Daily Update

 

19-07-2019 | EYE ON GREECE 

Friday, July 19th 2019

New parliament president assumes post after MPs vote

New Parliament president Konstantinos Tassoulas was elected with a record number of votes, 283 out of 300, on Thursday. He is a veteran New Democracy (ND) party lawmaker elected from the northwest Ioannina prefecture.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1498703/new-parliament-president-assumes-post-after-mps-vote

Margaritis Schinas the choice of Mitsotakis govt as Greece’s candidate for Commission post

The up-until-now spokesman for the EU Commission, Margaritis Schinas, will be proposed by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as the country’s candidate for a Commissioner’s portfolio. Mitsotakis is expected to convey the proposal to new EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1498774/margaritis-schinas-the-choice-of-mitsotakis-govt-as-greeces-candidate-for-commission-post

Greece gets nod from creditors to ease bailout-era taxes

Senior officials from Greece’s creditor institutions are meeting in Athens with the country’s new conservative government, which is planning to begin dismantling bailout-era taxes next month.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/242761/article/ekathimerini/business/greece-gets-nod-from-creditors-to-ease-bailout-era-taxes

SDOE ceases to exist as a separate entity

The government is abolishing the Financial Crime Squad (SDOE) and the Labor Inspection Unit as separate entities in a bid to relieve their officials from political attachments and streamline the state sector, Deputy Minister for Tax Policy Apostolos Vesyropoulos said on Thursday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/242769/article/ekathimerini/business/sdoe-ceases-to-exist-as-a-separate-entity

Former Attica governor testifies over 2017 Mandra floods

Former Attica governor Rena Dourou testified on Thursday before an investigating magistrate in connection with the flash floods in Mandra, western Attica, in November 2017 which resulted in the deaths of 25 people and the destruction of hundreds of properties.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/242748/article/ekathimerini/news/former-attica-governor-tetsifies-over-2017-mandra-floods

Roupakias describes Fyssas’ murder as ‘simple homicide’

Giorgos Roupakias, the man charged with the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013, described the incident as a “simple homicide” which has been “blown out of proportion” in his testimony before a panel of judges in Athens.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/242738/article/ekathimerini/news/roupakias-describes-fyssas-murder-as-simple-homicide

Yield for Greek 10-year bond eases further to 2.12%

Yields for Greece’s 10-year bond continued to ease this week, following a general trend for Eurozone debt.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1498888/yield-for-greek-10-year-bond-eases-further-to-212

ATHEX: Index stays in the black for another day

Titan Cement and Public Power Corporation ensured the benchmark of the Greek bourse remained in the black for one more day on Thursday, though it was still below recent highs.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/242768/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-index-stays-in-the-black-for-another-day

www.enikos.gr

www.protothema.gr

www.newsbomb.gr

www.cnn.gr

www.newsbeast.gr

KATHIMERINI:  Greek police to reinforce the DIAS team and reinstate the DELTA team

  

ETHNOS:  [Golden Dawn member and killer of rapper Fyssas] Roupakias: Shameful testimony

TA NEA:  Five bonuses for real estate assets

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON:  The killing face of Nazism

AVGI:  Financial Crime Unit (SDOE) shuts down, Labor Force Inspection Unit in the freezer!

RIZOSPASTIS:  Foreign Affairs minister Dendias to return from the USA with his bags full of… commitments to facilitate the imperialistic plans of the USA and NATO

KONTRA NEWS:  Why the government shut down the Financial Crime Unit

DIMOKRATIA:  Rage and awkwardness due to the handling of the Prespes deal

NAFTEMPORIKI:  Makeover for the Finance Ministry’s control mechanism

hk-strategies.gr

FROM ONE DONALD TO ANOTHER: “I feel at home in Montreal for many reasons,” tweeted outgoing European Council President Donald Tusk from his official @eucopresident account last night. “Also because, I didn’t hear anyone shouting ‘SEND HIM BACK!’” It’s now his pinned tweet.

THE MARG, CONFIRMED: To no surprise to Playbook readers in Brussels, Athens and elsewhere, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis nominated Margaritis Schinas to be his country’s European commissioner, the prime minister’s office said in a statement Thursday. Mitsotakis will receive Schinas in Athens today.

Mitsotakis opted for a candidate who could be an asset in Brussels and is a friendly nod to current President Jean-Claude Juncker, to whom Schinas has been a close adviser. The current Commission’s chief spokesman has been a fixture of the Brussels policymaking scene for nearly three decades.

Gender issue: Schinas is obviously a man, and Mitsotakis didn’t come up with a second — female — proposal, as requested by Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen in her candidacy speech in Parliament. Now Schinas has to make it past the cut to become one of the 14 men in the next Commission, which is von der Leyen’s goal — the hope in Athens being that the new president might also see him as an asset for her team.

More on von der Leyen’s gender balancing act from David Herszenhorn and Lili Bayer.

GOOD FRIDAY MORNING. There will (eventually) be 27 commissioners but just one chief communicator for them all. Your chief astronomer of the Junckerverse here — let me tell you what I see through my telescope: a star is being born, and she’s called Mina Andreeva. Playbook is all about transitioning to a new Commission, possibly a new era, today.

SLOVENIA’S NOMINATION IS IN, TOO: Ljubljana nominated Janez Lenarčič, its ambassador to the EU, to be the country’s next European commissioner. “Lenarčič is an experienced candidate with top references in international and European affairs and meets all required criteria,” the government tweeted. A professional diplomat with nearly three decades of experience, Lenarčič is politically unaffiliated.

Roll call: That makes 15 official nominations out of 28, of whom five are women.

TWO WOMEN, ONE JOB: The Czech Republic won’t be putting forward its commissioner nominee until later, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said Thursday. But while Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová wants to stay at the Berlaymont and was seen as a front-runner, she’s got hot competition — MEP Dita Charanzová, who was elected a vice president of the European Parliament, is now being considered, Babiš said. He added he wanted an internal market or a digital portfolio for his country. H/t Laura Kayali

NOMINATIONS TIMETABLE: The Council secretariat sent round a note, seen by Playbook, to governments requesting proposals for commissioners by August 26. News you can use: EU countries will have to “send letters (including CVs)” to von der Leyen, the “president-in-office of the Council,” wrote Finnish EU Minister Tytti Tuppurainen, copying in Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen, Council’s secretary-general.

POOR, LUCKY AD INTERIMS: Earlier this week, Parliament’s legal affairs committee “could not conclude the revision of the financial interests’ declarations” of the two fill-in commissioners, Estonia’s Kadri Simson and Romania’s Ioan Mircea Pașcu, according to an internal note circulating in Parliament, seen by Playbook. The committee “will probably resume this work in September.”

Here’s the state of play of Parliament’s efforts when it comes to the stand-ins: They will have their hearings in front of the now finally complete conference of committee chairs (ECR MEP Lucia Nicholsonovà was elected leader of the employment committee Thursday) on September 9 and 10, according to Parliament’s internal planning, seen by Playbook. A vote in plenary is foreseen for September 16.

That means all the fuss will be for a six-week term for the very interim commissioners. They will enjoy full pension rights ever after.

VON DER LEYEN, EXPLAINED

INSIGHTS ON VDL: Annette Schavan is a confidante of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a friend of European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, a former German federal minister and ambassador to the Holy See — and an insightful analyst of the dealings and doings in German politics and her CDU party in particular.

Playbook sat down with her for a rare interview Thursday at Axel Springer HQ’s most spectacular journalists’ club. Here’s Schavan’s take on the past two weeks and past 15 years, on von der Leyen, on Merkel’s legacy and heirs, or rather heiresses — and on why Pope Francis is a “seismograph” to modern-day politics. We spoke in German.

What to do when a dream comes true (or not): Both von der Leyen and Schavan were, back in 2010, tipped as CDU candidates for the German federal presidency. How did those days of limbo feel? “Simply exciting,” said Schavan. “You only understand parts of what’s going on around you.”

What do you do when the bubble bursts? Neither got the nomination in the end (the job went to Christian Wulff). “When it’s over, it’s over. You shouldn’t spend the rest of your life imagining that you became president. At some point it’s over. And that’s also OK,” she said.

Wait — was that a piece of advice to Frans Timmermans, I asked? “Yes,” she replied, “I think it’s a pretty good approach for your own quality of life. There is nothing worse than carrying missed opportunities with you throughout your life.” Politics, she said, “is a serious, beautiful game. You need to take it seriously, but you also have to enjoy the playful moments.” Those words of wisdom are of course easier to say when the last such disappointment dates back a tad further than just two weeks.

Understanding the SPD: Schavan predicted the SPD might not gain much from its no to von der Leyen in Parliament. “There are moments when you are Portuguese, French or German,” she said. “Of course, you can argue that you had a top candidate. But somehow in the third bar it looks like a chorus, and everyone will says, ‘yes, we heard it.’”

On the new president’s leadership style: “She’s a woman with a compass. She’s very able to integrate different people and different views, but without losing clarity. Europe is in good hands,” Schavan said. “And when the time is ripe to take a decision, she takes it.” As was the case last week — when von der Leyen was advised, or rather urged, by highest-ranking Parliament officials to postpone the vote to September. “She doesn’t talk down any problems. Instead of describing them forever, she says, ‘let’s tackle them,’” said Schavan.

When asked about von der Leyen’s legacy, Schavan pointed to her friend’s time as family minister in the early Merkel years rather than her immediate and less immaculate past as a defense minister. “Von der Leyen changed family policy in Germany … and made steps towards real equality.” There was “a lot of resistance,” first and foremost in the CDU and CSU, against rather generous payments for parents that made a statistically relevant number of fathers stay home for several months to look after their children.

Playbook: “This is a good example of how I now expect her to act,” Schavan said. “All those who do not like compromises aren’t at the right place in politics. The dignity of the compromise is incredibly important.” She expressed hope that von der Leyen will eventually win over, convince — or trick — governments “that have become skeptical about what Europe does for them,” adding that “perhaps this process of weighing is something that brings to light things that make us better understand what has been going on in Europe lately.”

Female leadership: We discussed the perhaps soon-to-be iconic photo that ended up on German front pages Thursday and shows Merkel, von der Leyen and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at Wednesday’s handover in Berlin. “I really liked the picture very much … All three women have never only acted within the boundaries of their party [the CDU]. I find that an ability that has become ever more significant,” Schavan said. “Angela Merkel’s great strength was to constantly expect the party to change and thus prevent it from falling out of time.”

Two heirs to Merkel’s thrones as German chancellor and queen of Europe. Disclaimer: Merkel “is fully present,” Schavan said, until the end of her current term. But yes, von der Leyen and Kramp-Karrenbauer “are something like heiresses. They both stand, in their own way, for one understanding of politics: Be in motion, don’t be afraid of change … They are very comparable when it comes to that,” she said. “All three have shown this in their political biographies in different places.”

Fandom aside, Schavan’s point is this: Agree with these three women’s decisions or not, “there are many good people who are so bound to their party’s program that they cannot take the steps needed at a given time.”

Need advice? Ask the pope. Schavan, 64, had to leave her ministerial office in 2013 following revelations of plagiarism in her doctoral thesis (oh how many ministers have lost their jobs due to that very German love of a doctor’s title) and retired last year after a four-year term as German ambassador to the Vatican. She recommended von der Leyen speak to Pope Francis soon.

“Pope Francis is certainly an interesting interlocutor. A seismograph,” she said. The Catholic church’s credibility might be at a low point after facing child abuse scandals around the world, but it “has long experience with globalization, which is one reason why 191 countries maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See.” And Pope Francis has uncanny foresight, she added: “It is this pope, who often points out what will become a political debate only about three years after.” One example: Pope Francis talked about a Wegwerfgesellschaft, aka a throwaway society, Schavan said. “He coined the term at the beginning of his pontificate. People said he’s exaggerating. Now everyone uses it.”

VDL IN HER OWN WORDS, FINALLY: Von der Leyen said she no longer advocates for the European Union to become a federal state after previously calling for the bloc to turn into “the United States of Europe.” The comments came in an interview with a group of European newspapers. She also extended an olive branch to Eastern and Central European countries. More here.

LEAVERS

END OF AN ERA: Mark it down: 8:30 a.m. Thursday was the end of an era — the last weekly meeting with fellow Commission directors-general for both outgoing Secretary-General Martin Selmayr and Johannes Laitenberger, the DG for competition, who is moving to Luxembourg to become a judge at the General Court. Participants at the meeting told Playbook that Selmayr said he wouldn’t be able to “serve another political master the way I served Juncker,” and that it was “in the interest of the services” for him to look elsewhere for his next job.

Flattering the crowd, Selmayr said it doesn’t really matter who leads the Commission’s “top” services — which is perhaps easy to say after having led said services. He told the audience, according to people in the room, that he will neither go to London nor New York. Austria it is, as he told Playbook Monday. He also announced that the College of Commissioners will next week make the necessary arrangements to fill his post.

French ambitions will have to wait: Ilze Juhansone, the longest-serving deputy sec-gen, is tipped to take over as acting head of the Commission’s services, according to senior officials.

Speaking of national ambitions — Selmayr had a departing note for his German CDU MEP foes, 20 of whom allegedly asked for his removal as the price for their support of a German CDU Commission president. The biggest compliment to him, he said, according to those in the room, was “to be ditched by the Germans.”

What a strange country this is, as folks say. MEPs from one German governing party tried to block a German Commission president; MEPs from the other  wanted the head of a German secretary-general. They must have secret, better, ways to secure influence.

FRACTURED BRITAIN: A POLITICO/Hanbury tracker poll of clusters of key marginal seats in different parts of the U.K. found the ongoing Brexit deadlock is pushing Brits to take up extreme positions on either side of the debate. “U.K. voters have vacated the Brexit middle ground in favor of the extreme positions of either revoking Article 50 or pursuing a no-deal Brexit,” our POLITICO colleague Annabelle Dickson reports. “Support for a further delay to Brexit has collapsed, and respondents are now breaking to the two extreme positions.”

FRACTURED ITALY: Tensions between Italy’s ruling League and the 5Stars are reaching a climax over the election of Ursula von der Leyen as Commission president, reports Silvia Sciorilli-Borrelli.

AROUND THE CONTINENT AND BEYOND

IT’S BACK: The EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system is back in operation after almost a week of disruption.

FOCUS ON HOMELESSNESS: Charlie Duxbury has this feature on how Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is racing to end homelessness.

UKRAINIAN ELECTION: Ukraine goes to the polls this Sunday July 21 to elect a new parliament. Here’s the latest polling data and projections from POLITICO’s poll of polls.

IRANIAN ESCALATION: U.S. President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. had downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, the latest escalation of military tensions with Iran.

BRUSSELS CORNER

PROMISES PROMISES: Brussels has a new regional government, with a new list of promises that will affect things including speed limits, food waste sorting and open-air swimming pools. Hanne Cokelaere runs through the new government’s promises.

CALLING SOCCER FANS: Royal Brussels British FC are looking for football players to join their international team for the new season. There are four different teams of varying levels and two veterans’ teams (aged 39+). Training’s on Monday or Wednesday evenings at Kraainem and matches are on Saturdays. More info here.

PODCAST DU JOUR: Ryan Heath interviews lobbying guru Mette Grolleman for this week’s EU Confidential.