Greek Account Deficit 2011 9.9% of GDP
Greek Account Deficit 2008 14.7% of GDP
GDP estimate (3rd quarter):-7.2%
GDP estimate (2nd quarter):-6.3%
Population of Athens:
2012 estimates non-Greek immigrants at over 800,000 (legal) and 350,000+ (illegal) in Greece.
Rick Steves' Greece: Athens & the Peloponnese amazon.com
Nice interactive world map that shows the credit ratings for sovereign nations around the planet. That's right: Greece has a burning red "substantial risk" rating at present.
With national ratings and global banks all experiencing a phenomenon of credit rating 'adjustments', I don't know for how long this chart will be accurate.
Entire chart at chartbin.com
Bust: Greece, the Euro and the Sovereign Debt Crisis - By Matthew Lynn amazon.com
Greece's 'Odious' Debt: The Looting of the Hellenic Republic by the Euro, the Political Elite and the Investment Community - By Jason Manolopoulos amazon.com
Understanding the Crisis in Greece: From Boom to Bust - By Theodore Pelagidis amazon.com
The Imminent Crisis: Greek Debt and the Collapse of the European Monetary Union amazon.com
Eyewitness Greece - Athens and the Mainland - 352 Pages
"Greece’s government has turned around its public finances and is running a budget surplus before interest payments. The cuts it made to get there deepened the six-year slump that cost the country a quarter of its economic output and fueled popular opposition to the bailouts. As a result, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has repeatedly pledged that Greece won’t need another bailout or new austerity measures.
Some economists don’t believe him. The proportion of those surveyed who said more aid will be needed hasn’t changed since a poll in April, just before Greece sold bonds in a return to markets that Samaras hailed as a vote of investor confidence."
"Taken from the International Space Station, this photograph snapped on March 21 shows a cloud-free view of most of Greece. The large peninsula at the center of the image is the Peloponnese, home to the famous city of Sparta. The Peloponnese is connected to the Greek mainland by the Isthmus of Corinth. The city of Corinth, rebuilt in 1858 after an earthquake destroyed the ancient city, is visible as a small, gray developed area on the western coast of the isthmus, where it connects to the Peloponnese.
On the east side of the isthmus, farther north, is Megara. This city sits across from the island of Salamis, and, historically, was an important port for trade around the Mediterranean."
"A decade ago anti-Americanism was on the rise around the world, in large part thanks to public opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Today, despite recent revelations of U.S. National Security Agency spying on foreign leaders and global opposition to U.S. drone strikes, there is little evidence of profound anti-Americanism except in a handful of countries, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 44 nations. Foreigners’ love affair with the United States remains strong in Africa and most of Asia, Europe and Latin America. But who likes Uncle Sam, who doesn’t and whose affections are evolving paints a pretty accurate road map of the overseas challenges facing Washington in the years ahead."
"According to a new survey conducted on a global level by Pew Research Center and published in the American newspaper New York Daily News, Greece ranks 6th on the list of countries that dislike America."
"After a successful issue of five-year bonds in April, Greece said it would sell three-year bonds “in the near future.” A statement by Greece’s Finance Ministry provided no details about the size or exact timing of the debt offering, but Greek news media said the sale, which would begin Thursday morning, would try to raise 2.5 billion to 3 billion euros, or $3.4 billion to $4.1 billion, and that the bonds would pay an interest rate of less than 3.5 percent.
Greece plans to use the proceeds from the sale, which will adhere to British law, to finance the repayment of €6 billion of debt maturing next month.
The fresh call for funds comes as investors looking for better returns flock to the higher-paying debt of countries like Greece. This month, Portugal and Ireland, both of which recently emerged from their international bailouts, made new forays into capital markets.
Analysts said that three-year bonds were not common but that the choice of such debt was in keeping with Greece’s desire to build demand for its short-, medium- and long-term debt. “The Greeks are trying to build confidence along the yield curve,” said Mujtaba Rahman, a director at the London-based Eurasia Group. “The three-year bond issue speaks to that strategy.”
"Greeks like Fotou are contributing to what the country’s two biggest telecom service providers OTE and Forthnet say is a doubling of subscribers to combined TV and online packages in the past two years. The increase comes even as unemployment climbed to 27 percent and retail sales plunged for a fourth consecutive year.
The number of Greek pay-TV subscribers stands at 760,000, up from about 300,000 at the end of 2012, according to estimates by OTE and Forthnet. This gives a market penetration of 19.5 percent, after it had been stuck at between 11 percent to 13 percent for nearly 10 years. "
"...market sentiment has picked up in recent months for Greece, which expects to emerge from recession this year and successfully returned to bond markets twice this year after a four-year exile.
Subscriptions for the IPO exceeded the 20.67 million ordinary shares on offer, with more than half coming from institutional investors, lead manager NBG Securities said on Monday in a bourse filing.
But the offer price was set right at the bottom of the 1.70-1.97 euro range, it said. Based on that, the firm raised 35.1 million euros ($47.9 million).
The July 9-11 offering also took place against a backdrop of unease in European stock markets triggered by concerns over the financial health of the chief shareholder in Portugal's biggest listed bank, Banco Espirito Santo (BES). "
"It's a haunting sight: planes sit on the runway, but they don’t go anywhere. Chairs are scattered across the terminal, but nobody sits on them. Escalators take prime position, but they haven’t moved in more than a decade.
Built in 1938, it was the first airport for Greece’s capital of Athens and remained its hub for 60 years. However it was closed back in 2001 and has now fallen into ruins, with these stark photographs taken by local Vassilis Makris showing its eerie remains."
"...To protect homeowners from total ruin, Greece has restricted forced auctions of a debtor's primar residence.
But a related backlog of court appeals for bankruptcy protection – 100,000 according to some estimates – could take a decade to resolve.
The Bank of Greece recently issued a set of recommendations to banks on how to deal with the is that included partial debt write-downs, extended loan terms and the acceptance of additional for of collateral."
"Not all passports have the same power. The passport of an American citizen entitles him free entrance to 172 countries without a visa. Citizens of Iraq can visit 31 countries while citizens of Afghanistan have more limited options with 28 countries.
Each Greek citizen can visit 167 countries without a visa. Although Greece is a small country, its passport is ranked fifth among the most powerful in the world."
"The Greeks are in a struggle for survival. And the odds are piling up against us. The fight is not only on the economic front, as we try to meet our commitments under an international 240-billion-euro bailout deal that has resulted in greatly reduced incomes, higher costs and taxes, and an overriding sense of insecurity. The danger is even more basic: Deaths are outnumbering births, people are leaving the country, and the population is aging so fast that in a few decades Greece may be unable to produce enough wealth to take care of its people and may cease to be a viable nation state.
“...In 2012, the number of employed people in Greece was 3.8 million, while pensioners and the unemployed totaled 4.1 million, out of a population of 11,062,500. Fewer and fewer people are shouldering the burden of keeping the country on its feet.
...Even without statistical confirmation, the trend is evident. Some maternity hospitals have shut down wings and turned them over to other medical specialties, while many schools in the provinces and on the islands have only a handful of students. In village after village, the elderly outnumber locals and immigrants of working age.”
"To hear Greek News tell it, nobody in the country is crying about the Hellenic Post privatization: “Unlike in the United States and some other countries, Greek postal office workers and delivery persons don’t wear uniforms and most post offices close at 2 p.m. and aren’t open on Saturdays. The system has received complaints that delivery people don’t always put the mail in mailboxes but toss it in hallways and yards of apartments.”
One reason the Greek government hasn’t sold Hellenic Post already is that it’s been trying to cut the agency’s operational costs and make it more attractive to possible buyers. That’s not speeding the process. It might be best for the Greek government to leave the trimming to an unsentimental buyer such as CVC. There aren’t many private equity companies investing in postal systems in the age of e-mail."
"Parts of Greece were hit by power cuts on Thursday evening after electricity workers began one of a series of 48-hour strikes against government plans to sell off part of the country's biggest power producer.
Some Athens districts, remote villages in the island of Crete and areas in the north and south had their power cut for up to an hour during peak evening demand times, after 13 power stations were taken off line late on Wednesday, an official at power distribution agency DEDDIE said.
Earlier, the grid operator declared a state of emergency, citing a significant reduction of power output.
Liberalizing the energy sector is a key condition under Greece's 240-billion euro bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and parliament is debating a bill that would allow the government to privatize the Public Power Corporation (PPC) in 2015 by spinning off 30 percent.
Unions say electricity is a public good that should remain under state control and some 800 PCC workers rallied outside company headquarters in central Athens and then marched to the finance ministry against the privatization."
"It is Greece’s classic summer ritual: the arrival of the island ferry, funnels billowing, horns blaring, gangplanks screeching as wide-eyed tourists prepare to disembark. Last week in the wind-swept Cyclades, the popular isle of Paros was no exception.
One by one they came vessels the size of tenement blocks disgorging holidaymakers onto an esplanade dotted with little white buildings in scenes of exuberant commotion. For Andreas Hadjiathanasiou, whose car rental agency has a seafront view of the spectacle, the new arrivals are a welcome sight.
The season has barely begun and business has already doubled. “We’ve ordered 60 new vehicles,” says the operations manager who has relocated from Athens to Paros for the summer. “It’s early days but tourists are pouring in from all over the place. Forget the crisis! I’d say this is one of our best years yet.”
"A key body monitoring Greece's bailout approved the disbursement of the next batch of rescue loans Friday, after the country met outstanding reform targets that had delayed the payment.
Greece's finance ministry said the Euro Working Group, made up of finance ministry officials from the 18-country eurozone and representatives from the European Commission and European Central Bank, approved the installment during a teleconference Friday.
Eurozone finance ministers are expected to formally approve the disbursement of the 1 billion-euro ($1.36 billion) installment in a meeting in Brussels on Monday.
To access the funds, Greece had to meet six specific targets, including passing legislation and reforming the pharmaceutical sector to lower pharmacies' profit margins and therefore prices."
"According to Endeavor Greece, the country lost a total of 1 million jobs over the last five years. Three sectors alone account for 2/3 of the jobs that were lost: construction, retail/wholesale trade and non-food manufacturing. Meanwhile, other sectors such as real-estate have been practically wiped out.
...It is now clear that Greece should focus on specific sectors, such as agriculture, food manufacturing, tourism, logistics, and technology where the country has an advantage in regards to raw materials, geographical position and human resources.
It is estimated that more than 640,000 will be forced to change field of work, while more than 500,000 will be forced to move outside Athens and Thessaloniki to seek work in other parts of Greece."
“His legacy is very, very important,” Constantine II, who is Juan Carlos’ brother-in-law, said. “He went through a very difficult period to do that. But I was convinced that he would overcome all the difficulties, and he has done that.”
The monarch will step down after 40 years on the throne and hand power to his 46-year-old son, Crown Prince Felipe.
“Although I'm not party to his decision,” Constantine II said, “I suspect that he considered that forty years is quite substantial.”
“And so the difficulty is to find the right moment; I believe that he has done that. He has found the right moment.”
In 1969, Juan Carlos was designated successor to the dictator Francisco Franco; when Franco died in 1975, he successfully steered his country back to democracy."
Grim images of disarray and disaster compiled into a outline of what the photographer, Andrew Boryga, feels is happening to Greece.
"Greece’s top industry, tourism, is set to reach new highs this summer after setting records last year. Foreign investors are looking to take advantage of cheap labor, cheap real estate and a better investment climate. Only last week, the Chinese premier was in Greece, signing $4 billion of commercial deals and declaring that the country could become China’s gateway to Europe.
One might have thought Mr. Samaras would stick with the team that helped deliver this success. But the prime minister was scared after his center-right New Democracy party was beaten into second position in the European Parliament elections last month by Syriza, the radical left group, and so promoted some populist politicians.
...The head of the quasi-independent tax agency was forced to quit. This was because he had made a mistake in issuing a circular saying that holders of Greek bonds would face retrospective taxation, according to two officials. His replacement will be chosen by a committee that includes France’s top tax official, so there is no risk of cronyism, they say.
But Greece’s euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund are not convinced of this explanation."
"Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang oversaw the signing of trade and investment deals worth some $4.6 billion with Greece Thursday during a visit expected to help boost the recession-plagued country's economy.
At a press conference with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Li expressed support for bailed-out Greece's economic revival effort. He also said China plans to increase its purchases of Greek government bonds when new ones are issued in a sale expected later this summer.
"We have never abandoned the Greek bond market but we are increasing our purchases," Li said. "I have expressed my will to Mr. Samaras that when the Greek government issues new bonds China will continue to be a long-term and responsible investor in Greek bonds."
"There was a time when Greece's shipowners adorned the covers of gossip magazines and ran football clubs, secure in the affection of millions of fans. But these days, men like Theodoros Veniamis, one of the richest shippers in the country, need personal protection. Many don't leave home without it.
On the list of Greeks hated by their countrymen, shipowners have almost reached the top; only politicians are more reviled. They are threatened by radical leftist groups and even physically attacked. There have also been attempted kidnappings. In at least one case, a family of a shipowner paid millions in ransom.
...But now the ship owners are facing pressure. The government in Athens has extracted their approval to voluntarily double tonnage-tax duties, a move that is expected to translate into €140 million in tax revenues from the shipping industry annually for the next three years."
"Greek people are inured to uncertainty. The Greek word abebaios means “without a foundation, unsafe”. It suggests that uncertainty emanates from a lack of structure in the Greek world. Question marks settle themselves on almost all social issues.
Perhaps only those who have emigrated and – with spectacular success in some cases – made new lives elsewhere, found something more certain. All this is by way of a preamble to the fact that Greece hasn’t known this degree of uncertainty for many years.
...Greece had a fragile coalition before the elections, with conservative ND and socialist Pasok clinging to the slimmest of majorities. Today, that coalition seems even more unsteady. A general election now would see Syriza as the largest party, capable of forming a new-look coalition.
Of the 21 new Greek MEPs, six are Syriza, five ND, three Golden Dawn (fascists), one Pasok, two from the new Potami (river) party and two Communists.
The fact that one of these Syriza MEPs is 91-year-old Manolis Gletzos who as a teenager removed the Nazi flag from the Acropolis, is a sign not only of his continuing protest against fascism but also of the electorate’s wish to indicate that some values transcend and outlive the mundanities of party politics."
"The Greek government has made a range of painful cuts to salaries, pensions and jobs for public workers over the last four years, saying they were needed to satisfy the demands of the international creditors that bailed the country out. But the Greeks hurt by those steps, and the nation’s courts, have a different idea.
Steadily, citizens groups — including police officers, university professors, cleaning workers and judges themselves — have challenged the cuts as illegal or unconstitutional. And in case after case, Greek courts have agreed, presenting a nearly existential question for the government: Can it actually shrink the state?
The mounting pile of judgments has now become a serious obstacle to the austerity drive of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, with the International Monetary Fund warning this week that the “adverse court rulings” threaten to undo the country’s reforms, which its creditors are scheduled to begin reviewing in July.
... “This is an avalanche that’s started,” said Jens Bastian, an economic consultant and former official on the European Commission’s task force for Greece. “It’s not going to stop.”
...In January, Greece’s top administrative court, the Council of State, deemed that the government’s cuts to the wages of police and armed forces employees violated the Constitution. In February, the same court ruled that a tax on benefits for university staff members and cuts to civil servants’ pensions were illegal. The same month, Greek Supreme Court judges found that a property tax introduced in 2011 as an emergency measure and later extended was unconstitutional. Another court rejected cuts to the salaries of state hospital doctors, university professors and, unsurprisingly, judges."
"Former Greek finance minister Yannis Stournaras, who spearheaded Greece's return to economic stability after it nearly crashed out of the euro zone, is to become the next Bank of Greece governor, the central bank said on Wednesday.
Stournaras, 57, will take over from George Provopoulos when the latter's term ends on June 19, days after being replaced as finance minister as part of a wide cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
His appointment means he will be a member of the European Central Bank's Governing Council."
"Greece has launched a multi-billion euro claim against one of Germany’s biggest defence firms who sold the financially-beleaguered country four submarines in a complicated deal which has become symbolic of the country’s economic woes.
The controversial deal has threatened Greece’s position in Nato, according to well-placed sources, led to the criminal prosecution of the country’s defence minister and the resignation of a senior Naval figure.
Last year, the former defence minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos was jailed after being found guilty of receiving an €8m bribe from Ferrostaal, one of the German companies involved in the deal. Ferrostaal agreed to pay a €140m fine.
Stelios Fenekos, a 52-year-old vice admiral of the 22,000-man strong Greek Navy, also resigned his position in the wake of a row over the vessels. He said he did so in protest at the Greek defence minister’s decision to purchase the submarines, as well as other decisions taken that Mr Fenekos considers “politically motivated”.
"Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Greece on Monday replaced his finance minister as part of a sweeping government shuffle intended to re-energize his coalition after its weak performance in European Parliament elections last month.
The new finance minister, Gikas Hardouvelis, a respected university professor and former government adviser, will replace Yannis Stournaras and try to enact a tough economic reform program that has been imposed by the country’s international creditors in exchange for continued rescue loans.
Mr. Stournaras is expected to take over the top spot at the country’s central bank."
"Greece's conservative-led government is open to selling-off all of the country's major ports as part of its sweeping privatization program, something that it hopes will attracts billions of euros in new investments and create new jobs.
Speaking in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Greece's Minister for Shipping Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said that the country was ready to "roll out the red carpet" for investors in the 13 major ports it is planning to sell off, and was ready to consider private investment even in smaller harbors.
"I think privately managed companies can be more efficient and more aggressive in the market," Mr. Varvitsiotis said. "We want to exploit Greece's geographical position. The goal, however, is not just to raise money, it is to attract more business investment."
Sitting at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa--and less than a day's sea voyage from the Suez Canal--Greece has a natural geographic advantage in the Asia to Europe shipping trade loop; the world's busiest in terms of cargo moved."
"The European Commission expressed "serious concern" Thursday after Greece's powerful public revenues chief — a position created in 2012 at the insistence of bailout creditors — resigned citing "personal" reasons.
The Finance Ministry said it had accepted the resignation of Harry Theoharis, who quit a year and a half into his five-year term.
...The official's resignation came before a planned Cabinet reshuffle, expected within days, following the conservative-led coalition government's weak showing in European parliamentary elections last month.
Establishing a secretary-general for public revenues in the finance ministry was one of the conditions set by Greece's creditors to continue releasing rescue loans. The position was intended to boost independent decision-making and address the country's poor record of inefficiency and political interference in tax administration."
"In the midst of the financial crisis, Greece has been placed among the 10 most miserable countries in the world. Specifically, after a recent survey conducted by a Gallup poll, Greece came 4th on the list of miserable countries, just before Syria, that is in the middle of a civil war and right after Egypt, which is plagued with riots and coup d’ états."
"Candace Kendall, also known as Candace Kuykendall, graduated from Greece Arcadia High School and St. John Fisher College. She won the Miss New York pageant in January.
Kendall, who was Miss New York Teen USA in 2006, currently works as a full-time model in New York City."
"The International Monetary Fund on Friday approved $4.6 billion in long-delayed bailout funds for Greece, nine months after its last disbursement as Athens struggles to implement tough changes to its economy.
The country met a major milestone in its historically large and highly controversial bailout by posting a budget surplus late last year, and Greece's economy is expected to return to growth again this year after a six-year depression.
But the government had been unable to push through policies the IMF said would be necessary to spur competition and growth, such as changes to product markets and liberalizing protected sectors.
...The IMF's bailout tranche combines two bailout reviews after IMF and Greek officials fought for months over the conditions that would allow loan disbursal. Officials reached a tentative deal in March that needed final approval by the fund's executive board.
One outstanding issue, however, is how to reduce Greece's massive debt burden.
...Greece's debt is around 175% of gross domestic product, and Europe has promised to help Athens cut that to levels "significantly lower" than 110% by 2022."
"Nikos Michaloliakos and five other Golden Dawn lawmakers were jailed several months ago on charges of running a criminal organization, as part of an investigation into the Nazi-inspired party following last year's killing of a left-wing musician.
One of the jailed lawmakers has since been kicked out of the party, but all retain their parliamentary seats.
...Supporters of Greece's extremist right-wing Golden Dawn party have gathered outside Parliament ahead of an appearance by the party's jailed leader at a debate on lifting his immunity from prosecution on further charges."
" Tsipras, 39, last week spoke of attracting capital to regenerate the economy, pledged to maintain a stable tax regime for companies and offered to cooperate with Europe’s traditional left-wing parties in his first interview since claiming the biggest share of the vote in European elections.
It’s a far cry from the rhetoric of July 2012 when he announced his arrival on the international stage by telling prospective bidders for the crippled Greek state’s assets that he’d make sure they lost their money. Fast-forward two years and with the economy set to expand for the first time since 2008, Tsipras is appealing to a broader audience.
“There is a gradual move to the center,” Aristides Hatzis, a professor of law and economics at the University of Athens, said in a May 30 telephone interview. “Tsipras and the leadership of Syriza have realized this is the only way to achieve a majority at the polls. After the European elections, this strategy is clearly dominant.”
“...We want to attract investors in Greece who will kick start an investment shock to restart the economy,” Tsipras said in a May 28 interview at his office in Athens. “There are two conditions for attracting those investors: to feel safe about the euro area and the prospects of the Greek economy and to see serious public investment.”
The response seems to be "please, no more help!"
"Disputing Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ assertion the country is on the road to recovery from a crushing economic crisis, the country will need a third bailout of under 10 billion euros ($13.6 billion), German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said.
Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, ahead of critical May elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament, had steadfastly and repeatedly denied Greece would need more aid beyond the 240 billion euros ($327 billion) put up by the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) in two bailouts, most of which run out this year.
But Schaeuble, whose country has put up much of the money and demanded harsh austerity measures in return, told the German news magazine Focus that Greece still needs help.
He didn’t say if more tough conditions would be insisted upon in return, with Samaras, whose New Democracy Conservatives took a beating in the EU ballot, having said he would never ever again implement more austerity, although he already has, with more pension cuts coming.
According to the interview, Schaeuble said that the second bailout, given in 2012, wasn’t big enough. The Troika estimates it will take until 2022 before the country’s debt is sustainable, which he said means a third rescue package."
"Greece sought on Sunday to calm fears of further austerity, after Germany's finance minister raised the prospect of a third rescue package for the struggling nation.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview published on Sunday that "it's possible that Greece might require further aid, of a limited amount".
"It would be significantly lower than the two previous rescue packages - meaning no more than 10 billion euros (US$13.6 billion)," he told Focus magazine.
His comments fanned fears that the Greek government would be forced to impose further tough reforms including job and wage cuts in exchange for the aid.
Greece's radical leftist party Syriza, which won the European elections on an anti-austerity ticket, said Schaueble's comments pointed to "new measures" that would "exhaust people".
But the Greek finance ministry said the country had no immediate need of extra help."
"The drama playing out in Greece over the past four years may hold useful lessons for Europe. Not every vote lost by the center is a vote against the Union. In Sunday’s election, a coalition of the remnants of the two pro-European Union parties that dominated the Greek political center for decades was hit by a pincer movement from left and right. Syriza, a radical left party, won the most votes (26.6 percent), while the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn finished third, with 9.4 percent. The senior coalition partner, the center-right New Democracy, won 22.7 percent, while its junior partner, the center-left Pasok (running as part of the “Olive Tree” alliance), got 8 percent.
This confirmed opinion polls that Syriza was the party with the strongest support since national elections in June 2012. Syriza is opposed to the austerity program imposed on Greece in 2010 but is not anti-European Union. Golden Dawn is against austerity but also strongly against the European Union. The two parties represent the often bloody historical divide between Greece’s left and right and would never agree on anything besides attacking the government.
Greece is not the first country to witness a protest movement against economic austerity, nor the first where xenophobic extremists have made their presence felt. But nowhere have the two extremes grown so influential so quickly, as formerly fringe groups fed off voters’ anger and insecurity and wore down the credibility of mainstream parties.
In national elections in 2009, before the crisis, Syriza won just 4.6 percent of the vote, while Golden Dawn barely registered, with 0.3 percent (just 19,624 votes). But their recent strong showing, and the coalition government’s weakening, suggests that if these had been national elections the results would have rendered Greece ungovernable, as no party could have formed a viable coalition with any like-minded group. With the economy still on life support, such political instability would be devastating."
"Greece's left-wing party Syriza bucked the lurch right in Europe's elections, beating the country's two political mainstays into first place.
The party posted an estimated 27% of the vote, four points clear of the center-right's New Democracy, which is headed by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
EU elections: A far-right 'earthquake'
The results were in sharp contrast to the dramatic rise of Marine Le Pen's National Front in France and UKIP in the United Kingdom, both far-right nationalist parties. Syriza received almost three times the votes polled by Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party, which gained nearly 10% and two parliamentarians despite its leaders facing charges of running a criminal organization.
...Tsipras, who dominated the left-wing stage during Greece's national elections in 2012, said the results were "historic," and revealed a firm rejection of Europe's austerity measures.
"The message is that the disastrous policy of austerity must be terminated. All European nations must invest in democracy, growth, social cohesion and solidarity," he said.
In a statement, Syriza said the European election results showed the government no longer had "moral and political legitimacy" to negotiate with Europe and that the party would seek a snap election."
"93.2% of Greek beach meets the strictest level of "excellent" (82.6% in the EU) and 99.2% (94.7% in the EU) meets the minimum requirements, according to the annual report of the European Committee on the quality of bathing water in the EU in Greece tested 2,162 beaches."
'The popular right-wing have gained massively in Austria and Greece, and in France Marine Le Pen's Front National will gain at least 20 seats. The non-mainstream right of the European Parliament will hold up to 83 seats, according to an exit poll analysis published by Bell Pottinger, a Brussels public relations firm."
"The quake struck at 12:25 p.m. local time (0925 GMT) southwest of the Greek island of Samothraki, 210 kilometers (130 miles) east of Thessaloniki and 296 kilometers (185 miles) northeast of the capital Athens. It was also close to the Turkish island of Gokceada and the Greek island of Lemnos.
...The Institute of Geophysics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki said the magnitude of the quake was 6.3. The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported a magnitude of 6.4, later revised to 6.9."
"I was worried my public life would start and end with a glass of water," Dourou said in an interview. "But thankfully people no longer know of Rena Dourou because of that incident."
Dourou's style - she often bangs her hand on the table to emphasize a point and is known for using slang - and her pledge to end a "humanitarian crisis" in debt-ridden Greece have helped Syriza breakthrough in a region that has so far been a bastion of support for the coalition centre-right and Socialist parties.
"Ours is no longer a vote of frustration and anger. Two years later, this vote has crystallized because of a clear plan and because our predictions came true: unfortunately, Greek national debt is not sustainable," she told Reuters this week.
"It's no longer a vote cast blindly in the dark."
Indeed, her strong electoral performance in local elections last Sunday highlights the danger facing Greece's fragile coalition in the upcoming EU vote, which has turned into a referendum of sorts for a government that has imposed harsh cutbacks to meet the requirements of its EU/IMF bailout.
Most polls show Syriza - led by firebrand Alexis Tsipras - with a small lead over conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's New Democracy party.
A decisive Syriza victory by a margin of more than a few points could threaten a government hanging on to a two-seat parliamentary majority, especially if Syriza took a bigger share of the vote than New Democracy and Socialist coalition partner PASOK put together, analysts say."
"Forecasts suggest that nearly one-third of the 751 seats in the Parliament will be won by euroskeptic parties, which come from both the left and right wing. While hostile to the EU for a range of reasons, they’re typically protesting austerity measures or immigration. They’ve seen an increase in popularity in the wake of the financial crisis, which began to rock markets full-force in 2008.
In that light, Stephen Pope, managing partner at research company Spotlight Ideas, says the key results will be from Greece, where the far-left Syriza party leads in the polls. Syriza opposes the massive bailout deals that were crafted between Greece’s coalition government and the troika of international lenders — the European Commission, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
“We’ve done so much heavy lifting … over saving Greece. Nobody who’s in the euro zone will deliberately try to force Greece out,” he said in a telephone interview.
But if Syriza wins enough support in the European Parliamentary election, “one could easily see a push to have a new [Greek] election this year. That’s a big problem to me,” he added.
Financial markets tend to be indifferent about the parliamentary election, as investors give more weight to national voting, Pope said. But this time it could be different."
"Greece's leftist Syriza party performed strongly in key races in the first round of local elections on Sunday, as voters poured out their anger at the government's austerity policies.
The vote, along with European Parliament elections a week later, is being closely watched as a gauge of sentiment towards the coalition of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, which came to power two years ago and holds just a two-seat majority in parliament.
Official projections showed Syriza making the run-off in the race for mayor of symbolically important Athens. It also led in the wider Attica region, which includes just under a third of Greece's population.
"There is a new trend in favor of anti-establishment parties," political analyst John Loulis said. "... Although people don't trust Syriza yet, they are willing to experiment."
"Inviting European citizens to participate in elections but not to vote for extremist parties, he addressed the EPP. Jean-Claude Juncker candidate for President of the European Commission, said during the last press conference as part of his presidential campaign today in Brussels .
"The vote for extremist parties means at best empty seats in the European Parliament", said the former president of the Eurogroup.
"Vote, vote, but not extremists, fascists and xenophobes, who unfortunately still exist in Europe. If we want a Europe that works to serve the citizens should vote for people who will work hard over the years to the European Parliament, which will defend European valuesand fundamental rights."
"When the Anti-Defamation League published its global anti-Semitism survey last week, Greece, the cradle of democracy, captured the ignominious title of most anti-Semitic country in Europe.
With 69 percent of Greeks espousing anti-Semitic views, according to the survey, Greece was on par with Saudi Arabia, more anti-Semitic than Iran (56 percent) and nearly twice as anti-Semitic as Europe’s second-most anti-Semitic country, France (37 percent).
...both the ADL and Greece’s small Jewish community caution that the reality is more nuanced than the poll numbers suggest.
...For their part, Greek Jewish leaders took pains to point out that despite widespread bigotry, Greece hasn’t seen the sort of anti-Jewish violence that has cropped up in some other European countries, such as France.
“Despite the poll showing high levels of anti-Semitism, it must be noted that in Greece over the last four years we have not had any anti-Semitic violence against people or Jewish institutions,” said Victor Eliezer, the secretary general of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.
“This is not a poll about violence, but rather a survey on stereotypes, and yes, there are a lot of stereotypes among the Greek public,” he said."
"Greece, which saw exports fall 0.2 percent to 27.3 billion euros ($37.5 billion) in 2013, needs food and beverage companies to catch up with export-oriented industries like fuels and do more to help pull the country out of a six-year recession, Samaras told industry representatives on the island of Lesvos May 13.
More Greek food companies, some of whom were forced to look for sales outside their traditional home market as the crisis shrank the economy, should focus “on processing agricultural produce in order to bring Greek products to international markets,” Samaras said. “Today, 200 large companies account for 85 percent of production while 17,000 small and medium-sized companies have huge potential.”
Greek exports of agricultural products including food, beverages and vegetable oils rose 3.5 percent by value in 2013 to 4.75 billion euros, according to the Panhellenic Exporters Association. At around 17 percent of the total value of Greek exports, the food and beverage industry trails fuels and industrial goods like machinery and chemical products as the country’s top export category.
Greece’s economy contracted at its slowest pace in four years in the first quarter, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said May 15. The European Commission forecasts that Greek GDP will grow 0.6 percent this year, its first annual expansion since 2007."
"Analyses on and projections of the outcome of European Parliament and local elections abound, but another important and often disregarded part of the debate is how Golden Dawn will do. The fact is that there is a very serious danger the far-right party will have quite a strong presence in the polls, something that would create a new set of problems on the domestic as well as the international front.
It is a mistake to underestimate the popularity of Golden Dawn, which despite a small decline after last September’s murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a self-proclaimed member of the party and the criminal investigation that this prompted into the party and its leading cadres remains a significant factor on the political stage and is gradually making a comeback that can only be described as worrisome to democratic citizens.
A look at public opinion polls reveals the shadow of the far-right organization spreading across the charts. We must also bear in mind the fact that citizens may be reluctant to state to pollsters their intention to vote for Golden Dawn, making the situation of even greater concern.
These secretive voters may bring some unpleasant surprises. If, for example, Golden Dawn increases its share of the vote from the 2012 general elections and emerges as Greece’s third-biggest party, or even if party spokesman and Athens mayoral candidate Ilias Kasidiaris – whose personal appeal has been steadily outstripping that of the party – does well enough in this Sunday’s local elections to make it into the second round next week, Greek society will be facing a very troubling situation."
"Much has changed in the two years since Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' governing conservatives won a slim victory in a parliamentary election. In mid-2012, the debt-hobbled country was on the brink of a possible chaotic exit from the group of European countries using the euro currency, amid deep political and financial instability.
Since then, in a coalition with the remnants of his Socialist archrivals, Samaras has overseen a massive fiscal turnaround. Greece is projected to return to growth after a nightmare six-year recession slashed a quarter off the economy. But unemployment, although below its cruel peak of nearly 28 percent, remains very high amid a deep drop in incomes and property prices.
...In municipal and regional elections, held in two rounds Sunday and May 25, the center-left-backed incumbents are seen as favorites to win the major cities of Athens and Thessaloniki."
"Before the financial crisis forced them to share power, the conservatives and the Socialists combined accounted for nearly 80 percent of the vote — while SYRIZA had only about 5 percent before rising on the backs of an anti-austerity message that weary Greeks have embraced.
...Political analyst Thomas Gerakis of Marc Institute told Agence France Presse:.”Even though the vote has local characteristics, in essence this is a test of forces between those who tolerate the government’s policies and those seeking to send a message of protest.”
...The biggest test though could be the May 25 European Union ballot which Tsipiras said would show voters disdain for austerity and repudiate Greece’s ruling parties so much that it would bring down the coalition and force early national elections before the government’s term runs out in 2016."
"Greeks began voting on Sunday in the first round of local elections that mark Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's first big electoral test since coming to power two years ago.
The vote, along with European Parliament elections a week later, are being closely watched as a gauge of sentiment towards Samaras's fragile coalition, which could be in jeopardy if the far-left Syriza and far-right Golden Dawn parties fare well.
Nearly 10 million Greeks are eligible to vote on Sunday to elect mayors and town councils for 325 municipalities as well as prefects - similar to state governors - for 13 regions across Greece, with a run-off vote to be held on May 25.
...On Saturday, Samaras made a final appeal to voters to reject his rivals in the Athens race.
"There is a very specific dilemma in Athens," he said.
"Are we going to leave the city in idleness and to those who want anarchy or will we unite our forces so that no vote is lost and Athens pushes ahead?"
"...This debate was eagerly awaited because it was the only one to include all five candidates including Alex Tsipras, the firebrand Greek politician who is the nominee of the Parliament's far-left GUE group.
While the other four candidates are all from the Brussels bubble (three are members of the European Parliament and the other was head of the Eurogroup), Tsipras is from the outside. It was hoped he could inject a dose of reality in what have sometimes felt like very ‘inside the bubble' conversations among these other candidates.
But for those hoping Tsipras would bring a new European idea to the table, they will have been sorely disappointed by last night's debate. Tsipras focused almost exclusively on Greece, rarely mentioning anything about European policy and continually bringing the conversation back to the austerity measures imposed on his home country.
...Juncker was Tsipras's main target, and his condemnations of the austerity policy imposed on Greece seemed to genuinely upset the former head of the eurogroup. "For years I worked day and night to avoid Greece having to leave the euro area," Juncker responded. "I did everything because I love Greece, and I love the Greek people." But his self-defence was greeted with boos by some in the chamber.
Guy Verhofstadt, the nominee of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, came ready with ammunition against Tsipras. He said the focus on banks was ignoring the fact that the crisis in Greece was caused by a “clientele state” and “the bad policies by the two main parties in your country.” He then said that these parties are still funded by public banks, as is Syriza."
"Our caution on certain Greek banks was based on a number of factors. Those included an uncertain February stress test that could have resulted in as much as a EUR 20bn capital shortfall, a sovereign whose yields have been highly distressed, and a weak outlook for the economy weighing on credit losses.
However the environment has changed now, the report says that strength in Greece’s economy has now led to a revision in GDP expectations. Additionally the sovereign bond yields improved by 250 bps in just three months, which put the country back in the global bond markets."
"The European Commission forecasts that Greece’s economy will expand 0.6 percent this year, its first annual expansion since 2007. The country’s recession, deepened by budget cuts tied to 240 billion euros ($328 billion) of bailout loans from the euro area and International Monetary Fund, has cost Greece about a quarter of its GDP and left it with an unemployment rate of 26.5 percent."
"Australia and Greece have announced an agreement on a reciprocal one year work and holiday visa, which was signed this week.
Up to 500 young adults from Australia and up to 500 young adults from Greece may take advantage of the one-year visa...
...The relationship between Australia and Greece was described as “close and positive”. Official data from the 2011 Australian census shows that around 400,000 Australians describe themselves as being of Greek ancestry."
"Greece's Supreme Court on Sunday allowed the far-right Golden Dawn party to run in European elections this month, despite calls to ban it as its leader waits in jail to be tried for membership of a criminal organization.
The court routinely permits parties to take part in elections but a private citizen had asked it to exclude Golden Dawn this time because its leadership is under investigation over a string of attacks against immigrants and opponents.
Golden Dawn is expected to perform well due to a wave of anger against economic austerity - the price Greeks have paid for bailouts totaling 240 billion euros ($330 billion) from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to save the country from a debt crisis."
"Greece expects a second straight year with a record number of visitors, but data shows the country’s tourists are spending far less than the country’s rivals.
Tourism is the country’g biggest revenue producer for its 249.1 billion euro ($342.7 billion) Gross Domestic Product, but the levels would be much higher if the country had more luxury hotels, major conference centers in main cities, cruise home ports, and marinas, the lack of which is keeping away rich tourists.
Last year a bevy of Hollywood celebrities showed up, mostly on the islands, driving a recovery from a disastrous 2012 summer during which people stayed away in droves because of constant images of strikes, protests and riots against austerity measures."
"Privatisation is a major part of the country's plan to reduce its 319 billion euro (261.6 billion pounds) debt mountain to 112 percent of gross domestic product within eight years, from 175 percent now.
But asset sales have lagged original targets set in the country's European Union/International Monetary Fund 237 billion euro bailout after the financial crisis.
Athens managed to attract only one valid, binding bid for any of the major privatisation deals it completed at the height of its debt crisis in 2012-2013, when its euro zone membership seemed to hang in the balance, scaring off investors.
But since Greece returned to bond markets last month for the first time in four years, investors are coming back. The Greek economy is expected to expand by 0.6 percent in 2014, its first growth after a six-year recession that has wiped out almost a quarter of GDP."
"Greece is finally emerging from its deflationary six-year recession and the odds are in favor of not just an economic recovery but also solid investment returns ahead, the CEO of the country's largest domestic bank told CNBC.
"The opportunity in Greece has not run its course. We're just starting to get into positive growth territory and that will produce returns which some investors may wish to partake," Anthimos Thomopoulos, CEO of Piraeus Bank, told CNBC in an exclusive interview.
Greece is expected to see economic growth of around 0.6 percent this year, according to Eurozone estimates, but that follows an around 5 percent contraction last year. In two years' time, the economy could grow by as much as 3.3 percent, according to the government's economic projections."
"Something new began at 6:00 pm," a voiceover intoned. "NERIT entered Greek homes, with pluralism and reliability, humanity and respect for culture and history." The muted launch of the new broadcaster was in stark contrast to the public outcry that greeted the shutdown of its predecessor ERT last June as part of draconian budget cuts.
ERT's sudden closure after more than 60 years on the air shocked even austerity-hardened Greeks.
...ERT, or Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, had its origins in the 1950s when the Greek state first created three separate radio stations for information, entertainment and music.
Widely seen as hopelessly bloated, by last year it had 2,600 employees, 19 local and five national radio stations, a choir and three orchestras and cost 300 million euros ($420 million) a year to run.
An interim broadcaster, DT, took over in mid-July, and many of its journalists have been taken on by NERIT.
Postcard image, saw this at http://alexanderchalkidis.com
"With a primary surplus in hand, Greece is set to ask the eurozone to approve some sort of relief from the 240 billion euros it has borrowed from international lenders, reportedly a 50-year repayment schedule, lower interest or an outright cut.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who had previously said the country wouldn’t need it, is now due to present the proposal to his peers in the other 17 countries that use the euro.
If Greece seeks a so-called “haircut,” a reduction in the principal it owes, the cost for generations of wild overspending would be passed on to taxpayers in other eurozone countries.
While German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is putting up much of the loan monies from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB), has ruled out a haircut, Greece has lined up a series of other options."
"The eurozone is emerging from its devastating debt crisis but life in Greece -- where the bloc's financial meltdown began -- remains a struggle for many.
CNN has tracked a group of Greek citizens since 2012, and revisited them* for an update on life in the country after years of austerity. They told CNN wages continue to be cut, healthcare is suffering and that leaving the country can seem the only option.
George Pentafronimos, an IT consultant who left Greece to live in Luxembourg, says leaving the country was one of the most difficult decisions he's made, but one he doesn't regret."
"Greece's co-ruling conservatives have regained a narrow lead over the main, anti-bailout opposition three weeks before a European Parliament election, two polls showed.
The election, which coincides with a key local vote, is seen as a test for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' fragile coalition in a country still reeling from the debt crisis and banking on loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
Samaras' New Democracy - which leads the coalition with the Socialist PASOK party - and its rival, the leftist Syriza party, have been running neck-and-neck in polls for months, with voters often swinging in favor of one or the other party.
But New Democracy has seen a boost in ratings since Athens tapped bond markets in April for the first time in four years and Samaras promised to spend a 527 million euro ($731 million) windfall from Greece's 2013 budget surplus on poor, austerity-hit Greeks.
The poll conducted on April 28-30 by Metron Analysis for Sunday's Ethnos newspaper put support for New Democracy at 28.4 percent and for Syriza at 27.6 percent, excluding undecided voters - who otherwise stood at 17 percent.
In a poll by the same agency in April, Syriza was leading with 1.4 percentage points."
"When Eleanna Malemi graduated with a degree in European and international studies in Athens in 2010, she did not expect to be working in a bar four years later.
But after countless job interviews and unpaid internships, she was forced to take work as a waitress in order to fund further study – a last-ditch effort to make herself more attractive to the sparse number of Greek companies actually looking to fill jobs.
"Since 2010 I have been searching for a job based on my studies, but it's been hard to find anything except non-paid jobs," she told CNBC."
Greece, said Artistotle, is geographically intermediate, between Europe, apparently incapable of civilisation, and south-west Asia, where where only the King of Persia was fully a free man; and the Mean, or medium, to him was the best. Modern geologists add that the Aegean basin is a slab of the earth's crust which has sunk and tipped, leaving only a rim (the Greek peninsula and Crete) and mountain tops (the other islands) above sea-level.
Greece can therefore support a population, on its small though fertile plains, only much smaller than that of the adjacent slab of Asia Minor; a fact which affects the whole of Greek history. Greater wealth must be found overseas, by trade of colonization; and when adjacent powers in Italy or Asia are strong, Greece is threatened. Persia attempted conquest; Rome, the Franks and Turkey achieved it.
On the other hand, Greece enjoys, with its variety of scenery, clear air and summer heat tempered by north winds, an intensely stimulating environment; and when free, three times it has produced great art: the bronze-age Minoan-Mycenaean, the Classical and the Byzantine; all completely different, all unique."
From The Living Past of Greece: A Time-traveller's tour of historic and prehistoric places, by A. R. and Mary Burn. Published by Little, Brown and Company. 1980. Quote from page 9.