29-05-2020 | EYE ON GREECE | EU


29-05-2020 | EYE ON GREECE 

Friday, May 29 2020

Mitsotakis hails EU recovery fund on anniversary of joining EEC

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday spoke of the great importance of the European Union plan to prop up the bloc’s coronavirus-hit economies which coincides with the signing of the agreement by which Greece joined the European Economic Community (EEC), the precursor to the European Union.


Greek Finance Minister: Greece to submit priorities for Recovery Fund allocations in October

Greece will submit to the European Commission its priorities on exploiting of funds allocated by the Recovery Fund in October, Greek Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said on Thursday.


Tsipras: EU Recovery Fund a positive development for southern European countries

The EU Recovery Fund is a “positive development,” said SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, especially so for the southern European countries, speaking in an interview with Alpha TV on Thursday evening.


Embassy reacts to US envoy’s Russia remarks

The Russian Embassy in Athens on Thursday reacted to comments by US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who said that problems in bilateral relations between NATO allies Greece and Turkey would benefit Moscow.


Greek coronavirus infections rise to 2,906, deaths to 175

Health Ministry adviser Sotiris Tsiodras has confirmed that Greece’s Covid-19 toll reached a total of 175 on Thursday as two more persons died.


Gov’t tailwind of €115 million

The government on Thursday announced the allocation of 115 million euros to support the local airline industry, which Greek flag carrier Aegean Airlines considered positive but “too little in comparison with other European Union states.” Instead the listed carrier is eyeing a €150 million state loan through the extraordinary credit mechanism for companies.


ATHEX: Fifth straight day of gains for benchmark

Early profit-taking at Athinon Avenue gave way to a fresh wave of buying later on Thursday – although banks appeared to have fallen out of favor – taking the benchmark higher for the fifth session in a row. The market is now confidently looking toward more growth, boosted also by the significant increase in daily trading volumes.







KATHIMERINI:   Tax reductions included in the 32-billion-euro package    

TA NEA:   How our life will change as of Monday     


AVGI:  No guarantee for jobs   

RIZOSPASTIS:  Subsidies and loans for corporate groups, new burdens and austerity measures for the people  

KONTRA NEWS:  Money for the few, hunger for the many    

DIMOKRATIA:   Raid by Erdogan on the eve of the commemoration of the Fall of Constantinople  

NAFTEMPORIKI:  5 sources of liquidity for the economy      


STAYING OUT OF IT: EU foreign ministers meet virtually today with the specter of U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat of sanctions against Beijing hanging over them. But for the EU, trade retaliation over China’s imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong isn’t on the cards, report Stuart Lau, Jakob Hanke Vela, Jacopo Barigazzi and Finbarr Bermingham (in a POLITICO collaboration with the South China Morning Post). In the words of one senior EU diplomat: “Sanctions are not on the table, our relations with the Chinese are simply too important.”

Values vs. interests 1: “From a values perspective, Europe should respond, but from an interests perspective, it probably won’t,” writes Lizza Bomassi of Carnegie Europe, in one of the more pessimistic of the 10 perspectives on Europe’s dilemma compiled by the think tank.

Values vs. interests 2: China’s proposed new security law would undermine the “one country, two systems” governance framework of Hong Kong, according to a joint statement issued Thursday by Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

Putting their passports where their mouth is: Hongkongers born before the 1997 U.K. handover to China who hold British National (Overseas) passports will be able to obtain British citizenship if Beijing enforces the law in the city, the U.K. government announced on Thursday. The move would open the path to citizenship for approximately 300,000 Hongkongers. “In the meantime we urge China to step back from the brink and live up to its responsibilities as a leading member of the international community,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. More details here.

Now watch this: Trump will give a press conference on China later today.

ANOTHER BITE AT THE APPLE: Despite the Hong Kong flare-up, the EU is still hoping to resurrect its China summit, planned for late March but canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang plan to meet via videoconference in late June, potentially on June 22, diplomats and MEPs said.

Main event in September: Berlin is crossing its fingers that a second coronavirus wave won’t wash away plans for an in-person meeting in Leipzig with EU leaders and Chinese President Xi Jinping on September 14.

GOOD MORNING. I’m Sarah Wheaton, POLITICO’s senior health reporter, guiding you into the holiday weekend. I covered Obamacare and the Obama White House for our U.S. sister publication before jumping across the pond three years ago. Up until three months ago, when I told people I was on the Brussels health beat, they’d look puzzled and inform me that health isn’t an EU competence. It’s funny how these things turn out.

But before we get into all that, here’s an amuse-bouche to start your day: Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on social media, getting a haircut, wearing a puffy vest — sans shirt — and looking pretty darn happy about it.


EYEING MORE HEALTH POWER: Mark down Thursday as the soft launch for the Commission’s campaign to change its authority over health matters in the EU treaties. Its proposal to erect a €9.4 billion standalone health program in the next long-term EU budget is just the “first stage” in building a “health union,” Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said on Thursday. Now no one’s talking about treaty changes, he was quick to add — that would be “premature.” But, taking note of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s declaration that “nothing is off the table” and French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a “Europe de la sante” (or “Europe of health”), Schinas added: “If the moment is right, this will happen.”

‘Toppest of the top’: During the two-year Conference on the Future of Europe process, meant to pull citizens into deliberations about the shape of the post-Brexit EU, lessons from the pandemic “will be at the top of the list,” and “health would probably be in the toppest of the top,” said Schinas, the Commission vice president for the European way of life.

Translation: We’re topping up that ‘pocket money.’ Thursday’s €9.4 billion proposal for a dedicated “EU4Health” program is a whiplash-inducing reversal from the Juncker years. When the previous Commission put out its Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) plan in 2018, the health budget dropped to just €413 million and was folded in with cohesion funds in the broader “European Social Fund+.” Officials from the Commission’s directorate-general for health and food safety (DG SANTE) tried to spin it, saying at the time that this would make it easier for them to poach other cash for health. But as Schinas put it Thursday, it was just “pocket money.”

TAKE IT TO THE BANK: The Commission touts it as a “2,000 percent increase.” While there may be some hyperbole there, with money sloshing out of one pot or into another, it’s clear that health’s political currency has increased exponentially. Jillian Deutsch and Carlo Martuscelli have more on where the money’s going, and who might get it, for Health Care and EU Budget Pro subscribers.

Euro[care]zone: Even without a treaty change, Brussels wants to push its powers to the limit, with capitals on board. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides invoked the idea of “flying doctors” on Thursday. A draft Council program from the next three EU presidencies — Germany, Portugal and Slovenia — suggests joint treatment facilities and EU-level drug development labs. And of course, after the shortages and hoarding of medical supplies that marked the beginning of the pandemic, everyone is interested in EU stockpiles.

NOT SO FAST: “What happened is an administrative failure and not a constitutional failure,” Robert Madelin, a former director general of the Commission’s health department, told Playbook Thursday. “We were much better prepared five to 10 years ago.” The bloc learned from previous outbreaks about the importance of things like stockpiling. But then preparations dwindled under austerity. “Let’s not wait to change the treaty,” said Madelin, now the chairman of public affairs consultancy FIPRA International. That may be aiming too high while “there’s a huge amount of low-hanging fruit.”

Supporting that view: Legal scholars from the Netherlands and the U.K., who argue Brussels has way more authority than it has used in its COVID-19 response.

PLEASE EXPLAIN: The Commission can’t seem to explain how its tax on big companies, which it said would yield €10 billion a year, is going to work — or how it came up with that revenue figure. Commission officials don’t even seem sure what the tax is called. Bjarke Smith-Meyer and Lili Bayer take a look at the math mystery.

EPISODE 3, SCREENING TODAY: Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager starts the morning at 10 a.m. with a press conference on the Solvency Support Instrument to get the private sector in on propping up businesses. The second act: Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni and Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton talk InvestEU and its new Strategic Investment Facility.

Going to the source: The Commission is posting detailed draft regs here.


THE CONSERVATIVE REVOLUTION VS. OBAMA MOMENT: The scale and speed of Ursula von der Leyen’s recovery proposals are potentially transformative, writes Tim King in a sketch for POLITICO, but the structure is not. But Moritz Schularick of the Institute for New Economic Thinking reckons the recovery package is about as big as Barack Obama’s 2009 bailout, with major consequences for further integration.

UNFLATTERING FRUGAL VIEW: “Not a penny more to Southern Europe! Why the Macron-Merkel plan to give away 500 billion euro is no good,” reads the cover of Dutch news magazine EW, with a harsh depiction of conflicting work ethics. (H/t Trouw correspondent Christoph Schmidt)

GRAND GREEN AMBITIONS: Poland wins while Spain and Italy are left fuming when it comes to cash for climate transition. That’s among the five key takeaways from the EU’s green recovery plans, for Energy and Climate, Sustainability and EU Budget Pro subscribers.


GEE, 7? Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron spoke on the phone on Thursday and “agreed on the importance of convening the G7 in person in the near future,” according to a White House readout from the call.

Party without the USA: Meanwhile, Trump still hasn’t signed on to the EU-led effort to raise cash for the coronavirus response; nonetheless, the pot has €9.8 billion, surpassing its goal, von der Leyen announced Thursday. But hey, at least they have Miley Cyrus on board, report David M. Herszenhorn and Jillian Deutsch. The next pledge drive starts June 26.

SWEDEN’S GRIM RANKING: Sweden, which famously bucked the lockdown trend, had more COVID-19 deaths per million than any other country over the past week, with 5.5. It’s followed by Brazil, then Peru. The U.K. ranks No. 4, the U.S. is in sixth place, and Belgium clocks in at No. 9 with 2.6 deaths per million. Check out @euromaestro’s graphics of Johns Hopkins University data.

WHY WAIT FOR BASTILLE DAY? The new date of French liberation is June 2. People will be able to eat inside restaurants again (though not in Paris), cultural life will restart and travel within the country will be allowed, the government announced Thursday.

For those keeping score at home: What would the coronavirus curves look like in the EU and U.K. if we froze social distancing measures exactly as they were on May 2? The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has 30-day forecasts meant to serve as a baseline for comparison with what actually happens as measures are lifted.

VERY CHIC BRAINSTORMING: Emmanuel Macron chose Nobel Prize-winner Jean Tirole and former chief economist of the IMF Olivier Blanchard to coordinate a group of 25 high-level experts to devise recovery plan recommendations by the end of 2020, Le Monde reports. Their themes: fighting inequalities, climate change and demographics.

Who’s in: It’s like a U.S. Democratic economic policy council in exile on the Seine, with Clinton and Obama White House alumni including Larry Summers and Laura Tyson, not to mention New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

Who’s out: Nobel prize laureates Thomas Piketty and Esther Duflo, who have been pushing a wealth tax that Macron dismissed, are notably missing from the list.


CLOCK TICKING ON BELGIUM’S ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER: Sophie Wilmès’ emergency coronavirus powers expire in June. To remain Belgium’s prime minister, she’ll need to seek a confirmation vote by September — but her minority government only holds 38 of the 150 seats in parliament, and her popularity is waning, to say the least. Barbara Moens and Camille Gijs have the story.

IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO END LIKE THIS: The conventional wisdom was that Nissan would close its Sunderland, U.K., auto factory after Brexit. Instead, it’s shutting down its Barcelona plant. That’s a big loss for Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, report Cristina Gallardo and Joshua Posaner, and a big jobs win for Japan, China and the U.S.

POLL: I’M GOOD, BUT … Europeans tend to be personally optimistic, but have a dim view of their country’s future, finds a new EUOpinions poll. The gap is particularly pronounced in Germany.


DON’T DENY IT: Lockdowns may be lifting and the sun may be shining, but that doesn’t mean the stress of this bonkers time is easing. At an event earlier this week, I asked Green MEP Tilly Metz, a psychologist from Luxembourg, for tips on mental health hygiene. We need to stop treating bad emotions like a “taboo,” she said. “You should say it to the people around you: I don’t feel well, and I need some help.”

Me too. Even us “professionals” are struggling. I found myself Googling heart attack symptoms after feeling some random chest discomfort earlier this week — I’ve been paranoid about blood clots since reading they hit unsuspecting COVID-19 patients in their 30s and 40s. I indulged in an aspirin and went to bed. Years of writing about public health and scientific uncertainty didn’t prepare me for this — but then, no one was ready.

TAKE IT EASY: My tips for unplugging as you head into the long weekend …

Stretch: Like me, you’ve likely wrecked your shoulders and neck from hunching over your laptop. I’m not really into yoga, but this 10-minute session, mostly spent on my butt, has become a daily ritual.

Breathe: Tara Brach’s talks on “relaxing the over-controller” and meditation guides are targeted at a high-strung audience.

Move on: Revel in others’ mistakes in the podcast “How to Fail with Elizabeth Day.”

More tips, courtesy of Paul Dallison’s latest sketch column, “Don’t drive blind and other corona advice.”


BRITS STILL LOVE THE BUBBLE: The U.K. may have quit the EU, but it still has more journalists than any other country covering Brussels, according to data on the origins of accredited journalists. With 135 reporters from U.K. media outlets accredited with the European Commission, Brits dwarf the media contingents from Germany (86) and France (93). Only Belgium comes close, with 131 accredited journalists (but close to half of those are employed by POLITICO, which while based in Brussels has a newsroom that’s made up of 22 different nationalities). Get the full rundown here, courtesy of Laurenz Gehrke.