Daily Update


30-07-2020 | EYE ON GREECE 

Thursday, July 30 2020

Washington ‘deeply troubled’ as Turkish research vessel sails to Cyprus

A Turkish seismic research vessel was sailing off the coast of Cyprus on Thursday morning after Ankara issued a navigational telex reserving parts of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), in a move that Washington has reportedly called “provocative.”


Commission extends Greece’s enhanced surveillance by six months

The European Commission decided on Wednesday to extend Greece’s enhanced surveillance by six months.


Mitsotakis – Pensions: In 2020 the retroactive payments to the pensioners

In 2020, the retroactive payments to the pensioners will be paid in a lump sum, according to the court decision, said the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis from the floor of the parliament, during the discussion on the bill of the Ministry of Finance.


57 new coronavirus infections bring total to 4,336

Fifty-seven new confirmed coronavirus cases were announced on Wednesday, with 10 of these identified at Greece’s entry points, the National Public Health Organization (EODY) said in its daily briefing.


EU funds to boost GDP by 2%

The annual growth rate of the Greek economy can be accelerated through the European Commission’s Next Generation EU fund so as to reach up to 4% in the next decade, from below 2% in the last three years, argues a report by the Bank of Greece on the impact of the extraordinary recovery fund on the country’s gross domestic product.


ATHEX: Credit stocks pull bourse index lower

Bank stocks weighed heavily on the benchmark of the Greek bourse on Wednesday as, after a session when rising stocks outnumbered losers, it posted a small drop on a day with exceptionally low trading volume in anticipation of announcements by the Federal Reserve in the US.







KATHIMERINI:   Retroactive payments worth € 1,4 bln for main pensions  

TA NEA:   Retroactive payments for pensioners: Who will get them, how much, when and how.     

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  The big fraud [regarding retroactive payments to pensioners]     

AVGI:   The government is trimming retroactive payments to pensioners by 60%    

RIZOSPASTIS:   Theft… right out of their [pensioners] wallet    

KONTRA NEWS:  The grand theft regarding retroactive payments to pensioners      

TO PONTIKI :  Slow movement towards dialogue between Athens and Ankara   

DIMOKRATIA:   Incredible fraud retroactive payments to pensioners    

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Maneuver for smaller budgetary gap       


‘DELINQUENT’ GERMANS: The U.S. will pull nearly 12,000 troops out of Germany — one third of the entire American military presence in the country, and more than previously announced. America will also move its HQ for Europe (EUCOM) from Stuttgart to Mons, in Belgium. Why? The criticism, repeated again on Wednesday by both Defense Secretary Mark Esper and President Donald Trump, that Germany doesn’t spend enough on defense.

Or, in Trump’s words … “Germany pays Russia billions of dollars a year for Energy, and we are supposed to protect Germany from Russia. What’s that all about?” Trump tweeted in the early hours of this morning. “Also, Germany is very delinquent in their 2% fee to NATO. We are therefore moving some troops out of Germany!”

Among strategists: It doesn’t take much digging to conclude the decision is mainly a political one, rather than military or strategic. NATO’s latest numbers, which set out how much each ally spent on defense, have German spending at 1.38 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, Belgian spending amounts to 0.93 percent. How the decision would “improve EUCOM’s operational flexibility,” as its Commander Tod Wolters put it, or help to deter Russia, as Esper claimed — they couldn’t explain. Here’s more on the big announcement, by Lara Seligman.

The decision is political, and so is the damage. NATO attempted to downplay the situation: At least this time the U.S. administration informed its partners ahead of the announcement, according to Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

The damage is political, and so is the hope, on the Continent, for the remedy: The U.S. Congress may question whether all those billions of dollars are well spent on putting a whole HQ on a moving truck, rather than on defense. And there were those diplomats pointing out that the whole operation will be far from over by the time Americans head to the polls in November, and who knows what will happen after that (for whatever that hope is worth).

GOOD MORNING. Is the U.S. jeopardizing the West’s collective defense on the whims of its commander-in-chief? Here’s a thought experiment that might help you decide: Ask yourself, would Trump’s decision have been different, had Angela Merkel shown any willingness to travel to a G7 summit Trump had wanted to hold in the U.S. in June? Welcome to the current level of sophistication in global politics. Now on to European affairs.


WEDNESDAY’S MAIN EXCITEMENT: Angela Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen and David Sassoli were on the same page on two things during a call on Wednesday: Getting a final agreement on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework and recovery fund is a matter of urgency — and for that to happen, the European Parliament’s friendly cooperation is required. The German chancellor and the presidents of the Commission and the European Parliament spoke over the phone, aiming to “enable a swift adoption of the package,” according to a Commission readout.

Finding balance: The trio reaffirmed “there was no time to waste.” A deal between the institutions would need to build on both “the agreement reached last week by the European Council and on the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 23 July,” according to the readout. Plus, Sassoli now has a seat at the chiefs’ table and has no intention of leaving it: Von der Leyen “proposed a meeting in this format on a regular basis from mid-September onwards,” according to the Commission.

Parliament, in return, “is ready to give its opinion on the own resources decision as quickly as possible.” Translation: MEPs won’t use one file to get something on the other — note that this part of the MFF deal needs to be ratified in all 27 national parliaments. Sassoli, according to European Parliament officials, said on the call that a political agreement should be found by the end of October. Nobody objected.

Berlin’s view: Merkel, von der Leyen and Sassoli “agreed that an ambitious timetable was needed so that European programs can enter into force as planned in January 2021,” the German deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said. She added that the group “agreed to closely monitor the forthcoming negotiations” — so even if it’s officially up to the lower levels to hash out the details, after the agreement among EU leaders, the three will continue to be personally involved.

What’s next: The three leaders “agreed on a method and a calendar” to ensure the recovery package will be in place at the beginning of next year, according to the Commission readout, and as mentioned above, will commence those regular meetings in September. That means, according to officials in Parliament, that there’s the “political table” with Merkel, Sassoli and von der Leyen “as a facilitator,” and a second one where technical work is being done.

FRIENDLY REMINDER! Parliament’s liberal Renew Europe group reminded the German Council presidency that the rule of law is “a key element for the swift adoption of the next Multiannual Financial Framework” in the European Parliament. Group leader Dacian Cioloş wrote a letter to Berlin’s EU Affairs Minister Michael Roth, asking him to “accelerate the work in Council on the 2018 Commission proposal” on the issue.

Of particular interest: Cioloş wrote that he’d like to know whether Merkel has promised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that he’ll be let off the hook. The Renew leader invited the German government to “respond publicly … to rumors, circulated by Viktor Orbán, that the chancellor of Germany promised to end Article 7 procedures against the Hungarian government by the end of this year” — noting “the total absent [sic] of progress in Council.”

POLISH CONSEQUENCES: “EU values and fundamental rights must be respected by Member States and state authorities,” tweeted European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli. “This is why 6 town twinning applications invilving [sic] Polish authorities that adopted ‘LGBTI free zones’ or ‘family rights’ resolutions were rejected.” The town twinning program is part of the Europe for Citizens project, and involves grants of up to €25,000. AP has a write-up.

Further reading: Zosia Wanat’s article from last month has the back story of how the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has gone on the warpath against Poland’s LGBTQ community.


WE’RE ALL GOING ON A PANDEMIC HOLIDAY: Picking the right spot for a summer vacation is hard enough for politicians at the best of times, but when there’s a global pandemic on, the choice becomes even more fraught. Never fear, Paul Dallison has you covered with this essential guide to pandemic holidays for politicians. “Suntan cream? Check. Phone charger? Check. Weighty political biography to pretend to read in case there’s a photographer nearby? Check. Excuse ready for when the holiday turns into a PR nightmare? Check.”

LEADERS, RATED: People in the EU’s biggest countries expressed very different views on how their respective national leaders have handled the coronavirus crisis so far — and how optimistic they are about the future.

Merkel vs. Macron: Angela Merkel received the highest approval rating in the poll, conducted in Germany, Italy, France and Spain for Euronews by Redfield and Wilton Strategies. Sixty-six percent of Germans approved or strongly approved of the chancellor’s performance, with 19 percent saying they disapproved. But only 31 percent of the French approved of Emmanuel Macron’s handling of the crisis, versus the 41 percent who were unhappy with the president.

Corona timeline: Some 47.5 percent of Germans reckon “the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind” them — only matched, among the big four EU countries, in Italy, where one in two agreed the worst days were over. Meanwhile, more than half of Spanish and French think things will get worse.

NOT SO HAPPY WITH GERMAN LEADERSHIP: Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn greeted news that Germany is mulling introducing mandatory coronavirus tests for people coming from his country with annoyance: Luxembourg is engaged in a large-scale testing effort. “We should prevent the Schengen achievements and the spirit of the Greater Region from being damaged for a long time,” Asselborn said in a statement.

OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, INTO THE FIRE: Zosia Wanat has this nice profile of celebrity chef-turned-MEP Sarah Wiener, dubbed “Germany’s Jamie Oliver,” who tells Zosia that her focus as an MEP will be making food across Europe more sustainable.


FROM THE US — BIG TECH HEARING: Last night’s much-anticipated antitrust hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives subjected four of the tech industry’s most powerful CEOs to hours of aggressive questioning. It also revealed a Congress that has largely soured on Silicon Valley, and is beginning to figure out how to hold it to account, writes Nancy Scola in her five takeaways.

KEEPING A LID ON IT: Charlie Cooper speaks to David Lidington, the U.K.’s longest-serving Europe minister, “the quiet man at the heart of some of Westminster’s loudest Brexit battles” who was at one time briefly tipped to replace Theresa May as a caretaker prime minister. His advice for Boris Johnson? In or out of the EU, some of Britain’s most important relationships will still be the ones on its doorstep, Charlie writes.

MALTA’S VENICE COMMISSION REFORMS APPROVED: Malta’s parliament has overwhelmingly voted in favor of constitutional and institutional reforms that the government hailed as “historic” in a statement. Perhaps the most significant change is that the president will in future need to be appointed by a two-thirds parliamentary majority, rather than a simple one. The government will also no longer appoint the judiciary, with judges and magistrates to be appointed by the president on the advice of a judicial appointments committee. The Malta Times has a good overview.

NO MASKS PLEASE, WE’RE DUTCH: While Europeans almost everywhere else have been required to wear masks in public places to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Dutch health officials are still expressing their doubts. Eline Schaart and Ashleigh Furlong have the story