Daily Update

 

Tuesday, November 29 2022

PM Mitsotakis: You need two full terms in power to effect positive change

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis addressed the Greek Investment Conference that was held at Morgan Stanley’s London conference center on Monday and met with international investors and business leaders.

https://www.amna.gr/en/article/691252/PM-Mitsotakis-You-need-two-full-terms-in-power-to-effect-positive-change

 

Erdogan exploiting Greece’s Muslim minority

In another accusations-filled speech against Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke of “persecution” against the Muslim minority in Thrace, which he called “Turkish.”

https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1198981/erdogan-exploiting-greeces-muslim-minority/

 

Parliamentary committee on wiretapping hears testimony from former government secretary general

The Greek Parliament’s Special Permanent Committee on Institutions & Transparency concluded its meeting on wiretapping on Monday, after hearing Grigoris Dimitriadis, former General Secretary to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

https://www.amna.gr/en/article/691289/Parliamentary-committee-on-wiretapping-hears-testimony-from-former-govt-secretary-general

 

4.8R quake in the sea region of Evia; felt in Athens

An earthquake measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale was recorded on Tuesday at 06:32 in the sea area 9 km south-eastern of Evia or 58 km north-easter of Athens, according to the Geodynamic Institute.

https://www.amna.gr/en/article/691330/48R-quake-in-the-sea-region-of-Evia-felt-in-Athens

 

Personal bank accounts of ‘Kivotos tou Kosmou’ founder frozen

The Greek authority to counter money laundering has ordered the freezing of the personal bank accounts of Father Antonios Papanikolaou, the founder of the children’s charity “Kivotos tou Kosmou” (Ark of the World), as well as the accounts of his spouse and family members.

https://www.amna.gr/en/article/691192/Personal-bank-accounts-of-Kivotos-tou-Kosmou-founder-frozen

 

Surveys off Crete are moving swiftly

The rapid passage of the research vessel Sanco Swift to the southwest of Crete in areas designated within the limits of the new navigational telex (Navtex) number 916/22 issued on Saturday morning by the Naval Hydrographic Station of the Hellenic Navy in Iraklio, essentially indicates the significance of research in said area.

https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1198971/surveys-off-crete-are-moving-swiftly/

 

ATHEX: China proves recent stock gains fragile

Financial and political concerns over China, given the popular reaction to the state’s zero-Covid policy, encouraged sellers in European bourses on Monday, with the Greek stock market suffering losses and closing at the day’s low, though its benchmark managed to remain well above the 900-point mark.

https://www.ekathimerini.com/economy/1198978/athex-china-proves-recent-stock-gains-fragile/

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KATHIMERINI: Objective values for real estate assets set for the first time in 2,500 areas

TA NEA: Housing loans without borders

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Who opened the ‘back-door’ to the Predator malware

AVGI: The government is protecting those involved in the wiretappings scandal and humiliating institutions

RIZOSPASTIS: Take back the abominable bill on secondary healthcare!

KONTRA NEWS: The far0right in Northern Greece polls at 14%

DIMOKRATIA: Shame on you, Mr. Mitsotakis!

NAFTEMPORIKI: The… side-effects from the increase of interest rates amount to 1,330 billion euros

DRIVING THE DAY: MACRON IN WASHINGTON 

CAN OLD ALLIES MEND TRANSATLANTIC TIES? French President Emmanuel Macron flies to Washington tonight, for a three-day state visit planned months ago, which has now gained new urgency.

Macron has a wish-list for Joe Biden: He wants to know whether the U.S. president can offer Europeans cheaper gas, as well as access to a multibillion-dollar U.S. subsidy scheme for green industries. If Biden can’t deliver, a transatlantic trade war will be somewhat inevitable, risking a Europe vs. America subsidy race and tit-for-tat retaliatory tariffs.

Background: Macron’s visit comes amid strained relations between the EU and U.S., hurt by Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which grants billions in subsidies and tax breaks for things such as electric vehicle and renewable energy — but only if they are assembled and key parts such as the batteries are made in America. The main provisions of the IRA will enter force on January 1.

Slap in the face: EU countries are fuming at the U.S. suggestion that they should stop whining and simply subsidize their own green tech. The EU has been doing that for years now — without discriminating against American carmakers such as Tesla.

What can Macron achieve? While France is under no illusion that Biden will back down on the package, Paris is seeking to convince the U.S. Treasury to finesse its implementation of the IRA so that European companies are given similar exceptions as Canada and Mexico. Read this story by Clea Caulcutt and Giorgio Leali for more details on Macron’s trip.

Stately reception: Macron will get the cordon bleu, black-tie treatment — basking in all the pomp and ceremony of the first full state visit Biden has laid on, with a troop review and musical accompaniment from grammy-award winning musician Jon Batiste. (Macron is in for a real treat — if you aren’t familiar with Batiste, we suggest you start with this absolute banger, and don’t stop.)

Tuesday agenda: But we digress. Late on Tuesday local time, Macron and France’s first lady will arrive at their accommodations, Blair House, the historic residence across the street from the White House. There, the head chef plans to serve dinner based loosely on the traditional American Thanksgiving menu. (Our U.S. colleagues have been assured that, unlike most families, they’re not thinking of just heating up leftovers from last week’s feast.)

After that: There will be a ceremony at Arlington military cemetery and then a private dinner with the Bidens on Wednesday. Then, the French president will be officially welcomed at the White House with cannon volleys and a review of the troops on Thursday. The two leaders will then hold bilateral meetings, followed by a joint press conference and a state dinner.

FURTHER READING: Amid calls for new “Buy European” rules to emulate America’s protectionist turn, a new study by Frontier Economics for free-trade-loving think tank ECIPE warns that the EU’s “strategic autonomy” policies — meant to encourage reshoring— will cost the bloc up to 0.75 percentage points in gross national income over the long term.

The costs are unevenly distributed: While larger countries such as France and Germany would fare comparatively well, according to the study, smaller ones that are more exposed to international trade, such as Ireland (or Nordic countries such as Sweden), would fare worse.

PLAYBOOK PREVIEW — EU SOVEREIGNTY FUND: Meanwhile, EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton will meet with German Economy Minister Robert Habeck in Berlin today to hash out the EU’s emergency response to the deindustrialization risk. Breton will call for an “EU sovereignty fund” that would allow the bloc to react quickly to U.S. subsidies (and attempts by China to lure EU companies).

Breton will argue that the EU fund should have sufficient firepower to offer both grants and loans as well as procurement and equity. Crucially, the fund should allow all EU countries to access money at the same market conditions to avoid further fragmentation, Breton will say.

DRIVING THE WEEK: CHINA PROTESTS 

HONG KONG FLICKERS BACK TO LIFE: The protests that have broken out across China have now spread to Hong Kong, where dozens gathered last night for a vigil. Some held blank pieces of paper over their faces and chanted: “No PCR tests but freedom” and “Oppose dictatorship, don’t be slaves,” reports ABC News. The protest — though relatively sparsely attended — was held despite the notorious national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020, which has been used to harshly crack down on dissent.

How authorities are responding 1: Without mentioning the protests, some local governments eased COVID restrictions on Monday, according to media reports. Beijing’s city authorities said they would stop barricading apartments buildings where there are COVID cases. In the manufacturing center of Guangzhou, some residents will no longer be required to undergo mass testing, according to officials. In Ürümqi, the Xinjiang regional capital where a fire last Thursday killed 10 people in an apartment block which locals said had become a death trap as a result of lockdown measures, authorities announced that certain businesses in low-risk areas would reopen this week and public buses would resume.

How authorities are responding 2: Police came out in force on Monday to crack down on dissent, with Western media reporting that dozens of people were being stopped and searched in places where the protests have broken out. According to the Wall Street Journal, police were checking people’s phones for virtual private networks, which are mostly illegal in China, and the Telegram app used by protesters, which is blocked in the country. There were also more reports of arrests and beatings.

MICHEL’S TERRIBLE TIMING: Against this backdrop, European Council President Charles Michel is supposed to fly out to China today for a meeting Thursday with President Xi Jinping — the first Western leader to visit the country after the biggest show of public disapproval in Beijing’s leaders since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

Expectation vs. reality: Michel’s trip was supposed to be part of an effort to strengthen ties between Brussels and Beijing. Now, officials, politicians and EU diplomats have told our colleague Stuart Lau that Michel must instead deliver a rebuke to Xi and other Chinese representatives.

Going it alone: Even before the protests broke out, Michel’s trip to China — to be made without European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen — had raised eyebrows in Brussels. “The whole trip has to be seen in the light of the rivalry between von der Leyen and Michel,” one EU official told Stuart. The Chinese will want to know about the details of trade policy and whether the EU will follow U.S. export controls on microchips. “Those are the questions Xi will ask and Charles can’t answer them — only Ursula can. It’s this eternal rivalry that dominates everything,” the official said.

Michel’s pipedream: Perhaps Xi will cancel the visit.

ZOOMING OUT FOR THE BIGGER PICTURE: POLITICO Europe’s Editor-in-Chief Jamil Anderlini, who spent two decades reporting on China, writes that almost all protests he witnessed during that time involved isolated or localized grievances and were brutally repressed. “So it was astonishing to hear people openly calling for democracy, the end of party rule and the toppling of Xi at the weekend,” he writes. “Something has definitely changed in the mood of the Chinese nation and it does not bode well for Xi or the CCP. This is not just pent-up frustration from three years of COVID lockdowns and a moribund economy. It is the consequence of a decade of steadily worsening repression, following two decades (the 1990s and 2000s) of relative loosening.”

RUSSIAN WAR FALLOUT 

NATO MEETING TODAY: NATO ministers of foreign affairs begin their two-day meeting in Bucharest today, with the agenda expected to include how to better support Ukraine as it fends off Russia’s war. In an interview with Lili Bayer late Monday (on a train in Ukraine, the precise location of which we cannot reveal), Kyiv’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country can’t win on the battlefield in the longer term unless NATO countries invest in making more weapons.

Kyiv’s shopping list: “The last time I attended [a] NATO ministerial, I came with three words: weapons, weapons, and weapons,” Kuleba said. “This time, while this request remains absolutely acute, I will specify it by saying that we need air defense, tanks and production lines.” Read Lili’s story here.

EU COUNTRIES FAIL TO AGREE ON RUSSIAN OIL PRICE CAP: Meanwhile, closer to home, EU ambassadors ended another round of negotiations Monday without a deal on a Russian oil price cap, as Poland continued to push for a lower price to hit the Kremlin’s sources of income. The European Commission proposed a cap of $62 per barrel (down from the original $65 to $70), but Poland, as well as Estonia, are holding out for a lower price, according to four diplomats.

Delay ‘plays into Putin’s hands’: The original plan was for a cap to enter into force on December 5, when the EU’s partial embargo on Russian oil comes into effect. But as POLITICO has previously reported, the U.S. has told the EU it will require 90 days between agreement and enforcement, meaning “we are already late,” according to one diplomat. A diplomat said Ursula von der Leyen’s chief of staff Björn Seibert warned ambassadors at their meeting on Monday that a failure to reach an agreement would play into Putin’s hands.

Next sanctions round: Warsaw is also asking for the price cap to be linked to a ninth round of sanctions against Russia. In a concession, the Commission is ready to start “confessionals” — talks with EU countries on what to include in a new sanctions package — this week, officials said.

SPEAKING OF SANCTIONS: In an op-ed for POLITICO, MEP Damian Boeselager and Ukrainian MP Dmytro Natalukha call on the EU to sanction the members of pro-war Russian parties.

EYES ON EUTELSAT: EU culture ministers will today discuss how European satellite firms such as France’s Eutelsat are still carrying Russian state-sponsored channels spreading propaganda, at a Council meeting.

REBUILDING UKRAINE: The time to invest in Ukraine is now, according to European Investment Bank Vice President Teresa Czerwińska. “The longer we wait, the higher the bill we will have,” she told POLITICO’s Paola Tamma on the sidelines of the Kyiv Investment Forum, where she struck a deal to modernize Kyiv’s metro (full details here).

In total: The EIB has invested over €7 billion in Ukraine since 2007, and expects to have spent €2.2 billion since the war started by the year’s end, according to Jean-Erik de Zagon, head of the EIB’s Ukraine office, who participated to the Kyiv Investment Forum. As with most EIB lending, this is backed by guarantees from the European Commission.

De-risking: One way to lower the risk of investments in this hot phase of the conflict is to diversify across a number of smaller projects, so as to diminish the chances of them ending up as Russian cannon fodder. “Now is not the time to invest in one €200 million bridge, but to build 200 bridges for €1 million each,” de Zagon said.

Priority areas: Ukraine needs at least €350 billion for reconstruction, according to the World Bank. The priority areas for investment should be public services, transport, IT and energy infrastructure, Czerwińska said, but also health, heating, food and education. Investment can already start in the west of the country, which is further from the frontline, but also in areas Ukraine has recaptured. “The economy is still running, they are still creating GDP, they are producing, they want to export … and we want to invest to support this path with bankable projects,” Czerwińska said.

More in the works: According to a draft document that POLITICO obtained earlier this month, the Commission and the EIB are discussing the possibility of another €1 billion loan to Ukraine. But that needs more work: “We need a little bit more discussions with the Commission,” Czerwińska said.

IN OTHER NEWS 

PEGA MEETING: The European Parliament’s special inquiry committee into the use of spyware in Europe meets today for a hearing on the use of phone hacking software in Spain, the largest EU country where the use of hacking tools by governments has kicked off a major institutional crisis. More details on that here.

Reminder: The mobile phones of PM Pedro Sánchez and his defense and foreign ministers were tapped (reportedly by Morocco), as were the devices of several Catalan separatists (by Spain’s intelligence service, with judicial authorization by the Supreme Court). Catalonia’s new EU Affairs Minister Meritxell Serret (who returned to Spain from Belgium last year) told Playbook that “the widespread use of such spyware across Europe, with multiple victims, up to heads of state, shows that we need a harmonized EU framework to better protect citizens.”

Meanwhile, Greek Predatorgate back to Square 1: In Greece, another parliamentary committee convened without managing to shed light on the country’s spiraling spy scandal, engulfing the government of PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The PM’s former chief of staff, Grigoris Dimitriadis, denied having any knowledge on the state surveillance of opposition leader (and MEP) Nikos Androulakis and repeated the mantra that the government had nothing to do with the illegal spyware, POLITICO’s Nektaria Stamouli reports from Athens.

EUROPE PRIVATIZES MIGRANT RESCUES: The EU has outsourced a big chunk of its migration policy to a fleet of privately run boats searching the Mediterranean waters for asylum seekers in crisis. In recent weeks, these boats — run by a variety of NGOs not directly controlled by any specific government — have become the focal point of a mounting tempest over migration as countries fret about a new influx of people and squabble over where they should be placed within the EU. POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi has the story.

MEANWHILE, IN GERMANY: In a new effort to attract talented foreign workers to the country, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced plans to reform Germany’s immigration system and citizenship laws on Monday, reports POLITICO’s Gabriel Rinaldi.