Daily Update


04-06-2020 | EYE ON GREECE 

Τhursday, June 04 2020

Mitsotakis: Athens will respond to all Turkish provocations, with respect to international law

Greece’s prime minister himself chimed in on an ever-increasing spate of Turkish provocations, especially in the eastern Aegean and Mediterranean.


Panagiotopoulos: Greece’s red lines clearly marked

Greece’s red lines are clearly marked, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said Wednesday, adding that the country does not hesitate to “show its teeth” in the face of external threats.


Indoor restaurants, clubs, museums and gyms to open from June 6 to July 1

The seventh phase of a gradual lifting of restrictions imposed in March to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus aims to allow the resumption of dozens of entertainment and leisure activities.


Qatar Airways says all passengers in Athens-bound flight were healthy in Doha

Qatar Airways claimed on Wednesday that all the passengers in a flight that landed in Athens on June 1 had tested negative to coronavirus when they boarded its plane in Doha.


Angelopoulos offers apology over Kapodistrias controversy

In response to the social media firestorm in May that was caused by a post by the Greece 2021 committee that presented the first head of state of independent Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias as a dictator, its president, Gianna Angelopoulos, offered an apology on Wednesday for any offense caused. The Greece 2021 committee is organizing the bicentennial of the declaration of the Greek War of Independence.


Five arrested in George Floyd protest march in Athens

Five people were arrested and 12 detained in clashes between protesters and police during a march in central Athens over the death of George Floyd, the handcuffed black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police on May 25.


Head of anti-corruption prosecutor’s office now under probe over abuse of power in still unfinished Novartis investigation

The head of Greece’s anti-corruption prosecutor’s office, Eleni Touloupaki, and two of her assistant prosecutors on Wednesday were questioned by high court prosecutor regarding their lengthy and still incomplete investigation into Novartis’ subsidiary in the country, with their testimony coming in the capacity of a suspect, no less.


ECB has bought €4.7 bln of Greek bonds

The European Central Bank has acquired 4.69 billion euros of Greek bonds since it launched its emergency bond-buying program in late March to support the eurozone in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.


ATHEX: Bourse index climbs to new 3-month high

Bank stocks were back in the driving seat at Athinon Avenue on Wednesday, taking the Greek bourse benchmark to a new three-month high – i.e. its highest since the coronavirus epidemic began in Greece. The 700-point milestone seems to be growing closer, while investors appear to have plenty of disposable cash.







KATHIMERINI:  Mitsotakis sends deterrence message to Ankara    

TA NEA:  Kastellorizo: Alert in the Pentagon    

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Turkish provocations, Greek scenarios   

AVGI:  Tourism: What a carve up!   

RIZOSPASTIS:   Workers and free-lancers raise their voices  

KONTRA NEWS:   4 Greek shipowners enter the black list of the USA [for transferring oil from Venezuela]  

TO PONTIKI :  Erdogan out of control   

DIMOKRATIA:     The fairy-tales about the virus collapse    

NAFTEMPORIKI:  4+1 measures further away from the pandemic   


PASTA, TOILET PAPER … BORDER CLOSURES: European countries are gradually removing the obstacles they imposed in attempts to stop the spread of the coronavirus — but more concretely the spread of people — across borders. Now, the EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson has dared say what many have been thinking: Governments are composed of human beings, and human beings can be prone to panic during crises.

Verbatim: “It was really a bit of a chaos at some borders when they first introduced these restrictions and border checks,” Johansson told POLITICO’s Paola Tamma in an interview. “I think they [EU governments] acted a little bit like individuals. When the crisis first came upon us everybody rushed to the supermarket to buy a lot of pasta and toilet paper and went home and locked the doors more or less. And member states a little bit acted the same.”

Friends no more? Take Belgium. Its policies aren’t winning it many friends, particularly among its closest Benelux partners — some of whom have resorted to unilaterally opening their borders with the country, Hanne Cokelaere reports.

GOOD MORNING. Like any wise government, the Belgians won’t try their luck and attempt to “dominate” an evolving situation at a time when responding to popular demand is warranted. People can enjoy the sun, a beer and a meal on restaurant terraces in all its neighboring countries — even France. The expectation is that Belgium will today conclude the smartest way to stop people seeking these little pleasures abroad is to satisfy the demand domestically and finally allow restaurants and bars to reopen.

Meanwhile, Italy is opening up to all EU tourists from today — but governments around the bloc are being less than welcoming in return, effectively blacklisting the country. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Italy was being treated “like a leper colony” and warned the EU “will collapse” if countries don’t make decisions together. Hannah Roberts has the story.

SCOOP — AU REVOIR BEAUNE: Clément Beaune will be leaving his position as French President Emmanuel Macron’s special adviser for Europe by the end of this summer, Rym Momtaz writes in to report from Paris. Beaune, one of the originals in the Macron cosmos, has been an essential brain behind the president’s Europe policies, and while the current Brussels regime has many parents, few are rumored to have come up with the term “geopolitical Commission.” Here’s an excellent profile of Beaune by Rym from last year.


‘BRINK OF CIVIL WAR’: U.S. President Donald Trump “is taking the country to the brink of civil war,” European Parliament Vice President Katarina Barley said on Twitter, asking “the brave and decent to raise their voices” and hoping “it’s not too late.”

That’s an uncoded version of what in only slightly more diplomatic language sounds like this: The EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell called “for a deescalation of tensions” in the U.S. “We trust in the ability of the Americans to come together, to heal as a nation and to address these important issues during these difficult times,” he added.

Everyone be vigilant: “We are shocked and appalled” by the death of George Floyd beneath the knee of a police officer, Borrell said during a virtual press conference on Tuesday. “This is an abuse of power and this has to be denounced.” He added that “all societies must remain vigilant against the excess use of force” and stressed that “we condemn violence and racism of any kind.”

‘In Europe, we can’t breath too’: “Europe is no stranger to police brutality,” writes Yassine Boubout, a Brussels-based law student and activist, in an op-ed for POLITICO. When Adil, a 19-year-old teen of Moroccan descent, was killed during a police chase in Brussels while allegedly fleeing from a police check a few weeks ago, “nobody organized mass protests or connected his death to the larger struggle to combat systemic racism,” Boubout says. “Hardly any politicians spoke out, and those who did were met with massive backlash from the public and police unions.”

Meanwhile, in Paris: A large crowd gathered Tuesday evening to protest a medical report that seemingly exonerated law enforcement over the 2016 death of a black man in the Paris region, a case that has been likened to that of George Floyd, Rym Momtaz reports.

BY THE WAY, FORGET G8: The EU doesn’t think Russia should rejoin the G7, Borrell said on Tuesday. Brussels “considers that the G7 format is a vital multilateral framework among countries guided by shared values, interests and commitments,” Borrell said. Russia’s membership in what was then the G8 was suspended after it annexed the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine in 2014, and will remain so “until Russia changes course and the environment allows for the G8 again, [to] have a meaningful discussion, and this is not currently the case.”

Remember the rules: “I also would like to stress the fact that the prerogative of the G7 chair, in this case the United States … is to issue guest invitations and guest invitations reflect the host priorities,” Borrell said. “But changing membership or changing the format on a permanent basis is not the prerogative of the G7 chair.”

Thanks, no thanks: “I risk being impolite, but has someone asked Russia whether we want to return?” Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the U.N. Dmitry Polyanskiy wrote in a tweet that has since been removed. “Maybe that would be a right thing to do before giving to U.K. and Canada another opportunity to display their pathologic Russophobia and make G7 look even more pathetic,” he added. Jacopo Barigazzi has more on Borrell’s press conference, Laurenz Gehrke has the full details on Russia’s reaction.

TRUMP ≠ AMERICA: “I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I’ll seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued our country, not use them for political gain. I’ll do my job and I’ll take responsibility — I won’t blame others,” Joe Biden said in a speech Tuesday.

Turns out it was easier for Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, to comment on Trump’s response to the protests than for foreign leaders to do so. Watch Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struggling over it for interminable seconds.


BRETON WEIGHS IN ON SOCIAL NETWORKS: “A handful of online platforms have become the main source of information for billions of people,” the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton wrote in a new blog entry on Tuesday, adding that the “latest events in the U.S.” lead to important questions.

Such as, in Breton’s words: “What role do platforms play in avoiding misinformation during an election or health crisis? How do we avoid hate speech from spreading online? How do we protect our children against being bullied on social media? Should speaking time in democratic debate be limited online as we do offline? How do we achieve all this without choking off the freedom of expression of platform users? Are public interest notices the right tool to avoid censorship while advising users to check others sources?”

Have your say: “These are some of the questions that the Commission is asking in a public consultation starting today and running until 8 September. I invite our citizens, journalists, NGOs, platforms, academics and anyone interested to participate,” Breton said.

FRENCH FOCUS: Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire welcomed the Commission’s consultation — with France’s priorities being mainly the money: “We will work with European Commissioners [Margrethe] Vestager and Breton for an ambitious and swift process. This work complements France’s three-year-long fight for the fair taxation of tech giants,” Le Maire said.

American preparedness: Meanwhile, the Trump administration announced on Tuesday it’s launching a series of trade investigations that could lead to tariffs on partners including the EU if they adopt digital service taxes. “President Trump is concerned that many of our trading partners are adopting tax schemes designed to unfairly target our companies,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement. “We are prepared to take all appropriate action to defend our businesses and workers against any such discrimination.”


TOWARD AN EU MINIMUM WAGE: Back in January, the Commission asked employers and trade unions what they think of an EU-wide minimum wage; today’s meeting of the College of Commissioners is expected to adopt the second, broader, stage of the consultation, with the last months seeing at least lip service being paid to those keeping things running at supermarkets et al, who are most likely to earn low wages.

Way forward: The document being adopted today will, according to EU officials, stress the role of collective bargaining as a way to set wages (including minimums), and propose other possible ways for the EU to ensure there are minimum wages everywhere around the bloc — a goal that’s not exactly shared by all governments.

GERMANY IN EXTRA TIME: Leaders of Germany’s governing coalition will resume talks over a multi-billion-euro stimulus package today. A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU said the “coalition committee,” as the format is known, will need to continue talks as spending plans need to be “carefully discussed.”

POLISH HEALTH MINISTER FACES CORRUPTION ACCUSATIONS: Poland’s opposition and the media have been attacking Health Minister Łukasz Szumowski for allegedly allowing friends and family to enrich themselves thanks to their ties to him. Wojciech Kosc has the details, and writes that the accusations come at a vulnerable time for the country’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, for which Szumowski became a leading figure during the pandemic.

SPAIN EXTENDS EMERGENCY: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez struck a deal with opposition party Ciudadanos to extend the state of emergency for a sixth and final time. The extension is due to be approved in congress today, putting an end to the exceptional measures on June 21, Cristina Gallardo writes in to report. The deal with Ciudadanos means the rules of the state of emergency and their implementation will be the same across the country.

MEANWHILE, IN THE UK: The House of Commons ended virtual voting on Tuesday, opting instead for a queue.

ICYMI — IN CASE THERE WERE ANY DOUBTS: Here’s what a shootout with the World Health Organization looks like: The WHO was frustrated over China’s slow reporting of coronavirus data as the number of infections exploded in the country in January, according to the Associated Press, but in public it praised Beijing, hoping to flatter it into handing over more information.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Here’s everything POLITICO has ever published on the coronavirus crisis in one place.


DIPLOMATIC INCIDENT: The Commission distanced itself from a highly unusual broadside attack on the Spanish government by one of its very senior officials, with a spokesperson for the Commission saying on Tuesday that Cecilio Madero Villarejo “did not seek authorization” for a letter he wrote to the editor of ABC newspaper. “He published this letter as a private citizen,” the spokesperson said.

It’s better that way, for the sake of inter-institutional relationships. Madero Villarejo has been a deputy director general in the competition department since 2011, first for antitrust and since March for mergers — both among the most powerful positions the EU’s civil service has on offer.

Fighting words: In the letter, Madero Villarejo accused the PM of “manifest incompetence” in economic matters, suggested he may “suffer some kind of mental disorder,” or otherwise his actions would place him “in the realm of criminal law,” and called on Sánchez to immediately resign.

For the record: The Commission spokesperson said Madero Villarejo’s letter “does not reflect the Commission’s official position.”