Category Archives: Cyprus

(EurActiv) Guterres, Juncker head to Geneva for Cyprus talks

(EurActiv)

New UN chief Antonio Guterres will attend talks in Geneva today (12 January) aimed at ending decades of stalemate in a divided Cyprus, in his first foreign trip since taking office on 1 January. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will also be there.

Foreign ministers from Cyprus’s so-called guarantor powers – Britain, Greece and Turkey – will travel to Switzerland for a conference on security, which follows three days of peace talks with the goal of creating a two-zone federation.

UN envoy Espen Barth Eide said yesterday that the two sides are very close to agreeing on what overall percentage of the island each will control.Turkish Cypriot leaders have agreed in principle to return some of the land they have controlled since the 1974 invasion by Turkish troops, which came in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

Cyprus talks on track ahead of , says@UN_CYPRUS envoy @EspenBarthEide http://bit.ly/2jws8ZM 

Photo published for Cyprus talks ‘on track’ ahead of international conference – UN envoy

Cyprus talks ‘on track’ ahead of international conference – UN envoy

As the United Nations-facilitated talks on Cyprus went into their third day in Geneva ahead of an international conference tomorrow, the UN adviser on the issue has said the discussions are “on…

un.org

One of the chief difficulties lies in how the boundaries are redrawn, including around the town of Morphou on the northern coast.

Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has warned that there can be no deal without a full return of Morphou, while some in the Turkish Cypriot camp have declared its return a non-starter.

The security conference comes after rival Cypriot delegations on Wednesday (11 January) met to present maps detailing their visions for how internal boundaries should be drawn.
“It is a very important moment… Historic,” Eide said.Eide told reporters in Geneva that the exchange would take place behind closed doors with cartographers from both sides present.

View image on Twitter

“This is the best chance we have” to resolve Cyprus issue – SASG@EspenBarthEide

The conference will be the first time since the eastern Mediterranean island was divided that Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders will have presented maps describing the borders of a reunified country, Eide said.

This is the third time the Cypriot leaders have met in Switzerland since November, but the two previous rounds were inconclusive.

There were no plans for the maps swapped Wednesday to be disclosed publicly, with the UN hoping that both sides eventually agree on a compromise version.‘The very last chance’

On Tuesday (10 January) the two sides also tackled the island’s relations with the European Union as well as a future system of government.

While Cyprus has been an EU member since 2004, Anastasiades’s internationally recognised government exercises no control over the northern Turkish-ruled part of the island, and EU legislation is suspended there until a settlement is reached.

Eide made it clear that the UN process was designed to forge a unified Cyprus that would be a full EU member.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who will also be in Geneva on Thursday, said he was making the trip due to the stakes of the meeting.

“I really think that, without overdramatising what is happening in Geneva, that this is the very last chance to see (a solution for) the island being imposed in a normal way,” he said in Valletta at the start of Malta’s six-month EU presidency.

“The time has come to reunite the island.” @JunckerEU will fly to Geneva tomorrow to discuss the reunification.

.@JunckerEU on : “when it’s about peace, one needs to take risks. Not taking risks, is the biggest risk”

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini is already in Geneva.

In Geneva for . EU supports this historic opportunity to settle the issue after 40 years, in the heart of Europe & Mediterranean

Eide has struck an optimistic note during three days of intra-Cypriot talks this week.

“We are roughly where we want to be at this stage,” he said Wednesday.
There are also still significant differences over security, with Anastasiades wanting Turkish troops to leave the island but Akıncı determined to keep a military presence.But the sides appear to remain far apart on how many Greek Cypriots should be able to return to homes they fled in 1974, with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı determined to minimise the number of Turkish Cypriots who would be displaced for a second time.

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Why the world is watching the Cyprus unification talks and what’s different this time http://bloom.bg/2jagOTI 

(Reuters) Cyprus parliamentary vote puts far-right in parliament

(Reuters) Cyprus’s ruling conservatives took the lead in Sunday’s general election, results showed, while a far-right party won its first seats in the legislature amid voter disillusionment after a 2013 financial meltdown.

With the voting tally at 100 percent, and an unprecedentedly high abstention rate, the right-wing Democratic Rally party was ahead with 30.6 percent of the vote followed by Communist AKEL with 25.6 percent.

Compared to the previous elections of 2011, those two main parties on the Cypriot political scene suffered setbacks. AKEL’s Communists lost up to seven percentage points while Democratic Rally lost 3.7 percentage points.

By contrast ELAM, an extremist party forged on the coat-tails of Greece’s Golden Dawn, scraped past a newly-imposed 3.6 percent electoral threshold and won up to two seats, according to preliminary estimates.

“It’s sort of a kindergarten version of Golden Dawn,” said political analyst Hubert Faustmann, referring to the party formed in 2008. “All the big parties lost.”

Cyprus has an executive system of government and the president is elected separately, but the vote on Sunday was seen as a popularity gauge for President Nicos Anastasiades, whose term expires in 2018.

Anastasiades represents Greek Cypriots in talks with Turkish Cypriots to reunite the island that was split in a 1974 Turkish military invasion triggered by a brief Greece-inspired coup.

Diplomats are cautiously optimistic a solution could be in sight for the long-running conflict.

ELAM disagrees with the vision of Cyprus reunited under a bi-zonal federal umbrella as part of a settlement. Other small parties share that view.

“For the first time, Cyprus will get nationalists in its parliament,” Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos told Greece’s parliament minutes after the exit poll results were released.

Sunday’s election was the first since Cyprus required an international bailout in 2013, partly because of the exposure its systemic banks had to Greece’s write-down of sovereign debt.

It introduced a ‘bail-in’ on clients deposits at one major bank and wound down a second, leaving thousands of disgruntled bank deposit holders.

“A lot (of the result) was dissatisfaction of the public with the bigger parties,” said Faustmann. “Another reading could be that parliamentary elections in Cyprus are not that important, given the weakness of the Cypriot parliament,” he said, referring to the power given to the executive.

The abstention rate in the election exceeded 30 percent, one of the highest in a national vote since the inception of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960.

The prospect of a high abstention rate was expected and officials during the day repeatedly appealed to eligible voters to exercise their democratic right.

“If this right is forfeited it gives others the right to decide for those abstaining … if someone spurns that right, they shouldn’t complain the next day,” Anastasiades said.

By law, voting is compulsory but authorities have relaxed prosecutions in recent years.

+++ (BBG) Cyprus Shows ECB’s Holdings Can Go Down as Well as Up: Chart

(BBG)

The European Central Bank reduced its holding of Cypriot bonds last month to prevent it falling foul of regulations governing how much it can own of any single security as part of its quantitative-easing program. A spokesman for the institution said the sale was made necessary by buyback operations conducted by the Cypriot Public Debt Management Office. The Frankfurt-based ECB’s holdings of Cyprus bonds fell 16 million euros ($18.2 million) in March to 269 million euros, according to the data on its public-sector purchase program released Monday.

+++ (FT) EgyptAir hijacking: plane lands in Cyprus

(FT) Cypriot president says incident is not related to terrorism.

A policeman stands guard at Larnaca airport near a hijacked EgyptAir A320
A policeman stands guard at Larnaca airport near a hijacked EgyptAir A320 © Reuters

An EgyptAir flight from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and forced to fly to Cyprus where it landed at the island’s main commercial airport, at Larnaca.

The Egyptian aviation ministry said Omar al Gamal, the pilot of the diverted flight, said there was a threat from an individual on board who claimed he was wearing an explosive belt.

“It is not something which has to do with terrorism,” Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters from Nicosia.

The hijacker allowed most passengers and crew to leave the aircraft. Sherif Fathy, the Egyptian aviation minister, told a press conference that seven people remained on board the plane with the hijacker – the pilot, co-pilot, an Egyptian security man, a stewardess and three passengers.

Mr Fathy refused to name the hijacker and said it was not confirmed that he had an explosive belt. He said the hijacker had not made any concrete demands so far.

The Egyptian government has apologised to Ibrahim Samaha, a university professor who was on the flight, who was mistakenly identified as the hijacker. Mr Samaha’s wife contacted a television station to say that he had been in touch from Cyprus and was among those released from the plane.

According to Egypt’s foreign ministry, there were 55 passengers on board the Airbus A320.

News reports citing Cypriot officials suggested there may have been a personal motive relating to an ex-wife behind the hijacker’s actions, but this has not been confirmed by Egypt.

Tuesday’s incident is a major setback for Egypt which has been trying to convince the world that its airports are safe after a bomb brought down a Russian airliner last year after it took off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport in the Sinai, killing more than 200 people.

The attack on the Russian aircraft, claimed by Isis, has devastated the country’s already faltering tourism industry. Russia, a major source of tourists, halted all flights to and from Egypt. Various western carriers have also stopped flying to Sharm el-Sheikh, a major tourist destination.

President Anastasiades discussed the hijacking with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi by telephone in the presence of European Parliament president Martin Shultz, who is paying an official visit to the island.EgyptAir-hijacking_-plane-lands-in-Cyprus-—-FT

(FT) Brussels Briefing: The Cyprus problem – Peter Spiegel

(FT) Donald Tusk, the European Council president who has been attempting to broker a deal to stop the influx of refugees into the EU, has flown to Nicosia for a meeting this morning with Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades. For a man who spent the week before the last EU migration summit travelling to seven different capitals in four days, the fact that Mr Tusk is making Cyprus his only stop ahead of the next two-day gathering beginning Thursday is telling: the small island nation may prove the most difficult needle to thread in Brussels’ nascent deal with Turkey to take back thousands of migrants now washing ashore in Greece. [UPDATE: Mr Tusk has tacked on an evening trip to Ankara at the last minute.]

Cyprus has long been one of the biggest complicating factors in EU-Turkey relations, so objections from Nicosia to the demands being made by Ankara– another €3bn in aid, a visa-free travel scheme, opening of new “chapters” in EU membership talks – may have been expected. But the small group of EU leaders who brokered last week’s deal, led by Germany’s Angela Merkel, seemed to have forgotten that Cypriot objections this time around are far more consequential: the country is in the middle of delicate talks that diplomats believe are the best (and perhaps last) chance to reunify an island divided since Turkey invaded and held its northern half in 1974. For Mr Anastasiades, making concessions to Ankara now without any compensation would not only cost him politically at home, but could wreck reunification talks altogether since the Greek Cypriot community he leads would likely abandon him. Like all other 27 EU heads of state, Mr Anastasiades can, on his own, veto the Turkey deal.

Officials involved in last week’s summit now admit they may have mishandled the Cyprus issue; at one point, Mr Anastasiades was put into a room with Ms Merkel and the leaders of four other countries, all of whom pressured him to give up the “freeze” Nicosia has on the five membership chapters. The freeze was imposed by Cyprus in 2009 because Ankara had not lived up to commitments made to the EU to recognise the Nicosia-based Greek Cypriot government, and Mr Anastasiades has repeatedly insisted he cannot simply give up on the position without something in return.

Can a deal still be brokered? Mr Anastasiades has told interlocutors he may be willing to remove his veto if Ankara makes a significant concession, such as allowing Cypriot-flagged vessels to dock in Turkish ports and direct flights from Cyprus’ main international airport to fly to Turkish cities. But Ankara’s response to that proposal has been to seek recognition of another airport in Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus, which currently only has flights to Turkey and is considered to be operating illegally by authorities in the south. Ankara has suggested UN administration of the airport – called Ercan after a Turkish fighter pilot who died in the 1974 invasion – but Nicosia views that as an encroachment on its sovereignty. One compromise being floated: have the EU administer it instead through its Cologne-based European Aviation Safety Agency, since that would allow Cyprus to have a say over its management but preserve international control. That idea hasn’t gone far, though.

Some are suggesting being even more ambitions: one of the tried-and-true axioms of international diplomacy is if you can’t solve a problem, make it bigger. If all sides believe a reunification deal should be completed in 2016, maybe Turkey and Cyprus should set a timetable to resolve all their differences in time for the next EU summit in June. But right now, the prospects of any such sea change appear bleak. As one person involved in the talks deadpanned: “Maybe we should invite Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas to join us, too.”

What we’re reading

The EU’s desperate efforts to halt the flows of refugees from the war-torn Middle East may not be needed if the Middle East became a bit less war-torn. In one of the most high-profile demonstrations that much-maligned peace talks may be making progress, the Kremlin announced on its website last night that President Vladimir Putin had informed Syria’s Bashar al-Assad that the Russian military’s work in Syria was done and they would be withdrawing the bulk of their forces. FT Moscow bureau chief Kathrin Hille reports that Russia also said it will retain a presence in country to monitor the ceasefire and ensure its implementation. That has left both the Obama administration and Syrian rebel leaders sceptical about Mr Putin’s game plan.

The other factor that could play into the upcoming EU migration summit is Sunday’s terrorist bombing in central Ankara, where the death toll rose yesterday to 37. EU officials have said they have received no word Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish prime minister who cancelled his participation in an EU summit last month after a similar attack, was thinking of backing out of his session with EU leaders on Friday to hammer out a new refugee agreement. Turkey’s Hürriyet Daily News reported that Mr Davutoglu blamed the Kurdish Workers’ Party, known by its Kurdish initials PKK, for the bombing. And Turkish warplanes struck Kurdish militant positions in northern Iraq yesterday, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Times has an interview with “Turkey’s most wanted man,” PKK co-founder Cemal Bayik, who is promising a summer of revenge.

The unexpectedly strong showing of the anti-immigration party Alternative für Deutschland in Sunday’s German regional elections continued to reverberate across the country’s political firmament yesterday, with Ms Merkel insisting she would not change course in her refugee policy despite AfD’s strong result. But opponents of her policy were not taking it well. Horst Seehofer, head of the CSU – the Bavarian sister party to Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats – was the most high-profile critic: “It cannot be that the answer to the people after such an election result is: everything goes on as before,” Mr Seehofer said. The FT’s Berlin correspondent Guy Chazan has a look at the big winner on Sunday, AfD leader Frauke Petry, who was boasting yesterday the elections were a “slap in the face” to Germany’s mainstream parties.

The refugee crisis produced more troubling images yesterday as migrants stuck on Greece’s border with Macedonia attempted to move north by fording a river, an effort that included passing young children though human chains. The Greek daily Kathimerini reports that three migrants were killed after they were swept away by the torrent. In a bizarre development, Germany’s Bild tabloid has come across a map in Arabic distributed to refugees guiding them to the river crossing that includes the name “Kommando Norbert Blüm” on the bottom. Mr Blüm is a former German labour minister who has recently spent time at the refugee camp, but Bild says it is unclear how his name is linked to the map.

Is the £10.5bn acquisition of Britain’s O2 mobile operator by rival Hutchison in trouble?New data put out yesterday by Austria’s competition and telecoms authorities may force Brussels’ hands since it showed that prices rose as much as 20 per cent after a similar 4-to-3 mobile merger deal there. According to people briefed on the talks with EU competition authorities, Hutchison is offering to sell off about 30 per cent of its network capacity to rivals and divest O2’s 50 per cent stake in Tesco Mobile.

The French government, which has faced street demonstrations from angry unions over its labour reform bill, backed off some of its more controversial measuresyesterday, reports the French business daily Les Echos. Among the more significant changes is eliminating a cap on severance pay for dismissed workers, according to Agence France Presse, which also reported that employers groups expressed dismay at the reversal. Le Monde says Manuel Valls, the prime minister, will present the new revised bill to his cabinet next week.Brussels-Briefing_-The-Cyprus-problem-—-FT

+++ O.P./P.O. (JN) Chipre: o mais maldito dos resgates está a caminho de um final feliz

O.P./P.O.

…”O mais maldito dos resgates”…?

…Que novidade…

…Ver as minhas Opiniões Pessoais…

…Um escândalo e uma vergonha!

Ver: +++ P.O. (FT) Brussels Briefing: Cypriot escape

FCMP

(JNFoi o resgate a um país do euro que mais polémica gerou. Porque foi o primeiro em que o bolso dos depositantes foi chamado a salvar bancos para reduzir o fardo sobre os contribuintes. Chega agora ao fim. Com 30% da ajuda externa por gastar.

Nesse Inverno de 2013, não faltou quem acusasse a Europa  de ter provocado uma “crise estúpida”. Houve até quem concluísse que a União Europeia “morrera” aí, na forma como concebeu o quarto resgate a um país do euro – o primeiro em que o montante do empréstimo externo (que significa dívida a ser paga pelos contribuintes) foi fixado depois de um “bail-in”, ou seja, depois de accionistas e obrigacionistas, incluindo quem detinha depósitos acima de 100 mil euros, terem sido chamados a financiar o salvamento da banca desse país.

Passados meses de acesso dramatismo, o assunto quase desapareceu da imprensa internacional. Bom sinal: quase três anos depois do resgate mais maldito da história do euro, Chipre prepara-se para uma “saída limpa” do programa, na linha do que sucedeu na Irlanda e em Portugal, diferentemente da vizinha Grécia, que, entretanto, já vai no terceiro resgate desde 2010.

A expectativa é que a conclusão do programa da troika (a parte europeia termina em 31 deste mês, a do FMI em 14 de Maio) seja discutida nesta segunda-feira pelo Eurogrupo.  Com eleições parlamentares marcadas para Maio, o ministro das Finanças Harris Georgiades já anunciou que não pedirá uma extensão do programa de financiamento. Mas como não cumpriu todas as medidas previstas no memorando de entendimento (designadamente a privatização da operadora de telecomunicações) deverá ser forçado a dispensar a última fatia do empréstimo externo.

Contas feitas,  dos nove mil milhões prometidos pelos parceiros europeus (aos quais se acrescentariam mil milhões do FMI), foram transferidos para Nicosia 6,3 mil milhões, pelo que sobram 2,7 mil milhões. Ou seja, quase 30% do envelope financeiro originalmente pensado não será, afinal, utilizado.

Esta circunstância só foi possível devido a uma execução férrea do programa de austeridade (aplicado ao Estado e à banca) que permitiu a Nicosia  superar as metas de redução do défice orçamental, não obstante a economia ter afundado quase 6% em 2013. Em  boa medida devido a esse controlo do défice que neste ano já poderá ser excedente, a dívida pública nunca chegou a atingir o pico de 126% previsto no programa original: o auge foi registado em 2014, em 108,2%, e desde então está a cair, prevendo-se que fique aquém de 100% a partir deste ano.

A   reestruturação da banca, por seu turno, foi duríssima. O Cyprus Popular Bank  (conhecido por Laiki Bank, então o segundo maior do país) fechou, os seus depositantes passaram todos para o Bank of Cyprus. A sua actividade e os depósitos garantidos (abaixo de 100 mil euros) foram em grande medida  assegurados com a receita de um imposto extraordinário sobre os maiores depositantes  que suportaram uma perda de 48%. Cerca de metade eram estrangeiros, especialmente russos, que usavam Chipre como o “paraíso fiscal” que então, de facto, era.

Crédito malparado é dos altos do mundo

O controlo sobre as contas públicos e a estabilização do sector financeiro permitiram ao governo levantar as restrições aos movimentos de capitais e regressar mais cedo do que o antecipado a operações de financiamento directo através dos mercados.

Mas nem tudo são rosas. Persistem três enormes dores de cabeça: o elevadíssimo peso do crédito malparado nos bancos (quase 50%, um dos piores rácios do mundo), uma elevadíssima dívida privada (na casa dos 300%, também entre as mais altas à escala global) e, portanto, uma capacidade de investimento endógena muitíssimo limitada.

Para crescer e absorver o também tremendo desemprego (ainda perto de 15%), Chipre precisa de investimento estrangeiro como de pão para a boca. Apesar de terem subido, os “ratings” das principais agências ainda não saíram da zona de “lixo” (incluindo o da DBRS), o que não é bom cartão de visita. Essa circunstância pode ainda comprometer a aceitação por parte do BCE de dívida cipriota, que até agora era admitida como colateral entregue pelos bancos e como activo elegível para o programa de compras porque Chipre estava num “programa” respaldado pelos demais países europeus. A expectativa é que Frankfurt decida “em breve” retomar esse tratamento excepcional a troco de garantias de Nicosia perante Bruxelas de que não se desviará do rumo até agora seguido.

Tábua de salvação: o turismo britânicoAo longo destes anos de ajustamento, o sector exportador foi o único que não afundou. E o grande responsável foi o sector do turismo, que gera cerca de 25% do PIB, especialmente o oriundo do Reino Unido. No ano passado, o  número de turistas que visitaram a ilha subiu quase 9% atingindo um recorde absoluto de mais de 2,6 milhões. Este aumento deveu-se em larguíssima medida ao afluxo de turistas britânicos, que subiu 20% face ao ano anterior, ultrapassando pela primeira vez desde 2011 a barreira de um milhão. Já o número de turistas da Rússia, segundo maior mercado, caiu  quase 18%.



+++ P.O. (FT) Brussels Briefing: Cypriot escape

The Cypriot bailout is one of the major scandals of the EU.
I have written extensively on this issue.
It was the European Commission that caused the crisis in Cyprus.
But they had told the Government in Cyprus that it would not happen.
There is very little that banks can rationally finance in Cyprus.
So, when deposits grew, the local banks invested in what they thought they knew better…
Greek Sovereign Bonds.
The EU, by imposing a haircut in Greek bonds, effectively bankrupted the Cyprus Banks.
A full eighteen months before the bailout.
And why eighteen months…?
Because it was the time needed by the European Banks to disengage from Cyprus.
And, during that period, the European Commission was promising Cyprus that they would solve the problem.
Some economist argue that the penalties imposed of bank deposits were not needed.
Or not needed to their full extent.
This is another case, in which the European Commission should be investigated.
And the ECB also.
Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(FT) And then there was one. If all goes according to plan, eurozone finance ministers will bid a fond farewell to the Cypriot bailout on Monday, making the island nation the fourth of the five countries that were forced into a rescue programme at the height of the crisis to exit. Only Greece remains.In many respects, the Cypriots have been model bailout students. Nicosia only spent about €7.5bn of the €10bn originally allocated in the programme, and its economy returned to growth last year, a full year earlier than the bailout’s architects anticipated. Indeed, it has out-performed on almost every major economic indicator: its debt levels are lower than originally forecast, its projected budget deficit isn’t a deficit, and its current account is almost in balance.

Still, not everything is so rosy. Most importantly, the bailout will end without the Cypriot government completing all the reform tasks it was supposed to – the privatisation of the state telecommunications operator proved too politically radioactive so close to parliamentary elections, so won’t be done in time. As a result, Monday’s eurogroup meeting will be a farewell, but not a formal closure of the programme. That will happen at the end of the month when the three-year rescue just expires.

Some investors are also concerned that when Cyprus exits, its sovereign debt will no longer be eligible to be purchased by the European Central Bank as part of Frankfurt’s quantitative easing programme. Nicosia’s bonds are rated below investment grade, which makes them ineligible. While the country is in a bailout programme, it gets a “waiver” that allows the ECB to buy the bonds. Outside a bailout, the waiver is expected to disappear. The government believes it has sufficient cash reserves so it won’t have to dip back into the markets for financing any time soon – but it will eventually. Without the benefit of the ECB buying its bonds, it could find the cost of borrowing more hefty than expected.

There’s also one big expense that original bailout planners didn’t account for: the chance that the long-divided island could reunify, which is expected to bring with it a large bill to compensate those who lost land in Turkey’s 1974 invasion. Cypriot officials have signalled that could cost billions, and are expecting international donors (including the EU) to help foot the bill. EU officials have been a bit less sanguine, warning Nicosia that billions will not be forthcoming.

Add in a banking sector still weighed down by non-performing loans (which currently account for a whopping 150 per cent of economic output) and Cyprus’ exit could eventually prove rocky. But for now, both EU and Cypriot officials will be celebrating.

What we’re reading

Donald Tusk’s two-day visit to Turkey got off to a promising start yesterday when, in an Ankara meeting with prime minister Ahmet Davotuglu, he was told the Turkish government was willing to take back non-Syrian migrants who are making the crossing into Greece – as well as Syrians, if they’re picked up in international waters. Both of those have been high on the EU’s list of demands, and could pave the way to a more comprehensive agreement at Monday’s emergency EU summit. The tentative deal came after some tough talk by Mr Tusk in Athens, where he stopped yesterday morning before travelling to Turkey. Standing beside Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, Mr Tusk bluntly warned economic migrants, “Do not come to Europe.” The Greek daily To Vima reports that at the press conference, Mr Tsipras promised not to “leave anyone helpless,” but reiterated he would not allow Greece to become “a warehouse of souls”.

While Mr Tusk meets with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul today, another major protagonist in Europe’s migration debate travels in a somewhat different direction. Horst Seehofer, head of the Bavarian conservative party that is nominally an ally to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, is headed to Budapest to meet with anti-immigration ringleader Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, reports Süddeutsche Zeitung. In an interview with Stuttgarter Zeitung, Sigmar Gabriel, head of the Social Democrats, lashes out at his grand coalition partner, saying Mr Seehofer is weakening Ms Merkel’s negotiating position.

French and German foreign ministers met with their Russian and Ukrainian counterparts in Paris last night in an attempt to get Ukraine’s peace talks on track, but Reuters reports there was little progress. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports the stalemate prompted an uncharacteristic outburst from Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who angrily warned the war could soon escalate. The UN released a new report on the conflict yesterday, and while it found the number of casualties had fallen in recent months, overall the fighting has claimed 9,160 lives.

Some of Europe’s heaviest political hitters are beginning to weigh in against Brexit. After Emmanuel Macron, in an interview with the FT, warned that Britain leaving the EU could scupper a deal that allows UK authorities to process migrants in Calais, his boss President François Hollande weighed in saying he “can’t deny” that Brexit would have an impact on migration policy. During a stop in London, Wolfgang Schäuble, the normally gruff German finance minister, insisted he would “cry” if Britain left, adding it would leave Europe “less stable and more volatile.”

The counting in the Irish elections finally ended yesterday and Fine Gael, the party of Irish prime minister Enda Kenny which barely eked out a win in last week’s vote, held its first post-election meeting in Dublin. The Irish Times reports that Michael Noonan, the finance minister, predicted any new government would not serve out its term and that new elections were likely within two years. In its account of the meeting, the Irish Independent said Mr Kenny told party MPs that he was working to find independents who could support a Fine Gael-led government. But with just 50 seats in the 158 parliament, he’s going to have to find a whole lot of independents to get a majority.

Finally, Libération offers a profile of one of the eurozone’s most powerful men you’ve never heard of, ECB executive board member Benoit Coeuré. In the piece Mr Coeuré, who is the board member responsible for Brussels issues like eurozone bailouts, is described as a down-to-earth common man with simple tastes and an unassuming manner — “the opposite” of Jean-Claude Trichet, the last Frenchman to serve in the ECB’s inner sanctum. In the piece, Mr Coeuré describes his boss, ECB chief Mario Draghi, as a man who acts with “Anglo-Saxon pragmatism.”Brussels-Briefing_-Cypriot-escape-_-Brussels-blog