28 August 2015

New polls show wavering support for SYRIZA ahead of new elections

The Head of the Greek Supreme Court Vassiliki Thanou was yesterday appointed as caretaker Prime Minister, making her Greece’s first female Prime Minister. The caretaker cabinet will be sworn in at noon today with the country then moving to new elections. A new ProRata election poll for Efimerida ton Syntakton put SYRIZA on 23%, New Democracy on 19.5%, Golden Dawn on 6.5%, the Communist Party on 5%, PASOK on 4.5%, To Potami on 4%, Popular Unity on 3.5% and the Independent Greeks on 2% (meaning they would fail to get into the next parliament), with 25.5% of voters still undecided. The poll also found that 64% believed the government was wrong to call fresh elections.

To Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis warned, “The risk is that if SYRIZA doesn’t get an absolute majority in parliament, that if the allies it wants don’t make it to parliament, then we’ll go to new elections again in November and December”. New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis hit out at outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for stopping a government from being formed and promised the electorate, “I won’t tell lies like he does”.

Source: Kathimerini Efimerida ton Syntakton The Financial Times The Wall Street Journal Reuters

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ECB member warns on current Eurozone approach and calls for deeper integration and Treaty change

Speaking in Paris yesterday, ECB Executive Board Member Benoit Cœuré warned that the single currency remains “imperfect” and “maintaining [the current] approach would condemn [the Eurozone] to a future of low growth and repeated crises.” He called for the work on “political and economic integration” in the medium term to “begin immediately”. He argued that, “the European Stability Mechanism is an impressive achievement and could become the foundation of a ‘euro area Treasury’, under the condition that it is brought under the umbrella of the EU’s treaties and under the control of the European Parliament.” However, he also stressed, “Solidarity cannot turn into a system of permanent transfers, which is not part of the founding ‘contract’ of monetary union”, but added “we cannot advocate a Europe of solidarity while believing that the economic policies of each euro area country are the business of that country’s parliament alone.”

Source: ECB

Discovery of truck with dead refugees increases pressure on EU leaders to deal with migration crisis

71 migrants were found dead in a truck off a highway outside of Vienna yesterday as a summit involving German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini was underway. Speaking at the subsequent press conference, Mekel argued that “This reminds us that we in Europe need to tackle the problem quickly and find solutions in the spirit of solidarity.” Meanwhile, Bart De Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalist N-VA, the biggest party in Belgium’s coalition government, yesterday argued that “I am in favour of Schengen, but the backdoor needs to be locked.” He also criticised “countries like Greece, which receive [EU] financial support but just allow refugees to pass through Europe’s external borders.”

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino – who leads the EU’s naval operation against migrant smugglers in the Mediterranean – has said the mission is now ready to stop and search boats on the high seas too. Fabrice Leggeri, the head of EU border agency Frontex, told Le Figaro, “The situation requires European actions of a different nature. Starting with closer cooperation within the EU to help member states in difficulties on the ground… [However,] the countries of arrival will not accept the ‘hotspots’ [centres for the identification of migrants] unless the principle of further sharing of refugees with other EU member states is established.”

Source: The Financial Times The Wall Street Journal Bloomberg De Morgen Le Figaro: Leggeri

UK Immigration Minister: Current flows of people across Europe are not sustainable

Responding to yesterday’s record high net migration figures, UK Immigration Minister James Brokenshire argued that they “should also act as a further wake-up call for the EU. Current flows of people across Europe are on a scale we haven’t seen since the end of the Second World War. This is not sustainable and risks the future economic development of other EU member states. It reinforces the need for further reform at an EU level as well as within the UK.” Brokenshire also accused British businesses of being “overly reliant on foreign workers in a number of sectors.”

The Times’ leader argues that “In return for accepting a reasonable number of Syrian refugees, Mr Cameron must insist on his right to set new rules on benefits and tax credits for European Union migrant workers as part of his larger renegotiation. Anything less would not qualify as a renegotiation… [this] is an argument that Britain must fight and win.” The Daily Telegraph’s leader argues that, “When Mr Cameron began to contemplate renegotiating the UK’s relationship with Europe, few held out any hope that the EU’s commitment to free movement of people could change”, but that in view of the ongoing European migration crisis, “that is no longer a given.”

Source: Open Europe The Times The Daily Telegraph The Sun The Times: Leader The Daily Telegraph: Leader

Moscovici: “I had to interpose myself” to avoid Varoufakis and Dijsselbloem fist fight

Asked by French journalist Jean Quatremer about an anecdote that “had left a mark on him” during the recent negotiations between Greece and its creditors, EU Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici has revealed that he once had to “interpose himself” to avoid a physical confrontation between then Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem. He said, “This happened during a meeting [on 16 February] between Dijsselbloem, Varoufakis and myself… there was a moment of physical tension between Dijsselbloem and Varoufakis. They almost fought. They accused each other of being liars. I had to interpose myself…I managed to move them apart, but I didn’t manage to bring them closer again. By the way, they didn’t really talk to each other again after that.”

Source: Libération: Coulisses de Bruxelles blog

Latvia and Greece secure opt-out from GM crop cultivation

US agrochemical giant Monsanto has agreed to Latvia and Greece’s requests to be excluded from its application to grow a form of genetically modified maize crop across the EU, although it said this “contradicts and undermines the scientific consensus on the safety of MON810”. The request comes as part of a new EU-level mechanism whereby individual member states can still ban GM crops which have been approved by the European Commission for EU wide cultivation.

Source: Reuters Kathimerini

Google could land hefty fine after rejecting Commission’s antitrust charges

Google has rejected EU antitrust charges that it abused its market power, potentially exposing the company to the risk of a hefty fine if it does not alter its business practices. The European Commission can impose sanctions of up to 10% of a company’s global turnover.

Source: The Financial Times The Wall Street Journal The International New York Times

Ukraine secures debt restructuring

Ukraine yesterday officially confirmed the deal to restructure its debt with its creditors, who agreed to 20% write downs on $18bn worth of Ukrainian debt. The deal includes a freeze on debt repayments for four years. Russia, which owns $3bn worth of Ukrainian debt due in December, said it would not take part in the restructuring.

Source: The Financial Times The Wall Street Journal