMENT: The European People’s Party is urging the European Commission to apply stricter rules against Chinese investors who keep acquiring European companies, partly thanks to government subsidies, while EU investors remain largely shut out of Chinese markets. A “proposal for a Union act” tabled by EPP chairman Manfred Weber, trade spokesman Daniel Caspary and eight other lawmakers calls for “an intervention … at EU level” when “the envisaged direct investment by the third country does not comply with market rules or is facilitated by state subsidies resulting in a likely market disturbance” — a thinly veiled allusion to Chinese practices. Other high-profile signatories include Viviane Reding and Andreas Schwab.

A European committee on foreign investment should be established “to review, investigate and control sensitive foreign investments,” the text continued, adding that existing EU protections — so far only covering military technology and suppliers — should be extended to “strategic sectors such as energy, transport, telecommunications, health and water.”

“China’s unfair strategic investment practices must be checked by the Commission,” Caspary told POLITICO’s Hans von der Burchard. The EPP proposal comes after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang vowed (link for POLITICO Pro Trade subscribers) last week to “offer EU enterprises wider market access” and to treat EU investors “as Chinese businesses.” Germany’s ambassador to China Michael Clauss wrote an op-ed for the South China Morning Post, published Monday, calling on China to live up to its rhetoric on globalization.

PARLIAMENT — POWER (OR AT LEAST A MICROPHONE) TO THE PEOPLE: A total of 751 Europeans, instead of the usual 751 MEPs, will today fill up the Parliament’s plenary chamber in Brussels to discuss what works and what doesn’t in the EU and how the bloc should evolve. Issues to be debated include youth unemployment, globalization, security, climate change and the EU after Brexit. You can follow the event from 3 p.m. here 

THE CASE AGAINST TURKEY, BY PARLIAMENT’S TURKEY RAPPORTEUR KATI PIRI: Writing for POLITICO, Piri argues Turkey faces a terrible burden dealing with the fallout of the Syrian conflict. However, “these facts cannot, in my view, become an alibi for repressing dissident voices, undermining the rule of law and labeling political opponents as supporters of terrorism, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has done. Nor is the Turkish government’s habit of threatening Europe when it feels slighted a constructive approach. Such behavior undermines its credibility as a political partner.”

COMMISSIONERS ON TOUR: Johannes Hahn, commissioner for enlargement, is in Skopje, Macedonia, with MEPs Eduard Kukan, Knut Fleckenstein and Ivo Vajgl, who were mediators of the July 2015 Pržino Agreement, which laid out a path to restoring political stability to the country. Jyrki Katainen is speaking again on the future of Europe white paper, this time at the College of Europe, Bruges. Livestream from 2 p.m. today. Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos is in Warsaw, Poland, to meet Polish Minister of Interior Mariusz Błaszczak to discuss EU migration and border policy.

NATO — STOLTENBERG IN WASHINGTON: NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is in the U.S. to meet James Mattis, the secretary of defense. On Wednesday he will participate in a meeting with foreign ministers involved in the fight against ISIS.

GERMANY — HACKED INFORMATION BOMB IN ELECTION CAMPAIGN: In May 2015, the German parliament discovered intruders, possibly a team of Russian hackers with suspected links to the Kremlin, had infiltrated its computer system for three weeks, spying on communication and absconding with a large trove of information. Janosch Delcker reports that some German officials believe the stolen information will be used as a weapon, making it a ticking bomb under the German elections in September. As one MP put it: “Under a microscope, everyone looks crappy.”

FINLAND — TRUE FINNS STUCK BETWEEN POWER AND POPULISM: Petri Burtsov writes that the True Finns, a Euroskeptic, anti-immigrant party that stormed to election success in 2015 and joined the country’s ruling coalition, has now sagged to just 8 percent support in opinion polls. That’s because the pragmatism required of a party in a governing coalition that has taken in a record number of asylum seekers and agreed to a third Greek bailout — both anathema to true True Finns — has taken a toll. Now without strongman leader Timo Soini, a bitter fight is erupting between the party’s mainstream pragmatists, led by Sampo Terho, and an extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant faction led by Jussi Halla-aho.

CZECHIA — MINISTER CALLS FOR END TO FREE MOVEMENT: “Let’s restrict the free movement of workers in the EU,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek in an interview.

BULGARIAN DEMOCRACY NOT TO SOCIALIST LIKING: “Democracy took a lot away from us,” said Kornelia Ninova, leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, to supporters ahead of a snap election in Bulgaria Sunday.

CORRECTION: Monday’s Playbook misidentified the organizer of a letter criticizing the Polish government’s approach to journalists. The organizer is Poland’s Society of Journalists.

BREXIT CORNER …

It’s getting weird in London: Charlie Cooper on the bizarre suggestion that the U.K. government may “tactfully” remind Germans that it helped West Germany waive half of its war debt in the 1950s, as part of a belief that it will be allowed to walk away from the EU without settling its tab.

Playbook facts of life: Dragging old war debt rhetoric into a new debate achieved nothing for the Greek government in its 2015 bailout negotiations. Whatever legal advice the U.K. government is getting, the idea that it could successfully mount this argument politically in Brussels, is a non-starter.

Meet the ‘Temporary Visa Zone’: That’s the new phrase used in British Euroskeptic circles to describe what could replace EU freedom of movement in any Brexit transition deal the U.K. government strikes with the EU.

Opinion — ‘Ignorant hostility’ of British press: “This attitude has led Britain to leave an organization it never bothered to understand, in the hope of a future it did not examine. It is now leading Britain to fundamentally misunderstand the countries it depends on for a reasonable Brexit deal,” writes Joris Luyendijk for the Guardian.

FOCUS ON RUSSIA …

Nexus between Russian money, crime, and statecraft: A consortium of 61 journalists from 32 countries, under the umbrella of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting project, revealed the results of an investigation of 120 bank accounts that were used to fraudulently move nearly €20 billion out of Russia in a system known as the Russian Laundromat.

The EU connection to Russian money laundering: Carl Dolan, Director of Transparency International EU, said in a statement Monday: “It appears that European banks have been duped into accepting astonishing amounts of corrupt cash thanks to anonymous shell companies operating in the EU. The EU has a rare opportunity to put an end to the kind of corporate secrecy which enables the corrupt to hide their stolen assets, as legislators start negotiations to reform its anti-money laundering rules this week.”

ECFR’s forthcoming report Mafintern: The Kremlin and Russian-based organized crime in Europe. Written by Mark Galeotti, a visiting fellow with the ECFR and head of the Centre for European Security at the Institute of International Relations, the report will explore the growing use of Russian-based organized crime by the Kremlin’s secret services in their operations in Europe. The ECFR will warn that Latvia and Cyprus are the EU countries at most risk of Russian criminal activity, according to an emailed statement.

TRUMP WORLD …

FBI’s Comey takes aim at Trump: FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the FBI is investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Trump preparing executive order to review all trade deals: By Josh Dawsey and Megan Cassella.

BRUSSELS CORNER …

CALL FOR SHORT CONTRIBUTIONS ON YOUR MEMORY OF THE BRUSSELS ATTACKS: Where were you? How were you affected? How do you feel one year on about the response of public institutions? You can send your brief thoughts through this online form.

51 ORGANIZATIONS WITH TERROR LINKS OPERATING IN MOLENBEEK: A confidential report into anti-terror measures has revealed that police in the Brussels district of Molenbeek have uncovered 51 organizations with suspected ties to terrorism, local media reported Monday.