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NEWS ARCHIVE - January 2014

January 29, 2014

Troika success story or a warning against too much austerity? EU Parliament Web Site

'Greek public debt averaged just under 104% of its gross domectic product (GDP) during 1994-2009 and reached 148.3% in 2010, the year when Greece asked the EU for help. However, austerity seems to have made the situation worse. The European Commission estimates Greek public debt to have reached 176.2% of GDP in 2013 and forecasts it to fall to 170.9% in 2015.

According to Eurostat, the Greek economy has shrunk for six years in a row.The worst reduction was in 2011 when the GDP decreased by 7.1%. This year a 0.6% increase is expected, followed by 2.9% growth next year.

Unemployment rate is expected to remain at around 25% for the next couple of years. When Greece asked for help in 2010, it was only 12.6%.

...Over the last few years MEPs have often questioned how efficient the Troika's policies have been. When EP President Martin Schulz visited Greece in February 2012, he commented: "As representatives of the peoples of Europe, we are convinced that budgetary consolidation must not imperil social justice."

EU lawmakers probe bailout enforcers - Hearst SFGate

"Government and opposition party officials are meeting with a European Parliament delegation visiting Athens to investigate whether international bailout enforcers caused unnecessary hardship among Greeks.

The seven-member delegation led by a conservative Austrian lawmaker, Othmar Karas, met with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and left-wing opposition leader Alexis Tsipras."

66% sell off of ADMIE aproved by Parliament - eKathimerini

"Greek lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill for the privatization of Greece's Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE).

The bill foresees the sale of a 66-percent stake in the state-owned company, with the minimum 151 of the House's 300 MPs approving the decision.

...Sources told Kathimerini in December that the Chinese State Grid (SGCC), the biggest network company in the Asian country, and Italian power transmission operator Terna are in contact with the government for the acquisition of the controlling stake. "

January 28, 2014

More pressure for meeitng budget timetables - NY Times

"European officials sought on Monday to keep the pressure on Greece to honor its previously agreed spending and privatization targets as they wrestled with the need to help Athens bridge a funding gap that could reach €15 billion over the next two years.

A review of the Greek government’s finances by the so-called troika of international lenders “is taking too long,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who acts as chairman of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, said before the group’s monthly meeting. “It’s been going on since September-October, and I think it’s in the joint interest of us and the Greek government to finalize it as soon as possible.”

Greece has already received two bailouts and is staring at a shortfall of €4 billion, or $5.5 billion, this year. A third bailout, estimated at €7 billion to €11 billion, will very likely be necessary next year, economists say. A team of inspectors from the troika — the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund — is waiting for Athens to show progress on its commitments before lenders decide whether to release more money.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, said earlier Monday that he had seen data from the Greek government and was confident that a successful outcome would be reached. But at a news conference after the meeting of euro zone officials, Mr. Dijsselbloem suggested that Greek officials and the troika inspectors were at a virtual impasse."

January 27, 2014

Tension over budget - The UK Guardian

"The Greek economy minister, Yannis Stournaras, was steeling himself for a dressing down – even though he is chairing the session in Greece's capacity as current EU president – amid evidence of spiralling tensions between the debt-crippled nation and its international creditors.

The EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, which have already postponed completing their latest review of the economy, signalled that rescue funds will not be forthcoming if Greece fails to implement improved competition rules."

January 26, 2014

Earthquake of 5.8 hits Greece - Wunderground

"According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake struck at 3:55 p.m. local time (8:55 a.m. EST in the U.S.) and registered a magnitude of 6.0. The quake's hypocenter was 11.7 miles below the town of Lixouri on the island of Kefalonia (Cephalonia), along the nation's west coast on the Ionian Sea.

The USGS "Did You Feel It?" page indicated the quake was felt as far away as Athens, on the opposite side of Greece, as well as parts of Albania and the Salento peninsula of southeastern Italy."

January 20, 2014

Greeks abroad - Public Issue

Data from the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad, item includes graphics and charts.

"The main countries in which the emigrant relatives of Greek citizens presently reside are, in order: Germany (38%), USA (29%), Australia (22%), Canada (12%) and the United Kingdom (11%).

Based on the geographical region of their residence, Greek citizens with relatives abroad are concentrated more in the islands of the Southern Aegean (61%), in Western Macedonia (55%), Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (51%) and Western Greece (50%)."

January 7, 2014

6700 donations for restoration work for 'Victory of Samothrace' at Louvre - Global Post

"It said about 6,700 individual donors had contributed over the last four months, with the rest of the projected total cost of four million euros ($5.5 million) coming from sponsors.

...The statue was discovered on the Greek island of Samothrace in 1863 and then taken to Paris for exhibition at the Louvre where it overlooks the so-called Daru staircase."

Info also at Eleftherotypiav

January 6, 2014

Military procurement bribery scandal - ABC News

"The Defense Ministry in crisis-hit Greece pledged Friday to overhaul arms procurement procedures following the arrest of former weapons contract negotiators accused of paying bribes for major government contracts.

Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said the ministry was working on plans to place arms contracts under increased parliamentary oversight to "guarantee the reputation of the armed forces."

Prosecutors are investigating the alleged payment of bribes worth millions of euros to former senior defense officials to secure weapons deals under Socialist governments in the late 1990s and early 2000s following tension with regional rival Turkey.

The Socialists are currently the minority party supporting the rickety, conservative-led coalition government.

Greece is struggling through its worst financial crisis in more than half a century, and has been kept from bankruptcy by international bailouts. Harsh austerity measures imposed in return for the money have led to a public backlash against alleged corruption in public office and spurred multiple investigations by the judiciary."

January 2, 2014

Can Greece repair its reputation? - UK Telegraph

"Is Greece, the country that nearly brought Europe to its knees, fit to take over the EU presidency?

Brussels bureaucrats are not known for their humorous side, nor indeed are German politicians or Eurozone finance chiefs. But anyone wandering through Syntagma Square in Athens these days could be forgiven for thinking that someone in the EU hierarchy clearly has a sense of mischief.

In recent weeks, after five years as a battleground between Greek police and anti-austerity protesters, the square has been undergoing repairs to its marble. The refurb marks not the end of Greece’s austerity years – far from it – but the start of what many might otherwise assume was a drunken New Year’s prank by someone in Brussels’ protocol and scheduling department.

Why else, after all, would debt-ridden, feckless Greece be taking over the presidency of the European Union after five years in which it has nearly brought the whole European project to its knees?

The answer, like most other things in Brussels, is a bureaucratic one: the Presidency of the Council of the European Union is a rotating affair, passing between the members of the 28-nation bloc every six months.

...Others, however, see a Greek presidency as akin to making the bad boy at the back of the class the school monitor. “It’s a delicious paradox,” says Daniel Hannan, the Tory MEP and leading Eurosceptic. “The EU reckons that Greece is incapable of governing itself, and has placed it under the troika [the European Commission, the ECB and IMF]. Yet now Greece is presiding over the EU.”

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