Greece and the economic crisis 2015
NEWS ARCHIVE - Aug 22 - Aug 31
Aug 31, 2015
"The appointment of Greek bailout negotiator George Chouliarakis to be finance minister in a caretaker government may help assuage some fears that Greece's bailout programme could go off track while it prepares for elections.
Greece is due to hold elections on Sept.20 after former prime minister Alexis Tsipras resigned in a bid to win popular backing for his decision to accept the 86-billion-euro aid plan from creditors and get rid of leftist rebels opposed to it.
...Chouliarakis, who played a key role in technical-level talks with EU and IMF lenders, sought to address those concerns when he took over as interim finance minister on Friday saying his main target was "to make sure we won't lose valuable time".
His appointment quickly won a vote of confidence from Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the group of euro zone finance ministers that decides on aid disbursements to Greece."
Greece to Lift Short-Selling Ban - Fox News
"Greece will not extend a short-selling ban on stocks that expires on Aug. 31, an official at the country's securities regulator told Reuters on Monday.
The ban went into effect when Athens imposed capital controls on June 29 and was extended until the end of August.
"The recommendation to the board of the Capital Market Commission is to lift the ban," the official said, declining to be named. A formal announcement is expected later on Monday.
...Volatility has risen since Aug. 3 when the Athens bourse resumed trading, particularly in banks which face a recapitalisation later this year but also fueled by uncertainty as the country heads for early elections on Sept. 20."
IMF changing tack on Greece - Sofia Globe
"It seems paradoxical: The term debt relief is a taboo in Latin America, Asia and Africa, but that is exactly what Greece asked the IMF for. On August 14, the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, made the organization’s position clear by saying, “It is crucial for Greece’s debt sustainability that its European partners commit themselves to significant debt relief, which goes far beyond the measures taken so far.”
The IMF’s concerns about the sustainability of Greek debt, however, actually reflect self-interest. “We know that from the Latin American debt crisis in the 1980s,” recalls the economist Langhammer. “Then they argued that a haircut would increase the chances serving the interest payable on the remaining debt.”
Does the fund simply defend the interests of its members by investing their money well? “The IMF is shouting as loud as it can so that no one gets the idea that it could possibly take part in a haircut,” says Jürgen Kaiser, the coordinator of Jubilee Germany, a German NGO that promotes fair and transparent bankruptcy rules. "
Aug 30, 2015Financially Strapped Greece Struggles With Flood of Refugees - WSJ
"The run-up to elections set for next month has further paralyzed an already meager response to the migration crisis by Greek authorities, who have struggled to cope with skyrocketing numbers of arrivals in a country plagued by debt and empty public coffers.
Volunteers like Mr. Tirikos-Ergas are often all that prevents complete chaos on islands such as Lesbos that bear the brunt of the migration, fueled this summer by the worsening war in
Syria. The helpers, however, warn that they too have their limits. “We are not made of concrete,” said the 33-year-old. “We are under enormous pressure, especially from the people that we can’t help. At the same time, we are juggling all of our other responsibilities.”
The refugees and other migrants are crossing into Greece from Turkey before heading to Northern Europe by way of the so-called Balkan corridor through Macedonia and Serbia and on into Hungary."
Syriza says they would apply bailout but fight to ease pain - Economic Times
"As opinion polls showed Syriza's lead eroding, its campaign programme reflected unease about the 86 billion euros ($96 billion) rescue package it will have to follow if voted back into power, pledging to battle creditors on some areas still up for discussion if it is re-elected.
Tsipras resigned this month to pave the way for early elections, aiming for a stronger mandate to implement an EU/IMF bailout and rid his party of anti-bailout rebels.
Syriza remains deeply divided over Tsipras's move to accept the bailout.
"Syriza's government will implement these commitments but it is determined to find measures that will offset and minimise their negative impact and negotiate in a tough manner the parts of the agreement which remain open," the party's plan said. "
Aug 28, 2015
"According to a recent survey conducted by ProRata for Efimerida ton Syntakton daily published on Friday, SYRIZA would receive 23 percent of the vote with New Democracy trailing behind at 19.5 percent.
In a poll by the same company conducted in early July, 26 percent of participants said they would vote for SYRIZA and 15 percent for ND.
In the new poll, SYRIZA rebels Popular Unity barely make it to the Greek Parliament with 3.5 percent of the vote. It is estimated that 3 percent of the total vote is the minimum for a party to enter parliament.
Junior coalition partners Independent Greeks (ANEL) would be out of parliament if elections were held today, getting only 2 percent.
Golden Dawn comes third with 6.5 percent of participants showing their preference to the extremist party. The Greek Communist Party comes next with 5 percent, followed by PASOK at 4.5 percent. To Potami seems to be losing followers as it comes in sixth place with 4 percent."
Greece's caretaker cabinet sworn in ahead of early vote - SF Gate
Greece's new caretaker government, led by the nation's first female prime minister, was sworn in Friday as the country heads to early elections next month, the third time Greeks will go to the polls this year.
Prime Minister Vassiliki Thanou, a top judge, and her cabinet will lead the country to elections expected to be on Sept. 20, following outgoing prime minister Alexis Tsipras' resignation last week.
He stepped down following a rebellion by members of his radical-left Syriza party who objected to his agreement with the conditions of Greece's third international bailout.
Greece appoints 1st female prime minister - Yahoo
"Supreme Court head Vassiliki Thanou, 65, was appointed after radical left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned, seeking a stronger mandate to implement tough austerity measures demanded by Greece's creditors in return for a third bailout worth 86 billion euro ($97 billion).
Her main task will be to hold the reins until a new government emerges from the vote expected on Sept. 20.
"But, given the circumstances ... I believe that this government will also have to handle crucial matters," Thanou said in her first public comments in office, singling out for mention Greece's immigration crisis.
Since January, the financially struggling country has received more than 160,000 mainly Syrian refugees and economic migrants — a record number — who arrive in boats from Turkey before heading to wealthier European countries."
"Former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist Syriza will emerge as the biggest party after next month’s election but without the sizeable margin it was hoping for, the first major opinion poll since he resigned last week showed.
The survey also found that almost two thirds of voters felt Tsipras should not have sought a fresh mandate and that his favoured coalition ally would not make it into parliament.
That suggested his gamble to call early elections to consolidate his power base could backfire, though over quarter of voters remained undecided, making the final outcome far from clear.
Syriza was supported by 23 percent of those polled, with the conservative New Democracy party second on 19.5 percent, according to the survey, carried out by pollsters ProRata and published in Friday’s Efimerida Ton Syntakton newspaper.
The previous ProRata poll in early July showed a wider gap in Syriza’s favour, putting the party on 26 percent compared with 15 percent for New Democracy.
...Tsipras this week ruled out cooperating with the main pro-euro opposition parties – New Democracy, the Socialist PASOK and the centrist To Potami. The poll’s result suggested that, in that event, the country would face a second round of elections. "
Aug 27, 2015Greece moves closer to formal announcement of election date - Yahoo
"Greece came one step closer Thursday to an early election as the head of a breakaway left-wing party returned his mandate to form a government after failing to find willing coalition partners.
Former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who formed the new Popular Unity party last week after splitting from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' radical-left Syriza party, returned the mandate Thursday after exhausting the three-day time limit.
Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos will now either convene a meeting of all party leaders in a last-ditch bid to find consensus for a coalition government, or declare a caretaker government and announce the election date.
He has indicated he might skip the party leader's meeting, which would mean an announcement by Thursday night and the election date being set for Sept. 20."
Greece Nears Election As Far-Left Leader Gives Up Coalition Bid - H Post - Reuters
"Greece's far-left leader on Thursday formally gave up a bid to form a coalition government, allowing the country's president to finally set a date for early elections after a week of political wrangling.
After using up all three days allowed, Popular Unity leader Panagiotis Lafazanis relinquished a mandate to form a government, given to him as head of the third-largest bloc in parliament after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned last week.
"I think we can go to elections in keeping with the spirit of the constitution," Lafazanis told President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in a meeting at the president's office.
Pavlopoulos is expected to check once more with party leaders on the odds of forming a coalition before installing a caretaker government to take the country to elections. "
Popular Unity party fails to find coalition partners - Newser
"Former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who formed the new Popular Unity party last week after splitting from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' radical-left Syriza party, returned the mandate Thursday after exhausting the three-day time limit.
...Despite his about-face on policies, Tsipras is expected to win the next election although it's unclear whether he will secure enough parliamentary seats to govern alone. He has ruled out a coalition with any of the centrist opposition parties: center-right New Democracy, the socialist PASOK party or the small centrist To Potami party.
Unless other smaller parties manage to enter Parliament, that would leave his current coalition partner, the nationalist Independent Greeks.
It is unlikely he would form a government with Popular Unity, formed by Syriza dissenters, the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn, whose leader and lawmakers still face criminal charges, or the communist KKE party."
People want jobs, not ideology - eKathimerini
Realizing that your job, and whether you get to keep it, depends on people who have never worked is infuriating. I used to listen to older people saying that it was important for those appointed to responsible positions in the public sector to have paid their social security contributions. They were right.
Today we are to a large extent governed by people with no notion of the market. Their work was never evaluated and they never knew the fear of being laid off. For them, school and university were places for political activity. Political movements turned into a profession and the people they interact with enjoy the privilege of safe positions in public sector departments or universities. Ideological obsessions come first for them, and they are always concerned with what their people will say. They care very little if a decision they take leads to 10 or 100 people losing their jobs.
...But let me be fair. What I’m describing here is not taking place for the first time. Previous governments also included ministers and state officials whose careers were built on a process of leaving the lecture theaters for party offices, without ever entering the market. The difference now is the ideological obsession, the near hatred for entrepreneurship and private initiative. What we see now are politicians and party officials in key positions who believe we should all be employed in the public sector, while the rest should be taxed endlessly so that the system can stand on its feet.
Aug 26, 2015Greece announces discovery of ancient palace near Sparta - UPI
"A variety of artifacts have been uncovered at the dig site -- clay figures, bronze swords and seals, murals, and a cup adorned by a decorative bulls head. But researchers say the latest discovery is the most valuable yet.
"The palace complex of Aghios Vassilios provides us with a unique opportunity to investigate, with the use of modern excavation and analysis methods, the creation and evolution of a Mycenaean palatial center in order to reconstruct the political, administrative, economic and social organization of the region," the nation's culture ministers announced in a released statement.
"Alongside, it is estimated that new evidence on Mycenaean religion, linguistics and paleography will also be brought to light."
Researchers believe the palace was erected during the 17th or 16th century B.C., and destroyed in a fire in the late 14th or early 13th century B.C. "
Around 122,000 auxiliary pensions to suffer cuts - Ansa-Med
"Around 122,000 Greek pensioners face reduced supplementary pensions, including freelancers, self-employed doctors, engineers and lawyers as daily Kathimerini online reports.
Under a ministerial decision signed by Alternate Minister for Social Security Pavlos Haikalis as part of Greece's third memorandum, 11 auxiliary funds will automatically be included in a single supplementary insurance fund, ETEA, for around 1.8 million pensioners. The auxiliary funds should have been included in ETEA as part of Greece's second bailout, but the provision was never applied. The 11 funds under ETEA will operate as a single administrative and financial organization. "
Greece’s illegal push backs of asylum boats puts lives at risk, says Amnesty International - Euronews
"When the Greek coastguard was recently accused of sinking a boat with asylum seekers, the world threw its hands up and cried foul.
But, according to Amnesty International, this is a practice that has been happening on a regular basis over the past three years.
The most recent event, which took place a few miles off the Greek islands of Kos, has yet to be verified, and the Greek authorities have denied any culpability. But the human rights body says refugees trying to reach the EU via Greece are being routinely and unlawfully pushed back to Turkey by Greek coast and border guards.
A push-back is when coast or border guards turn groups of migrants back across the border, denying them the right to have their individual cases heard or to challenge their expulsion."
Greece’s tourism set to hit new highs in 2015 - Customs Today
Greece tourism is on course for a new record in 2015 thanks to increased visitor numbers from the US, Germany, Britain and elsewhere.
According to figures from the Bank of Greece, for the first six months of the year, foreign tourist arrivals increased by 20.8 percent to 7.56 million year-on-year. Net receipts from travel services offset 38.4 percent of the goods deficit.
Arrivals from the US rose by 41.6 percent, from Germany by 23.5 percent, Britain by 18 percent and from France by 12.5 percent, while the number from Russia decreased by 60.6 percent.
Revenues rose 32.9 percent from American tourists, 30.3 percent from the British, 21.2 percent from the French and 18.1 percent from the Germans. Revenues from Russians fell by 63.2 percent.
Greece's Syriza projects election confidence despite split - Yahoo
"Skourletis, a close aide to Tsipras, told Mega TV: "I believe that an absolute majority in parliament for Syriza is achievable."
Syriza is banking on the assumption that Tsipras remains popular for standing up to Greece's euro zone and IMF creditors, even though he eventually caved in and accepted their demands for more austerity and economic reforms in return for 86 billion euros ($99 billion) in bailout loans.
It is not clear whether the party's confidence is justified. No opinion poll has been published since July 24, well before Tsipras resigned and a group of far-left rebels broke away from Syriza. New polls are expected to appear shortly as voters return from their holidays. "
Aug 25, 2015Newly formed party receives mandate to form gov't - SF Gate
"Former Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who heads the newly formed Popular Unity, received the maximum three-day mandate from the country's president after the head of the main opposition conservative New Democracy failed to form a government.
Neither of the two parties was expected to find willing coalition partners, and early elections are practically guaranteed in September following the resignation of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras last week, seven months into his four-year term. The most likely date is seen as Sept. 20.
The renewed political uncertainty has hammered the Athens Stock Exchange. Dragged down by global jitters after China's market tumbled, the Athens general index closed down 10.5 percent, following two straight days of losses last week over election concerns."
"In the throes of its worst economic meltdown in generations, Greece has been plunged into a new crisis in the making with a mass influx of refugees, mainly Syrians fleeing civil war.
International aid agencies have been scathing about Greece's response. The U.N. refugee agency said last week said Greece needed to show more leadership and take charge of the situation.
Arrivals as a whole have exceeded 160,000 this year, three times as high as in 2014, and overstretched and under-financed, Greek authorities have been caught flat-footed.
..."This is not just a Greek tragedy, but a Europe-wide crisis," said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia.
"It is unfolding before the eyes of short-sighted European leaders who prioritize securing borders over helping survivors of conflict," he said. "
Aug 24, 2015Opposition party head Evangelos Meimarakis returns mandate to form government - Economic Times
"The head of Greece's main opposition party is meeting the country's president to return his mandate to form a government after failing to find coalition partners following the prime minister's resignation and call for early elections.
Evangelos Meimarakis, head of the conservative New Democracy party, returned the mandate Monday after the three-day limit. It now passes to the third-largest party in Parliament, a new group formed by hardliners who split from the governing radical left Syriza party last week. Neither party was expected to be able to form a government, and early elections are most likely to be held on Sept. 20."
"Whilst in they were in opposition, the current governing parties in Greece accused their predecessors of turning the Greek Parliament into a ‘sausage machine’ of bailout laws at the request of the ‘Troika’ of creditor institutions. Now in power, SYRIZA’s leader Alexis Tsipras is facing a similar criticism. His ‘in-principle’ agreement for a third bailout was debated in Parliament for less than a day and all ‘prior actions’ demanded by the creditors were fast-tracked within two weeks.
The PM’s current predicament, like that of his predecessors, reflects deep-rooted weaknesses at the very heart of the Greek ‘core executive’. Despite the fact that a prime minister in Greece possesses formal, constitutional powers that are amongst the strongest in Europe, the centre of government lacks the appropriate resources to coordinate ministry ‘silos’ that operate with a significant degree of autonomy. We explore this discrepancy, the paradox of power between formal strength and operational weakness, in more detail in our latest book. The Greek PM does not have at his disposal a permanent bureaucracy (a ‘Cabinet Office‘) for the coordination of government business. Instead, he is surrounded by political appointees and the operational norms are ones of trust and personal, particularistic contacts, in a setting that lacks effective process and is hopelessly disconnected with the wider public administration. The ‘system’ is devoid of institutional memory and is designed for the short term; rather than the control, coordination and accountability of substantive reform programmes.
All of this conspires to create a false sense of ‘security’ for the Greek Prime Minister. With no mandarins and no bureaucratic gate keepers to contend with, the PM faces few formal barriers on how to exercise his authority. But, in reality, ‘the emperor has no clothes’: he lacks effective systems of management across a public administration that is overly-rigid, has poor skills and technologies, is sometimes corrupt, and whose resources are distributed following political logics of clientelism rather than bureaucratic efficiency. Altogether, the PM sits astride a system of governance that has many dysfunctionalities."
This article is a reference to the publication of the book Greek Prime Ministers: The Paradox of Power - Sept 2015
Aug 23, 2015Greek coalition process crawls as election calls grow - Reuters
"No face-to-face talks were scheduled for the day of rest, although conservative leader Evangelos Meimarakis planned to ring the head of the unreformed KKE communist party - a likely exercise in futility even if the call goes ahead.
The leisurely pace of coalition negotiations since Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned on Thursday - after only seven months in office - has prompted media calls for a caretaker leader to implement further austerity and reform policies that are essential to ensure Greece keeps getting vital funds under its new bailout deal.
Without naming names, Tsipras denounced the tactics of Meimarakis and radical leftist Panagiotis Lafazanis - the man who led a walkout from Tsipras's Syriza party over the 86 billion euro ($98 billion) program.
"Don't bother with tricks aimed at delaying the elections. These won’t get anywhere and the people understand this," Tsipras told senior government and Syriza members on Saturday.
He remains favorite to form the next government, but whoever leads Greece next faces daunting problems. The country narrowly avoided financial collapse and possible exit from the euro when Tsipras caved in to euro zone and IMF demands to secure the bailout."
Greek political leaders row over snap election - AG France
"...Under the constitution, Pavlopoulos was obliged to invite the largest opposition parties to attempt to form a government before formally setting a date for elections.
The conservative New Democracy party was on Friday given a three-day exploratory mandate, but Tsipras on Sunday turned down a meeting with their leader Vangelis Meimarakis.
"There is no possibility of forming a government under the present parliament," the government said in a note. The breakaway Syriza rebels will be next in line on Monday.
The procedure has no chance of success, as neither New Democracy nor Popular Unity can muster enough lawmakers for a parliamentary majority in the 300-seat chamber. But Constantopoulou, Greece's youngest parliament speaker at 38, has accused the 65-year-old president of breaking the rules by skipping a parliamentary technicality in order to hasten the procedure. Late on Saturday, the president -- an esteemed professor of constitutional law -- responded by dismissing her arguments as "legally baseless".
Constantopoulou, whose father was a former head of Syriza's precursor party Synaspismos -- and was a Greek presidential candidate a decade ago -- vehemently opposed the third EU bailout Tsipras signed on July 13 and repeatedly sought to frustrate its ratification through stalling tactics. "
Support for Greece bailout weakens Dutch government: poll - Yahoo
"The Dutch government's approval ratings have slipped after it supported Greece's latest bailout, and just as it prepares for a crucial budget bill, a poll released on Sunday showed.
The government, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberals, is set for negotiations with several opposition parties whose support it needs to get a 2016 budget through the senate, where it does not have a majority. Failure to pass a budget would spell the end for Rutte's shaky government, though a compromise is seen as the most likely outcome. "
Aug 22, 2015House speaker ups attacks on PM, president - eKathimerini
"A brewing row between Parliament Speaker Zoe Constantopoulou and the government peaked over the weekend as the former redoubled her verbal attacks against both Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, prompting a terse reaction from the offices of both.
A day after expressing strong objections to the procedure followed by Pavlopoulos in handing exploratory mandates to the conservative opposition following Tsipras’s resignation, Constantopoulou struck again on Saturday, accusing Tsipras and the president of treating Greece’s institutions as “their fiefdom and property."
Constantopoulou hit out at Tsipras for calling elections “on the sly,” claiming that only Greece’s creditors had been briefed about the plan. She also slammed Pavlopoulos for not informing her before launching the process of issuing exploratory mandates to party leaders."
Gerovasili: polls on September 20 despite obstacles - ethnos.gr
"The assessment is that the elections will take place on September 20th..." government representative Olga Gerovasili said in today's interview with Mega.
"Our proposal to quickly bring the elections is to meet the country's needs, to implement order and restore stability ... then we can pull the country out of the crisis..."
He added, "this shift, this tactical retreat, is so that again the question is put to the Greek people to show that the Greek people agreed with this choice that we did for the salvation of the country. This requires a new mandate... " As for the decision of resorting to the polls, Mrs. Gerovasili said "our intention is to have a stable government and to get the country out of this impasse."
[Translation via paraphrase / Google translate]
What Alexis Tsipras’s Announcement Means for Greece - NY Times
"Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for new elections. In a nationally televised address on Thursday, Mr. Tsipras said that he would submit his resignation to Greece’s president, a move he hoped would clear the way for his radical left Syriza party to win a new mandate.
Officials said he would seek to schedule the vote for Sept. 20, but it might be later as politicians from other parties jockey for influence. The country’s main conservative opposition said it would try to avert elections by forming a government, as is their right, under the Greek Constitution.
Why Did Tsipras Do This?
It is a bid to consolidate his power and press ahead with the bailout plan he agreed to this summer with European creditors.
In a Twist, Europe May Find Itself Relying on Success of Alexis Tsipras of GreeceAUG. 21, 2015 Alexis Tsipras, Greek Prime Minister, Calls for New ElectionsAUG. 20, 2015
Mr. Tsipras has been weighing new elections for weeks amid a deep split within his Syriza party over his embrace of the bailout plan that was approved just last week by the Greek Parliament."
Some 2,000 migrants rush past police across border to Macedonia from Greece - US News
"Thousands of migrants on Saturday rushed past baton-wielding Macedonian police who were attempting to block them from entering Macedonia from Greece. Police fired stun grenades and several people were injured in the border clashes.
The tumult started when police decided to allow a small group of migrants with young children to cross the frontier and crowds in the back squeezed them toward the shielded police wall. Many women, at least one pregnant, and children fell to the ground apparently fainting after squeezing past the cordon.
Then thousands of others, including women with babies and men carrying small children, used the moment to run across a field not protected by barbed wire to enter Macedonia.
Police fired stun grenades, but didn't manage to stop the rush."
National Bank of Greece (ADR) (NBG) Technical Analysis - Bidness
"National Bank of Greece (ADR) (NYSE:NBG) stock continues its downward trend, showing little or no signs of a recovery. This time around, shares have displayed substantial fragility to the ongoing political turmoil in the debt-ridden country.
Although, a fraction of the 86 billion euro bailout package was unlocked yesterday, National Bank of Greece stock did not respond. This was mostly due to the political instability resulting from the resignation of Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras and the announcement of snap elections in September. Additionally, there is rebellion sprouting within the Syriza government, threatening to destabilize Greece’s political system."
What Tsipras' announcement for new elections means for Greece Economic Times
"In calling for the vote after Greece received some 13 billion euros (about $14 billion) of new funds from the bailout package, Tsipras is hoping that voters will endorse his approach - and effectively ratify the bailout.
The money arrived just in time to repay 3.2 billion euros owed on government bonds held by the European Central Bank. Much of the bailout money will go to repaying debts, not to rebuilding the country's economy. However, avoiding default could help restore consumer and investor confidence, which could, eventually, improve the economy. How did Greece get to this point?
Tsipras was elected in January as an anti-austerity renegade, vowing to challenge Greece's creditors and win a better deal to pay back and, perhaps, forgive some of the country's crippling debt. After several tumultuous months that included heated negotiations with the country's creditors - the ECB, the International Monetary Fund and the other members of the eurozone - the prime minister reversed course and agreed to the bailout plan.
The deal infuriated Syriza's far-left factions and was approved by parliament only with the help of opposition parties. Many of the breakaway Syriza lawmakers oppose the bailout plan because it proposes raising the retirement age and opening parts of the Greek economy to greater competition. "