DAILY INTELLIGENCE REPORTING

DAILY INTELLIGENCE REPORTING 28-06-2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Garbage strike continues despite PM’s mediation; gov’t opposes private sector involvment

A more than week-long garbage strike will apparently continue in Greece, as even a meeting chaired by the country’s prime minister on Tuesday failed to break a deadlock in talks between the relevant interior ministry and a union representing sanitation workers.

http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1252799/garbage-strike-continues-despite-pms-mediation-govt-opposes-private-sector-involvment

EU to charge PPC with abusing position

Bad news is coming to Public Power Corporation from Brussels, as a probe by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition (DG Comp), which started with the unexpected arrival of inspectors at the offices of PPC and grid operator ADMIE earlier this month, has confirmed concerns about the power giant’s possible abuse of its dominant position.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/219597/article/ekathimerini/business/eu-to-charge-ppc-with-abusing-position

UN conference on Cyprus gets under way on Wednesday

United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide said on Tuesday that there are no guarantees of success at Wednesday’s Cyprus Conference in the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, but insisted that it remains an opportunity for a breakthrough “as there is an awareness that there is no time like the present.”

http://www.ekathimerini.com/219627/article/ekathimerini/news/un-conference-on-cyprus-gets-under-way-on-wednesday

Shipowners extend voluntary contribution for another year

The Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE) decided at an extraordinary general meeting on Monday to extend the voluntary contribution its members pay to the Greek state for another year – i.e. through 2018.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/219599/article/ekathimerini/business/shipowners-extend-voluntary-contribution-for-another-year

Greeks work 203 days out of the year to pay taxes

Greeks will work an average of 203 days this year to pay taxes to the state and social insurance contributions, according to research conducted by the Dragoumis Center for Liberal Studies (KEFIM) to raise awareness about tax freedom day – the first day of the year in which a country has theoretically earned enough income to pay its taxes.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/219623/article/ekathimerini/news/greeks-work-203-days-out-of-the-year-to-pay-taxes

OLTH investors to upgrade Thessaloniki port

The contractual obligation for investing 180 million euros in Thessaloniki port should be rapidly implemented, the chief executive officer of CMA CGM subsidiary Terminal Link, Boris Wenzel, and the managing director of DIEP, Alexander von Mellenthin, promised in their first formal joint appearance in Greece on Tuesday.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/219631/article/ekathimerini/business/olth-investors-to-upgrade-thessaloniki-port

ATHEX: Moderate rise for most stocks

The stock market in Athens shook off the European Central Bank’s statements that kept Greece’s chances of entering the ECB bond-buying program remote, and took the benchmark back above the 820-point mark on Tuesday. Trading volume dropped below 50 million euros.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/219610/article/ekathimerini/business/athex-moderate-rise-for-most-stocks

www.enikos.gr


www.protothema.gr


www.newsbomb.gr


www.cnn.gr


www.newsbeast.gr

KATHIMERINI: Uncertainty over thousands of tax-fines

TA NEA: The great heist. Tax-office and social security funds swallow citizens’ revenues.

EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Council of State shields large tax-evaders

AVGI: Opposition indulges in trash politics

RIZOSPASTIS: Thousands of workers between unemployment and “captivity”

KONTRA NEWS: All retrospective tax controls have been cancelled by the Council of State

DIMOKRATIA: Audits linking real estate assets to black money

NAFTEMPORIKI: Council of State trims expectations for revenues from tax fines

HKSTRATEGIES.GR

www.hkstrategies.gr

COMMISSION — OETTINGER’S NEW ‘REFLECTION PAPER’ ON FUTURE EU BUDGET: This will possibly be the most controversial of the Commission papers fleshing out the “Future of Europe” policy white paper. At lunchtime, European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Günther Oettinger, supported by European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu, will present the Berlaymont’s views on the EU’s future spending in 2025.

This is considered by many diplomats and observers as the rehearsal before the Commission lays out its official post-2020 budget masterplan before the end of the year or in early 2018.

What to expect: POLITICO’s sources say the Commission is leaning towards cutting the seven-year EU budget to five years. There may also be a plan to boost the EU’s ‘”own resources” (direct tax revenue), and Oettinger can be expected to express a colorful view on the budget hole that will be left by Brexit, estimated to be €9-12 billion a year.

What does it matter? EU budgets always generate political tension: as one diplomat told reporters, “Between Brexit and the future EU budget, there is great danger of overlapping and tensions. And in the middle you will have the European elections and a new Commission.” That said, over 70 percent of the budget is now dedicated to agricultural and regional funding. If there is no major reform there, the suggestions will have fringe effect only. The overall budget amount — €140-150 billion a year — may be subject to distractions and finessing by worried Commission officials. The 2018 revised EU budget will not be affected by today’s paper.

EU set to widen use of its budget stick: Tim King cautions against using EU funds to make national governments stick to EU rules, as such moves could widen the gap between Eastern and Western Europe, newer members and old, eurozone and non-eurozone.

The Parliament also matters: European Parliament President Antonio Tajani’s recent call for a “Copernicus revolution” regarding the EU’s finances backfired, but Parliament is still needed for new budget rules to be adopted. Center-left MEP Isabelle Thomas confirmed to POLITICO’s Quentin Ariès the budget fight will be fierce. “It is quite clear,” she said. The Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament “will not a vote a thinner budget with more priorities.”

**Watch live on July 12: POLITICO’s event “Transporting Europe to a cleaner future,” part of the Energy Visions series. Presented by Shell, the conversation will focus on Europe’s transition to a low-carbon economy, the transport fuel alternatives and the challenges facing infrastructure deployment. Watch live on our website from 6:30 p.m. CET.**

COMMISSION TODAY — OTHER AGENDA ITEMS: Commissioners will also adopt a proposal to boost border management and the security union and another text on EU pension providers. European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström will brief her colleagues on the last details of the EU-Japan trade deal. European Commissioner for the Euro and Social Dialogue Valdis Dombrovskis and European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager will spill the beans to their colleagues on the Italian EU rule-bending decision to bail out two regional banks.

COMMISSION ISSUES RECORD €2.42 BILLION FINE AGAINST GOOGLE … 

OUCH! Vestager roared back onto the political stage Tuesday by hitting Google with a €2.42 billion fine for abusing the “dominant position” held by Google Shopping. The company has 90 days to change the way it operates Google Shopping (which Vestager said demotes the services of competitors in search results) or face daily fines up to €12.5 million.

How Brussels calculates its monster fines: Here’s the complex formula. You were warned.

The decision hurts Google’s reputation, reports Nicholas Hirst. “This represents the first major sanction for Google in the regulatory arena, domestic or international. The geeky project that used to tell its employees ‘Don’t be evil’ is now on track to join corporate giants like Standard Oil, AT&T and Microsoft in the antitrust hall of fame.” The markets and technology might be new, but Google’s abusive conduct was “old school,” said Vestager, who is advancing at least two other sets of charges against Google’s Android mobile operating system and its advertising business.

What Google says: It rejects the EU’s findings, may appeal, and insists the important thing is that it gives consumers what they want via Google Shopping.

EU confirms role at center-stage of internet regulation: “As matters now stand, the Commission is the primary regulator of internet services in the Western world,” said David Cantor, a Brussels-based technology lawyer.

Global tech’s judge, jury and executioner: Forget the fine. The EU wants to crack the holy grail of technology companies: their algorithms. Being forced to alter or publish its algorithm matters a lot more to Google and its competitors than the relative pocket-change of €2.42 billion, shocking as it sounds to make that claim. Algorithm transparency is set to become a new battlefront as Europe’s regulators seek to flex their muscles in the digital revolution.

Forget the clichés: Often cast as a battle between a protectionist Europe and an innovative Silicon Valley, the latest EU technology decision is better seen as a proxy for a debate about whether EU regulations are up to date, writes David M. Herszenhorn. That raises the question of what sort of internet we want: a libertarian one, where innovators break things first and worry about the mess later? Or an internet that is mostly open, yet also managed with an assist from regulator enforcement?

Angela Merkel weighed in: Speaking in October, the German chancellor said major internet platforms needed to publish at least parts of their algorithms. “Algorithms, when they are not transparent, can lead to a distortion of our perception, they can shrink our expanse of information,” Merkel said. Read Playbook’s full story here.

EUROGROUP — TRANSPARENCY RULES: Eurogroup Working Methods adopted in 2007 have been published 10 years later, without fanfare, despite rather obvious interest in them. Nicely spotted by the NGO Transparency International.

ECJ — IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE SON & THE HOLY TAX BREAK: The EU’s top court ruled Spanish Catholic Church tax breaks may be illegal. Conor Murphy has more.

EUROPEAN SALES PITCH: Speaking at the annual gathering of the Economic Council of the CDU, the business arm of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, Chancellor Merkel mounted a strong defense of German industry, wheeling out a string of statistics to prove it creates more jobs than it disrupts in the United States. Meanwhile, Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans spoke to high school students from Turkey, Poland, Hungary and Lebanon in Rotterdam, and gave an interview to Reuters‘ Gabriela Baczynska and Jan Strupczewski.

IN TOWN: Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul and former New York mayor, addressed the European Parliament on climate action Tuesday.

POSTCARD FROM ROME …

It’s easy to be caught up in Brexit or monster tech fines while milling around the EU district in Brussels; it’s harder to worry about those things milling around Rome’s stupendous history and 200 power women at a Medici villa. The topics at the special Women’s Forum (in Rome because of the 60th anniversary of the EU’s Rome Treaty) included talks from women defeating cancer through science and finding Europe’s missing refugee children. Those attending included Malta President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and her Estonian counterpart Kersti Kaljulaid. One of the few men at the conference told Playbook over dinner it was odd to have the tables turned: “It felt odd to talk to a room of 95 percent women today. I’ve never felt that before.” Catch up on Antonio Tajani’s speech.

PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW — KERSTI KALJULAID, PRESIDENT OF ESTONIA … 

Estonia’s new president isn’t short of energy or opinions, and that made her a star of the Women’s Forum in Rome.

Brexit and Brussels blame game: It is easy for national politicians to “blame Brussels” for challenges beyond its control, or which are their own responsibility, Kaljulaid said. But pointing to Britain, she warned: “You can blame your country out of the EU.”

On going digital: Kaljulaid said few would have expected Estonia to be a European digital leader when the EU first engaged the country 25 years ago. Her point: Other countries, including Ukraine, could be the next Estonia. While Kaljulaid is happy for Estonia to set an example, she is relieved people no longer ask her to fix their computers (as they used when hearing she was Estonian) and cautions against one-size-fits-all approaches. “We don’t want to preach. Every country has their own culture. Everyone needs to do it their own way.” Read this speech as a summary of her views on the digital state.

On the EU ‘straightjacket’: Kaljulaid doesn’t have much sympathy for those who complain about a supposed EU straightjacket, arguing countries from Germany to Estonia, with very different starting points and experiences, have managed major reforms regardless.

Kaljulaid later said during a panel that the digital revolution will be good for women. “Digital makes a lot of jobs geographically neutral. Every woman serving porridge to her children in the morning can and does check her email as she does it. Often she goes to a job that does not require her to be physically present … We have to grasp these technologies as an equalizer.”

CYPRUS — SUN SETTING ON REUNIFICATION: As reunification talks recommence in Switzerland, “Failure to make a breakthrough over the next 10 days in Crans-Montana will likely erode what’s left of the trust between [Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa] Akıncı and [Greek Cypriot leader Nicos] Anastasiades and the patience of the U.N., which facilitates the talks and polices the buffer zone across the island,” writes Sara Stefanini.

HUNGARY — VIKTOR ORBÁN’S FORMER BEST FRIEND VOWS TO TAKE DOWN FIDESZ: Viktor Orbán’s rivalry with oligarch Lajos Simicska, who went to high school with the Hungarian PM and later helped transform Fidesz into the dominant force in Hungarian politics, runs the risk of mutually assured destruction after Simicska threw his support behind the far-right Jobbik party, reports Lili Bayer.

FRANCE — TRUMP TO ATTEND BASTILLE DAY CEREMONY IN PARIS? French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly invited the U.S. presidential couple to attend the July 14 parade on the Champs-Elysées, which will this year commemorate World War I.

UK — NEW DUP RANSOM NOTE TO CONSERVATIVES: “The Democratic Unionist Party is set to demand tax cuts costing £460 million to keep Theresa May in power after Brexit in two years’ time,” Christopher Hope reports.

**A message from Google: Radicalization isn’t always obvious. There’s a gray area online, of inflammatory content which isn’t outright hate speech. YouTube is changing how it treats these videos. Learn more.**

BREXIT CORNER …

The other giant leap for mankind: Britain’s Brexit Secretary David Davis claimed Tuesday his ministerial role was tougher than working for the U.S. space agency during the moon landings.

Catherine Day’s tough talk: “What we are seeing in the political negotiating team is people who don’t really understand how the EU works and are now just beginning to discover it very late in the day,” said the former European Commission secretary-general and current special advisor to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. She was speaking at the Institute for International and European Affairs. More via the Irish Times.

Options for an invisible Irish border post-Brexit: Simon Marks runs you through the possibilities. One option is for companies in Northern Ireland to become what is known as an “authorized economic operator” after Brexit, according to a senior Commission official aware of the technical discussions.

British citizens in EU27 fear becoming sacrificial lambs: Whether Britons or other Europeans, it is hard to find anyone reassured by British PM Theresa May’s citizens’ rights offer, reports the Guardian.

Corbyn’s fans are in the dark about Europe. The Times reports: “Unlike many of his young and well-educated supporters, the Labour leader is instinctively hostile to the EU.”

New member of Barnier Brexit task force: Adolfo Barberá del Rosal. The head of the secretariat of the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs will join EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s team. Barberá del Rosal also spent some time in the European Commission’s competition department.

ANOTHER MASSIVE CYBERATTACK SPREADING: Ukraine’s government and key infrastructure were hit by a massive cyberattack in the hours after a senior military officer was killed by a car bomb. Other countries were also soon affected. Washington Post here.

The war no one notices in Ukraine, by Adrian Bonenberger for New York Times

RUSSIA — AMBASSADOR KISYLAK RESIGNS FROM POST IN WASHINGTON.