Daily Update

 

16-09-2020 | EYE ON GREECE 

Friday, September 25 2020

Greece says no date yet on when exploratory talks with Turkey will start

Greece’s government spokesman said on Thursday no date had yet been set for exploratory talks with Turkey to begin.

https://www.ekathimerini.com/257337/article/ekathimerini/news/greece-says-no-date-yet-on-when-exploratory-talks-with-turkey-will-start 

At 17,5% – 18% the lead of ND in two new polls

The governing party of New Democracy maintains a difference of 18 percentage points against SYRIZA, according to two new polls that came to light on Thursday.

http://en.protothema.gr/at-175-18-the-lead-of-nd-in-two-new-polls/

Mitsotakis: We can succeed without lockdown

“I will say it openly: The dilemma is ‘Self-protection or Quarantine‘” stressed the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in his televised message about the course of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

http://en.protothema.gr/mitsotakis-we-can-succeed-without-lockdown/ 

Coronavirus Greece: 342 new cases & 9 fatalities

The Greek competent authorities announced yesterday 342 new cases of coronavirus in the country, of which 24 are associated with known outbreaks and 30 were detected following checks at the country’s borders. The total number of cases in Greece is 16.627, of which 55,7% are men.

http://en.protothema.gr/coronavirus-greece-342-new-cases-9-fatalities/

Three arrested in counter-terrorism operation against urban guerrilla group

Three people have been arrested in an ongoing counter-terrorism operation in Athens that is believed to be linked with an investigation into Greek urban guerrilla group Popular Fighters Group (OLA).

https://www.ekathimerini.com/257335/article/ekathimerini/news/three-arrested-in-counter-terrorism-operation-against-urban-guerrilla-group 

Staikouras: Real economy to suffer in another lockdown

A new lockdown would be hard for the real economy to bear, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said on Thursday, while making it clear that if deemed necessary for the protection of public health the country’s cash reserves will suffice to cover the cost of any interventions.

https://www.ekathimerini.com/257370/article/ekathimerini/business/staikouras-real-economy-to-suffer-in-another-lockdown 

ATHEX: Gloom sends stocks down

The Greek bourse headed lower on Thursday for the fifth day in a row, a sequence unseen in almost two-and-a-half months, as the gloomier estimates about the course of the economy given the second wave of the pandemic continued to take a toll on stock prices. It was a session that by and large produced a similar picture to that on Wednesday.

https://www.ekathimerini.com/257366/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-gloom-sends-stocks-down

www.enikos.gr

www.protothema.gr

www.newsbomb.gr

www.cnn.gr

www.newsbeast.gr

KATHIMERINI:    Ankara is setting its own terms  

TA NEA:   Real estate asset owners: The price-increases for assets   

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:   The Greek state has been requisitioned by private clinics’ owners    

AVGI:  Mitsotakis is washing his hands regarding the course of the pandemic   

RIZOSPASTIS:  Students’ and doctors’ voices were hear beneath their masks!  

KONTRA NEWS:   Ultimatum by Tsipras towards those who question his strategic choices     

DIMOKRATIA:   Macedonian organizations send angry letters to PM Mitsotakis: “You too sold out Macedonia”   

NAFTEMPORIKI:   The drills of the Ministry of Finance for growth and debt  

hk-strategies.gr

EXCITEMENT DU JOUR: Will Jarosław Kaczyński join the Polish government, as Law and Justice party (PiS) parliamentary group Chairman Ryszard Terlecki told TVN24, swapping the role of éminence grise for an executive one? TVP Info reports Kaczyński is set to be named deputy prime minister, become the head of the security committee, and oversee the ministries of justice, national defense and interior and administration. PiS and its governing partners have been holding talks in an attempt to save their three-party ruling coalition, after an unexpected dispute over an animal rights bill caused a schism.

GOOD FRIDAY MORNING.

MONEY, MIGRATION, MORE

NEED FOR SPEED: The Council is putting pressure on the European Parliament, urging its main negotiating partner to get up to speed in the negotiations about the bloc’s long-term budget — Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) — and the coronavirus recovery package. “I am very concerned that the negotiations are currently progressing too slowly,” German Ambassador Michael Clauß told Playbook in a statement.

Invitation to Parliament: “We need to increase the pace of the negotiations significantly,” Clauß said, offering “to negotiate through the weekends as well.”

As a reminder: The MFF and Recovery Fund “are politically and technically inseparable,” said Clauß — meaning without an agreement on the budget, “we run the risk of delaying the Recovery Fund as well.” He said Council has shown willingness to compromise where positions “are already close” in the negotiations, for example on new own resources for the EU.

Rule of law news: Clauß said the German Council presidency “will soon present a proposal for adoption by the Council” on the rule of law mechanism in the budget that will “closely follow the decision of the European Council” … which was deliberately vague on that matter. There are “intensive talks with member states” on that question, he said, adding that the negotiations are “extremely complicated.”

What to expect: The rule of law mechanism in the EU budget “cannot be an Article 7 procedure” by another name, Clauß said. Translation: It’s going to be more of a sanctions mechanism for the misuse of EU money. In Clauß’ words, “The aim is to protect the EU budget and, for the first time, to penalize breaches of the rule of law in the use of budget funds.”

COULD’VE BEEN WORSE: By Viktor Orbán’s standards when talking about Commission proposals regarding migration, the Hungarian PM was outright enthusiastic on Thursday. “The tone of the proposal is better,” he told reporters after talks with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “There is no breakthrough,” he added, which amounts to rather soft criticism, one day after the Commission presented its package.

Killing it softly: Orbán, speaking alongside Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki on Thursday, reiterated Central European requests such as “hotspots” outside the EU to handle asylum seekers, which hasn’t made it into the Commission proposal, and reserved the right to claim the idea of mandatory relocation schemes was not off the table yet, Lili Bayer reports.

Notably absent: Slovakia.

MEANWHILE, CYPRUS LATEST: Cyprus is committed to reunification talks with Turkish Cypriots but “not under conditions of intimidation or threats,” President Nicos Anastasiades said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly Thursday. Reuters has a write-up.

BRUSSELS BEAT

FOREIGN POLICY GETS POLITICAL: The EPP group in European Parliament is “alarmed” at reports in the Spanish media about a “semi-official high-level mission sent by you to Caracas, to negotiate with [Venezuala’s President] Nicolás Maduro,” a letter to EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell, obtained by Playbook, says. “We would like to convey our deep concern … we believe this decision represents a substantial weakening of the political positions held by the European Union with respect to the Venezuelan regime.”

Trouble brewing: Sending such a mission “is a serious political and strategic mistake as it whitewashes Maduro’s totalitarian regime and grants an appearance of normality where only corruption and tyranny prevail,” the letter says. The issue has the potential to become a serious affair, judging from the tone of the letter, which requests Borrell provide “the appropriate explanations … without ruling out those that you may be required to offer before the Chamber.”

Citing Belarus: The trip was “as unthinkable as it would be currently unthinkable to send an EU mission to talk to the Lukashenko regime behind the back of the Belarusian opposition. That is exactly what this decision is doing at the moment with the Venezuelan democrats.” Here’s the letter, dated Thursday and signed by members of the group leadership and Chairman Manfred Weber.

SECOND TIME LUCKY: This is not the first time the Commission has tried to raise awareness of the extent to which deep and large capital markets would increase Europe’s attractiveness. Alas, there were bigger crises to deal with for Brussels, less abstract issues to quip about for the press, and worse pegs to tie such policies to in the past. Thursday was the day to relaunch an initiative for a single EU capital market. (Note that it had to cede Wednesday’s top-billing Commission slot to migration.)

Global competition: Financial markets are global and capital is highly mobile — and it will move wherever folks get the best bang for their bucks, which is often not in Europe, with its 27 national markets, different rules or different ways of applying them. No, it goes to the U.S. The coronavirus economic crisis might make EU governments rethink whether they really want to lose out on especially the fast-growing businesses — or that’s the hope. “We expect that there is going to be support and we will be able to make progress in a number of areas,” Valdis Dombrovskis, Commission executive vice president, told reporters Thursday.

Brexit dividend: There’s hope in the Commission that Brexit is a good time to fade out the EU’s dependence on the huge financial center that is London — both to keep companies on the Continent, and because it’s not ideal to have potential risks to EU financial stability managed, supervised, and more generally mainly happening outside the EU.

No crisis without winners: The collapse of German payments company Wirecard, and the apparent flaws in its supervision, helped Brussels argue that EU regulators should get more — direct — powers: “The recent Wirecard scandal showed that there is scope to improve the rules and application of financial supervision,” Dombrovskis said. “We need to continue to converge toward more integrated EU supervision.” Here’s the action plan, which accompanies a package of legislative proposals on digital finance and cybersecurity. Bjarke Smith-Meyer has more here.

CORONA POLITICS

STATE OF THE PANDEMIC: For the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), it takes more than one indicator to label a country a high-risk zone for infections. Its latest risk assessment, which Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and ECDC Director Andrea Ammon presented Thursday, looks at the increase in numbers of infections, the testing rates and death rates, and defines “concerning trends” as meeting any two of the criteria.

The stable ones include: Belgium, Germany and Italy, among almost a dozen others (but not the U.K.).

Power of appeals: As long as Ursula von der Leyen’s big plans to beef up EU competences in health policy are not more than a project, what can Kyriakides do, other than issue warnings and offer well-meaning advice to capitals? Which she did quite dramatically on Thursday. EU governments better react to the increasing infection numbers, she said, and pronto: “It might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring,” she said.

Avoiding new lockdowns: “We must prevent a situation when governments feel they have no choice but to impose generalized lockdowns,” Kyriakides said at a press conference. “This will be detrimental to our mental health, detrimental to our economies, detrimental to the wellbeing and the education of our children, detrimental to our working and daily lives.”

DON’T MESS WITH AN ITALIAN: Italian President Sergio Mattarella issued a firm rebuke to British PM Boris Johnson, who had suggested that freedom is more important to Brits than it is to Italians and Germans (without explicitly mentioning both countries’ past totalitarian regimes). Mattarella said at the end of a ceremony in Sardinia on Thursday: “Italians love freedom but we also care about seriousness.”

Grazie Boris: Which is to say, whether accurate or not, thanks to the British PM, Mattarella scored a penalty goal. Johnson had earlier told the House of Commons that Italy and Germany had lower coronavirus infection rates because the U.K. is “a freedom-loving country,” and it was “very difficult to ask the British population uniformly to obey guidelines in the way that is necessary,” suggesting that was not the case in Italy and Germany — both countries that actually have had guidelines, even consistent ones, over the past months.

CORONA DIVIDEND: Meanwhile, the U.K. is set to scrap former Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to replace access to the EU’s satellite navigation system Galileo post-Brexit with a home-grown equivalent. Cristina Gallardo has the scoop.

BELGIAN REACTIONS: The Belgian government includes scientists on its National Security Council, the body which agreed earlier this week to adjust the country’s corona measures. But it didn’t exactly poll every virologist — so unsurprisingly, not everybody is happy. Barbara Moens collected reactions.

‘Age of pandemics’: Peter Piot is a Belgian a virologist — arguably one of global renown. He’s the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a special adviser to the European Commission president … and he sees no reason to believe the coronavirus could be our last pandemic. We might be “entering into an age of pandemics,” he told Jillian Deutsch in a wide-ranging interview that’s well worth your time. “To be honest, [to prevent the spread of pandemics] we shouldn’t even talk to each other,” he said. “But it’s impossible to live in societies without [accepting] risk.”

SUPER SPREADER: An Irish staffer with coronavirus at Monday’s informal meeting of trade ministers in Berlin has forced multiple top EU leaders to self-quarantine, Barbara Moens reports.

WEEKEND READS

GOVERNANCE MATTERS: The quality of governance played a “significant role in explaining differences in economic losses in different EU countries” as a result of the pandemic, along with — unsurprising, but politically less sensitive — factors including the strictness of lockdown measures and the extent to which tourism makes up the economy, a new policy paper for the Bruegel think tank by economist André Sapir says.

Man-made shock: “When comparing some of the southern countries with some of the northern countries, we found that the quality of governance explains between roughly 30 percent and 50 percent of the difference in the size of the economic shock,” Sapir writes — recommending this significant factor “should be taken into account” when evaluating the recovery plans that countries must submit to the Commission for approval.

VDL PROFILED: “You cannot understand Europe without understanding Ursula von der Leyen,” writes Ben Judah in this intriguing long-read profile on “The rise of Mrs. Europe” for the Critic magazine. The coronavirus package could hand power back to the Commission “that has been seeping away since Delors … Now it’s all up to her. If she fails, if the Commission fails, it’s all up to her. There are few moments in politics as exhilarating, as terrifying, as that.”

SAVING PARIS: There’s a sense of significant movement on climate issues in just the past few days, reports Karl Mathiesen — a revival U.N. Secretary-General Antonió Guterres had gambled on. If U.S. President Donald Trump had led an exodus of other countries from the Paris Climate Agreement, international cooperation would have been waylaid. So in the wake of Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out, Guterres had to decide whether to step back, shielding himself and the U.N., or stake the reputation of the multilateral system on the success of the deal. Read Karl’s fascinating behind-the-scenes story on what Guterres did.

Not really saving Paris: Europe’s rail renaissance risks running out of steam because tracks, tickets and the trains themselves are unfit for the climate fight, Joshua Posaner writes.