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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said he will decide in the next 48 hours whether to allow the Greek parliament to vote on the extension of the country’s financial assistance programme, following concerns about dissent in his own party. In a vote held behind closed doors, up to 30 Syriza MPs voted against the extension, though a rebellion in an actual vote would unlikely be as large, according to Kathimerini.
Meanwhile, the Euro Working Group met yesterday to discuss Greece’s imminent funding problems yesterday. Greek Minister of State for Coordinating Government Operations Alekos Flambouraris suggested Greece may have to consider delaying payments to the IMF, though IMF officials dismissed this as “exceptionally complicated” adding that it would constitute a “clear default”. Separately, 450 people took to the streets and clashed with police in Athens last night to protest the new government.
Speaking on Dutch TV, Eurogroup Chief and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said of the new Greek government, “I don’t think they knew precisely how bad the Greek state was doing and how much their debt mountain already had been flattened.” He added that Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis “criticised the institutions very hard, which I think is nonsense, because they work for politicians…just criticise us then.”
The Bundestag this morning approved the extension by 542 votes to 32 with 13 abstentions. In a debate ahead of the vote German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble insisted the vote is “not about any change in the program…It’s about offering more time to allow this program to be completed successfully.” The SPD’S Carsten Schneider argued that the “most expensive” outcome for both Greece and Germany would be a Greek exit from the euro, however, the CDU’s Ralph Brinkhaus argued that while it would be “bad and dangerous for a country to fall out of the Eurozone, it would be more dangerous for the Eurozone to be undermined from within.”
The Dutch parliament yesterday approved the extension, while Estonia also has this morning. A poll by ZDF has found that 71% of Germans do not believe Greece will implement the reforms laid out under its agreement, while 26% think they will. German daily Tageszeitung has run a campaign to counter Bild’s anti-bailout stance, saying “Yes! More billions to the Greeks”.
Kathimerini Reuters Kathimerini 2 Bloomberg The Wall Street Journal ZDF Nu.nl: Dijsselbloem
After two days of limited fighting and the improved stability of the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has confirmed it will begin pulling back its heavy weaponry from the front lines. The pro-Russian separatists have said they have already pulled back 90% of the heavy artillery. However, in an interview on France Info radio on Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that “if there was a separatist attack in the direction of Mariupol things would be drastically altered, including in terms of sanctions.” Responding to some calls to exclude Russian banks from the SWIFT, payment system Austrian Central Bank Governor Ewald Nowotny said, “We would see [such a move] as very problematic because it could perhaps undermine confidence in this system.”
Russia has confirmed that Ukraine has sent $15m in a prepayment for further gas supplies, while Gazprom has added that it will exempt gas supplied to the separatist regions from its negotiations with the Ukrainian government.
The Wall Street Journal
Chancellor George Osborne’s claim to have halved the £1.7bn budget bill demanded by the EU last autumn “is not supported by published information,” Andrew Tyrie MP, the Conservative Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, has said. “The terms of the UK’s rebate calculation are set out in EU law; it should therefore have been clear that the rebate would apply,” he added. However, Mr Tyrie added that the Chancellor nevertheless got a good deal in the circumstances by securing an interest-free delay on the extra payment.
Treasury Select Committee report
The Financial Times
Following the deal between Cyprus and Russia over docking Russian warships on the island, Richard Ottaway MP, the Chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “It is going to make renewing sanctions against Russia…much more unlikely. Putin is trying to drive a wedge between countries in the EU.”
A poll conducted by ComRes for ITV News reveals that more than half (55%) of Britons think immigration has a negative impact on the NHS, while two in five (40%) say immigration has a negative impact on the economy. However, Brits also believe that immigration has no impact on themselves personally (51%) or on their ability to find a job (44%).
Open Europe responds
The Daily Express reports that UKIP leader Nigel Farage has an 11 point lead in his bid to become the MP for South Thanet, according to a Survation poll, commissioned by a UKIP donor. The poll shows Farage on 38.6%, Labour on 27.6%, the Conservatives on 26.6%, the Greens on 3.1% and the Liberal Democrats trailing behind with 2%.
A new IXÈ poll has Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party in the lead on 38.5%, the Five-Star Movement on 18.3%, the anti-immigration Lega Nord on 14.2%, and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia on 12.6%. Lega Nord is establishing itself as the third-largest party in recent polls. Both Lega Nord and the Five-Star Movement are campaigning for Italy to leave the euro.
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told the Financial Times, “The doctors, whether based in Brussels or Paris, draw the same conclusions and write the same prescriptions. We all agree more or less on the reasons why the French economy is not doing well. But in the short run, we also need to recognise demand is weak and we need to boost it at the European level.” Macron also argued that it would have been “more appropriate” to give France until 2018 to cut its deficit below 3% of GDP. The European Commission has proposed 2017 as the new deadline. The interview was conducted before the Commission’s decision.
The Financial Times
Easy Jet CEO Carolyn McCall has called for a rethink on the EU’s ‘Single European Sky’ initiative to harmonise the management of Europe’s airspace, calling on EU member states to give reassurances to unions with pledges on jobs.
Open Europe yesterday released its new Brexit Barometer which assesses the chances of the UK leaving the EU up to the next election and during the next Parliament. It currently stands at 17%. The estimate is cited by the Financial Times, EurActiv and Politics Home. Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel is quoted as saying there is a “non-negligible threat of Brexit,” adding, “At the moment, the general election is the biggest factor. After the election, more nuances will come to the fore…[Including] how the reform agenda is approached, what is happening in the Eurozone and what it happening domestically.”