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Open Europe, the Brussels Press Club Europe and publishing house Pelckmans invite you attend the launch of Derk Jan Eppink’s new book, “Empire of Little Kings,” in which he reflects on his experiences as a former Member of European Parliament. Eppink has also served as a cabinet advisor to EU Commissioners Frits Bolkestein and Siim Kallas.

The post Empire of Little Kings: Reflections on life as an MEP appeared first on Open Europe.

Posted by Amy Horne

The dust is settling on the deal struck between Greece and its creditors for a four-month bailout extension. Our policy analyst Vincenzo Scarpetta looks at where the latest developments leave Podemos – Spain’s anti-establishment party which has no doubt been watching closely how SYRIZA handled the negotiations in Brussels.

The post The Greek deal: What does it mean for Podemos? appeared first on Open Europe.

Posted by Vincenzo Scarpetta

The Eurozone yesterday signed off on Greece’s list of reforms paving the way for the four month extension of the financial assistance programme. The Eurogroup said the measures are “sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point for a successful conclusion of the review,” though more detailed reform plan will need to be agreed by the end of April.

While ‘the institutions’ signed off on the list, the IMF and ECB were notably less enthusiastic than the Commission. IMF Chief Christine Lagarde said in her letter to the Eurogroup that the list “is generally not very specific” and is “not conveying clear assurances” that the government will complete the current programme. Crucially, she added that discussions on completing the review of Greece’s programme – on which funding is contingent – “cannot be confined within the policy perimeters outlined” in the list. In his own letter, ECB President Mario Draghi added that he “assumes” the basis for concluding the review “will be the existing commitments in the current Memorandum of Understanding,” from which the reform list “differs” in a number of areas.

Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas said in an interview with Greek Star TV, “It is difficult to determine how the government can fulfil its promises, including the debt write-off, with this agreement.” Italy’s former Deputy Finance Minister Stefano Fassina – a member of the left wing of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s party – told La Stampa that Greece needs to leave the euro “if it wants to survive”. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told Charlie Hebdo that the Greek government has “killed the Troika” but work is still needed “to chase its spirit away and make its mentality disappear.”Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis told Greek newspaper Ethnos that the privatisations of electricity company PPC and power grid operator ADMIE won’t go ahead, despite both having already been put out to tender. The remarks appear to contradict the pledge not to stop sales that are already underway made by the Greek government in its reform list.

Meanwhile, officials said talks will begin on Greece’s funding gap, with Kathimerini reporting that the Greek government faces funding needs of €7.3bn in March alone. Germany’s Rheinische Post reports that, according to unnamed senior German officials, “It is absolutely clear that in the summer there will be a third programme”, which the paper suggests could amount to at least €20bn. The Bundestag is expected to approve the extension in a vote on Friday, while the lower house of the Dutch Parliament will wave it through tomorrow, though without a formal vote.

The Washington Post quotes Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel as saying, “In the end, [the Greek reform] list seems very similar to what would have been implemented under the previous government, especially when it comes to areas such as pension reform.” Open Europe’s Vincenzo Scarpetta appeared on Italian business TV channel Class CNBC discussing the outcome of the negotiations between Greece and its Eurozone partners. Open Europe’s coverage of the situation in Greece featured on the Telegraph and the Guardian live blogs.

The post Eurozone signs off on Greek reforms though ECB and IMF raise concerns over lack of detail appeared first on Open Europe.

Posted by Nina Schick

The European Commission confirmed around midnight that Greece has submitted its list of reforms as part of the deal agreed at Friday’s meeting of Eurozone finance ministers. A Commission source said the list is “sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point for a successful conclusion of the review.” The list includes measures to fight tax evasion, reform the tax system, “unify and streamline” pension policy, eliminate incentives for early retirement, reform public sector wages, raise the minimum wage (although this will be done in conjunction with the EU and IMF, and may be on a delayed timeline), and a pledge to fight the humanitarian crisis but with no negative fiscal impact. Eurozone finance ministers will hold a teleconference this afternoon to discuss the final approval of the list.

Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble sent a letter to the Bundestag requesting a vote on the four-month extension of Greece’s financial assistance, saying, “Provided Greece avows its obligations and provided there is an agreement in the Eurogroup, the German government would be in favour of the proposed extension.” The Bundestag is expected to vote on the extension on Friday, although party leaders will hold a meeting this evening.

Speaking to the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee this morning, Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that, if the fifth and final review of the Greek bailout is successfully completed, “We will come back to the issue of debt sustainability.” Meanwhile, JP Morgan has estimated that deposit outflows from Greek banks reached €3bn last week, up from €2bn the week before.

Open Europe’s Vincenzo Scarpetta appeared on CNN International yesterday arguing that it will be hard for the Greek government to sell this agreement as a victory at home. Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe appeared on BBC World Service arguing, “It’s unlikely that the agreement unravels now, given the political capital spent to strike Friday’s deal – which was only about kicking the can down the road for four months, just before Greece needs to pay a few billion euros to the ECB.” Open Europe’s blog analysis of Friday’s deal is cited by Foreign Policy.

The post European Commission says Greek reform list is “sufficiently comprehensive” as a starting point appeared first on Open Europe.

Posted by Vincenzo Scarpetta

Late on Friday night Greece reached a deal with its Eurozone partners to extend its current financial assistance agreement by four months. As part of the deal Greece will today send a list of reform proposals to the Eurogroup which will need to be “sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point for a successful conclusion of the [final bailout] review”, once this is approved then the deal will be confirmed. Eurozone finance ministers will hold a call tomorrow.

The list is expected to focus on structural reforms in areas such as tax evasion, corruption and public administration. Bild reports that the package will be worth up to €7bn – €1.5bn each from raising taxes on wealthy Greeks and cutting tax evasion, as well as a further €2.3bn from cracking down on fuel and cigarette smuggling.

Speaking over the weekend, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said, “We won a battle, but not the war. The difficulties lie ahead of us,” adding that the deal marked the start of “leaving austerity, the bailouts and the Troika behind.”

However, SYRIZA MEP Manolis Glezos said in an open letter on his blog, “By renaming the troika ‘the institutions’, the memorandum as ‘agreement’ and the lenders as ‘partners’…you do not change the previous situation.” He also apologised to voters for being complicit in SYRIZA’s approach. However, on Sunday Greek daily To Vima declared the deal an “honourable compromise”.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said, “Being in government is a date with reality, and reality is often not as nice as a dream,” adding, “The Greeks certainly will have a difficult time to explain the deal to their voters.”

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said in an interview with RTE that the biggest risk was that Greek banks would have gone “belly up” on Wednesday, adding that the deal mainly “ensures Greece doesn’t collapse next week” and there will be more negotiations on what is “effectively” a third programme for Greece. Open Europe’s analysis of the Greek negotiations drew widespread coverage, see below for more details.

The post Greece readies list of reforms for Eurozone following late night deal on Friday appeared first on Open Europe.

Posted by Christopher Howarth