DAILY INTELLIGENCE REPORTING 08-02-2017

DAILY INTELLIGENCE REPORTING 08-02-2017

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

IMF says Greece needs to lower pensions, cut tax rates

Greece needs to reduce the proportion of its budget spent on “unaffordably high” pensions which are paid for by high tax rates to stimulate economic growth, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-imf-greece-budget-idUSKBN15M2KY

Greek two-year bond yields soar to near 10 pct on bailout concerns

Greece’s two-year government bond yield soared to its highest level in more than seven months on Tuesday on growing worries over whether the European Union and the International Monetary can reach an agreement over a third Greek bailout.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/eurozone-bonds-greece-idUKL5N1FS3J9

Dijsselbloem: Greece doing better than what IMF report suggests

Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem was uncharacteristically on Athens’ side on Tuesday, in comments following Monday’s IMF report on the Greek economy and debt, emphasizing, among others, that the report is “outdated due to recent growth.”

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1202359/dijsselbloem-greece-doing-better-than-what-imf-report-suggests

Ted Malloch: Greece would be better off outside the Eurozone

Donald Trump’s possible choice for US ambassador to the EU, Ted Malloch, is in favor of a Greek exit from the eurozone, which he believes is something that will happen at Athens’s request in a year or a year-and-a-half from now.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/215981/article/ekathimerini/comment/ted-malloch-greece-would-be-better-off-outside-the-eurozone

Govt says Rothschild selected as consultant before Tsipras met with its officials

The government on Tuesday formally announced that the Paris-based Rothschild investment bank had been chosen as a technical consultant for preparation of Greece’s entry into the markets for its future borrowing — whenever Athens attempts a return to private lending after the current bailout ends.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1202350/govt-says-rothschild-selected-as-consultant-before-tsipras-met-with-its-officials

Tsipras on two-day visit to Ukraine

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras traveled to Ukraine for a two-day visit Wednesday. He was expected to meet with government officials and representatives of the Greek community.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/215995/article/ekathimerini/news/tsipras-on-two-day-visit-to-ukraine

Card payments up by 50 percent in a year

A Focus Bari survey conducted for Mastercard found that card transactions soared by 50 percent in January, the first full month since the implementation of a law that only allows taxpayers who pay for their purchases with plastic to qualify for an income tax discount.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/215992/article/ekathimerini/business/card-payments-up-by-50-percent-in-a-year

Report: Possible Greek interest in F-35

Greece defense ministry has reportedly commenced procedures to upgrade the Hellenic Air Force’s fleet of US-made F-16s, whereas “interest” was also cited in acquiring the cutting-edge F-35 warplane.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1202555/report-possible-greek-interest-in-f-35

Church of Greece to start issuing certificates online in 3 days

The Athens Archbishopric is taking a step into the digital era with an initiative that will allow citizens to apply for marriage licenses, baptism certificates and other documents online.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/215982/article/ekathimerini/news/church-of-greece-to-start-issuing-certificates-online-in-3-days

Farmers’ mobilizations continue into second week

The now “customary” farmer mobilizations and protest that materialize in Greece at the end of January and early February are now into their second week, as far as 2017 is concerned, with most of the attention’s concern now focused on northern Greece.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1202365/farmers-mobilizations-continue-into-second-week

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KATHIMERINI: Forty changes in education’s import system in 53 years

ETHNOS: 10 reversals in flea markets

ΤΑ ΝΕΑ: We are here

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Investors for no reason

AVGI: “Loafing and Camouflage”

RIZOSPASTIS: Escalation with Panhellenic rally in Athens

KONTRA NEWS: Why do you, Mr. tax officer, act fake?

DIMOKRATIA: Mockery with receipt books

NAFTEMPORIKI: Message with many recipients

IMERISIA: The insurance sector is like vertigo

HKSTRATEGIES.GR

www.hkstrategies.gr

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SPOTTED: Two former Estonian prime ministers — Andrus Ansip and Taavi Rõivas — lunching at Barbanera. Ansip told Playbook he was enjoying his current second job as EU digital commissioner.

COMMISSION — SOLAR PANELS SURPRISE ON THE CARDS: The Commission is set to make a decision on anti-dumping duties on imports of Chinese solar panels. A document seen by Reuters suggests the Commission will soften its stance against Beijing as most countries believe the Berlaymont has previously been too tough on China’s manufacturers. If that proves to be true, it would be the latest in a string of friendly gestures to China on trade policy.

COMMISSION — EU REFUGEE RELOCATION SCHEME: The college of Commissioners will discuss their monthly refugee report today, a chat that takes on new significance in light of the United States refugee policy turmoil. Details are here.

COUNCIL — AMBASSADORS TO SIGN OFF ON ROAMING DEAL: On the agenda at today’s meeting of EU ambassadors: last week’s roaming price cap deal with the European Parliament, an update on discussions on cross border portability regulation, agreeing a position on new consumer protection rules, and an update on gas supply regulation discussions.

COUNCIL — MINISTERS OKAY BORDER CONTROLS, PUBLIC PROSECUTOR: General affairs ministers signed off on internal border controls for a further three months, as well as authorizing EU countries to create a European Public Prosecutor, even though not all governments are on board. Conclusions here.

TECH — DEAL REACHED TO ALLOW CONSUMERS TO TAKE NETFLIX ON HOLIDAY: The European Parliament, Council and the Commission Tuesday struck a deal that will allow EU citizens to take their digital subscriptions, like Amazon Prime and Netflix, with them on holidays and business trips outside their home countries.

TECH — TWITTER WILL START WEEDING OUT ABUSIVE TWEETS BEFORE YOU SEE THEM: Whether it works in practice remains to be seen.

TRADE — INDONESIA FTA NEGOTIATING TEXTS PUBLISHED: The European Commission has published nine texts discussed at the most recent round of talks in Indonesia January 24-27.

TRADE — MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IGOR DODON CALLS FOR RUSSIA TO JOIN ITS EU TRADE TALKS: Such a trilateral format would delight Moscow as it seeks to undermine Brussels’ influence in former Soviet states, writes Carmen Paun, but POLITICO’s Commission source said the move would be pointless.

“When it comes to the idea of carrying out trilateral talks, we have tried it with Ukraine. There were 23 rounds of talks conducted by [Trade Commissioner] Cecilia Malmström and DG Trade and they led to nothing. When Dodon comes with the same idea, it’s not something that will impress very many people in Brussels,” the source said. The full story for POLITICO Trade Pro subscribers.

EU RAISES PRESSURE FOR UNIFIED GOVERNMENT IN LIBYA: Moscow, Brussels and Rome back military strongman Khalifa Haftar for at least some formal role that might unite the country.

BREXIT — PUB ETIQUETTE: Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas confirmed a Brexit technical meeting has taken place between EU sherpas and the Commission’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier. Participants denied anything of interest occurred, and declined to share any documents related to the meeting. Schinas did, however, come up with a way to explain the divorce negotiations to the average Brit. Schinas told reporters that Britain took on commitments when it joined the EU, and “they should be honored in full.” In other words: “You still need to pay for your round,” he said.

BREXIT — STAR PERFORMERS IN THE UK PARLIAMENT’S BREXIT DEBATE: Charlie Cooper selected a very short list of MPs to keep an eye on.

NATO — TROOPS DEPLOYED IN LITHUANIA: “Germany and NATO on Tuesday underscored their commitment to beefing up the defense of Eastern Europe’s border with Russia as the first of four new battalions under the North Atlantic alliance’s banner arrived in Lithuania,” Reuters reports.

GREECE CAN’T GROW ITS WAY OUT OF DEBT, IMF WARNS: Greece’s “substantial debt” is too high to outgrow, the International Monetary Fund warned in a report, raising fears the Washington-based global financial firefighter could soon walk away from the country’s €86 billion bailout package.

HUNGARY — COMMISSION TO WARN BUDAPEST ON NUCLEAR SAFETY: The European Commission sent a letter to ask for details on its nuclear safety bill. Playbook hears the letter was changed at the last minute to insist on stricter political control of the nuclear safety agency, in light of the Hungarian government pushing to launch a new nuclear power plant with the Russian company Rosatom. h/t Zoltan Gyevai

ITALY — BITTER PILL FOR COUNTRY’S BANK RESCUE CHIEF: The man in charge of Italy’s bad-bank strategy says there isn’t one. That leaves a €356 billion unanswered question.

GERMAN CORNER …

MARTIN SCHULZ, A LONGSHOT WITH A SHOT AT UNSEATING MERKEL: The Socialist former European Parliament president has overtaken Merkel in at least one poll, and her re-election is no longer considered inevitable, reports Matthew Karnitschnig. “As so often in Schulz’s unlikely political career, he is having the last laugh … The big question is whether the Schulz effect is sustainable.”

ICYMI, NO EVIDENCE OF RUSSIAN HACKING: A year-long investigation into potential Russian interference with German politics failed to uncover evidence of Kremlin-backed meddling, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported Monday.

MERKEL TO POLAND: ‘PLURALISM IS GOOD.’ The German chancellor gave a lesson in Polish history — a not-so-subtle nod to the value of the Solidarity movement that caught fire after the declaration of martial law in 1981 — during her visit to Poland, to illustrate the value of Poland upholding rule of law today.

The underlying purpose of the visit was to stop U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin peeling Poland away from united EU positions. Annabelle Chapman analyzes the impact of Merkel’s visit on the chilly relations between Warsaw and Berlin.

FRENCH ELECTIONS — IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE: From accusations of unfaithful marriages (denied by Emmanuel Macron) to new revelations that François Fillon gave his daughter a taxpayer-funded salary while she was an intern and student and gave €45,000 to his wife in two separate severance payments … it’s only getting messier in the French presidential election. Then there’s the case of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, set to stand trial over allegations of illegal financing during his 2012 re-election campaign. Still, don’t bet on an Hollande comeback, writes Pierre Briançon.

NETHERLANDS — HOW WILDERS HIJACKED DUTCH POLITICS: Tom-Jan Meeus writes that like Donald Trump, Geert Wilders “has boxed in his opponents: The harsher they criticize him, the better his chances of winning the election.”

KOSOVO — EU APPOINTS JUDGES TO TRY LIBERATION ARMY WAR CRIMES: “The EU approved 19 judges who will serve at the new Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers, set up to try former Kosovo Liberation Army members for 1990s wartime crimes.”

SERBIA — POSTCARD FROM PUTINOVO: “A wooden signpost in the snowy landscape points the way to the hamlet of Putinovo in southern Serbia,” writes Valerie Hopkins. “That is not yet its official name but villagers voted to adopt it last November in tribute to the man they see as a Slavic brother, Russian President Vladimir Putin … Since Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, some Serbs believe they may now have another friend in the high office.”

THE PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW — WITH KATE DARLING …

Where the Davos crowd goes, the 99 percent usually follow. In 2017, robots and the effects of automating the economy were a big topic up in the Swiss alps. Who better then to bring that debate to Brussels than Kate Darling, a Swiss-American MIT Media Lab researcher looking into human-robot relationships and ethics.

Darling keynoted a Vodafone Institute event Tuesday night at probably the coolest event space in Brussels, the BMW concept store on Boulevard de Waterloo. The event was notable also for the speakers being majority female. Darling looks at how and why humans treat robots the way they do (often like pets, and always with a big psychological component, apparently). “It has a lot to do with physical movement. Robots, for example, can animate autistic kids in ways that adults can’t,” Darling said.

Robot identity crisis: After the U.S. election and with populists rising in Europe, Darling admits “I went through a kind of identity crisis” about whether robot research was what the world needed now. “In the end I decided that when this [political period] is over, we are still going to have the same robot problems and still need a strategy.” Her only regret: that Americans and others would “get mad at the robots” as well as their neighbors when it comes to lost jobs.

Government intervention needed: “Companies and governments have a responsibility to step in when there is a disruption of this magnitude taking place,” Darling said, pointing to experiments with a universal basic income and worker retraining as key policies worth pursuing.

Gender matters: Whether it’s the stereotyping of voices used by robots (female voices tend to offer help, male voices tend to announce decisions in leading robots) or the heavy dominance of men in the artificial intelligence field, Darling says that failure to “bake diversity into the technology design” of automated systems will store up big problems. They could play out in issues as wide-ranging as smart taps that don’t recognize black hands to financial algorithms that privilege certain types of mortgage applicants over others.

CHINA SAYS NEITHER IT NOR US CAN AFFORD CONFLICT: There would be no winner from a conflict between China and the United States, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned reporters on Tuesday, seeking to dampen tension between the two nations that flared after the U.S. election.

TRUMP WORLD …

NOW FOR THE OTHER MIGRATION CRACKDOWN: Seung Min Kim reports: “Overlooked in Donald Trump’s campaign crusade against illegal immigration was his vow to crack down on legal immigration, too. Now, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a reliable Trump ally, is taking steps to execute that part of the president’s immigration vision … Cotton will start off with legislation being unveiled Tuesday that will dramatically slash the number of immigrants who can obtain green cards and other visas every year.”

COURT DUBIOUS OF GOVERNMENT’S ARGUMENTS: The U.S. Justice Department struggled to convince a federal appeals court Tuesday to allow the government to resume enforcing Trump’s travel ban executive order.

A VERY LOUD SILENCE AT FOGGY BOTTOM: “U.S. allies and adversaries looking for clarity on President Donald Trump’s foreign policy will have to wait a bit longer to get that guidance from Rex Tillerson’s State Department. For the third consecutive week since Trump took office, State Department press briefings normally held every workday haven’t been scheduled, no chief of staff has been named and many of the most senior posts at the department remain vacant. By this time in the Obama administration, the State Department had given 11 daily briefings.” Bloomberg’s Nick Wadhams.

TOO DELICIOUS — WILL ROSIE O’DONNELL PLAY STEVE BANNON ON SNL? There would be no better way to annoy Trump after his multi-year feud and tirades against O’Donnell, concludes the Washington Post.