Greece and the economic crisis

Feb 6, 2016

EU plans to send more border guards to Macedonia-Greece border - cnbc

"EU member states have hammered out details of a controversial plan to send more border guards and even troops to Macedonia's border with Greece in a bid to stem the flow of migrants entering northern Europe.

...The plan, which was first floated by Slovenia last month, is particularly contentious as it appears to involve EU member states siding with non-EU member Macedonia against its historic rival Greece, which is an EU member."

Greece and lenders want to finish review by end-Feb - Reuters

"Greece has promised to cut pension spending by 1 percent of GDP, or 1.8 billion euros, this year. To protect pensioners whose benefits have been cut 11 times already since 2010, the government plans to increase social security contributions by employees and employers.

Asked about progress in negotiations with the Greek authorities, EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said: "discussions are constructive. We are making progress on all relevant items", including pensions and public administration reform, he told a news conference in Brussels."

Feb 3, 2016

Talks with Lenders ahead of National Strike Showdown - Business Recorder

"Greece must introduce a raft of pension reforms to win a positive assessment from lenders of its level of adherence to conditions of an 86-billion-euro bailout that deeply indebted Athens signed up to in 2015.

...Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has vowed not to cut pensions to overhaul the system, but increase social security contributions instead. The Greek government has also suggested an increase in income tax on high earners to about 50 percent, from 42 percent at present, a government source said."

A third of refugees fleeing to Greece are children, UN says - UK Telegraph

"Children now make up over a third of the migrants making the perilous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, the UN said on Tuesday, as two more babies drowned off Europe's shores.

...Including January, a total of 330 children have died in those waters over the past five months, many of them just metres from shore, the organisation said."

Feb 2, 2016

Migrants stranded in Greece by taxi, tractor protests - Yahoo News

"Taxi-drivers on the Macedonian side have blocked the railway line between the two countries, protesting over the fact that police give priority first to trains and buses to take the migrants north to Serbia en route to western Europe.

...More than 62,000 migrants, many of them refugees from the Syrian war, arrived in Greece last month by boat and dinghy from Turkey braving winter weather and rough seas, according to the the International Organization for Migration."

Tsipras Attempts to Please All Sides During Speech at National Bank of Greece - Greek Reporter

"Greek Prime Minister’s speech on launch of the National Bank’s Act4Greece program had a bit of everything for everyone, thereby adding further weight to claims to Alexis Tsipras’ radical days are long behind him and that his main goal is to appeal now to voters from all segments of Greek society so he can maintain his grip on power.

....the Greek Prime Minister conveniently omitted this apparent truth from his speech, is that his government must be able to implement fully the terms of the third bailout plan, which includes additional austerity measures and harsh reforms."

Greece’s lenders to start first review of $93 billion bailout - Marketwatch

"Greece needs to wind up this review of the country’s third bailout, worth up to €86 billion ($93 billion), before being able to start negotiations with lenders over debt relief. The progress of the talks will play a crucial role in shaping economic sentiment in Greece and the depth of this year’s recession, as last year a standoff between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and lenders over reforms nearly sent the country out of the eurozone.

Europe Needs to Stop Blaming Greece for the Refugee Crisis - Slate

"Greeks are also concerned that the reimposition of border controls throughout Europe will leave more migrants stranded in the country where they arrive. Austria and Germany, for instance, have been turning away hundreds of migrants found to be lying about their nationalities and border controls have been going up throughout the Balkans, pushing people back toward Greece. There’s now growing pressure to seal Greece’s border with Macedonia, which as one expert put it, would effectively “turn Greece into a de facto refugee camp.”

While European countries agreed last September to distribute 160,000 refugees throughout the union’s 26 members, only about 150 have been relocated under the program so far."

Jan 30, 2016

Pressure builds on Greece over Schengen role - eKathimerini

“Stopping refugees between Slovenia and Croatia is an idea which is being discussed in depth by countries in southeastern Europe,” de Maiziere told German news magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday.

“One cannot overlook the fact that Greece would thus be blocked de facto from Schengen, which could create overcrowding, either in Greece, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or elsewhere in the Balkans,” he said."

Greek bank deposits up in Dec.; down 23% in 2015‏ - Athens News Agency

"Bank deposits by individuals and enterprises grew by around 3.0 billion euros in December 2015 to 123.4 billion, from 120.9 billion euros a month earlier, the Bank of Greece said on Friday.

The central bank, in a monthly report, said that bank deposits amounted to 160.3 billion euros in December 2014, losing 23 pct in 12 months."

Aegean Sea refugee crossings rise 35-fold in January - UK Guardian

"More than 52,000 refugees and migrants crossed the eastern Mediterranean to reach Europe in the first four weeks of January, more than 35 times as many as attempted the crossing in the same period last year.

...The eastern route into Europe, via Greece, has overtaken the previously popular central Mediterranean route from north Africa over the past year. Refugees have continued to use the route all winter, despite rough seas and strong winds."

Boat Sinks En Route To Greece, Killing At Least 33 Migrants - NPR

"The deputy governor for Turkey's Canakkale province, Saim Eskioglu, told CNN-Turk that officials believe there may be more bodies inside the submerged boat, the Associated Press reports.

The 56-foot boat, packed with more than 100 migrants, "hit rocks shortly after it left the coast and, unfortunately, it sank," the deputy governor said, according to the AP."

Jan 29, 2016

Greece’s far-left Syriza government is tottering - Economist

"Many Greeks were infuriated that the prime minister’s speech failed to mention the refugee crisis, reinforcing a growing feeling that Mr Tsipras is out of touch. His party has been weakened by corruption scandals. George Stathakis, the economy minister, is being probed by a parliamentary committee for failing to include 38 properties and €1.8m ($1.9m) in his 2011 declaration of assets. Earlier this month, the Greek press alleged that Syriza MPs and officials had appointed family and friends to senior public-sector jobs. The government is moving to privatise ports, airports and other public assets: measures that, while economically sensible, are deeply unpopular. Taxes are rising, and unemployment remains at 25% (and near 50% for those aged 18-24). Capital controls, including a measure limiting bank withdrawals to €420 a week, are still in place."

Sealing Off Greece a Second-Worst Scenario, Says Macedonian Minister - WSJ

"The Macedonian foreign minister, Nikola Poposki, spoke to The Wall Street Journal about Europe’s plan to tighten security and possibly seal off Greece in reaction to the migration crisis and if all other European policies fail. Mr. Poposki said European governments are still betting on “Plan A: that a deal with Turkey on stemming the migration flow will work, along with Greece better registering migrants, sending back those denied asylum and redistributing refugees across the bloc. But in case these policies fail over the coming weeks, countries like Austria and Germany might prefer to secure the Macedonian border than have the highly-prized border-free Schengen area completely dismantled."

Belgium asked Greece to ‘push immigrants back’ - Euroactiv

"Greece's Migration Minister, Yiannis Mouzalas, said on Thursday (28 January) that Belgium had asked him to go against the law, and “push migrants back in the sea”.

....The leftist minister went further on Friday (29 January), saying that he feared a Grexit from the Schengen area was close.

"Such a possibility is getting visible; under the table one can hear such things .... Doesn’t that make us feel a bit worried?" Mouzalas wondered. "Europe is faced with a split that surpasses the political parties […] I am really worried about the threats of Europeans," he added."

Jan 28, 2016

Tsipras: Greece will be fully prepared to deal with refugee crisis in February - Athens News Agency

"Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday said his government will be fully prepared, as of next month, to deal with the refugee flows targeting various Greek islands in the eastern Aegean, while he added that it remains to be seen if Europe, too, will live up to its commitments. He made the statement during a joint press conference with Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv."

In Greece’s Populism, Precious Lessons for Europe - NYT

"Greece has been plagued by domestic divisions for most of its modern history. It is easy to see foreign creditors’ supervision of our economy, and their pressure on our political system, as a new chapter in a national epic of resistance.

Similar forces are at play, to some extent, in Poland, Hungary, Portugal and Spain — wherever foreign domination or domestic dictatorships still loom large in national narratives. In France, the National Front sees Brussels and immigrants as the enemy. Demagogues are able to claim that they represent the people against foreigners and their lackeys in the local political and media elites, especially when European institutions and local politicians do not seem to have easy solutions to problems."

Leaders of Cyprus, Greece, Israel meet to boost cooperation - Daily American

"The leaders of Cyprus, Greece and Israel pledged on Thursday to work together to seize opportunities emerging from newly found offshore gas reserves in order to bolster stability and security in a region wracked by conflict.

...Discussions centered on cooperation to exploit newly found offshore gas reserves as well as migration, combatting terrorism and boosting tourism. The countries also signed a cooperation agreement on managing water resources."

Greece to Honor Holocaust Survivors on Monday - Greek Reporter

"Greece will be honoring the memories of thousands of Greek Jews killed by Nazis during World War II, the government announced on Wednesday.

The government gazette said, “Today we celebrate with the rest of the Greeks, the ‘Day of the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust,’ which the Greek parliament adopted, unanimously, into Law 3218 on 2004.”

It is the first time since the day was established that a delegation of Greek Jews will attend a special session of the Greek parliament honoring them."

Jan 27, 2016

Greece 'seriously neglected' Schengen border duties, Commission finds - eKathimerini

"The draft Schengen evaluation report on Greece was based on unannounced site visits to the Greek-Turkish land border as well as to the islands of Chios and Samos carried out from 10 to 13 November 2015. Experts looked at the presence of police and coast guard personnel on the inspected sites, the efficiency of the identification and registration process, sea border surveillance and cooperation with neighbouring countries."

Greece warned: control your borders or you will be out of Schengen - UK Guardian

"The Germans, as well as several other EU countries taking in large numbers of migrants, have long been furious with the Greeks for allegedly simply waving the new arrivals through without registration and ID checks and setting them on the Balkan route towards Austria and Germany.

EU governments made clear on Monday that there would need to be unprecedented action against Greece if it failed to start playing by the Schengen rules. Wednesday’s warning from the commission confirmed that."

EU threatens Greece over border controls - BBC

"Greece has "seriously neglected" its obligations to control the external frontier of Europe's passport-free Schengen zone, the European Commission says in a draft report.

...More than 850,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Greece last year.

...There is growing pressure on Athens to deal with the flow of migrants, most of whom go on to travel through Europe to countries such as Germany and Sweden."

Jan 26, 2016

Protests escalate against Greek pension reform - Yahoo

"Alexis Tsipras told a special parliamentary session that the financially struggling country's pension system faces collapse unless swift corrective action is taken.

He insisted that the reforms will see no new reductions in core pensions — which have been repeatedly slashed since the start of Greece's financial crisis.

The pension overhaul has been demanded by Greece's bailout creditors, whose rescue loans have kept the country afloat since mid-2010."

EU mulls partial Schengen suspension over migrant crisis -Yahoo

"If the situation does not change there could indeed be justifications under public order and security reasons to maintain internal controls at internal Schengen borders," said Natasha Bertaud, the Commission's spokeswoman on migration.

... Article 26 of the Schengen code allows members of the 26-country zone, which includes most EU countries, to reintroduce internal border controls for a maximum of two years in exceptional circumstances.

More Coverage:

Greece given six weeks to stop migrant surge - Pop Herald

Greece will have borders effectively sealed off from rest of continent in plans to halt migrant flow - Vancouver Sun

Seal up Greece to STOP flow of migrants: EU's shock plan to MOVE Schengen north - UK Espress

"God and His Angels Can't Fix Greece" Varoufakis - Bloomberg Video

At the link: 4-minute video at Bloomberg with Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis

Resentment simmers as Greece launches debate on pension reforms - Reuters

"Without pension reform, Athens cannot conclude the first review of its compliance to terms of a bailout worth up to 86 billion euros agreed last August, and move on with talks on potential debt relief, which Tsipras sees as a vital prize.

But that cuts little ice with millions of people, farmers included, who will see contributions jump to about 20 percent of monthly earnings to prop up the new pension system."

EU Slows Down on Greece Support as Compliance Trumps Urgency - Bloomberg

"Greece’s next bite of bailout money may turn into a movable feast if Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras can’t convince euro-area authorities he’s making good on his promises.

Greece may get 4 billion euros ($4.3 billion) or more once the nation’s creditors complete a review of the most recent bailout, according to a euro-area official who asked not to be named because talks are ongoing. If Greece fails to unlock more funding it may face a cash crunch by the middle of the year."

EU Ministers Threaten To Expel Greece From Schengen Over Refugees - Huffington Post

"European Union interior ministers urged Greece on Monday to do more to control the influx of migrants, some threatening to have it excluded from the continent's prized passport-free travel zone as the crisis increasingly divides bloc members.

Greece was the main gateway to Europe for more than a million refugees and migrants who reached the EU last year. It has been criticized for a failure to control the flow of arrivals, which has shown little sign of easing over the winter."

Jan 25, 2016

Belgian considers sanctions against Greece - US News World Report

"The Belgian government says that because Greece is too weak to guard its own borders, it should face an EU "sanction mechanism" under which the rising number of refugees entering the country would effectively be forced to stay there."

Greece Hits Back at `Lies' as Europe's Refugee Crisis Simmers - Bloomberg

"As the first stopping-off point in the 28-nation EU, Greece painted itself as a victim of geography. Some 900,000 refugees have swamped Greece since the start of 2015, with the average daily count of 1,910 in January so far, according to the United Nations.

...With some Greek islands within swimming distance of the Turkish shore, the Greek contingent said the scale of the challenge is beyond the comprehension of officials from landlocked countries in western Europe. Nikos Toskas, a deputy interior minister, said it’s hard to stop some refugee-laden boats “except via sinking or shooting.”

Jan 23, 2016

Iran Makes First Post-Sanctions Sale of Oil to Europe - WSJ

"Greece’s largest refinery Hellenic Petroleum has agreed to buy oil from the National Iranian Oil Co., marking the first sale of Iranian crude to a European country since the lifting of trade sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation."

PM Tsipras: ‘It might be the last opportunity for Greece. Let’s not lose it’ - HuffingtonPost Greece (in Greek)

"Everything indicates that Greece is ready to recover. Suffice to avoid repeating the same mistakes of the past, "said Greek Prime Minister to the director of The Huffington Post, adding that" evaluation should be closed as quickly as possible."

More Coverage:

PM Tsipras: ‘It might be the last opportunity for Greece. Let’s not lose it’-

Greece 'facing exclusion' from Schengen passport-free zone - Egypt Independent

"It is a myth that the Greco-Turkish border cannot be controlled," Mikl-Leitner insisted.

"When a Schengen signatory does not permanently fulfil its obligations and only hesitatingly accepts aid then we should not rule out that possibility," she added.

"The patience of many Europeans has reached its limit ... We have talked a lot, now we must act. It is about protecting stability, order and security in Europe," she insisted.

Jan 22, 2016

45 migrants drown as 2 smuggling boats sink off Greece - SF Gate

"At least 45 people, including 17 children, drowned Friday in the Aegean Sea as two smuggling boats sunk off different Greek islands. A search-and-rescue operation was underway for others feared trapped in the wreckage.

The Greek coast guard and other boats saved more than 70 people from the sunken vessels."

Jan 21, 2016

Greece demands that migrants declare final EU destination - Yahoo

"Migrants and refugees arriving in Greece must state their final destination to travel further into the European Union, a Greek police source told Reuters on Thursday, following moves by neighbouring states to quell migrant flows.

...Greece, a main gateway to Europe for migrants crossing the Aegean sea, has faced criticism from other EU governments who say it has done little to manage the flow of hundreds of thousands of people arriving from Turkey on its shores."

IMF demands EU debt relief for Greece before new bailout - UK Guardian

"The European Union will need to provide significant debt relief for Greece if it is to persuade the International Monetary Fund to put its financial clout behind the country’s third bailout package, the Washington-based organisation has said.

...The IMF said of the talks: “The managing director reiterated that the IMF stands ready to continue to support Greece in achieving robust economic growth and sustainable public finances through a credible and comprehensive medium-term economic programme."

Jan 20, 2016

Greece Must Improve Pension Bid to Win Debt Ease, Moscovici Says - Bloomberg

"Greece must improve its pension proposals in order to move ahead with its bailout program and start discussions on easing its debt burden, European Union Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said.

...Pension reform has become the most contentious issue in Greece’s effort to show creditors its finances can move to a sustainable footing. Greece’s “absolute red line” is no further cuts in primary pensions, Labor and Social Security Minister George Katrougalos said on Jan. 12 ..."

How the New Left Governs Greece - National Review

"SYRIZA has increased taxes on all sorts of things and is planning to double the taxation of farmers. It has increased business taxes and also demanded the pre-payment of business taxes. It has increased the VAT on almost all goods, and it is defining affluence down so as to increase income taxes for a greater number of taxpayers. And although Greece has probably the highest social-security contributions in Europe, SYRIZA is planning to increase these contributions even more, despite the fact that pensioners now outnumber those who are still employed in the private sector.

Behind this policy madness is a very cynical ploy by SYRIZA, which aims to preserve a large voting block of public-sector employees and pensioners on its side. In the fragmented political landscape of post-crisis Greece, that ploy almost guarantees SYRIZA first place in the polls."

Jan 18, 2016

Snowfall and huge temperature drop across Greece - ANAMPA

"Snow has started to fall in most parts of Greece from early Monday causing a series of problems mostly to traffic.

In the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, snow has fallen in the surrounding mountainous and semi-mountainous areas with the temperatures ranging between 0C-04C.

The snowfall is intense in central Greece without problems in the traffic in the cities of Larissa, Lamia and Volos. However, snow chains are necessary for vehicles moving on the regional and mountainous roads across the country."

Decades on, remains of 6 Greek soldiers returned to families - ekathimerini

"Relatives attended a brief military ceremony Monday at Cyprus' National Guard headquarters where they received the remains in six small, flag-draped coffins which will be flown to Greece aboard a military transport aircraft."

Technical teams begin first review of Greece’s third bailout program - tovima

"It appears that their arrival has been delays in relation to the objections they have raised over the Greek government’s ambitious pension system reform plans, as well as a fiscal shortfall."

Greece Cracks Down On Volunteers Aiding Migrants - NPR

"The Greek coast guard has arrested 5 foreign members of volunteer rescue teams trying to help migrants crossing between Turkey and the Greek islands. They may be charged with aiding human trafficking."

Additional Coverage: Greece frees migrant rescuers detained for 'trafficking' - Yahoo News
Greece Seeks German Know-how to Tackle Tax Evasion - Newsmax

"Greek tax officials, initially numbering about 50, will be trained by the tax authorities of North Rhine-Westphalia, a state noted for its success in persuading German citizens to repatriate capital they had whisked abroad to avoid taxation. Their efforts have resulted in 1 billion euros ($1.09 billion) in extra revenue since 2010."

Jan 17, 2016

IMF resists a return to still-struggling Greece - Free Malay

"The IMF does not appear now so willing to join the Europeans, who agreed last summer on a new 86-billion-euro plan to support Greece. Yet, under pressure from the Germans, the European institutions have made the IMF’s involvement a primary condition of their deal."

Jan 15, 2016

Next Up for Greece: How to Shrink the Debt - WSJ

"Greece already sliced its debts to private lenders through a bond swap in 2012. But that wasn’t enough. Now, most of its debt is owed to other eurozone governments, which have conceded Athens needs more relief.

The debt talks won’t begin until after still-difficult negotiations over steps Greece must take, including pension changes and budget cuts, to complete the first review of its latest bailout package for up to €86 billion ($93.4 billion) agreed to last year."

Greek budget revenue surpassed targets in 2015 - Athens News Agency

"The Greek government surpassed a medium-term programme target for a primary deficit of 0.25 pct in 2015 and was very close to recording a primary surplus for the year, after revenues surpassed targets by around 2.0 billion euros in the last few months of 2015, ANA-MPA sources said on Friday."

Jan 14, 2016

EU warns Greece not to 'play games' with IMF - CNBC MoneyControl

"The EU's economic affairs commissioner has called on Athens "not to play games" with the International Monetary Fund as the body decides whether to participate in Greece's latest bailout. Pierre Moscovici insisted the IMF must play a role in the three-year, 86-billion-euro (USD 93-billion) rescue package agreed in July, but Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said funds from the institution are not necessary."

Greece says Eldorado must resume mining operations before talks on investment can continue - Reuters

"The Vancouver-based miner has been in a dispute with the Greek government after Energy Minister Panos Skourletis in August revoked the company's permit to further develop its Skouries mine in a forested area of northern Greece on environmental concerns.

The case is widely seen as a test of the leftist government's approach to foreign investment."

Brussels Briefing: Grappling with Greece…again - FT

"In a memo the Syriza-led government has circulated in Brussels, officials note last year’s agreement talks of €1.8bn in “savings” not “cuts”, and they are proposing to close the gap by increasing employer payments into the system rather than slashing benefits. The European Commission appears willing to work with that, but the IMF remains sceptical – increased payments will raise labour costs and hit competitiveness. There are also concerns that Syriza is protecting middle-class pensioners, giving them incentives to retire early, rather than just the working poor."

Inflation Returns to Greece After Three Years of Falling Prices - Bloomberg

"Greek inflation returned in December, ending almost three years of non-stop price declines during the country’s economic and political crisis.

...The return of inflation in Greece moves the country above the average for the euro area, where consumer prices rose an annual 0.2 percent in December."

Jan 12, 2016

Canada’s Eldorado Gold Loses Patience With Greece - WSJ

"Canada’s Eldorado Gold Corp. said Tuesday it will suspend one of its mining operations in northern Greece, accusing the left-wing government in Athens of treating the project as a “political toy” that has resulted in licensing delays.

...The company says that in 2015 the Energy Ministry revoked some government permits that it had previously issued, forcing Eldorado to seek legal redress. Since then, some of the issues have been settled while others are still outstanding."

More Coverage:

Eldorado CEO says mining halt in Greece will cost 600 jobs - Reuters

Migrants stuck in broke Greece as borders shut - NWAOnline

"As twilight falls outside the Hellenikon shelter — a former Olympic field hockey venue currently housing about 280 people — Iranian men play volleyball, a red line on the ground serving in place of a net. Inside, migrants are coming to terms with their bleak future.

“I can’t go back to Somalia,” said English teacher Ali Heydar Aki, who hoped to settle in Europe and then bring his family. “I have sold half my house” to fund the trip.

While it’s unclear exactly how many are stuck in Greece, a comparison of arrivals there and in Macedonia since late November leaves about 38,000 people unaccounted for."

Smugglers change tactics as refugee flow to Greece holds steady - Sofia

"It is Friday night, and Kitromilidi, a coordinator for the FEOX Rescue Team, is standing on the southeastern shore of Chios, a Greek island where asylum-seekers have been arriving under the cover of darkness ever since the Turkish Coast Guard increased its presence. Only a few refugees made the crossing in recent days, but Kitromilidi credits bad weather over the authorities, who she says “pretend to work during the week and take weekends off.”

... Now the seas are calm again and Kitromilidi’s expecting a long night out. She radios back and forth with team members spread out over the area on ATVs and Vespa scooters. Everyone is waiting as Kitromilidi shines a light into the dark water below."

Jan 11, 2016

France 'convinced Greece will live up to economic reform promises' - UK Reuters

"Greece found an ally in France's finance minister on Sunday as Athens seeks support from its European creditors for its efforts at economic reforms that are crucial to opening talks on easing its debt burden."

Jan 9, 2016

A money manager advises Greece on how to emerge from the abyss - Chicago Business

"Greece is squeezed by a debt bill of some $350 billion and a depression. Unemployment was nearly 25 percent last month. The country came close to exiting the European Union last year before ultimately accepting a variety of austerity measures in return for more international loans.

Calamos and other board members of the Hellenic Initiative have talked to the Greek prime minister and others about removing red tape that prevents the private sector from growing. “That would create jobs,” he says. Greek officials are receptive, though it remains “a slow and complicated process.”

Jan 8, 2016

Refugees Turn Life Vests Into Handbags - ABC News

"A group of volunteers at a refugee shelter on the island has launched a project to make handbags, totes, and messenger bags out of the brightly colored vests, hoping to raise money for charity efforts on the island.

At a tiny makeshift workshop, Afghan tailor Yasin Samadi works with a sewing machine to make a small orange dispatch bag, as children and other curious onlookers wander in and out, drawn by the bursts of noise from the machine."

Glimmer of New Year Hope - WSJ

" positive surprise could occur this weekend when Greece’s main opposition party, New Democracy, votes to choose its new leader.

...In many respects, Mr. Mitsotakis is an unlikely standard-bearer for uncompromising reform of Greece’s corrupt political and economic system. He is the son of a former prime minister, albeit one of the few precrisis prime ministers to attempt to grapple with Greece’s deep problems, and his elder sister is a former deputy party leader, leaving him vulnerable to the charge that he is just another dynastic politician.

...Mr. Mitsotakis was widely regarded as one of the most effective ministers in the previous government, winning respect from Greece’s creditors for his efforts to streamline the dysfunctional public administration and introduce new concepts such as promotion on merit."

Greece’s Two Currencies - Project Syndicate

"On August 18, 2015, a few weeks after pulling the plug from Greece’s banks (thus making capital controls inevitable), the European Central Bank and its Greek branch, the Bank of Greece, actually formalized a dual-currency currency regime. A government decree stated that “Transfer of the early, partial, or total prepayment of a loan in a credit institution is prohibited, excluding repayment by cash or remittance from abroad.”

The eurozone authorities thus permitted Greek banks to deny their customers the right to repay loans or mortgages in BE, thereby boosting the effective BE-FE exchange rate."

Jan 7, 2016

Greece Deserves a Break on Pension Reform - Bloomberg

"Given its wafer-thin majority of three in parliament, none of these reforms was easily accomplished. But it is overhauling the pension system that remains the trickiest task facing the country.

..I still think Greece would be better off with the flexibility to revalue its own currency, set its own monetary policy and plot its own fiscal future. The government, though, seems willing to accept the economic straitjacket that comes with the currency union.

So after all the progress that's been made since Tsipras effectively abandoned his anti-austerity rhetoric and faced up to the obligations accompanying the bailout, it would be a real shame if intransigence over pension reform put Grexit back on the agenda."

Greece's fledgling oil sector steps up production - Reuters

"Greece's sole oil producer, Energean Oil & Gas, has increased daily production by 60 percent since last year, it said on Thursday, as the debt-laden country seeks to exploit its limited oil reserves to boost its public finances."

Jan 6, 2016

Varoufakis Is Starting A New Political Movement In Berlin - Huffington

"Ceremonies were held across the country, with divers jumping from piers, bridges and tug boats and including school children and members of the country's navy special forces.

The main ceremony was held at the country's largest port of Piraeus, near Athens, but left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras attended a smaller ceremony in the Greek capital following a spat with traditionalists in the Orthodox Church who vehemently opposed a recent law sanctioning same sex-civil partnerships.

Bishop Serapheim of Piraeus described the law an "insult to human identity" and "psychiatric deviation from healthy sexuality.""

Orthodox Christians celebrate Epiphany - SF Gate

"Wednesday is Epiphany, a major holiday in much of Orthodox Christianity celebrating the birth and baptism of Jesus. Religious services are held as well as Blessing of Water ceremonies at lakes, rivers and seafronts.

But in Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and other Orthodox countries which observe a different religious calendar, it is Christmas Eve. Roman Catholics and Protestants, meanwhile, celebrate the story of the Wise Men who followed a star to Jesus' cradle."

Jan 5, 2016

Greece's economic crisis goes on, like an odyssey without end - UK Guardian

"Last year was tumultuous, punctuated by two elections, a referendum, the imposition of capital controls, negotiations to reach a bailout deal, cliffhanger parliamentary votes and Athens’ closest brush yet with bankruptcy and euro exit. But 2016 could be more unpredictable still. The hardest, many agree, is yet to come, even if Greeks have stared into the abyss and accepted there is no alternative to the constraints of membership of the eurozone.

“Just when a lot of people thought it couldn’t get worse, it seems it can,” says Toula Thanopoulou, the director of the Union of Borrowers and Consumers. “We are seeing people in really bad shape psychologically. They are incredibly scared that the next step will be banks taking away their homes. The government says all will be well, but the problem is no one believes it.”

Collision course with creditors after vowing not to slash pensions - UK Telegraph

"...pensions spending has proven to be the main sticking point for Greece and its Troika of creditors - the European Commision, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund - during nearly a year of tortuous negotiations.

...Syriza argues that its social security system is one of the last safety nets in a country where unemployment stands at over 20pc."

Proposed pension reforms get no backing from opposition - Business Recorder

"...tough pension reforms will be a test for Tsipras' ruling coalition, which has a majority of just three seats in parliament, and his resolve to carry out measures demanded by international creditors, who must sign off on the plan.

...The plan calls for merging all six main pension funds into one and foresees cuts in future main pensions that could reach up to 30 percent. It sets a lower limit at 384 euros per month."

Jan 4, 2016

Over 200 Refugees And Migrants Rescued Off Greece Amid Rough Seas - Huffington

"A cost guard spokeswoman said conditions in the eastern Aegean Sea were "very unfavorable" with high winds prevailing.

The first casualty of the year, a boy, died on Saturday when an inflatable dinghy carrying 40 people was thrown into rocks off the Greek island of Agathonisi. The others were rescued, including a woman who had been thrown at sea during the crash. "

Defiant Greece Tells Global Creditors: We Will NOT Cut Government Pensions - Breitbart

"Greece’s prime minister on Sunday said his government will not give in to “unreasonable” demands as the debt-ridden country braces for critical negotiations with international creditors on the thorny issue of pension reform.

“If we don’t face the problem of the social security system today, in a year we won’t be able to pay pensions,” the labour ministry’s seniormost official, Andreas Nefeloudis, told Mega channel TV on Sunday."

Jan 2, 2016

Savers in Greece still wary of Tsipras after 2015 financial tumult - Gulf Times

"Deposits held by households and businesses in Greek banks fell close to a 12-year-low of €120.9bn ($131.3bn) in November, bringing total losses to a record of more than €43bn, or 26.4% of total savings, in the last 12 months. Savers’ distrust may derail the government’s goal of lifting capital controls by the end of June. Reluctance to return deposits held abroad or under mattresses back to banks hinders the ability of lenders to provide credit to the economy, as the government struggles to lead Greece out of recession in 2016 after a turbulent year which pushed the country to the verge of leaving the euro area.

... Greek lenders cleared the hurdle of a pan-European review in 2014 thanks to capital increases of more than €8bn and restructuring plans approved by the European Commission, only to see their solvency put to the test in 2015 when Tsipras’s government revolted against the terms attached to the country’s bailout lifeline. A stress test by the European Central Bank uncovered a €14.4bn-hole in their books, amid increases in bad loans, subdued economic activity, expensive emergency funding requirements and strict limits on capital transfers."

1.2 Billion Euro Auction of 6-Month T-Bills coming January 5 - Business Recorder

"The settlement date of the new T-bills will be January 8. Only primary dealers will be allowed to participate and no commission is to be paid."

In Greece, eat, drink, dance and be merry - SF Gate

"Just as important as food is religion. Ninety-five percent of all Greeks consider themselves Orthodox, even if they rarely go to church. Orthodox elements appear everywhere. Icon shrines dot the highways. Orthodox priests — with their Old Testament beards, black robes, necklaces, cake-shaped hats and families in tow — mingle with parishioners on street corners. During the course of the day, Greeks routinely pop into churches to light a candle, asking for favors. Even local teens who seem far from religious make the sign of the cross when passing a church.

... When celebrating special events, especially at weddings and baptisms, Greeks love to dance. Popular dances include the graceful kalamatianos circle dance and the syrtaki, done with arms outstretched or thrown across one another’s shoulders as immortalized by Anthony Quinn in the film “Zorba the Greek.” A few dancers might get carried away, “applaud” by throwing plates or flowers, and then dance on the tables into the wee hours."

Santorini Guide 2015

Acropolis Dusk into Night

Snow on the Acropolis Greece Athens

Greek words and phrases:

mi-la-ka-nis ang-glee-ka [Does anyone speak English?]

then mi-lo el-lee-ni-ka [I don't speak Greek]

The Socialists Revenge in Athens, Greece, 2004

Athens, Circa 1994

Greek War for Independence: How the Ottoman's empowered the Greek Revolution

Philoxenia, 1968 Greece

Greek identity after the War of Independence: Hellenic Place-names

Vote-Rigging and the quasi-feudal system in Greece: Patronage in Post-Independence Greece

Antoine Bon Thessaly
Photo of Thessaly Greece; Meteora mountains 1938. Click to view enlargement.
Rhodes Island Tile
Scan of Rhodes Island Souvenir tile, circa 1976. Click to view enlargement.


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