EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom 23-03-2017

EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom 23-03-2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dijsselbloem comes under southern fire for comments on women, drink

With the backlash over the derogatory remarks about crisis-stricken Southern European made by Jeroen Dijsselbloem – the chief of the eurozone’s finance ministers – in full swing on Wednesday, Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said the Dutch official was divisive and “completely misguided.”


Government says no need for opposition to back measures

The government was striving on Wednesday to nip in the bud any talk about the need for the opposition to throw its weight behind economic measures agreed with creditors, as was suggested by European officials this week.


Fraport Greece unveils upgrades, development plan for 14 regional airports it will manage

The German-Greek consortium set to assume the management and operation of 14 regional airports around Greece, which include the best-known tourism destinations iin the country, this week unveiled its plan for modernizing and upgrading the facilities.


Athens retail firms diminished in 2016

Retail commerce was the weakest link in Athens’s business activity last year, as it was the only sector in which company departures outnumbered new entries on the Athens Professional Chamber (EEA) register. This figure is always crucial as it concerns the biggest domain of business activity in terms of company numbers and employment.


Consumption slumps further in the year’s first months

The year has started with some alarm bells regarding the course of consumer spending, generating concern not only about the impact on the supermarket sector and industry, but also on the economy in general.


Fuel stations report big drop in volume sold so far in 2017

Unofficial market figures show that demand for gasoline in the first couple of months this year fell 4 percent on an annual basis, pointing to a market contraction for the first quarter of the year that may even exceed the forecast 1.7 percent.


Greeks left out of pocket by housing costs

Households in Greece spend a greater portion of their income on housing needs than those in any other European Union country, according to a survey by the European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA).


Papastratos Philip Morris Int’l announces 300-mln€ investment in Athens-area facility

Papastratos Philip Morris International this week announced a 300-million-euro investment for new facilities in Greece, with the initial impact to include the creation of up to 400 jobs in the crisis-battered country.


ATHEX: Stock index saves the best for last

A late rally of bank stocks and a few other blue chips offset the losses the benchmark had incurred during most of Wednesday’s session to end in the green, although losers outnumbered climbers. Reports of convergence between government ministers and creditors’ representatives in Brussels played a major part in that late surge. The Athens Exchange (ATHEX) general index closed at 640.65 points, adding 0.04 percent to Tuesday’s 640.42 points.







KATHIMERINI: Terror in the heart of London

ETHNOS: Freelancers close their tax-books in rising waves

TA NEA: SYRIZA hit by phobic syndromes

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Jeroen Dijsselbloem is remorseless

AVGI: Basta, Jeroen!

RIZOSPASTIS: Government coalition and main opposition New Democracy guarantee anti-popular policies no matter what

KONTRA NEWS: Who is scared of the return of ex-PM Karamanlis?

TO PONTIKI: Time is money

DIMOKRATIA: Erdogan to invade Agia Sofia church of Istanbul on Good Friday

NAFTEMPORIKI: Sinking sand

IMERISIA: Two large investments unlocked

The Brussels Forum kicks off today, presented by the German Marshall Fund (POLITICO is a media partner). Full agenda. Watch live from 3 p.m. here.

TERROR AT THE GATES OF UK PARLIAMENT: An attacker drove a car into a crowd of people near Westminster, then stabbed a police officer, leaving four dead and 40 injured, before being shot dead himself. POLITICO’s Tom McTague witnessed the attack. Radosław Sikorski, the former Polish foreign minister, saw at least five people lying on the ground after being “mown down.” A foreign office minister, Tobias Ellwood, a former army officer whose brother was killed in the 2002 Bali terror attack, was one of the first people to attend to the injured police officer, provided mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but was unable to save his life.

Catch up on the full story with POLITICO’s live blog from last night.

How the UK press reacted.

Political reactions: Theresa May called the attack “sick and depraved.” The Daily Telegraph wrote: “We must deny terrorists the disproportionate reaction they seek from us.”


Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem is either very stupid or very smart to have described southern European budgeting as the fiscal equivalent of spending money on “liquor and women.” The jury is still out as north-south EU wounds re-open.

Those in the “stupid” camp now include Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa and Italy’s former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who want Dijsselbloem to resign. European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, representing all 28 commissioners in the Commission press room, said: “I would not have said it and I think it’s wrong.” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agrees. But there are several factors to consider before writing Dijsselbloem off.

Germany newspaper strategy? It may be no accident that Dijsselbloem’s comments were made to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The newspaper is the uber-hawk of the fiscal commentariat. Dijsselbloem needs the German finance ministry’s support to have any chance of staying on as Eurogroup president, given his Labor Party is almost certain to be thrown out of the Dutch government after a poor election showing.

If he’s out, Dijsselbloem also needs German support: He’d like to be the eurozone’s first finance minister, possibly via the vehicle of a European Monetary Fund, which he is conveniently talking up. Germany’s Wolfgang Schaüble is open to such a European IMF if it took control of EU budget monitoring.

Who’s pushing the anti-Dijsselbloem line: Spain’s Economy Minister Luis de Guindos, from the EPP, has never been shy about wanting the Socialist Dijsselbloem’s Eurogroup job. Brussels-based journalists certainly weren’t surprised to find de Guindos supporters hitting the phones this week.

Does de Guindos have a shot? Not really, and it’s got nothing to do with his qualifications. Handing de Guindos the job would mean giving the EPP a fourth top EU position, leaving Federica Mogherini the only top-ranked socialist.

Calling all AAA-rated socialists and liberals: Sweden’s not in the eurozone, socialists are tanking in France, Portugal made progress but is in an EU “excessive deficit procedure,” and Slovakia’s Peter Kažimír talks the right finance game but is from a national party in the socialist doghouse over its line on refugees (not a great look given we’re having this conversation because of Dijsselbloem’s ‘unsocialist’ comments) and a country with a credit rating too low to satisfy Eurogroup hardliners.

Liberals are top-tier jobless in Brussels. With Denmark outside the eurozone and Luxembourg already holding a top job (Juncker), that leaves only Mateja Vraničar Erman from Slovenia as an immediate option. That being said, there would be two strong options if Emmanuel Macron wins the French presidential election or the new Dutch government appoints a liberal finance minister.

The upshot: Dijsselbloem will likely stay for a while yet. While anti-Dijsselbloem complaints may achieve the desired effect of putting him in a political coma, there are no immediate, simple and satisfying alternatives. The Dutch government may also stay in place for several months. And there’s no clear set of rules with which to fire him. That brings us to the final problem …

Eurogroup’s threadbare governance: The Eurogroup has no governance, so anything could happen. As Transparency International has repeatedly pointed out, the Eurogroup does not even publish minutes. Despite existing for 19 years and meeting monthly, it is a self-described “informal body.” Like the U.K. constitution, everything about it is unwritten.

Dijsselbloem’s faux apology: “I regret that my message was misunderstood and I regret that it emerged as north against south.”

**Don’t miss: Watch live on March 28 POLITICO’s event The New European Order, presented by J.P. Morgan and supported by ACI Europe. In this politically-, emotionally-, and symbolically-charged moment, POLITICO will convene Mario Monti, president, Bocconi University and former Italian prime minister, Italy; Sadiq Khan, mayor of London; European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and other high-level speakers to examine where Europe stands now and what must be done to preserve Europe’s leadership in the global political and economic hierarchy. Invitation-only event — watch live on from 8 a.m. here.**

IS IT FEDERICA MOGHERINI, NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS, OR BOTH GOING SOFT ON RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION? Mogherini’s team working to counter Russian disinformation and propaganda strategies — known as the East StratCom team — has a problem. Unfortunately for Mogherini, it’s her. That’s according to activists, analysts, national foreign ministries and her political opponents in the European People’s Party. Here’s Playbook’s story on the issue.

What the critics say: That Mogherini never really wanted a noisy team to tackle Russian disinformation, because she thinks it would complicate her efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis, which requires Russian cooperation, and because the Italian public is one of the most sympathetic to Russia in the EU. Critics say that as a result, the team is understaffed, depends on information gathered by volunteers in Europe’s eastern neighborhood, lacks permanent contracts and budgets, and that Mogherini is “irresponsibly weak” on the issue. The next step in their campaign is a resolution at the EPP annual congress in Malta next week, and possibly an unusual grant from the Parliament to prop up the team inside Mogherini’s diplomatic service.

What Mogherini and her team say: Mogherini told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this week that European societies have “wisdom to make the right choices” in the face of Russian disinformation and cyber warfare. Mogherini’s team say she deserves credit for setting up the disinformation team in 2015 and growing it from two staff members to 10 in less than a year. They are proud of their widely recognized success. They also point to the fact that in November last year, national governments blocked a European Parliament request for additional staff, giving her limited options to squeeze more money out of existing budgets for the team’s growing workload.

Maja Kocijančič, a spokesperson for Mogherini, said: “The identification, analysis and awareness-raising activities of the task force is a complementary effort” that requires more investment from national governments. “Fake news or disinformation is an increasing — and very real — problem in Europe and globally. We take it very seriously.”

COMMISSION — JUNCKER SEEKS TO CEMENT SOCIAL PILLAR IN ROME. With the triggering of Article 50, Jean-Claude Juncker will be closer to achieving one of his long-held dreams: With the U.K. out of the way, he has an opportunity to push forward a European Pillar of Social Rights. If he succeeds, he will help recast the EU as more than an austerity police force. Harry Cooper reports.

SPOTTED: Herman Van Rompuy giving a “euro-optimist” lunchtime speech to the American European Community Association at Cercle Royal Gaulois.

ROME SUMMIT COUNTDOWN — WHAT WILL EUROPE LOOK LIKE IN 2077: The first 60 years were interesting, the next 60 will be tough work, says Giles Merritt.

VIDEO — ‘THEY TELL YOU THE EU IS USELESS’: The Council of the European Union has made this video to mark 60 years of the Rome Treaty. It also released a 40-minute documentary about its history.

ALEXIS TSIPRAS ON FUTURE OF EUROPE: From International Politics and Society.

PARLIAMENT — TURKISH NEWSPAPER BANNED FROM PREMISES: European Parliament President Antonio Tajani has agreed to MEP Jeroen Lenaers’ request to remove the pro-Erdoğan newspaper Sabah Daily from distribution at the Parliament. The move by Lenaers was enough to spark a complaint by Erdoğan himself in a speech over the weekend.

PARLIAMENT — NO CLAPPING, WE’RE BORING: The Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties chairman Claude Moraes wanted more civility during a Wednesday hearing on the situation in Romania following recent massive anti-corruption protests. Romanian ECR MEP Monica Macovei brought speakers critical of the current Romanian socialist government, and the audience applauded them. “We are a boring committee here, so no spontaneous clapping. I realize it sounds odd, but just don’t do it,” Moraes said. The applause soon resumed. The leader of Romania’s Social-Democrat Party, Liviu Dragnea, accused some of the speakers of lying on Facebook. h/t Carmen Paun

PARLIAMENT — NEW MEP FROM WILDERS’ PARTY: Vicky Maeijer departs to The Hague to take up her a seat in national parliament, and will be replaced by André Elissen, a former national MP and current member of The Hague municipal council. The PVV has four of the Netherlands’ 25 MEPs.

PARLIAMENT COMMITTEES TODAY: The employment committee will hear from Commissioner Marianne Thyssen and discuss the 523 amendments to the posted workers directive, which would see foreign workers paid the same as those employed locally (read them here and here). Security Commissioner Julian King discusses security plans, EU-U.S. terrorist finance tracking and the passenger names records agreement with the LIBE committee.

NATO — STOLTENBERG IN HUNGARY: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will meet Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Minister of Defense István Simicskó.

ATTACK OF THE BEE KILLERS: More bad news for Europe’s collapsing bee colonies: A loophole in an EU moratorium on pesticides has allowed 13 European governments to provide farmers and pesticide producers permission to sidestep rules. Crops across the Continent continue to be sprayed with forbidden substances blamed for crippling insects’ nervous systems and decimating bee colonies. Giulia Paravicini and Simon Marks have the scoop.

THE PORTUGUESE GUIDE TO FIGHTING POPULISM: Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, making his first trip to Brussels as Portuguese president, offered a masterclass on how to beat back populists to fellow politicians and a group of reporters who joined him for lunch.

First: Get in bed with your political opponents. De Sousa is center-right, Prime Minister António Costa is center-left, and there are more left-wing government partners. “They said: it’s impossible,” but one year on, de Sousa’s comfortable with his new cohabitation. “It’s much better than I expected. We speak several times a day … I’m not close to the government. I’m close to the country.”

Second: Be “very attentive to any sign of populism. I jump and occupy the space. It’s easier for me to do that than ministers.” De Sousa, a former journalist, says it helps to have the intuition of an experienced media operator. “The gap must be filled immediately” because “politicians have lost the power to anticipate in the digital era. Our institutions are not prepared for it.”

Is that copying populism? “Don’t say what the populists say, but use a bit of the style. Speak with clear language, don’t promise things that are unconstitutional.”

Did you know? De Sousa is Costa’s former professor. De Sousa gave him 17 out of 20 for his final mark.

Spotted: De Sousa on a book-buying expedition to Filigranes, where he focussed on French, German and Russian history books (he’s particularly keen on books exploring the transition from the fourth to fifth Republics in France, and Russian imperialism.)

FRANCE — WHY MARINE LE PEN NO LONGER TALKS ABOUT KILLING THE EURO: The National Front chief used to call for the end of the single currency. Now she doesn’t. Nicholas Vinocur explains why.


Barnier unleashes Brexit storm cloud scenario in EU testimony: The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned of a dire scenario for the U.K. if talks with the bloc fail, but admitted that both sides would be harmed by a chaotic exit, leading to “total uncertainty” for citizens, breakdowns in trade links for consumers and businesses, chaos at border posts as customs controls are reintroduced, and “serious air-traffic disruptions.” David Herszenhorn and Maïa de la Baume with the report.

Meet the latest EU acronym — TF50: For Barnier’s Article 50 Brexit task force. Barnier may be in trouble with L’Académie Française after frequently referring in public to “Le Brexit,” which has not yet passed muster with the language police.

EUROVISION WARS: Ukraine has banned Russia’s Eurovision entry from entering the country. Authorities say Yulia Samoylova’s 2015 visit to Crimea was illegal.

BALKANS — EUROPE ISN’T GOING TO SOLVE THE DRAMA: “The idea that the EU is going to speed up the accession process in the Balkans to prevent states from collapsing or fighting each other is a complete fantasy,” writes Marcus Tanner for BIRN.

TRUMP WORLD — REPUBLICANS LINING UP TO ATTACK GEORGE SOROS’ EUROPEAN WORK: Or … How Russian propaganda on the Balkans found its way onto congressional letterhead. More on POLITICO Magazine here.

WHAT’S BEHIND THE AIRPLANE LAPTOP BAN: Al Qaeda has been devising ingenious ways to blow up planes for years, writes Thomas Joscelyn.


MORE ON BRUSSELS ATTACKS: A reader says “don’t blame if you don’t act.”

MEMORIAL FOR PATRICIA RIZZO: Rizzo, a Commission official at the European Research Council, was killed in the Brussels attacks, and was honored Wednesday in a ceremony attended by Juncker and Commissioners Günther Oettinger and Carlos Moedas (in charge of the ERC where Patricia was working). A commemorative stone has been unveiled in the Borschette building, close to Place Jourdan.

APPOINTED: Shada Islam (director at Friends of Europe), Silvana Koch-Mehrin (former MEP, now heading the Women in Parliaments forum), Robert Madelin (former Commission director general, now a senior advisor at FIPRA International) and Graham Watson (former MEP and APCO) are joining the advisory board of recruitment consultancy Rtesian, set up by Aart van Iterson (co-founder of Cambre Associates).