Daily Update

 

Tuesday, June 22 2021

Mitsotakis, Sisi call for closer collaboration towards stability & security in E. Mediterranean

Greece and Egypt “serve joint principles – stability and security in the East Mediterranean” and want to avoid “new adventures in our neighborhood,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi on Monday.

https://www.amna.gr/en/article/563353/Mitsotakis–Sisi-call-for-closer-collaboration-towards-stability–security-in-E-Mediterranean

Entrance to Greece allowed with negative rapid test, age requirement for children’s testing raised

The tourism ministry on Friday announced two important changes to the health protection protocols for tourists entering Greece.

https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1163149/entrance-to-greece-allowed-with-negative-rapid-test-age-requirement-for-children-s-testing-raised/

Greek pilot charged with murdering UK wife, staging robbery

A Greek helicopter pilot was charged Friday with the murder of his British-Greek wife, whose death he had initially claimed was caused by burglars during a brutal invasion of their home on the outskirts of Athens.

https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1163169/greek-pilot-charged-with-murdering-uk-wife-staging-robbery/

Bioethics committee in Greece recommends obligatory ‘jabs’ only as last-ditch measure, and only for specific pro groups

A recommendation by a national bioethics and techno-ethics – urgently requested by the Greek government – calls for obligatory Covid-19 vaccinations only as a “last ditch” measure and then only for specific professional groups, such as staff at public and private healthcare facilities, as well as in units treating people in at-risk groups, such as the elderly or with people with special needs.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1739891/bioethics-comt-in-greece-recommends-obligatory-jabs-only-as-last-ditch-measure-and-only-for-specific-pro-groups

Greece confirms 209 new coronavirus infections on Monday, 17 deaths; 283 on ventilators

Greece confirmed 209 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, with 4 of these identified at entry points to the country, the National Public Health Organization (EODY) said on Monday.

https://www.amna.gr/en/article/563386/Greece-confirms-209-new-coronavirus-infections-on-Monday–17-deaths-283-on-ventilators

Papastratos to invest another €125 mln in Aspropyrgos plant

Tobacco giant Papastratos announced a major new investment of 125 million euros in its Aspropyrgos factory. This comes on the heels of a €300 million investment in the same unit by the local subsidiary of US multinational Philip Morris International.

https://www.ekathimerini.com/economy/1163171/papastratos-to-invest-another-e125-mln-in-aspropyrgos-plant/

DBRS: Primary scenario for Greece 5% GDP hike in 2021 and 2022

The DBRS credit rating firm forecast a 5-percent increase in Greece’s GDP for 2021, the same forecast for 2022.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1739865/dbrs-primary-scenario-for-greece-5-gdp-hike-in-2021-and-2022

ATHEX: Week ends with index losing 2.2%

The latest Fed announcements in the US and the southbound wave sweeping most fellow European bourses impacted Athinon Avenue on Friday, with its benchmark losing more ground to end the week with losses in excess of 2%, while banks lost 5.07% week-on-week.

https://www.ekathimerini.com/economy/1163167/athex-week-ends-with-index-losing-2-2/

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SUNDAY PAPERS

KATHIMERINI:  Supplementary real estate ENFIA tax to undergo ‘haircut’ in 2022

TO VIMA:  The new Western Block  

REAL  NEWS:  Private piggy bank [regarding pensions] on the way 

PROTO THEMA:  All state services on your mobile phones 

AVGI:  How the new labor legislation is reducing salaries  

MONDAY PAPERS:

TA NEA:  Guilty secrets regarding the murder at Glyka Nera 

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  Convenient suspects, troubling truths regarding the murder at Glyka Nera 

KONTRA NEWS:  Europe terrified by the Delta strain  

DIMOKRATIA:  What is the satanic pilot hiding?  

NAFTEMPORIKI:  The 40 key-issues regarding this year’s tax declaration forms

hk-strategies.gr

 

DEAR UEFA: “The rainbow is not offensive,” Commission Vice President Věra Jourová told Playbook Monday evening, shortly after the Union of European Football Associations rejected the city of Munich’s request to light its stadium in rainbow colors when the German and Hungarian teams play on Wednesday. “If anyone has a problem with it, this speaks more about them, rather than about people who want to light up the stadium with it,” she said. “We believe in a Europe which embraces diversity, not one which hides it.”

Good idea, many say: The rainbow flag “represents how we want to live — with respect for each other and without discrimination,” said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert earlier on Monday. Bavarian premier Markus Söder described lighting up Munich’s stadium as a proud way to send a “signal for the freedom of our society.” Hungarian footballer Willi Orbán had no issue with the “colorful lamps” either, according to Bild.

So who has a problem with the rainbow? UEFA, and the Hungarian government. “It is extremely harmful and dangerous to mix sports and politics,” Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said, according to the MTI news agency — in a clear attempt to politicize the rainbow and football. Instead, the stadium could be lit in rainbow colors one day later this month, UEFA suggested — when there’s no match, and no potential homophobe visitors in high office to take offense at the move.

GOOD MORNING. The rule of law is on the agenda of Europe ministers meeting in Luxembourg today — at least two of whom say they are proudly gay. We’ve got more from Jourová on the state of play of the rule of law procedures against Hungary and Poland below. Plus, there’s an interview with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya — who spoke to us on the day the EU, U.S., U.K. and Canada announced a new battery of coordinated sanctions against the regime of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

DRIVING THE DAY

MINISTERS DEBATE HUNGARY, POLAND: It’s been a while since Council discussed the state of the rule of law, and things haven’t gotten any better in Poland or Hungary, the two countries that have formal procedures going against them, Jourová told Playbook. “It is very important to continue the Article 7 process in the Council on both Poland and Hungary. The last hearing took place in December 2019 and many things happened since then — unfortunately most of them continued to raise our concerns,” she said.

Why talk, when there’s never any action? Today, “it is mainly for the member states to ask questions and discuss about different aspects of the rule of law,” Jourová said. “The process is important because it allows all the ministers to get a full picture of the situation and it promotes common understanding of the concerns and risks for the rule of law.” Even if the Commission delivered occasional updates on the process, the last formal hearings — when ministers get to ask questions — took place in December 2018 in the case of Poland, and a year later on Hungary.

So, welcome back: “This is an important moment for rule of law in the Council,” said Jourová, adding that she wants to thank the Portuguese presidency for organizing it, as “the Commission will never be able to uphold rule of law in Europe alone.” There’s not much the Commission can do, she acknowledged, when EU countries turn a blind eye to other governments’ attempts to hollow out the “independent judiciary, the fight against corruption, media freedom and the general system of checks and balances.” Jourová added: “We need all actors to play their role and this includes the European Parliament and the Council.”

FOCUS ON BELARUS

STAY TOUGH: Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya visited Luxembourg and Brussels on Monday to urge EU foreign affairs ministers to keep their nerve and their wits about them. In 2016, the EU lifted sanctions against Belarus, citing “improving” relations with Minsk and the release of six political prisoners. In an interview with Playbook, Tikhanovskaya said there were rumors that Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei is already exploring the idea of a similar deal by offering to move detained journalists from prison to house arrest.

Just the thought of such a deal had Tikhanovskaya steamed: “I urged ministers: don’t play this game any more,” she said. “Be consistent in your policy, because it’s a way to nowhere, until all the demands of civil society are fulfilled, like release of political prisoners, negotiations with civil society and new elections, no lifting of sanctions. I think ministers understand this very clearly now.” Tikhanovskaya praised the new sanctions against the regime, which include sectoral measures targeting the Belarusian economy, including some big state-owned companies. “It will hit the wallet of Lukashenko,” she said. Asked about assertions that sanctions will hurt regular citizens, she told my colleague David Herszenhorn: “The people are not suffering because of sanctions. They are suffering because of lawlessness.”

Not that mistake again: Tikhanovskaya told David that the EU had largely turned its attention away from Belarus after an initial batch of sanctions late last year, and the result was an emboldened Lukashenko diverting Ryanair Flight 4978 to arrest opposition activist Roman Protasevich. “Since December, I see that there were no strong steps from the European Union, no roundtables, no discussion and we saw that it resulted in a hijacking.”

Send money: She also called on the West to send more assistance, including financial aid, to Belarusian civil society groups, noting they were helping families of detained demonstrators with their exorbitant legal expenses. Tikhanovskaya’s own husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky, whom she replaced on the presidential election ballot last August, is scheduled to go on trial on Thursday, along with other activists. The trial, which could last a month, will be held in a prison rather than a court, she said, because the government fears protesters and the spectacle the case will cause. “The regime is so afraid people will come and see he is unbroken,” Tikhanovskaya said.

ACROSS THE CONTINENT

BLINKEN’S BACK: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Berlin today, where he’ll attend the Second Berlin Conference on Libya and meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Later in the week, he’ll head to Paris, then Rome, the Vatican, Bari, and Matera (where he’ll join the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting).

HIGH STAKES IN ITALY: When the Commission endorses Italy’s recovery plan today, and President Ursula von der Leyen symbolically presents it to Prime Minister Mario Draghi in Rome, she’ll be handing him a double-edged sword, writes Paola Tamma: “Draghi’s success in deploying the €209 billion in grants and loans to boost the Italian economy will be critical to convincing skeptical EU countries that solidarity — in the form of jointly backed debt — is in everyone’s interest. If Draghi succeeds, he will put his country on a much sounder economic footing. If he doesn’t, the consequences are huge.”

‘SEA, VAX AND SUN’: In a slight variation on that famed song, Thierry Breton looked ahead to the summer and beyond in a new blog post — saying the EU is “on track” when it comes to securing free travel again. The commissioner for the single market called on EU countries “to grant the EU a bigger role in ensuring a common approach to cross-border travel.” Concretely, the “Single Market Emergency Instrument, which we will propose in 2022, will provide an opportunity to explore how to better preserve our citizens’ interests in times of crisis.” Since the current rules aren’t binding for national governments, “we find a patchwork of different rules — making it hard to navigate for domestic and foreign tourists. The present situation shows the limitations of the current system.”

PARDONING THE SEPARATISTS: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced his government would today pardon the nine jailed leaders of Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence attempt. It’s a bold move politically — meant to be a step toward ending the conflict. “I’m convinced that getting these nine people out of prison … is a clear message of concord,” Sánchez said on Monday. “Catalonia, Catalans we love you,” Sanchez added, in Catalan. El País has more.

RESURRECTED RÉPUBLICAINS: Not all traditional French parties have come to terms with the fate of insignificance that President Emmanuel Macron foresaw for them: Xavier Bertrand, the conservative candidate who won big in Hauts-de-France in Sunday’s regional election, has given Les Républicains (the French EPP members) hope and stamina — and put himself in pole position in the leadership race. It’s also a personal victory for a man who said he had been dismissed as a “provincial hillbilly” in conservative Parisian circles. Clea Caulcutt has more winners and losers.

What happened to French democracy? A record two-thirds of voters snubbed Sunday’s elections, with turnout dropping a massive 16 points compared to the last regional ballots held six years ago. For pollsters and political scientists, the abstention is an alarming sign of a French crisis of representation and democratic apathy, exacerbated by Macron’s muddying of the traditional left-right divide that used to effectively mobilize voters, reports our colleague Rym Momtaz from Paris.

POST-MERKEL ELECTION PLANS: Germany’s EPP parties, the CDU and CSU, put foreign and EU policies at the top of their joint election manifesto, which party leaders Armin Laschet and Markus Söder presented on Monday. Generally, they’re aiming for “stability and renewal,” as the title says. That includes the promise, or announcement, that Germany under their possible continued leadership would play an active role in the EU and the world. That means using its military, including in “robust missions,” says the text — a sensitive point both at home and with international partners, but for opposing reasons, roughly speaking. Here are five things to know about the manifesto from our team in Germany.

SWEDISH CRISIS: A clash over housing policy in Sweden resulted in a full-blown government crisis as a fragmented parliament withdrew its support for Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Löfven on Monday. In a motion of no confidence, 181 lawmakers voted against Löfven, with 109 in favor and 51 abstentions. Löfven now has a week to decide between two options: He can call a snap election, or resign and try to build a new governing coalition without a new ballot. After the vote, Löfven told reporters he planned to use the coming days to decide on his next steps, and would begin with talks with the party leaders who have backed him so far, Charlie Duxbury reports from Stockholm.

CHINA CALLING: The EU knows how to handle China and is ahead of Washington on that front, argues Bruno Maçães in POLITICO’s new Geopolitical Union column.

GLOBAL VILLAGE

MONEY FOR PEACE: Turns out the brand new European Peace Facility, operative since March as an off-budget fund financed by EU countries’ contributions … isn’t so much off the EU budget. Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, said in a reply to a parliamentary question that his External Action Service needs 28 new staffers in two phases; some have already been included in the 2021 budget, the rest should follow next year. “All approved or requested increases in EEAS staff will be financed from the EU budget,” he wrote in his answer, on the Commission’s behalf, to Greens MEP Hannah Neumann.

That has implications. The Peace Facility, which funds the common costs of EU military missions and operations, is regarded by EU countries as their exclusive prerogative; analysis and risk scenarios on the sensitive matters in question are being kept from the public — including MEPs, with regard to the inter-governmental nature of the fund. But if the EEAS needs a whole new unit, paid for with EU money, to “implement preparation, management and control necessary for all EPF programs,” Neumann said, that claim appears more difficult to justify. “Contrary to the claims made, the EPF is at least partially an on-budget instrument — and the Parliament very well has a say on it,” she told Playbook, adding that “now we need to work out how this influence of the Parliament can be translated into concrete processes.”

EU ETHICS BODY … POSTPONED? Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs will be asked to postpone a vote planned for today on a new independent ethics body for the EU institutions, upon “request on behalf of the EPP,” as the committee secretariat wrote in a note to members, seen by Playbook. “The Chair will propose this modification of the draft agenda at the opening of the meeting,” the note said. The ethics body is supposed to stop doors from revolving too speedily, probe side incomes and look into lobby transparency.

The thing is, rapporteur Daniel Freund, from the Greens, has built one of those rare majorities without the EPP around his proposal — and told Playbook he has “no understanding” of the attempt “to delay this file and sabotage a swift enforcement of ethics oversight.” The move, which “is coming completely unannounced,” didn’t come with a request for any further negotiations on content, he said. “They just want to delay … I hope the other shadow rapporteurs do not fall for this.”

JOINT CYBER DEFENSE: The Commission wants to launch a new EU cyber unit to respond to cyberattacks, according to a draft of the plan, which is set to be presented on Wednesday. The “Joint Cyber Unit” would allow national capitals hit by cyberattacks to ask for help from other countries and the EU, including through rapid response teams that can swoop in and fight off hackers in real time. The plan aims to help countries fight back against increasingly sophisticated and brash attacks by pooling national governments’ cybersecurity powers. Laurens Cerulus has the story