EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom 31-03-2017

EYE ON REPUTATION – NewsRoom 31-03-2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dijsselbloem: Agreement not yet reached between Athens, creditors; progress made

Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Thursday warned that a staff-level agreement between the Greek side and institutional creditors has still not been achieved, slightly dampening widespread speculation this week that both sides have clinched the deal.


Gov’t, lenders edge closer to deal but IMF has new demands

It remained unclear late on Thursday night when dragging bailout negotiations might be completed and inspectors might return to Athens as Greek and foreign officials remained at loggerheads over key issues including pensions and labor market reforms.


Mitsotakis meeting with Merkel, Tusk on Malta; says populism will soon be defeated in Greece

Greece’s main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday reiterated the need for structural reforms in the crisis-battered country, during contacts on the sidelines of the European People’s Party (EPP) summit on Malta, including a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.


Stournaras: Greece has still not returned to ‘sustainable growth’

Greece has still has returned to “sustainable growth”, influential Bank of Greece (BoG) Gov. Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday, speaking at an Economist conference in Athens.


EFKA ‘unable’ to make pension target

An internal document by the director of the Single Social Security Entity (EFKA), Thanasis Bakalexis, which was leaked to the Greek press opn Thursday, revealed that the new fund is unable to issue all 150,000 pending pensions by October, which it must do in order for the entity to receive the 869 million euros from the program for the payment of the state’s expired debts, as agreed with the country’s creditors.


NBG, Alpha report 2nd straight profitable quarter; both return to profitability in 2016 after massive losses in 2015

Both National Bank (NBG) and Alpha Bank, the second and fourth largest lenders in the country based on assets, reported a second straight profitable quarter in Q4 2016.


Extrajudicial mechanism to accept debts to banks too

All debts to banks and the state will be able to enter the extrajudicial settlement mechanism the Economy Ministry has prepared for voting by Parliament, with the exception of the social security contributions that workers owe.


ATHEX: Fourth day of stock growth

The Greek bourse benchmark rose for a fourth consecutive session on Thursday, with most stocks posting gains, although not to the extent observed in recent days.







KATHIMERINI: Labor issues block the agreement between Athens and the creditors

ETHNOS: Which debts are going to be erased and how

TA NEA: Overnight impasse. No agreement possible at the upcoming Eurogroup meeting in Malta.

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Major proposals by BoG Governor Stournaras regarding the insurance system

AVGI: Tax-evaders are going to pay

RIZOSPASTIS: 20th Communist Party conference: We evaluate our actions, schedule new duties and march forward!

KONTRA NEWS: Hot accounts linked to the stock market scandal

DIMOKRATIA: Government cuts two pensions of 900,000 pensioners on an annual basis!

NAFTEMPORIKI: Online “claw” against tax-evaders

IMERISIA: Interest rates and fines are going to undergo haircut of up to 95%

FBI DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY’S SECRET TWITTER ACCOUNT: You have this masterclass in modern journalism by Ashley Feinberg to thank for leading us to it.

EU27 NEGOTIATING GUIDELINES FOR BREXIT SHARED TODAY: Today is the first glimpse of a draft legal mandate for Michel Barnier that will be further developed over the next six weeks, with one crucial moment being the special EU27 summit April 29. The first version of the guidelines will be presented by Donald Tusk and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. News should start to trickle out before lunchtime.

THERESA MAY’S SPEED DIAL LIST: Britain’s PM Theresa May spoke with European Council President Donald Tusk, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel before triggering Article 50 this week. She has since spoken with French President François Hollande, Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni, Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, Polish PM Beata Szydło, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. That leaves 21 EU national leaders waiting by their phones as of Thursday dinnertime. Junior ministers in the U.K.’s Department for Exiting the EU have been making calls to ministers.

UK’S CHARM DEFENSIVE: Most of Brussels isn’t high on London’s list of Brexit outreach targets. Some of that is due to a practical lack of resources but much appears to be the U.K. government casting its net beyond the EU capital. For example, there were no meetings between U.K. ministers and European commissioners between January 1 and March 27. Aside from two courtesy meetings with Michel Barnier’s team, the Commission’s Brexit task force has also been off the agenda, and the British government was absent from last week’s high-level Brussels Forum, despite it being defense, foreign policy, and Brexit-themed.

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What British and other diplomats say: British diplomats told Playbook that a lot of business gets done at Council ministerial meetings and that ministers have traveled to Strasbourg to meet MEPs. Brexit Secretary David Davis makes regular calls to European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt. British Ambassador Tim Barrow’s counterparts are generally happy with his level of contact. Barrow speaks several times a week with Pierre Sellal, the French ambassador to the EU, for example. Meanwhile the U.K. government is trying to schedule meetings on home turf in London where possible, attests Czech Republic Europe Minister Tomáš Prouza. Playbook’s story here.

MICHEL BARNIER: 30 BOSSES AND A LONG ROAD AHEAD. “Is Barnier really in charge of anything? Or is he some sort of cardboard cutout of an ideal Eurocrat, a marionette at the negotiating table, while more powerful officials at the Commission, the Council, the Parliament, and in capitals across the Continent, grab at his strings?” David Herszenhorn, Maïa de la Baume and Quentin Ariès take a tour of Brussels and Barnier’s record to answer that question.

ANIMAL DU JOUR: Another day, another featured animal at the European Commission. If you want to hyperventilate about the fate of Europe’s 250,000 annual cross-border cat and dog trips, click here to read James Crisp’s story. Though the prospect of Brexit pet prisons is both tantalizing and cruel, the chances of Theresa May letting herself be politically lynched by angry pet owners is zero. Greenland, the only other country to leave the EU, is covered by reciprocal arrangements. May will likely arrive at an amicable solution. Watch Commission spokesperson Alexander Winterstein deal with the issue here, not a smirk in sight.

LLOYD’S OF LONDON OF … BRUSSELS: The British insurer will open a European subsidiary in Brussels to avoid losing EU market share post-Brexit.

PORT OF DOVER STRUGGLES TO AVOID A BREXIT CLIFF EDGE: Joshua Posaner writes from Dover, a town that voted for Brexit and is stuck between white cliffs and a hard place. Almost a fifth of the goods imported and exported by the U.K. make their way through its port, and a tough Brexit deal threatens to leave it waterlogged.

29 CHARTS THAT EXPLAIN BREXIT, thanks to Giuseppe Porcaro at Bruegel.

COUNCIL — IT’S EU DEEP AND SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP DAY … WITH MOLDOVA: For a preview of EU-U.K. relations in 2020, check in today with Pavel Filip, the Moldovan prime minister, and Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief. The two will discuss the implementation of the EU-Moldova Association Agreement, signed in April last year, as well as the country’s “deep and comprehensive” free-trade agreement with the EU. Agenda details here.

COUNCIL — TUSK AGAIN IN FINE SPEECHMAKING FORM: This time at the EPP congress in Malta. “We must challenge the populists. We must say loud and clear that nationalisms and separatisms which try to weaken the EU are the opposite of modern patriotism. Those who take aim at European unity, threaten also their own communities, weakening their own state sovereignty.”

COMMISSION — NORD STREAM TROUBLES: First written about in Politiken, and now obtained by POLITICO, the Commission has finally answered Denmark and Sweden on Nord Stream (a pipeline that would cross through Swedish and Danish waters if built). “The European Commission wants to talk with Russia about a special legal regime for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would be based on certain aspects of the EU’s gas liberalization laws,” writes Anca Gurzu for POLITICO Pro Energy and Environment subscribers. Central and Eastern European countries, worried Russia’s gas deliveries will be used as a political weapon, oppose the project.

COMMISSION — JOUROVÁ TRIES TO NAIL DOWN PRIVACY SHIELD FUTURE: The EU’s Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová has had better luck than her colleague Margrethe Vestager in meeting relevant Trump administration officials during her visit to Washington this week. She had an audience with both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Jourová said she’s comfortable with the assurances from the U.S. about its commitment to the privacy shield agreement that gives companies transferring data across the Atlantic legal cover. Jourová came to D.C. seeking confirmation that, with the election of Donald Trump, “nothing crucial changed on the American side,” and she indicated she got it.

PARLIAMENT — VERHOFSTADT TOLD TO GET IN LINE: The Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt was politely told he couldn’t speak first during a Brexit debate next week in Strasbourg. Instead, he will speak in the normal order, after Manfred Weber, EPP chairman, Gianni Pittella, S&D chairman, and Syed Kamall, the Brexit-supporting leader of the ECR group. According to two individuals familiar with the discussions at this week’s gathering of group leaders, Esteban González Pons, who was standing in for Weber (currently in Malta for the EPP congress), reminded Verhofstadt he was only the Brexit “coordinator.” Pittella didn’t step in to defend Verhofstadt, suggesting the two largest groups may have decided to rein in everyone’s favorite Belgian federalist.

ICYMI: González Pons gave a speech (in Spanish) about Brexit that has been watched over 7.4 million times on Facebook.

PARLIAMENT — STAFF COMPLAINING ABOUT HAVING TO WORK ON ‘EUROPE DAY’: Parliament staff are in uproar at being told they have to work on “Europe Day,” which this year lands on a Tuesday. In an email, Pilar Antelo Sanchez, head of the staff committee, said she “[deplored] our administration’s disregard and indifference to the staff and Europe Day, our common celebration of Europe for all European officials.” The other 300 million European workers not getting the day off are probably less bothered.

TRADE — SIGMAR GIVES ‘EUROPE 101’ LESSONS: German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told global trading partners to stop approaching Germany for bilateral trade agreements at a debate in the German parliament Thursday. More here for POLITICO Pro Trade subscribers.

LOBBYING — NAME OF THE WEEK: The Organization of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Freezers and Association of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC/AGAC), led by Julio Morón.

TECH OPINION — DON’T TRADE AWAY DATA PROTECTION: Jan Philipp Albrecht and Viviane Reding, two MEPs who have led the fight to increase data protection rights, write that data protection is a fundamental right, not a trade barrier. Full article for POLITICO Pro Tech and Trade subscribers.

MEDIA BACKFLIP: The director of TASR, Slovakia’s publicly funded news agency, terminated a content contract with Russia’s Sputnik within 24 hours of it being revealed.

HUNGARY — RULING FIDESZ PARTY THREATENS TO SHUT DOWN UNIVERSITY: The government has threatened to close the George Soros-backed Central European University in Budapest.

LITHUANIA — DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE FOUND: After going missing for 70 years, the original 1918 copy of the declaration of Lithuanian independence has been found in Berlin’s diplomatic archive. One of the largest companies in Lithuania, MG Baltic, recently promised a €1 million bounty for its return by the country’s 100-year anniversary in 2018.


How Le Pen might win: French scientist Serge Galam, who predicted Donald Trump’s victory, says abstention rates make Marine Le Pen’s election “very likely.

Poll watch: New poll shows 80 percent of French voters believe their purchasing power decreased in recent years. Meanwhile, support for Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon has fallen below 12 percent, while the radical left Jean-Luc Mélenchon polls at 14. Another interesting trend: the conservative Euroskeptic MP Nicolas Dupont-Aignan may reach the symbolic 5 percent threshold.

Macron glams up for the tabloids: French center-left leaning weekly L’Obs gives some insight into how Emmanuel Macron is making sure his public image remains glamorous for French tabloids.

SERBIA — WHEN WILL VUČIĆ WIN? Aleksandar Vučić doesn’t know if he will win in the first round of voting in Serbia’s presidential contest on Sunday or in the second, but few doubt he will win in the end. He campaigns as a strong economic manager bringing Serbia towards the EU, but “critics see a completely different figure — a leader with authoritarian leanings who poses as a peacemaker and anti-corruption crusader while stirring up divisions and presiding over a system of cronyism.”

Second in the polls is 25-year-old Luka Maksimović, a comedian running as a parody of a sleazy politician. His campaign videos are worth a watch.

TURKEY — LATEST ON ERDOĞAN’S REFERENDUM POWER GRAB: Zia Weise has a rundown on what the upcoming referendum means for Turkey. The proposed measures, if approved, represent a radical political change, which critics fear will be a point of no return for the country’s slide into authoritarianism. An example: The new constitution would make permanent the temporary powers granted to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by emergency law in the wake of last year’s attempted coup. While parliament would retain its legislative role, the president could simply bypass it by issuing decrees with the force of law.

Meanwhile, several people have been hospitalized following brawls during Turkish referendum voting in Brussels.

ECUADOR ELECTION RISK FOR JULIAN ASSANGE: The world’s longest sleepover might be coming to an end. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa will leave office following presidential elections Saturday, and his successor might not be so chummy with Assange, who’s been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for several years.


Myth of data monopoly: Why antitrust concerns about data are overblown, by Joe Kennedy for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

What’s next for the EU? The 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, by Arne Koeppel, Julia Forgnone, and Borja de Pedro for FTI Consulting.

Brexit. Brexit? By Janos Martonyi for the Wilfred Martens Centre for European Studies.


Book review: Nicolas Gros-Verheyde from Bruxelles2 is launching a new book on the EU’s security and defense policy, with a foreword by the EU’s diplomat-in-chief Federica Mogherini.

Life in the Calais jungle hasn’t changed: Le Monde went back to Calais after the Jungle was dismantled. Hundreds of migrants remain.

Hygge or not hygge? Scandinavian and Danish art of coziness is trendy, just not in Denmark, says Cafébabel

The myth of the lone wolf: From Quebec City to Paris-Orly and Westminster, attackers were described as lone wolves. The Guardian believes that’s a “lazy term” obscuring the real threat.

How French intellectuals ruined the West: Postmodernism presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but to modernity itself.


EXIT INTERVIEW: The parting words of Brussels press corps doyen Stephen Fidler, taking his leave as Brexit kicks off.

APPOINTED: Chantal Hughes, former communication adviser to Julian King and Jonathan Hill, will become a head of unit in the Commission’s financial affairs department for free movement of capital. She is replacing Stefaan de Rynck who joined the Barnier task force. Both served as Barnier’s spokespeople while he was the European single market commissioner.