NEWS ARCHIVE - MARCH 2013
March 29, 2013
"Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Thursday as the government tries to wrap up several loose ends regarding structural reforms ahead of the troika’s return to Athens, which is scheduled for April 3 or 4.
Fearing a worsening climate in the eurozone after the tense negotiations over the Cyprus bailout, Samaras held the talks with the aim of finalizing Greece’s position on sackings and transfers in the civil service, how the emergency property tax will be levied, how the burden on loan holders can be alleviated and what kind of payment plan will be offered to Greeks who owe taxes."
March 28, 2013
"While some jittery depositors said they had withdrawn the bulk of their savings, others appeared unruffled, saying they were just going about their usual banking business.
As well they might. Piraeus Bank, one of the largest Greek financial institutions, this week took over the local branches of the Cypriot lenders Bank of Cyprus, Hellenic Bank and Laiki Bank, also known as Cyprus Popular Bank. As a result, the deposits in those branches, which total about €15 billion, or $19 billion, roughly 10 percent of the total savings in Greece, will not be subject to any of the losses or capital controls that will hit some bank deposits in Cyprus.
Even so, the Cypriot debacle has rattled some savers enough for them to want their money back, regardless of who now owns their banks. Outside the main branch of Bank of Cyprus in central Athens, Panagiotis, a 40-year-old salesman who has been unemployed for three years, and who did not want to give his last name, said he had just withdrawn €1,000, the bulk of his savings.
“I left €20 so they don’t close the account,” he said, adding that he planned to stash the money in a bookcase at his home. “I don’t trust banks anymore.”
"There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which follows a string of bomb attacks in the financially-struggling country by anarchist groups that have caused no major injuries or loss of life.
Police spokesman Panagiotis Papapetropoulos said officers were able before the blast to evacuate one or two people from the building and to seal off the area.
“Judging by the minor extent of the damage, it can’t have been a very strong explosive device,” he said.
The house belongs to a member of the Tsakos ship owning family, police said."
March 27, 2013
"Rehhagel, who led Greece to victory at the Euro 2004, is holding talks in Athens as a goodwill ambassador.
The 74-year-old was reportedly picked out for the delicate mission by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Many Greeks hold Mrs Merkel responsible for tough austerity measures being implemented by the Greek government.
Over the past few days, the German chancellor has also been blamed by protesters in Cyprus for the stringent terms of its EU bailout. "
"The transfer of the branches, which represent about a tenth of Greece's banking market, was part of Cyprus's international bailout deal to help shield Greek lenders from the island's crisis and allow Cyprus to shrink its bloated banking sector.
Piraeus beat out rival Alpha Bank to acquire the Greek operations of Bank of Cyprus, Cyprus Popular Bank and Hellenic Bank."
March 26, 2013
"From an article titled "Why Thailand and Greece spell tragedy for travellers"
While the deaths in Thailand were largely due to illness or accident, most in Greece were from what the Department of Foreign Affairs calls ‘‘natural causes’’, pointing to a much older group travelling there. "
This is an interesting strategy: In an effort to calm markets and reassure banks, eurozone chief Dijsselbloem has scared everyone else with plans for using Cyprus as a template on how to handle bank crisis in the future:
"Savings accounts in Spain, Italy and other European countries will be raided if needed to preserve Europe's single currency by propping up failing banks, a senior eurozone official has announced.
The euro fell on global markets after Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch chairman of the eurozone, announced that the heavy losses inflicted on depositors in Cyprus would be the template for future banking crises across Europe.
"If there is a risk in a bank, our first question should be 'Okay, what are you in the bank going to do about that? What can you do to recapitalise yourself?'," he said.
"If the bank can't do it, then we'll talk to the shareholders and the bondholders, we'll ask them to contribute in recapitalising the bank, and if necessary the uninsured deposit holders."
Ditching a three-year-old policy of protecting senior bondholders and large depositors, over €100,000, in banks, Mr Dijsselbloem argued that the lack of market contagion surrounding Cyprus showed that private investors could now be hit to pay for bad banking debts"
"Maybe the Cyprus bail-out is a template, after all. The European Commission has given the markets another shake by saying large depositors could be "bailed in" (i.e. their savings could be raided) for future bank rescues. Speaking at a press briefing, Commission spokeswoman Chantal Hughes said:
Quote In the Commission's proposal, which is under discussion, it is not excluded that deposits over €100,000 could be instruments eligible for bail-in.
...Confusing messages are coming from the European Commission, whose spokesman is being reported as saying that insured deposits (those under €100,000) cannot be raided to prop up failing banks, despite such an option being contained in the original proposal rejected by the Cypriot parliament last week."
"Greece's Piraeus bank has signed a deal to take over the branches of Cypriot banks in Greece, a banking source told Reuters on Monday."
March 25, 2013
"Eurozone finance ministers have agreed a 10bn-euro bailout deal for Cyprus to prevent its banking system collapsing and keep the country in the eurozone.
Laiki (Popular) Bank - the country's second-biggest - will be wound down and deposit-holders with more than 100,000 euros ($130,000; £85,000) will face big losses.
However, all deposits under 100,000 euros will be "fully guaranteed".
Officials warn the island faces a deep recession with many businesses to shut."
"The agreement stops the slide towards a eurozone exit and the chaos that would come with that," said the government spokesman.
"Cyprus has produced miracles many times. It will do it again,” added Kedikoglou. “It has the ability to make use of its unique position and its wealth-producing resources to return to prosperity and growth soon."
In his statement, he also warned that other countries should not seek to take advantage of Cyprus’s economic weakness. The comment comes after the Turkish Foreign Ministry warned on Saturday of a "new crisis" in the Mediterranean if Cyprus collateralizes gas revenues as part of plans to form a solidarity fund.
SYRIZA condemned the agreement in Brussels, where it said that Cyprus had succumbed to “blackmail” and "threats."
March 23, 2013
"Lawmakers in Cyprus approved three bills late Friday aimed at securing a bailout for its troubled banks from the European Union and averting a financial meltdown.
The legislation includes one bill that allows the government to divide the wobbling lenders into good and bad banks -- a law that would likely to be applied first to Cyprus Popular Bank. The goal is to restructure without hurting small depositors.
A second law puts in place restrictions on financial transactions in times of crisis and a third sets up a "solidarity fund."
The country is expected to adopt more legislation in an effort to raise the 5.8 billion euros Cyprus needs to get an EU bailout.
...Earlier Friday a Greek Bank was chosen to take over the local branches of Cyprus's troubled banks in a bid to shelter Greek customers of those institutions and help Cyprus shrink its bloated banking sector."
March 21, 2013
"Vice-President of the European Commission, Viviane Reding will travel to Thessaloniki, Greece tomorrow in order to participate in a debate with over 500 citizens about the impact of the crisis and their expectations for the future of the European Union.
As Vice-President Reding said, "There must be more discussions with the Greek people – and not just about them. I am going to Greece as a friend. And friends must be frank: there is no alternative to the difficult reforms. They are needed in order to ensure that future generations won't pick up the bill for past generations' mistakes. The EU is helping in this difficult process."
"If you’re expecting paintings of columned buildings and idealized nude statues, you’ll be both surprised and disappointed, because “Stratografia” is a collection of abstract pieces. Lowery had an exhibit of more realistic works at Drury in December 2009, titled “Into the Pyre,” that focused on Greece’s troubles. At the time, I wrote that he was dealing with a nation “living with a 2,500-year-old identity crisis.”
“This work came after (that) show,” Lowery said. “It’s even more abstract, focusing on layering and hand-painted geometrics. That body of work largely focused on the riots of the time.”
With these paintings, Lowery added, he wanted to experiment with Greece’s “sense of color, luminosity, light. That’s something that works well.”
Even though the show is abstract, it’s still about “a sense of place,” Lowery said, “about the Greece that I love. It’s not about the turmoil; it’s about the deep sense of history and the crazy modern structure of Athens.”
“Greece gets a bad rap, and it shouldn’t,” he added. “It’s beautiful.”
Interview with Papandreou covering a variety of subjects on the crisis in Greece. Example:
"High unemployment and a deepening recession have fueled political extremism on the right and left in Greece. Can you explain this tendency and how to address it?
We have a rise of extremism because we need to give a sense that we are targeting some of the deeper problems in Greece, the injustices. For example, a tax system which helped the tax evaders at the top echelons--the richer part of society--and put the burden on the middle and lower class wage earners. That has been revamped, up to a point, and we are fighting tax evasion. [Greece should] give a sense of empowerment.
For example, when I asked for a referendum [on the European bailout program in 2011], I wanted to have our citizens decide on the future of Greece. We see very often populism and a rise in extremism when people feel disempowered. So we need to find ways to bring in our citizens to participate more. And I think we absolutely need to cut down on the austerity measures and move toward a slower adjustment, sort of a grand bargain from inside the European Union, which says, 'These countries are under this adjustment program, we'll give them more time. They can cut their deficits, but they can do it over a longer period of time. Maybe their debt should be restructured in a way that gives them a longer time to pay it back. Or maybe with even better terms for loans.'
If we do that on one side, then also prioritize the structural issues of institution building, creating transparency, making us more innovative, making us more capable in our administration, in the end it will make us a more sustainable economy. We need to make sure there is light at the end of the tunnel if we want to fight extremism and frustration in our society."
March 20, 2013
"The three Cypriot banks with operations in Greece - Bank of Cyprus, Cyprus Popular Bank (CPB) and Hellenic Bank - have about a 10 per cent share of the banking market based on loans and about 8 per cent of deposits.
They operate as branches of their Cypriot parents and not as subsidiaries, meaning they are regulated by Cyprus's central bank, which also provides them with funding through its emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) facility.
Their ELA exposure stems primarily from their Greek operations and covers their funding gap - the difference between assets and liabilities. The Greek units have higher loan-to-deposit ratios compared to their Cypriot parents.
Together they run a network of just over 300 branches in Greece and employ about 5,000 people. Their combined loan portfolio tops 20 billion euros, according to analysts.
The biggest of the three is Bank of Cyprus, which has a network of 181 branches in Greece."
"Greece has a Plan B regarding Cypriot banks operating in the country to minimize any repercussions from the Cyprus financial crisis, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Wednesday in Athens.
"Cypriot banks cannot remain closed for a long time; otherwise the Cypriot economy will be destroyed. A solution needs to be clinched within the next few hours, otherwise Greece will do what it must do," Stournaras stressed, addressing the Greek parliament."
"Shares on the Athens Stock exchange rebounded Wednesday from heavy losses suffered over Cyprus' financial crisis, as a political spat erupted in Greece over whether the government is being too compliant with demands by its own rescue lenders.
Banking stocks rose nearly 5 percent, as the general share index closed up 0.8 percent higher at 930.73.
The market had slumped on Tuesday, with bank share loses nearing 10 percent, in the first trading session since it was announced early Saturday that Cyprus would raid bank deposits to fund its bailout. "
March 18, 2013
"However, the deposit grab sets a dangerous precedent. "It creates a problem of trust in the European banking system as a whole."
Greek officials have made repeated assurances that all deposits in the country are not in danger.
"The deposits at all Greek banks and at the branches of Cypriot banks in Greece are totally safeguarded," Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas told state-run NET television.
He noted that Cyprus' problems were completely different from Greece's. Cyprus has a huge banking system that will collapse without rescue money. In Greece, the problem was overspending by the government.
To help in Cyprus' rescue operation, Greek banks are expected to purchase the operations of Cypriot banks in Greece. Those operations have estimated combined deposits worth (EURO)13 billion and loans totaling more than (EURO)20 billion, with more than 300 branches and more than 4,500 staff.
Asked about the expected acquisitions, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said: "We are ready," but refused to elaborate."
“A friend of mine and I were looking for activities to do without having to pay the cost of enrollment fees,” he tells me. “We checked into the Athens laughter club about a year ago, and ever since my life has changed.”
“As soon as I see myself sinking in despair,” he explains, adjusting his tight Mr. America T-shirt, “I crack even the tiniest of smiles, and that helps a feel-good emotion kick in, wiping out any and every shred of negativity.”
Pioneered by a physician in India just under a decade ago, laughter yoga has taken much of the world by storm, making its way even into repressive countries such as Iran, where Tehran’s city council has set up classes in a seemingly Orwellian attempt to combat widespread discontent there.
Greece, though, is different. At any other point in time, psychologists say, the blockbuster trend would have bombed in a country known for its sun-kissed, mirthful and free-spirited folk. Instead, laughter clubs are sprouting here like Tupperware parties, in part, perhaps, because of their non-centralized direction; just about anyone, trained or not, can become a laughing guru within a session or two."
March 18, 2013
"Greek commandos are said to have freed one captive during the siege.
Smoke bombs were hurled during the operation, according to Greek news website Parapolitika. BBC News
Rizaj decided to surrender when he realised he would be overwhelmed by the police's special forces, Greece's Ekathimerini newspaper reports, quoting officials."
"Cypriot bank branches operating in Greece have been excluded from the emergency "haircut" imposed on deposits at the Mediterranean Sea island's banking system as part of a bailout deal to address the economic crisis, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Saturday.
The management of Greece's debt crisis is not affected by Euro group's decision to implement a special depositor tax at the island's banking sector, he stressed in a statement in Athens upon his return from Brussels."
March 17, 2013
"Athens has started exploring local lenders' interest in taking over the Greek units of Cypriot banks, as part of the island's international bailout agreed earlier on Saturday, Greece's finance minister said.
Cypriot banks will receive the bulk of the 10 billion euros ($13 billion) that Nicosia will get from euro zone countries to stave off bankruptcy. Unlike in previous bailouts for other nations, the rescue package is co-funded by levies on bank deposits."
"Sorting out Greece is going to take more than further reform and spending cuts they argue. It will also have to include the “readjustment of Greece’s programme fiscal targets to incorporate the lessons of Ireland’s useful example.
“Using the fiscal space gained from spreading out the remaining adjustment needed over a longer period of time should do much to stem the downward course of economic activity and renew growth,” they argue. Stretching out the time-table will require additional financing, possibly through lower interest rates on bailout funds Anderson proposes – one suspects a little hopefully."
"...well-known Albanian convicted murderer took prison employees hostage at a central Greece jail late Saturday. Rijai has been incarcerated in the Malandrino jail since 2003 after being convected of murder.
The convict clams that he has explosives, including a grenade, and threatens to blow up the prison if his demands are not met."
March 16, 2013
"For the year as a whole, the Greek economy, measured in 2005 euros, fell to 168.5 billion euros, down 6.4 percent from the previous year. That was a little better than the 7.1 percent decline in 2011. The last time the Greek economy was smaller than in 2012 was in 2001. The cumulative decline since 2007 was 20.1 percent.
In December, the unemployment rate was 26.4 percent, and that figure actually looked a little encouraging because it was lower than the 26.6 percent reported for November. Not since May 2008, when the rate fell half a percentage point to 7.3 percent, had there been a single month when the unemployment rate was reported to have fallen."
"Greece will auction 1.0 billion euros ($1.3 billion) of three-month treasury bills on March 19 to roll over maturing debt, the country's debt agency PDMA said on Friday."
March 15, 2013
"It has been so elaborately repeated that it almost borders on ritual: Greece’s troika of lenders leaves Athens with disagreement over whether the country should receive billions of euros in fresh financial aid.
Poul Thomsen of the International Monetary Fund, left, Klaus Masuch, center top, of the European Central Bank, and Matthias Morse of the European Commission, the mission chiefs for the lenders, were in Athens on Wednesday.
Greek officials scramble to tackle demands for more austerity to obtain the money, even as social distress deepens.
The cycle was staged again Thursday as the Greek government tried to figure out how to meet one of the troika’s toughest requirements: designating 25,000 of the country’s 650,000 or so civil servants for eventual dismissal.
That was one of the international creditors’ demands late Wednesday as their inspectors suspended the latest examination of Greece’s economic overhaul program, leaving town and leaving Greek officials to sharpen their pencils and steel their resolve to find more budget cuts. "
"After extending their trip by several days, troika inspectors said they would return in April to finish their review.
Insiders confirmed that progress on an agreement to unlock the country's next €2.8bn aid instalment, vital to public coffers, had been impeded by creditors' demands to cut 25,000 civil servants from the state payroll by the end of the year.
Athens's fragile government had hoped to convince lenders of the need to gradually transfer the employees into a special labour reserve by 2014, citing record levels of unemployment, anger with austerity and growing social unease. None of the mission chiefs was persuaded, however, given the reluctance of past administrations to shed staff who under the constitution enjoy jobs for life. Other disagreements included a relief plan for overindebted households and a controversial property tax levied through electricity bills."
"The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund expects to receive binding bids for lottery operator Opap SA (OPAP), gas monopoly Depa SA and grid operator Desfa SA by the end of April, said Ioannis Emiris, the privatization agency’s chief executive officer. The proceeds will make up the bulk of the 2.3 billion euros Greece needs to raise from sales this year, he said.
“There is no turning back,” Emiris said in an interview at his Athens office on March 13. “It’s a program that must proceed. It has been decided by law, and it has already begun. There’s no stopping it.”
The program has been stop-start since international creditors including the International Monetary Fund pushed the government to pledge 50 billion euros rather than 7 billion euros by selling assets ranging from island properties to airplanes. The plan is central to paying down a debt load that threatened to push Greece out of the euro last year."
...On Thursday ordered a probe into an unnamed foreign company to see if its license to operate in the country should be revoked over its involvement in an alleged covert shipping network operated on behalf of the Iranian government.
March 14, 2013
"The national statistical authority said Thursday that 1.29 million people were out of a job in October-December 2012. In the under 25 age group, unemployment was 57.8 per cent. The rate for women was 29.7 per cent, compared with 23.3 per cent for men. "
"Six metres below ground, archaeologists found what they say exceeded even their wildest dreams: the commercial heart of the ancient city below the commercial heart of the modern one - marked by a crossroads built by Caesar Galerius in the 4th Century and reconstructed two centuries later, when Thessaloniki had become the second city not of a nation-state, but of the multinational Byzantine Empire.
Descending the staircase to reach the closed-to-the-public dig site, you can see an incredibly well-preserved marble-paved road, complete with the remains of what used to be shops, workshops and public buildings and spaces. The road is still visibly etched by the passing of carriages, while the accompanying archaeologist even points to a marble block showing the markings of a noughts-and-crosses game, presumably carved by children playing in the open air market 17 centuries earlier.
Archaeologists and city authorities dream of a metro station combined with a subterranean museum, that will become a major tourist attraction and a constant reminder of the city's glorious past - a past lamentably hidden today by decades of anarchical construction and disastrous city plannin
Engineers with the company implementing the metro project, Attic Metro SA, however, say the two cannot exist together.
Keeping the ruins would mean scrapping the central subway station - and jeopardising the entire 3.5bn-euro (£3bn) EU-co-financed project - one of the few major public works under way in Greece's moribund economy."
March 13, 2013
"A 1,325-ton Turkish warship had strayed twice into Greek territorial waters, according to naval officials in Athens. In the past, officials said, it would have been met by an equal if not larger response.
But in this case, the warship was tailed by a 500-ton fast-attack Greek naval craft, and a 2,000-ton frigate was dispatched to the region.
"At any other point in time, incidents like these would have met a rapid and relative Greek response," said Yiorgos Glistis, a retired submarine commander. "Now we're seeing dinghies dogging frigates… [and] no really flexing of the muscle."
Biting budget cuts spurred by Greece's recession-ravaged economy have resulted in the military's operational costs being reduced by 29% since 2010. Politicians and defense experts say the cuts are strangling the nation's defense capabilities, sapping military morale and feeding far-right nationalism, even murmurs of a possible military rebellion."
"The talks between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the inspectors from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund — known as the Troika — were postponed by one day until Wednesday, following hours of negotiations involving members of his Cabinet.
“We are working to finalize as many issues as we can ... I don’t think we’ll get to all of them,” Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said."
Life-Support drugs running short - CNN
"Greece is locked in talks with international creditors in Athens about shrinking the government workforce by enough to keep bailout payments flowing.
Identifying redundant positions and putting in place a system that will lead to mandatory exits for about 150,000 civil servants by 2015 is a so-called milestone that will determine whether the country gets a 2.8 billion-euro ($3.6 billion) aid instalment due this month. More than a week of talks on that has so far failed to clinch an agreement.
Greece’s 10-year bond yield has dropped 20 percentage points since reaching almost 31 percent in May, after euro area finance ministers revamped the country’s second aid program. Policy makers gave Prime Minister Antonis Samaras two extra years until 2016 to meet budget-reduction targets after he forged a coalition government following two elections that jeopardized the country’s survival as a euro member."
"Having to skip cancer therapy twice in the last two months due to a lack of drugs normally available through Greece's national health system, 45-year-old Morfo Karadona says a new fear has entered her life.
"I have been battling cancer for the last six years. Now I can't find the drugs I need. Ensuring I get my treatment every two weeks is a matter of life and death for me."
Karadona is one of thousands of Greeks trapped in a vicious circle involving a cash-strapped government unable to pay its bills."
March 12, 2013
"Greece named the head of Athens water utility EYDAP as its new privatisation chief on Monday, moving quickly to fill the post in a bid to show it is determined to avoid new delays in its sell-off programme.
The previous privatisation agency chairman, Takis Athanasopoulos, resigned from his post on Saturday after being charged for breach of duty as chief executive of state utility PPC in 2007.
...Athanasopoulos will be replaced by Stelios Stavridis, a Swiss-trained engineer who held management posts at several Greek companies, including refiner Hellenic Petroleum , before being appointed head of EYDAP last November.
An outspoken economic liberal, he is an ardent supporter of privatisations and of the use of state property to attract foreign investment."
"Greece's cash-strapped government detailed Monday its plans to sell 28 state-owned buildings on long-term lease, including tax offices, ministry buildings, and the main police headquarters in Athens.
A government privatization fund said it hoped to make €30 million ($39 million) annually from the lease agreements lasting 20-25 years.
Included on the list of buildings for sale are the main properties used by the ministries of justice, education and culture, 12 tax offices and the greater Athens police headquarters."
March 11, 2013
"With the IMF, the EU, and the European Central Bank all in Athens to check on the progress of Greece in implementing agreed upon austerity measures in return for bail out money, Prime Minister Samaras has chosen this moment to declare an end to austerity measures.
This leaves vital reforms undone, including scaling down public sector employment by 150,000 workers by the end of 2015. With 20% of the country employed by government, and the private economy still in recession, Samaras is challenging his creditors to give him bail out money anyway or face a Greek collapse."
"Britain, Italy and Greece on Sunday confirmed that hostages from their countries were among seven construction workers reported killed in Nigeria over the weekend."
"On Saturday, Greece's privatisation chief and the finance ministry general secretary both stepped down over an investigation into alleged breach of duty at the country's main power group PPC where both were previously members of the board.
The blow came as the troubled Greek privatisation drive was beginning to hit a stride after years of delays.
In January, the privatisation agency completed Greece's first public land international deal in 15 years with a 99-year lease of a plot on the popular tourist island of Corfu for 23 million euros ($30 million)."
"An Israel Defense Forces statement said the operation, named "Noble Dina," was a scheduled annual exercise for its Navy and is part of the security cooperation between the Israeli Navy and foreign naval forces.
The joint maneuver, from March 7 to 21, will involve helicopters, ships, and search-and-rescue boats from the three nations."
March 10, 2013
"The head of Greece's privatisation fund quit on Saturday after less than a year at the post, the finance ministry said.
...Takis Athanassopoulos said he was stepping down over an investigation into his previous position as head of Greece's main power group PPC.
...The blow came as Greece was in the midst of an audit by its international creditors over reforms, including privatisations, necessary to unlock a new slice of loans this month."
"Greece has finally begun to crack down on corrupt politicians but anti-graft experts say much remains to be done to end decades of impunity.
Greek courts recently sent two veteran politicians, one conservative and one socialist, behind bars in the same week.
Vassilis Papageorgopoulos, former mayor of Greece's second largest city Thessaloniki, was handed a life sentence last month for turning a blind eye to the embezzlement of nearly 18 million euros ($23.5 million) from municipal coffers between 1999 and 2008.
A few days later, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, former minister in a succession of socialist governments, was sentenced to eight years for hiding revenue in the first of a series of trials related to his stint as defence minister. "
"...Alexander Dobrindt, the general secretary of [Merkel's] Christian Social Union (CSU) said Europe should continue working on an exit strategy for Greece.
“The greatest risk for the euro is still Greece,” he told German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag.
Mr Dobrindt, whose political party, the CSU, is Bavaria’s sister party to Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), urged the European Commission to prepare the legal ground work to allow a eurozone member to become bankrupt and exit the common currency. "
March 9, 2013
"Greece remains the biggest risk for the euro zone despite a calming of its economic and political crisis and may still have to leave the common currency, a senior conservative ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
Alexander Dobrindt, general secretary of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavaria-based sister party of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), has long argued that Greece would be better off outside the euro zone.
But German conservatives' criticism of Greece has eased since the conservative-led government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras accelerated harsh austerity measures demanded by Germany and the EU as part of its bailout programme."
March 8, 2013
"Archaeological sites and museums across Greece have shut down for 24 hours due to a strike by Culture Ministry employees protesting planned reforms that aim to streamline the ministry's operations.
Tourists arriving at the country's most famous monument, the Acropolis, on Friday morning found the gates padlocked and a sign saying the site would be closed for the day."
"Tourism in Greece is bouncing back this year in an otherwise flat European market, held back by the weak economic climate, travel industry executives said.
The desire for a beach holiday closer to home for cost-conscious consumers in Europe is helping to revive tourism demand in the country, battling recession and a debt crisis. "
"An unspecified number of former managers of Greek state utility Public Power Corporation were charged with breach of duty on Friday for commissioning a power plant that lost the company about 100 million euros, a court source said."
March 7, 2013
"Tourism bookings from Germany are showing an increase of more than 15 percent compared to this time last year, the head of the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE), Andreas Andreadis, said from the international tourism fair in Berlin (ITB) that opened to the public on Wednesday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel inaugurated the exhibition late on Tuesday, asking her compatriots to spend their vacations in Greece. After opening the event for the first time, Merkel visited the Greek representatives upon her own initiative and offered wishes of good luck for Greek tourism. "
"Greece is confident of getting an aid tranche due this month, its finance minister said on Wednesday, dismissing speculation that talks with foreign lenders on cutting its bloated public sector were deadlocked.
The European Union and International Monetary Fund - whose officials began their latest inspection visit to Athens on Sunday - agreed in December to give 49.1 billion euros in aid to Greece, easing fears of a Greek bankruptcy and euro zone exit. "
A severe recession compounded by a national debt crisis has had a profound impact on Greece’s real estate market. According to Mr. Bosdas, property prices have dropped an average of 35 to 50 percent since their peak in 2008. He said about 150,000 properties were sold annually in Greece from 2002 to 2008. “But in 2011, which are the latest figures, only 11,000 properties were sold,” he added, “so the market shrank by 95 percent.” Greece is therefore the perfect buyers’ market, as prices can now be negotiated and “cash buyers are kings.”
March 5, 2013
"Closure of the deal – the latest in a global shopping spree that has seen the sheikh's property portfolio spread from London to Beijing – has been met with glee in Greece, the west's most bankrupt state, and Doha, where the royal household experienced 18 months of excruciating drama to take possession of the outcrops.
"Greece is that kind of place," said Ioannis Kassianos, Ithaca's straight-talking Greek-American mayor. "Even when you buy an island, even if you are the emir of Qatar, it takes a year and a half for all the paperwork to go through."
The isles, known as the Echinades, caught the oil-rich monarch's fancy when he moored his super-yacht in the turquoise waters off Ithaca, took in the view and liked what he saw. That was four summers ago. "
"We are taxing everything now. It takes a month's income just to fill up the tractor with gasoline," said Giogas, who joined the peaceful rally. "My father and grandfather worked the same land that I do. But farmers will have to sell their land."
A series of tax exemptions have been scrapped for farmers under the latest reforms that took effect this year and were demanded by the eurozone and International Monetary Fund in exchange for rescue loans that have kept the country afloat for nearly three years.
The bailout funds are worth a total of (EURO)240 billion ($312 billion) - greater than the size of the country's annual gross domestic product, which is about (EURO)200 billion ($260 billion). National debt continues to rise and is expected to exceed (EURO)330 billion ($429 billion) in 2013 despite a major restructuring of privately-held debt last year.
"International auditors reviewing Greece’s bailout are demanding Greece makes more public sector layoffs before they will agree further lending. Greece’s creditors – the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – yesterday held a two-hour meeting with Greece’s finance minister Yannis Stournaras in Athens at the beginning of a week of discussions. The talks will affect the disbursement of €2.8bn (£2.4bn) in financial aid to Athens during March. Under the bailout conditions adopted last year, Greece needs to cut public sector workers by 25,000 in 2013 and a total of 150,000 by the end of 2015."
March 4, 2013
"Australians are the biggest spenders of any holidaymakers in cash-strapped Greece.
On average, they fork out €1420 ($1820) each per trip and stay about 12 days longer than most other nationalities. The next biggest spenders are Canadians (€1207), Americans (€1098) and Russians (€1005), according to figures from the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises.
Free-spending Australians are being urged to continue to travel to Greece despite occasional protests over tough austerity measures imposed on the population because of the country's ailing economy."
"Three Finance Ministry officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, say the creditors insist civil servant layoffs are needed as part of a reorganization plan to make the Greek state more efficient. The creditors also would like to see progress in privatizations and tax collection.
The talks, expected to last a week, will affect the disbursement of €2.8 billion in financial aid to Athens during March."
March 3, 2013
"Officials from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund return to Athens on Sunday to assess Greece's performance under a bailout plan as the government plays down the prospect of public sector job cuts.
The heads of the "troika" mission from the EU, IMF and the European Central Bank will meet Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras to review progress on privatizations, tax administration reforms, bank recapitalization and steps to shrink the public sector."
"The government is bracing for a difficult week as the leaders of the troika mission to Greece are back for fresh talks that are expected to focus on the streamlining of the civil service – and the possibility of layoffs – as well as tax collection, both areas where Greek authorities have failed to meet targets set by international creditors. "
March 2, 2013
"A major fund manager has reclassified Greece from a developed to an emerging market, in an unprecedented move reflecting the "unfortunate economic tailspin" of the Greek economy, which has threatened the future of the euro.
Russell Investments, which advises funds with $2.4 trillion (£1.6 trillion) in assets, said the Greek economy has been a "world concern" since it revealed unsustainable levels of public debt in 2009.
The American-based company said Greece, which Russell designated as a developed market in 2001, has been on a path towards reclassification as an emerging market since 2010, having failed Russell's operational and macro risk tests, including per-capita income, total market capitalisation and the level of trading volume, which determine the economic health and status of countries.
Managers at Russell will be forced to buy and sell shares to align holdings with their funds' criteria, following the reclassification."
March 1, 2013Greece to sell €875 mln eur 6-month T-Bills on March 5 - Reuters
"...Monthly T-bill sales are Greece's sole remaining source of market funding. Greek banks buy the bulk of the issues and deposit them as collateral to draw liquidity from the central bank."
"Major groups that opt to ship their products to Greece and use the port of Piraeus as a hub from which to distribute them to other countries in the region will be exempt from paying value-added tax, according to a draft law amendment submitted in Parliament on Thursday by the Finance Ministry."
"French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is in favor of strengthening Franco-Greek cooperation in defense strategy and operations, he told Kathimerini ahead of traveling to Athens today, just a few days after French President Francois Hollande paid a lightning visit to the Greek capital to discuss, among other things, the leasing of French multipurpose frigates to Greece to help with gas and oil exploration."
"Mayor of Thessaloniki, Yiannis Boutaris on Thursday said that Ottoman mosques in Thessaloniki may be opened to prayers. Speaking to reporters in Ankara as part of the Turkish-Greek Tourism Forum, Mayor Boutaris indicated that it was up to the Greek government to open mosques to prayers.
...Expressing that the issue of mosques is a task of the government, Boutaris said “As far as I know, a decision has been made in the direction of a mosque in Athens.”
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Andros: The Little England of the Cyclades - AMAZON