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NEWS ARCHIVE - February 2015

February 28, 2015

Greece will not seek another bailout, prime minister says - WRAL

"Greece won't seek a third bailout deal, the prime minister said Saturday, having succeeded in separating the loan agreement from the "disastrous" austerity conditions imposed with the willing cooperation of previous governments.

...Tsipras warned that although a "difficult battle in a long and difficult war" was won with the loan extension, difficulties lie ahead. And he recounted, for the benefit of the party membership, what transpired in the negotiations that led to the conditional loan extension agreement in the Eurogroup."

Animation Gif Athens Snow

February 27, 2015

Greece Postpones a Crisis - Forbes

"Though this agreement temporarily reduces the risk of a so-called Grexit, the Greek crisis is far from over. Greece will face key hurdles over the next four months, and the agreement between Athens and its lenders is so fragile that it could collapse at any point. The threat of a Greek default has not disappeared, meaning that after June, Athens will have to answer serious questions again.

...The first date to watch is Feb. 27, when the German parliament is scheduled to vote on the agreement. Greece’s requests for debt relief are controversial in Germany because the government and many voters believe Athens should not be given any assistance if it does not honor its previous promises of economic reform. Some members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have criticized the bailout extension, and the issue is particularly controversial for the Christian Social Union, the CDU’s sister party in Bavaria."

Protesters are already rioting against the new government - Business Insider

"Greece just had its first serious anti-government riot since the elections in late January, which brought radical party Syriza into power. Syriza was initially greeted by gatherings in favour of their policies, a rare sight in Athens. But after agreeing with Europe to extend their bailout (and the austerity that comes with it), there have been some minor signs that the party's left flank is becoming disillusioned. Far-left and anarchist protesters and rioters are back on the streets."

Greece Must Reform, Says Greek Central Bank Governor - WSJ

"Presenting his annual report, Mr. Stournaras said Greece needs a comprehensive growth plan based on reforms including the opening up of professions, preserving fiscal achievements, reviewing tax exemptions and adopting policies that promote employment.

The Greek central bank governor said the Greek banking system “remains strong despite the turbulence” but warned lenders that they continue to face serious challenges with “first and foremost the need to address nonperforming loans (NPLs).”

Tensions with Germany over 'greedy' Greece's debt - Yahoo News

"...with Greece having already secured a 100-billion-euro write-down of its debt to private creditors, and two bailouts of 240 billion euros, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble expressed Thursday his "disbelief" at the very idea.

"I can't see anything in what Varoufakis is doing that makes life easier for us," the veteran German minister was quoted as telling a parliamentary group meeting.

"No more billions for the greedy Greeks!" screamed mass daily Bild Thursday under a huge "Nein!" ("No!") headline."

More Coverage:

Germans fed up with 'insulting' Greeks - CNBC

Time to sever fiscally irresponsible Greece from its EU lifeline - South Coast Today

February 26, 2015

Greece sees problems repaying IMF, ECB; Germans air mistrust - Reuters

"Greece said on Wednesday it will struggle to make debt repayments to the IMF and the European Central Bank this year as Germany's finance minister voiced open doubts about Athens' trustworthiness.

A day after euro zone finance ministers agreed to a four-month extension of a financial rescue for the currency bloc's most heavily indebted member, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis gave a frank assessment of Greece's financial position.

...He put no figure on the funding gap. After interest payments this month of about 2 billion euros, Athens must repay an IMF loan of around 1.6 billion that matures in March and about 7.5 billion in maturing bonds held by the ECB in July and August.

...German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, revelling in his role as the euro zone's grumpy paymaster, said no further aid would be paid out until Athens fulfilled all the conditions.

"The question now is whether one can believe the Greek government's assurances or not. There's a lot of doubt in Germany, that has to be understood," he told SWR2 radio."

Greece Struggles to Get Citizens to Pay Their Taxes - WSJ

"At the end of 2014, Greeks owed their government about €76 billion ($86 billion) in unpaid taxes accrued over decades, though mostly since 2009. The government says most of that has been lost to insolvency and only €9 billion can be recovered.

Billions more in taxes are owed on never-reported revenue from Greece’s vast underground economy, which was estimated before the crisis to equal more than a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product.

...The International Monetary Fund and Greece’s other creditors have argued for years that the country’s debt crisis could be largely resolved if the government just cracked down on tax evasion. Tax debts in Greece equal about 90% of annual tax revenue, the highest shortfall among industrialized nations, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development."

Greece suspends professional football indefinitely - Rediff

"Matches in Greece's professional football leagues have been suspended indefinitely in a crackdown on violence, the Super League said on Wednesday.

The move follows a pitch invasion at the end of the Athens derby last weekend and a Super League board meeting which ended in a brawl on Tuesday, with Greece's recently-elected Syriza ruling party aiming to stamp out the problem of crowd violence."

Varoufakis: 'Bloodletting' of Greece must stop -

"Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held a marathon 11-hour closed-door session with lawmakers from his left-wing Syriza party on Wednesday as he tried to win over hardliners who think his administration has caved to creditors.

Tsipras was elected last month on the promise to repeal bailout austerity measures, but a list of reforms accepted by Greece's creditors at the European Central Bank (ECB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Eurozone on Tuesday proposed not rolling back the privatizations of government firms. That's something Syriza promised to do during its election campaign.

...German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said it was "not easy" for him to let Greece have the extension, considering how there was "much doubt in Germany" as to whether Athens will pay back the more than 40 billion euros it owes Berlin. "

Cyprus signs deal to allow Russian navy to use ports - BBC

"Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed the deal after talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

...President Putin said that other countries should not be concerned and that the port's main use would be for counter-terrorism and anti-piracy.

President Anastasiades also revealed that the two countries were discussing the possibility of Russia using an air base on Cyprus for humanitarian relief missions."

February 25, 2015

IMF Slams Greece Proposed Overhaul to Its Bailout - WSJ

"...a new letter by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde to Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, slamming Greece’s new economic proposals as insufficient, will continue to shape negotiations between Greece and Europe over bailout financing. The letter also points to months of tough talks ahead.

... the most important ones, the [Greek proposal] is not conveying clear assurances that the Government intends to undertake the reforms envisioned” in the existing bailout program, Ms. Lagarde said in a letter that was requested by the Eurogroup.

In particular, she targeted pension and tax overhauls, privatization and opening up closed markets. Those measures are “critical for Greece’s ability to meet the basic objectives of its fund-supported program,” she said.

That’s why the IMF won’t release the remaining money designated for the Greek program."

Greece Gets Warnings From Creditors Now Comes Hard Part - Bloomberg

"...The current program, which has been keeping Europe’s most indebted state afloat since 2010, was scheduled to expire at the end of this month. After almost four weeks of negotiations, all parties stepped back from the brink, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, 40, declaring an end to austerity while creditors said previous agreements were upheld.

Now Tsipras’s government doesn’t just need to offer more details on its plan, it has to follow through -- and fast. Its cash-flow problem still needs to be resolved, a Greek Finance Ministry official said yesterday.

Greece has until April to refine the details and show the finance ministers how it will do it. Greece can’t access more bailout funds, including the next tranche of about 7 billion euros ($7.9 billion), unless it passes the review."

There is no way of putting a pretty face on this document - Naked Capitalism

"Even writers who take a positive view of what Syriza accomplished are under no illusion as to how far short Syriza has fallen relative to its lofty promises. From Paul Mason’s blog:

'I asked Dijsselbloem in the press conference: “What do you say to the Greek people, whose democracy you’ve just trashed.” He replied that he did not think that was a very objective question. We’ll have to agree to differ.

There is also language in the memo that looks to authorize the return of the Troika monitors: “In this context, the Greek authorities undertake to make best use of the continued provision of technical assistance.” The Financial Times reads it the same way:

'It also leaves the IMF and EU institutions — the European Central Bank and European Commission — in control of evaluating Greece’s economic reform measures and the disbursement of bailout funds, despite Mr Tsipras’ vow to rid Greece of the hated “troika” of bailout monitors.

Mind you, despite the foregoing, it is doubtful that Greece could have done much better, particularly in light of the way the ECB had worked to intensify the already-in-progress bank run and boxed the Greek government in by giving it only a thin increase in the ELA limits."

February 24, 2015

Greece delivers 'comprehensive' reforms list - Yahoo News

"The measures will be examined first by the "troika" of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which now hold most of Greece's enormous 320-billion-euro ($360-billion) in debts.

Brussels officials say that if these institutions deem the proposals sufficient, they will then be discussed in a conference call among the eurozone's 19 finance ministers later Tuesday.

Stocks on the Athens market soared seven percent on news of the reforms list delivery."

Greece pledges to respect privatisations, avoid budget derailment

"Greece has pledged to not roll back any ongoing or completed privatisations and ensure that any efforts to address a “humanitarian crisis” does not hurt its budget, according to a document containing its reform plans seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

Athens sent the list of reforms to its European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors late on Monday. They must approve the plans to pave the way for an extension to Greece’s bailout lifeline for the next four months.

...It also commits to consolidating pension funds to achieve savings and eliminate loopholes and incentives for early retirement..."

EU Commission welcomes Greek list as 'valid starting point' - San Luis Obispo

"An official at the European Union's executive branch said Tuesday that the list of Greek reform measures for final approval of the extended rescue loans "is sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point."

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said that the Commission was "notably encouraged by the strong commitment to combat tax evasion and corruption."

...A Syriza official in Brussels said that "immediate priority" would be given to the settling of overdue debts, the protection of people with mortgage arrears as well as the ending of foreclosures of first residencies."

February 23, 2015

Greece delays sending reforms to euro zone till Tuesday - Reuters

"Greece will present its economic reform plans to the euro zone on Tuesday, a government official said, missing a Monday deadline for the list which is a condition for extending the country's financial lifeline.

The official gave no reason for the delay but said euro zone finance ministers would consider Greece's plans, which include a crackdown on tax evasion and corruption, as scheduled on Tuesday afternoon.

The measures will include tackling what Tsipras calls Greece's "humanitarian crisis" - hardship created during years of economic depression - while dealing with tax arrears and bad loans, and ending the foreclosure of primary homes, the official said. They will also crack down on tax evasion, smuggling and corruption, restructure the public sector and cut red tape.

The list will also include parts of the government's "Thessaloniki program" which in total envisages spending of 1.8 billion euros over a full year on relief measures such as free electricity and meals for the poor, while raising 3 billion from steps such as collecting tax arrears."

Greece seeks bailout extension with reform list - Yahoo News

"If the measures fail to win the approval of Greece's EU creditors, the country's safety net will collapse on Saturday leaving the government at risk of running out of cash, a run on banks and even a eurozone exit.

But hard-left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose Syriza party swept to power in elections last month, could also face a voter backlash if he fails to deliver on promises to ease the pain of ordinary Greeks after years of swingeing government spending cuts.

In the latest in a series of dramatic showdowns over Greece's 240-billion-euro ($270-billion) bailout, flamboyant new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis secured the extension from his 18 fellow eurozone partners in Brussels on Friday."

Greece overhauling reforms, but faces dissent at home - San Francisco Gate

"Greece will have some say in deciding what those measures are, but overall they will still need approval from the European executive Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Greece's European bailout ends after Feb. 28 so it needs a finalized deal this week. EU spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said the list of proposed reforms had not arrived as of midday Monday, though the deadline is midnight."

February 22, 2015

Greece readies reforms to keep bailout alive - Yahoo News

"The new hard-left government in Athens has until Monday to convince its sceptical European creditors that it can piece together a credible set of alternative fiscal reforms.

A top government official on Sunday said Athens would submit proposals that will take the struggling Greek economy "out of sedation."

"We are compiling a list of measures to make the Greek civil service more effective and to combat tax evasion," minister of state Nikos Pappas told Mega channel.

Greece's government is walking a tightrope between its commitments to European creditors and its electoral pledges to end austerity in the country struggling to recover from severe economic crisis. "

Tsipras declares victory as Greece dodges financial ruin - Reuters

"With his left-wing leadership pilloried by German conservatives, Tsipras insisted that Friday night's last-minute agreement cancelled austerity commitments and dispensed with the "troika" - European and IMF inspectors loathed by many Greeks.

"Yesterday we took a decisive step, leaving austerity, the bailouts and the troika behind," he said in a televised statement to the Greek nation. "We won a battle, not the war. The difficulties, the real difficulties ... are ahead of us."

After often ill-tempered negotiations in Brussels, Greece secured a four-month extension to euro zone funding, which will avert bankruptcy and a euro exit, provided it comes up with promises of economic reforms by Monday.

Had no deal been reached, some officials had feared panic when Greek banks reopened on Tuesday after a long holiday weekend. But Athens said agreement at the meeting of euro zone finance ministers should calm Greek savers who thought capital controls might be imposed as a prelude to leaving the euro."

Greece, eurozone nations settle their differences — for now - Japan Times

"...the Greek government will be the author of the reforms, and that represents a change from the past five years, when Greece has relied on rescue money to avoid going bankrupt and was effectively ordered to enact a series of austerity measures.

“We have established common ground again,” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurozone’s top official, after the meeting in Brussels.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said the deal allows both Greece and Europe “to turn a page. … As of today, we are beginning to be co-authors of our destiny.”

Varoufakis conceded that the Greek government would be “in trouble” if the reform measures, which are likely to include a series of measures to tackle corruption and tax evasion aren’t backed by representatives from the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Commission — previously known as the troika.

However, he insisted they “won’t be shot down by the institutions.”

If the list of reforms is sanctioned, then it will be further detailed and agreed upon by the end of April."

February 21, 2015

Greece wins eurozone bailout deal - Sky News UK

"Europe has granted Greece a crucial four-month extension to its massive debt bailout, ending weeks of tension, but at the cost of huge concessions including a commitment to spell out reforms within two days.

...Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said the deal marked a new era for Athens and its relationship with the European Union, after two painful bailouts put together at the height of the debt crisis to save the euro.

Athens claimed the rescues and the austerity measures it had to follow since its first 2010 bailout had wrecked the Greek economy, making it impossible to manage its mountain of debt.

'Today was a pivotal moment because Greece for five years now has been lonely, isolated in the Eurogroup. Today that isolation has broken,' Varoufakis said.

However, he warned: 'If the list of reforms is not agreed, this agreement is dead.'

European Banks & ECB prepare for Grexit - Spiegel

"The Grexit Dilemma: What Would Happen if Greece Leaves the Euro Zone?

On Wednesday of this week, 30 top managers at a large German bank all received a text message and an email at the exact same time. A short time later, their mobile phones rang with an automated voice giving them all passwords and a number to call at exactly 8:30 a.m. to join a teleconference with the board of directors.

Each of the 30 bank managers were required to work through the emergency measures pertaining to his or her division...

...But even if a compromise is found in the end, the game of high-stakes poker will not be over. Both sides would have to agree to a new plan for nursing the country back to financial health.

Greece's creditors, now known as "institutions" rather than the "troika," will not just have to reach agreement with Athens on interest rates and payback periods, but also on issues such as the minimum wage and increases to retirement benefits. A possible "Grexit," as Greece's potential euro-zone exit has come to be known, would loom over the talks the entire time."

Varoufakis: 'we're beginning to be co-authors of our destiny' - UK Telegraph

"Athens will get an extension of four months, not six, as it had requested, according to an eurozone top official.

In return, Greece has committed to make a series of unspecified reforms to be enacted over the coming months.

Friday's agreement was clinched just a week before Greece's 240 billion euro (270 billion US dollar) bailout programme expires and is aimed at buying time for both sides to agree on a longer-term deal to ease the burden of the bailout loans. The agreement will mean that Greece will avoid going bankrupt, at least over the four months of the extension."

ECB Asks: Are Greek Banks Insolvent? - Forbes

"The ECB asked itself this question on Wednesday as it reviewed Greek banks access to the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) which is currently keeping them afloat. If Greece fails to secure a deal at today’s meeting of finance ministers it will surely be asking itself the question again soon."

February 20, 2015

Deal reached on extension - US News/AP

"Greece and its creditors in the 19-nation eurozone reached an agreement Friday on extending the country's rescue loans, a move that should ease concerns it was heading for the euro exit.

Athens will get an extension of four months, not six, as it had requested, said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurozone's top official. In return, Greece has committed to make a series of unspecified reforms to be enacted over the coming months.

Friday's agreement was clinched just a week before Greece's 240 billion euro bailout program expires. It is aimed at buying time for both sides to agree on a longer-term deal to ease the burden of Greece's bailout loans."

More Coverage:

Greece, euro zone agree four-month loan extension, avert crunch - Reuters

Here's What Each Side Got in the Greece Negotiations - Bloomberg

Business Greece and eurozone creditors reach deal on loan - LA Times

German-Led Bloc Willing to Let Greece Leave Euro - Bloomberg

"Characterizing the views of a hardline block led by Germany, the Maltese official said, “I think they’ve now reached a point where they will tell Greece ‘if you really want to leave, leave.’”

In a formal request on Thursday to extend Greece’s euro-area backed rescue beyond its end-of-February expiry for another six months, Varoufakis said he would accept the financial and procedural conditions of the existing deal while asking for negotiations on other elements.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble almost immediately rebuffed the latest Greek formula, saying the country needs to make a firmer commitment to austerity. A “positive” conversation between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Thursday sparked investor optimism for a deal.

...Tsipras’s government is trying to balance the need to achieve an agreement to prevent a cash crunch and the pre-election pledge to end austerity. Completely bowing to German demands risks a domestic backlash and potentially alienating the Syriza party’s left flank and Tsipras’s junior coalition partner."

Greece faces expulsion from the euro as debt deadline looms Friday - Chicago Tribune

"Friday's emergency meeting was called to respond to the left-wing Greek government's demand for more time to finalize its current bailout program and negotiate new arrangements with its partners that will be less onerous on Greek citizens.

The Greek proposal, however, did not promise to continue all of the budget cuts and reforms that the Europe — particularly Germany — has been adamant it should stick to. Germany, the most influential creditor, has claimed Greece's latest proposal is a "Trojan horse" to help the government dodge its commitments.

In the short term, if no solution is found, Greece could be left to handle its debts alone from next month. "

February 19, 2015

Germany rejects Greece 'take-it or leave-it' debt offer - Yahoo News

"Germany rejected a take-it or leave-it request by Athens Thursday for a six-month extension to its EU loan programme, but both sides indicated later that there was still hope for a solution.

In a sign that a deal could be salvaged, German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras by telephone for nearly an hour on Thursday in a "positive climate," a Greek government source said.

The telephone talks came after Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem had said finance ministers from the 19-member eurozone would meet in Brussels Friday to consider a take-it or leave-it proposal by Athens to extend its European loan programme that expires at the end of the month."

Germans rebuff Greek ‘Trojan horse’ - Financial Times

"Without access to EU bailout funds, eurozone officials fear the Greek government could run out of cash as early as next month, forcing it to either cut spending on salaries and pensions or default on debt payments. The end of the EU programme also means Athens loses €10.9bn in aid for Greek banks, which officials fear could exacerbate the large-scale deposit withdrawals seen in recent weeks.

In a sign of how concerned EU authorities are about the Greek banking system, the European Central Bank’s governing council late on Wednesday approved only €3.3bn in new emergency funding to Greek lenders — even though the Bank of Greece had requested €10bn earlier in the week."

Giscard: ‘Greece should leave the euro, not the EU' - Eurasiareview

“The fundamental question is whether or not the Greek economy can recover and prosper with a currency as strong as the euro. The answer is clearly negative,” he said. “Greece needs to be able to devalue its currency,” he added.

The former President believes that an exit from the euro “on good terms” is possible, and would allow for “a possible return at a later date”.

“The entry of Greece into the euro in 2001 was a mistake,” he said. “I was against it at the time. The Germans too. They only accepted it because others, France in particular, insisted on it.”

What Varoufakis is Offering The Eurogroup - Forbes

Tim Worstall analysis the Greek proposals:

...the Varoufakis statement from this Monday. When, as we all know, nothing also happened.

"Nevertheless, there is much that we can deliver that is of mutual benefit. To do so, we need a short-term (three to six month long) agreement that will allow us to establish the “common ground” mentioned by President JD and Prime Minister AT last Thursday. It is in no one’s interest if, over the next days and weeks, as a result of a political failure on our part Greece languishes under a collapse in activity, a collapse in revenue and continued deposit outflows. "

That’s a further admission that tax collection has collapsed. And also that there’s a slow bank run going on. There’s also a subtle underlying line here. Because we’re all sitting around talking about a deal instead of you giving in to us then the situation is going to get out of the control of all of us. So, give in to us now and the situation might be saved. Rather a clever negotiating position. Unfortunately, we’re not getting to see the responses to these lines but the fact that this didn’t work, as in there was no agreement, might indicate that no one bought this line...

"On the revenue side, the previous period was dominated by political interventions, of varying intensity and from numerous sources that promoted uncertainty and thus affected economic activity and tax collection. Revenue shortfall as of end-January reached €2 billion compared to MoF forecast. "

There’s the admission that Greece does not in fact currently have a primary budget surplus because tax collection has fallen off that cliff.

Euro exit would cost Greece dear, shake eurozone - Stamford Advocate

"Without more money, Greece may default on debts due this spring and summer. Default, or fears of one, could trigger turmoil that would collapse Greece's banks. And that could force it to print its own currency to bail them out.

Analysts say a Greek exit from the euro, or "Grexit," could be chaotic and complex. It would probably involve shutting banks and ATMs to prevent people from withdrawing money before it could be translated into a new, cheaper currency. Bank accounts and mortgages would be switched to the new currency. It could take months to get new bills in circulation, forcing people to use euros for small transactions or resort to non-cash payment.

...First of all, Greece would likely find it impossible to repay its bailout loans. Those losses would be spread to taxpayers in the other 18 countries.

The eurozone bailout fund is owed 142 billion euros ($162 billion), individual countries are owed 53 billion euros, and the European Central Bank holds 20 billion euros in Greek government bonds. Same goes, most likely, for another 50 billion euros owed by the Greek central bank to the ECB and the other national central banks though the eurozone payments system.

Leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel surely don't want to explain to voters how they lost that much on Greece."

European Stocks Fall on Greece Worries - WSJ

"European stocks fell back from seven-year highs Thursday, with the negotiations over the future of Greece’s bailout keeping markets on edge and a renewed slide in oil prices dragging down energy stocks.

...Equities in Europe have touched their highest level since late 2007 this week as investors wager that Greece and its creditors will eventually hammer out a deal to avert the country’s exit from the euro area.

Eurozone finance ministers have tentatively scheduled a meeting on Friday to discuss a request from Greece to extend its bailout, according to European officials."

February 18, 2015

Vindication or fiasco - eKathimerini

"...The current government is inexperienced but it has a mandate for a tough negotiation. It has drawn its own red lines but it is important to know the other side’s red lines as well. The European Commission traditionally wants to help reach a compromise solution because it is allergic to anything that could jeopardize the European project....

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras questions the decision-making process because, as he said on Tuesday, it does not make sense to hold a Eurogroup meeting and then have one government make the decision. As an experienced leftist he knows a thing or two about the balance of power....

Will an accident be avoided? The danger is clear. Tsipras could be vindicated on having warned against the disastrous austerity and of having spoken of Germany’s counterproductive hegemony. But Greece will have still suffered serious damage. Tsipras, and the rest of us, will still be here, in rather unpleasant circumstances. The others will be out playing the blame game about why the Greek case ended in fiasco."

Greece to Seek Extension on Loan Agreement, Officials Say - WSJ

"Greece will seek an extension to its rescue deal from the rest of the eurozone Wednesday, two officials with knowledge of the situation said, marking an apparent shift in the standoff between Athens and its creditors.

The extension of what the officials called Greece’s “loan agreement” could be for a period of four to six months, preventing the country’s current deal with the eurozone from expiring at the end of February and giving it time to negotiate a new bailout. The conditions attached to the request were still under negotiation, they said.

Although the request for an extension would mark a turnaround by the Greek government, it’s still unclear whether its creditors would accept it as a way out of the current impasse."

Greece faces resistance to extra emergency funds for banks - Reuters

"Unless Athens agrees an extended aid program soon, keeping ELA capped would put lenders in a funding squeeze that could require the introduction of capital controls to limit savers taking out more of their money, the sources said.

A senior Greek banker told Reuters up to 500 million euros ($571 million) had been withdrawn from Greek bank accounts on both Thursday and Friday last week.

There was a lull on Monday but deposit outflows picked up again on Tuesday after talks collapsed, the banker said."

China & Greece joint military drills as ‘Grexit’ looms - Brietbart

"The 18th Chinese naval fleet arrived in Piraeus, Greece on Monday to commence a four-day visit of the country. The Chinese navy was welcomed by Greek Rear Admiral George Leventis who, along with other official state representatives, held a welcoming parade for the Chinese sailors, China’s state-run Xinhua reports.

During the fleet’s visit, Chinese Rear Admiral Zhang Chuanshu will meet Greek President Karolos Papoulias."

Greek Minister Yanis Varoufakis’s Style Irks His Eurozone Peers - WSJ

"Eurozone officials shook their heads when Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s mercurial new finance minister, repeatedly told journalists after the Greek elections last month that his government was “insolvent” and “bankrupt.”

“...I am being treated as a strange bird because I talk macroeconomics,” he said in an interview. “It’s astonishing to me that having a quasi-sophisticated discussion of economics is almost considered to be bad manners.”

Monday night’s meeting started awkwardly. Mr. Varoufakis walked in 20 minutes late followed by a television camera as Mr. Draghi was speaking, officials said. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who leads the meetings, interrupted Mr. Draghi and angrily told the cameraman to leave."

February 17, 2015

Greece defies creditors, seeking credit but no bailout - Reuters

"Talks between Greece and euro zone finance ministers over the country's debt crisis broke down on Monday when Athens rejected a proposal to request a six-month extension of its international bailout package as "unacceptable". The unexpectedly rapid collapse raised doubts about Greece's future in the single currency area after a new leftist-led government vowed to scrap the 240 billion euro ($272.4 billion) bailout, reverse austerity policies and end cooperation with EU/IMF inspectors.

...The European Central Bank will decide on Wednesday whether to maintain emergency lending to Greek banks that are bleeding deposits at an estimated rate of 2 billion euros ($2.27 billion) a week."

Additional Coverage:

Greece plays down impasse in talks with European creditors - Yahoo

Latest attempt to stop coming crisis goes down in flames - Business Insider

Greek Financing Talks Break Down Amid Deep Divisions Over Bailout - WSJ

Greek debt meeting ends in acrimony - Montpelier Times-Argus

Sakellaridis: Raw and hard the ultimatums of Europeans -

"The government is blackmailed with ultimatums," said government spokesman C. Sakellaridis referring to yesterday's Eurogroup meeting, speaking at the morning show "Society Hour Mega".

Mr. Sakellaridis reiterated ... We are committed by popular mandate. We can not talk with a lack of credibility in the political system. We will not request an extension of the Memorandum program as it is. "

He assured, however, that the government will continue contacts and consultations directly to find a solution, because as he said "not good for either party to persist in this process with this type of negotiation."

[via google translation]
Eurogroup gives Greece only few days to sign extension - eKathimerini

"Greece was told that it has until Friday to request an extension to the current bailout or face the possibility of losing the pending funds after the second meeting of eurozone finance ministers in the last few days ended on Monday without an agreement between Athens and its partners.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, however, said the government would continue talks over the next few days, regardless of any ultimatums from its partners.

...Varoufakis insisted that he was prepared to sign the text he was shown by Moscovici “there and then” but was perplexed as to why this was changed for a communique not acceptable to the Greek delegation."

There’s Still No Progress on Greece - WSJ

"Greek Officials Said They Rejected Draft Eurogroup Statement: Eurozone finance ministers concluded a meeting Monday night earlier than expected with no apparent agreement over Greece.

Europe Stocks Slip Amid Greek Talks: European stocks slipped off seven-year highs, with investors cautious as the next round of fraught negotiations between Greece and its international creditors."

Snubs 'absurd' bailout offer from EU - 2 weeks until Athens runs out of cash - UK Daily Mail

"Make-or-break talks between Greek and EU finance ministers collapsed last night after just three hours – with Athens rejecting the latest bailout offer as ‘absurd’.

...Greece’s Left-wing Syriza government wants the country’s bailout to be restructured, with an end to many austerity demands.

The International Monetary Fund and European Union say there should be no change to the terms of the current £178billion loan. Yesterday evening, a Greek official said the talks had come to an end without a deal being reached."

February 16, 2015

Greece, eurozone thrash out high-stakes debt rescue changes - Yahoo

"Greece goes into talks with its eurozone partners on Monday demanding changes to a massive international bailout which could lead to its exit from the single currency bloc and into the unknown.

In the worst case scenario, a chaotic "Grexit" could jeopardise the whole euro project but analysts say this is very much less likely now than it was at the height of the debt crisis three or four years ago.

Brussels is in favour of a straight rollover of the current programme that ends this month, but new hard-left Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won office last month on a promise to ditch it outright for damaging Greece, not helping it."

Greece desperately needs quick fix - Reuters

"Athens and its creditors are so far apart on how the economy should be managed that there is no hope of rapidly reaching a new long-term deal. The top priority is therefore to find a way of getting over the immediate hump.

...One option could be to revive the idea of a “moratorium” which was floated in a Greek paper close to Syriza a week ago. This would involve Tsipras promising neither to reverse the previous reforms nor to press ahead with controversial measures of his own while talks on a longer-term deal continue. Because Athens wouldn’t be implementing the current programme, it would not get any more cash from its creditors until and unless a long-term deal had been cut. But it would be allowed to sell a few more billion euros of treasury bills to its banks in order to avoid default. At the same time, the ECB would restore its safety net to Greek banks so that they no longer have to rely on ELA. That would diminish the risk of a bank run. Such a moratorium wouldn’t satisfy the extreme left wing of Syriza, as it would be seen as a partial climbdown. But Tsipras may be able to overrule the extremists, arguing that his promises have not been abandoned, only shelved for the time being.

Hard-line members of the Eurogroup will also find it hard to swallow a moratorium because Greece wouldn’t be implementing all the things the previous government had promised. "

Schaeuble 'very sceptical' of Greece deal - Yahoo

"My guess is that it's all a big game of poker for this new government" under Tsipras, Schaeuble said.

...Schaeuble, who was recently caricatured in the Greek press as wearing a Nazi-era army uniform, hit out at the insults Greece has dealt to its eurozone partners.

"I feel sorry for the Greeks at the moment. They've elected a government which is currently acting irresponsibly," Schaeuble said."

February 15, 2015

Greece, EU see need for 'national reform plan' to fix economy - Reuters

"Greece has agreed with its European partners that there needs to be a "national reform plan" to deal with decades-long issues of the economy, its government spokesman said on Sunday.

But he added in a wide-ranging interview on Greece's Skai TV that the new government will not clash with the public based on orders from outside.

Greece and its euro zone partners are in difficult negotiations over demands by the new government of leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for an end to austerity and a renegotiation of Greece's debt."

Varoufakis confident of bailout deal but warns deadline too tight - Yahoo News

"Greece's finance minister said Sunday he was confident a deal with the EU over the country's loathed bailout could be found while warning the February 28 deadline may be too tight.

"Our strong stance, based on logic, will lead to an agreement, even at five minutes past the hour," Yanis Varoufakis said in an interview with the Sunday Kathimerini newspaper.

Athens was steeling itself for a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels on Monday, a high-stakes gamble that could see Greece forced out of the eurozone if a deal is not found by the end of the month.

Varoufakis said consultations on Athens' demands for a radical restructuring of its bailout had made him "optimistic", but warned there were still issues of friction such as privatisations and labour rights."

February 13, 2015

Global stocks higher on Greek progress, German data - Yahoo News

"Greece and its creditors in the 19-country eurozone took visible, if modest, steps to bridge their differences over Athens' demands to lighten the load of its bailout. But a deal is still some way off. Following weeks of haggling, the two sides made a series of encouraging noises at a summit of European Union leaders and even agreed to start technical discussions to inform a meeting of the eurozone's finance ministers Monday. Investors are hopeful that a deal will be reached to avoid Greece's exit from the euro."

ECB throws Greece lifeline before eurozone talks - UK Guardian

"The ECB has come under pressure to allow Greece to access short-term lending facilities after it said the crisis-hit country no longer qualified for drawing on standard borrowing terms. ECB officials declined to comment, but two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the provision of emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) by the Greek central bank would be authorised by the ECB as a temporary expedient.

Arriving for his first EU summit, Tsipras said: “I’m very confident that together we can find a mutually viable solution in order to heal the wounds of austerity, to tackle the humanitarian crisis across the EU, and bring Europe back to the road of growth and social cohesion.”

But in a press conference later he added: “Greece will not blackmail or be blackmailed.”

Hitting the ground running—backwards- Economist

"Mr Tsipras has put forward some good arguments against the austerity that has been imposed on Greece as the price of its bail-outs. He has sound ideas on attacking corruption, fighting tax evasion and shaking up Greece’s cosy business elite. His ministers now talk of keeping 70% of the old government’s reforms (see article). But his first moves in office included promises to raise the minimum wage to pre-crisis levels, reverse labour-market reforms, restore pension increases, rehire thousands of public servants and scrap privatisation projects. These would not just breach Greece’s bail-out terms, but also wreck the country’s economic prospects.

To reverse course in this way when Greece’s economy is at last growing and unemployment is falling is perverse. Greece needs more, not fewer reforms: despite progress in regaining lost competitiveness, its exports remain weak. In its business climate it lags behind neighbouring Bulgaria, the poorest EU country, in areas such as enforcing contracts, registering property and providing credit."

Top New Democracy executives challenge Samaras - Ansamed

"Top New Democracy (ND, center-right) executives believe president Antonis Samaras is politically finished and are now discussing the manner and process of his questioning as daily To Vima online reports. A dinner of top executives Wednesday night called by former Education Minister Marietta Giannakou, the forthcoming meeting of the party's parliamentary group and the convene of its political committee at the end of the month are expected to be the main points that will show what will happen in the future."

February 12, 2015

Failure to agree on debt, next meeting on Monday - Reuters

"In seven hours of crisis talks in Brussels that ended after midnight, euro zone finance ministers were unable to agree even a joint statement on the next procedural steps. Both sides played down the setback, insisting there had been no rupture.

But Greek stock prices, which whipped higher after hours in New York on talk of an accord, sagged with disappointment when it emerged that Greece's laconic new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis had walked away from a draft deal to extend current credit terms after conferring with fellow Greek officials."

Greece and EU Vow to Keep Talking - WSJ

"Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he still hoped that a deal on new financing for his debt-stricken country could be found by next week.

“We heard many different, interesting opinions, we had the opportunity to take a lot of views,” he said after the meeting. “Now we are proceeding to the next meeting on Monday hoping that there will be conclusions in a manner that is optimal for both Greece and our European colleagues.”

What such a deal might look like, however, remained unclear."

Greece is planning joint military exercises with Israel, Cyprus and Egypt - Israel Nat'l News

"Greece is planning joint military exercises with Israel, Cyprus and Egypt, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said Wednesday, according to AFP.

The decision comes amid continuing tensions between Cyprus and Turkey over oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

Kammenos, visiting close ally Cyprus, said the two countries, along with Israel and "possibly" Egypt would begin joint exercises within the coming months aimed at improving regional security.

Cyprus has suspended UN-led peace talks with Turkey, which invaded the island in 1974 and still occupies its northern third, saying Ankara persists in trying to hamper the country's energy search."

Halt ordered on Abu Dhabi-backed Hellenikon project - Construction Work

"Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who represents the more radical wing of the new government, also told Reuters the government would look to annul the Abu Dhabi-backed development plans for Hellenikon, calling the sale of the prime seaside property "scandalous".

"The statements of Mr. Lafazanis send a discouraging message to the long-term private international investors that our country desperately needs," Lamda Development said in a statement.

Lamda said it believed the sale was based on a legitimate process and the government should wait for a court of auditors to deliver its decision on the deal, which is expected later this year.

Last week, a spokesperson from Lamda contacted by Arabian Business refused to confirm the status of the deal."

Timeline of hurdles coming up for Greece - UK Telegraph

Article maps out a whole year of loan pay-back dates and more

"Greece must pay a grand total of €22.5 billion (£16.7 billion) back to its creditors, mainly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (€8.7bn) and the EU (€6.7bn), over the course of the year. At the same time it must prop up teetering banks and fund Syriza’s Left-wing spending programme.

On Wednesday night, Eurozone finance ministers failed to reach agreement with Greece.

Without eurozone aid in the form of a “bridging agreement” lasting until September, Greece will collapse. Here are some of the key dates in the year ahead."

February 11, 2015

Day of reckoning as Germany says accept bailout or ‘it’s over’ - Financial Post

"German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble rejected Greece’s call for a new debt accord, while Greece’s new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras remained defiant, saying there is “no way back” for his government, and that he can’t condemn his people to more pain.

“We will not get a clean close to this crisis today,” Michael O’Sullivan, chief investment officer for the U.K. and Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Credit Suisse Private Banking in London, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “I think this will drag on. The Greeks have digested a record amount of austerity, so they’ll want some relief from that.”

New government heads for clash at meeting with eurozone creditors over easing bailout - US News

"Greece's new government is confronting its eurozone creditors head on at an emergency meeting Wednesday, where Athens will seek to ease its bailout conditions in the face of strong resistance from its partners.

The gathering of finance ministers from the 19 eurozone countries was called to hear details of Greece's demand to reduce the burden of its loans and loosen required budget austerity measures.

...It's unclear how far eurozone states are willing to be tough with Greece. If the country loses all financial support, it might have to drop out of the euro currency union, a prospect that would do untold damage to Greece and raises huge uncertainty for Europe."

An Investor Nail-Biter as Greece-Eurozone Meeting Proceeds - WSJ Blog

"The Greek government will be in discussions with the Eurogroup Wednesday about a bridge loan to carry it through to the summer, as time counts down to the end of Greece’s current bailout program on Feb. 28.

It’s getting close to crunch time. The Syriza administration thinks that it can strike an agreement with its creditors for a bridging loan, giving it time to strike another agreement with creditors. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble insists there’s no prospect of a quick deal. At the same time, Russia offers up the prospect of charging in like a white knight, saddle bags full of ruble loans. Meanwhile, the deadline for Greece to apply for a bailout extension under existing terms with its Troika rescuers draws ever closer. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it better."

Russian Foreign Minister: We Will Support the Greeks If They Ask - Greek Reporter

"Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia will help Greece if Athens asks for financial support. The statement was made during a meeting with his Greek counterpart, Nikos Kotzias, on Wednesday.

The two men met in a joint effort to revive relations between the two countries after the European Union sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine issue. Analysts say that the meeting was scheduled within the time frame of Greece’s negotiations with its European partners over the debt issue."

Greece Fixes a Bridge Loan - Zacks

"The sticking point is the newly elected Greek government’s electoral promise to ease the austerity measures imposed on the country as a result of its last bailout by its troika of creditors comprised of the IMF, the ECB and the EU. Both sides – Greece & its creditors – have dug in their heels to extract the most from the other side; with the resulting brinkmanship adding to market uncertainty. “Grexit,” which would be a direct outcome of the failure of these negotiations, is the price that no one would like to pay."

Greece has Plan B if it fails to reach debt agreement with eurozone - Financial Post

"Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said that if Greece failed to get a new debt agreement with the eurozone, it could always look elsewhere for help.

“What we want is a deal. But if there is no deal — hopefully (there will be) — and if we see that Germany remains rigid and wants to blow apart Europe, then we have the obligation to go to Plan B. Plan B is to get funding from another source,” he told Greek television show that ran in to early Tuesday. “It could the United States at best, it could be Russia, it could be China or other countries,” he said.

Kammenos is the leader of Independent Greeks, a nationalist anti-bailout party that is the junior coalition partner of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ radical left Syriza party."

February 10, 2015

Merkel pours cold water on Greece’s push to end bailout - Financial Times

"Chancellor Angela Merkel poured cold water on a push by Greece’s new government to end its bailout and strike a new financing deal with its creditors, saying the current programme was “the basis of any discussions that we have”.

Earlier in the day, Germany’s powerful finance minister hinted darkly that a Greek plan to leave the bailout at the end of the month could draw a harsh reaction from financial markets.

“I wouldn’t know how financial markets will handle it, without a programme — but maybe he knows better,” Wolfgang Schäuble told reporters, referring to Alexis Tsipras, the new Greek premier.

Together, the remarks amounted to a German rebuttal to Mr Tsipras’ defiant pledge on Sunday night to end the bailout. They also set the tone for a bruising week of financial diplomacy featuring Wednesday’s meeting to discuss the escalating Greek situation and then a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday."

Tsipras draws up reforms as emergency debt meeting looms - Yahoo News

"Athens will propose that the "toxic" fiscal obligations of its present EU-IMF bailout deal -- which has seen it saddled with debt worth 1.75 times the country's entire annual economic output -- be replaced by a 10-step reform blueprint drawn up in cooperation with the OECD, a Greek finance ministry source said Monday.

But Germany and the EU have led calls for Tsipras, whose radical left Syriza party stormed to victory in elections last month, to be more realistic.

...Varoufakis had earlier warned of the damage a Greek exit could inflict on the eurozone, comparing the single currency bloc to a house of cards. "If you take out the Greek card, the others will collapse," he told Italian state television."

Euro zone, Greece face off as markets take fright - Reuters

"Greece and its euro zone partners engaged in brinkmanship on Monday, with leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisting his country would not extend its reform-linked bailout and Germany saying it would get no more money without such a programme.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned Greeks not to expect the euro zone to bow to Tsipras' demands in a growing confrontation which spooked financial markets and prompted U.S. and Canadian pleas for calm and compromise.

Escalating the rhetoric, Greece's finance minister said the euro zone could collapse "like a house of cards" if Athens were forced out.

A Greek finance official said he did not believe Juncker, IMF chief Christine Lagarde or German Chancellor Angela Merkel would let Greece go bankrupt, but Merkel said Greece needed to come up with a sustainable proposal."

Greece to Propose a Debt Compromise Plan to Creditors - NYT

"The offer was being pulled together as the dispute escalated between Greece and its European creditors. In a speech in Parliament on Sunday, the new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, appeared to draw a hard line, saying he was determined to eliminate Greece’s “cruel” austerity program. German officials have insisted that Greece would get no money to help pay debts unless it adhered to the conditions of the bailout program agreed to in 2012.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany appeared to show little leeway on Monday. “The basic rules” of the Greek bailout program “have always been the same,” she said at a joint news conference with President Obama in Washington. “You put in your own efforts and on the other side you’re being shown solidarity. A quid pro quo.”

Mr. Obama, who last week warned Europe not to press too hard on austerity, said he was anticipating Ms. Merkel’s appraisal and hoped Europe would find ways to improve growth."

Greece's month of living dangerously: Who will blink first - Alexis Tsipras or Angela Merkel? - UK Independent

"Syriza’s refusal to accept the next €7.2bn payment due from the Troika of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, sets Europe on course for a frantic 18 days of diplomacy before 28 February, when Greece formally leaves the programme and faces the impossible prospect of funding itself in international markets.

Greece’s firebrand government wants a new deal and a bridging loan to get there – but so far the rest of the eurozone is refusing to budge and pressing Greece to honour its commitments. The lack of room for compromise leaves Europe playing the biggest game of “chicken” in decades, with the prospect of savage consequences for Greece and Europe’s still nascent economic recovery.

The renewed threat of “Grexit” has already prompted contingency planning meetings chaired by David Cameron. Greece could yet stumble out of the single currency by accident.

The first efforts at squaring a seemingly impossible circle begin tomorrow in Brussels, at an emergency meeting of the eurogroup – a gathering of the eurozone’s finance ministers."

George Osborne: Greek standoff risks to Britain are growing - UK Telegraph

"It’s clear that the risk to the world economy, the risk to the British economy of this standoff between the eurozone and Greece, is growing each day," Mr Osborne said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Istanbul, Turkey on Monday.

He added: "The risks of a miscalculation or a misstep leading to a very bad outcome are growing as well."

The Chancellor's comments came as David Cameron, the Prime Minister, held an emergency Cobra meeting with senior Treasury and Bank of England officials on Monday to discuss plans to prepare the UK for a Greek exit from the eurozone. Odds offered by Paddy Power suggested that the chance of a 'Grexit' by the end of 2018 had risen from 3/1 last week to 5/4 on Monday."

February 9, 2015

Tsipras' comments roil Athens stocks - USA Today

"Greek stocks reacted badly Monday to comments made over the weekend by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as part his inaugural speech in parliament. Shares on the Athens Stock Exchange fell over 5% after Tsipras renewed an election pledge to reject an extension of its $272 billion international bailout.

Without an extension or restructuring of its debt, Greece is in danger of going bankrupt and may even be forced out of the eurozone. Its loans expire on Feb. 28."

Greece Puts European Markets in a Funk - WSJ

"Greece’s battered stock market extended its declines, falling 4.7%. Greek banks were once again the worst performers on the pan-European Stoxx 600, with Piraeus Bank and Alpha Bank both down by roughly 10%.

Greek government bonds, which have been subject to wild swings in recent days, began to weaken once more. Greece’s 10-year yield climbed by over three quarters of a percentage point to 10.95%. Shorter-term yields rose more sharply, a sign that investors are worried about default. Yields rise as prices fall.

While many investors still expect Athens to reach a compromise with its lenders, the prospect of Greece leaving the eurozone remains a serious concern for investors."

Greece Reaffirms Bailout Rejection Before EU Meeting - Bloomberg

"In an address to parliament, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reaffirmed his government’s rejection of the country’s international bailout program two days before an emergency meeting with the euro area’s finance ministers. His speech marked the start of a three-day debate on his government’s policy platform."

Greenspan: Greece 'will have to quit eurozone' - UK Telegraph

"Greece will be forced to leave the eurozone, the former head of the US central bank Alan Greenspan predicted yesterday.

Mr Greenspan warned that he could not see anyone willing to offer loans to the country. Athens has until the end of the month to secure around £5billion of financing to keep the Greek economy running. Failure to do so would cause the nation to default on its debts and pull out of the single currency, the former Federal Reserve chairman said.

‘...I don’t see any people willing to put in their funds having been disappointed so often.’ He added: ‘All the cards are being held by the members of the eurozone.’"

Defiant Tsipras sets up EU clash with bailout rejectionk - Reuters

"Tsipras' stance is being closely watched by European Union leaders who to date have shown scant willingness to meet his demands, fearing a wholesale backtracking on the fiscal and economic reforms and a return to the free-spending days of the past that helped Greece rack up over 300 billion euros in debt.

...In a bid to show he was serious about avoiding a new upward spiral in public spending, Tsipras announced a series of cuts to make the government leaner by trimming ministerial benefits like cars and selling one of the prime minister's aircraft.

...He also outlined plans to crackdown on tax evasion by targeting the rich and pledged public sector contracts would no longer favour oligarchs, a move that is likely to make him popular among the many Greeks fed up of a state they believe serves the wealthy.

"...The first priority of this government ... is tackling the big wounds of the bailout, tackling the humanitarian crisis just as we promised to do before the elections," Tsipras said.

February 8, 2015

Greece Could Run Out of Cash in Weeks - WSJ

"Greece warned it was on course to run out of money within weeks if it doesn’t gain access to additional funds, effectively daring Germany and its other European creditors to let it fail and stumble out of the euro.

Greek Economy Minister George Stathakis said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that a recent drop in tax revenue and other government income had pushed the country’s finances to the brink of collapse.

“We will have liquidity problems in March if taxes don’t improve,” Mr. Stathakis said. “Then we’ll see how harsh Europe is.”

Different delivery, one message to Greece's new leaders - Reuters

"...the message from European capitals to Greece's new leaders was the same at every stop on last week's tour - stick to your commitments.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will head to his first European summit on Thursday duly warned that it will be near impossible, as Athens wants, to rip up pledges made during the country's four-year international bailout. Tsipras and his aides were also advised to learn the ways of diplomatic custom.

....The positions taken this past week raise pressure on Tsipras to abandon the rhetoric that got him elected. Other European capitals must decide how much they are willing to compromise to keep Greece in the euro. France and Italy, widely perceived as Greece's natural allies, will have to think how far they want to go to facilitate a deal."

Greece’s other dispute with Germany - Times Israel

"Greece’s new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose radical left party swept to power last month promising to reverse spending cuts imposed under the indebted country’s rescue package, has vowed to tackle the long-simmering dispute.

The issue of wartime reparation claims over Germany’s four-year occupation of Greece, which ruined the country financially and left thousands dead, has complicated relations between Athens and Berlin for decades. Now, with Greece struggling under more than 300 billion euros ($340 billion) of debt, calculations that Athens is still owed just over half that amount, or 162 billion euros left over from the war, is sure to touch a nerve."

February 7, 2015

Pressures from everywhere with ultimatums - downgrades - threats - Ethnos Gr

"In the last hours the Tsipras government has been put into a stranglehold. A few hours after the head of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said that Greece has a deadline of February 16 to file an extension request. But a message that Greece must honor its commitments came from the US, and then international rating agencies, one after the other, degraded or threatened to impair the Greek national credit rating "due to uncertainty."

Pressures from everywhere with ultimatums - downgrades - threats. Reuters news agency reported K. Ntaiselmploum estimated that Greece must apply for an extension of the program in February 16 to ensure continued financial support from the eurozone. But the extension of the support program, even temporarily, would mean that Athens will have accepted the terms of the Memorandum

...German Finance Ministry Martin Giegker and stressed that Greece must present specific proposals to the Eurogroup next week. It will not take major decisions on Wednesday Ntaiselmploum added, explaining that will take time to resolve the issue.

"So far it is unclear what the exact position of the Greek government," said Mr. Giegker added that first you have to complete the current program and stated that an order of magnitude for a fund-bridge is unknown. He warned, in fact, the Greek government not to cancel reforms that have already been completed by its predecessors.

...After a meeting between US Ambassador David Pearce with the Greek prime minister... As stated in the announcement from the US Embassy, "The United States believes that it is very important that the Greek Government to work with its European partners and the IMF, "said Ambassador. Pierce.

[Translation via Google translate]
Greece's credit rating downgraded - Sky News UK

"Standard and Poor's has downgraded Greece's credit rating to B-, just one notch above the range indicating vulnerability to a default, warning Athens had limited time to reach a deal with creditors.

...The downgrade came the same week members of Greece's hard-left government toured European capitals to win support for Athens' demand that terms of the country's 240 billion euro ($A352.86 billion) EU-IMF bailout be eased.

Not only did those appeals fall on largely deaf ears in its eurozone partners, however, but on Wednesday the European Central Bank moved to restrict Greek lenders' access to a key source of cash by rescinding the right of Greek banks to use government debt as collateral for loans."

Can Tsipras keep his promises? - Fox News

"The big question is how many, if any, of his promises Alexis Tsipras can keep without risking a potentially disastrous Greek exit from Europe's multinational currency, the euro.

A crucial indication of which direction the government intends to go in comes on Sunday, when Tsipras presents his government's policy plan in parliament. A three-day debate culminates in a confidence vote late Tuesday.

"If the policy statements are as hard as the pre-election ones ... you understand that we're heading to a big clash, and I think the markets will move accordingly," said Nick Kafkas, head of research and analysis at Merit Securities."

Default fears loom -Yahoo News

"Athens put itself back on a collision course with the European Union by announcing it wanted to talk "without pressure and blackmail", days before an extraordinary meeting of eurozone ministers in Brussels.

Greece's new government and EU leaders held intense discussions this week, in which Athens clashed with Germany over its promises to end austerity and cut Greece's huge mountain of debt.

With the European portion of Greece's 240-billion-euro ($275-billion) international bailout due to expire at the end of the month, investors are increasingly concerned recession-hit Greece could default on its repayments.

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's late Friday downgraded Greece to just one notch above the range indicating vulnerability to a default, warning against further delays to debt talks."

Nicosia: We support Greece -

"Minister of Finance Harris Georgiades said to the Eurogroup Wednesday Nicosia will support Greece's positions.

Mr. Georgiadis added that it has been confirmed that the economy is in orbit correction and exit from the recession. He also said that the government is moving on two objectives: To continue the road to recovery and the effort to restore access to international markets. The Finance Minister said that already have begun to emerge positive signs on leaving the markets."

[Translation via Google translate]
Wall Street ends down on interest rate, Greece jitters - CNBC Money Control India

"Euro zone finance ministers are waiting to hear on Feb. 11 how Greece wants to become financially independent, the chairman of the ministers said. Greece must apply for a bailout extension by Feb. 16 at the latest to ensure that the euro zone keeps backing it financially, the Eurogroup chairman told Reuters.

The Wall Street Journal on Friday said Greece was rebuffed by lenders for USD 5 billion in short-term debt; the country is facing a cash crunch because the EU wants more reforms."

February 6, 2015

Europe Weighs the Costs Of Casting Greece Aside - WSJ

"Greece has just 11 million people and its economy represents about 2% of eurozone gross domestic product. But, Mr. Eyal says, “The Greeks have always been able to capitalize on their claim to be more significant than their size and their economy warranted.”

In recent years, some policy makers—notably in Germany—have tired of this conceit. Before German Chancellor Angela Merkel closed down the debate in 2012, some German officials developed what others called the “ballast theory.” According to this, Greece’s indiscipline was threatening to sink the eurozone boat. If Greece was thrown over the side, the boat would float higher in the water.

At that time, what gave Berlin and others pause was the signal it would send. The eurozone, rather than a permanent fixture, would look like a marriage of convenience that could be joined and exited at will..."

ECB Turns the Screw on Greece - WSJ Moneybeat

"On Wednesday evening the European Central Bank declared that it would stop accepting Greek bonds as collateral for central bank loans.

“It is currently not possible to assume a successful conclusion” of Greece’s current bailout, the ECB said, just hours after its president, Mario Draghi, met with the country’s new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis. Thursday Mr. Varoufakis met German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble in a tough exchange in Berlin. Mr. Varoufakis said Greece would do everything in its power to avoid default, and proposed a bridging program to negotiate new debt terms. Mr. Schäuble said the causes of Greece’s current path lay in Greece, not Europe, and that reforms were unavoidable.

Wednesday’s ECB move turns off a significant — though not the sole — soure of funding for Greek banks. Their shares have been on a rollercoaster ride, and they are battling the prospect of dramatic withdrawals as the negotiations deteriorate."

February 5, 2015

Vested Interests Might Come to Greece’s Rescue - WSJ

"Overnight, the European Central Bank said it was no longer accepting Greek government paper as collateral. Although Greek banks continue to have access to ECB cash through the central bank’s emergency liquidity assistance, the latest move is seen as a warning shot for Greece’s Syriza government. The apparent subtext is that if Syriza doesn’t toe the Troika’s line, the next time, the Greek economy could be holed below the waterline.

....The French have a phrase for Syriza’s best option now: “reculer pour mieux sauter”, essentially, “take a step back so as to have a better leap later”. To be sure, having to backpedal on its electoral promises to cut Greece’s onerous debt will be politically uncomfortable for Syriza’s leadership. But a much more immediately likely prospect is that Syriza wins ground on shrinking the country’s primary budget surplus–in other words that its rescuers loosen Greece’s fiscal strait jacket."

Can’t even ‘agree to disagree’ in first talks with Germany - Financial Post

"...German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he and his Greek counterpart, Yanis Varoufakis, “agreed to disagree” in their Berlin meeting. “We didn’t even agree to disagree from where I’m standing,” Varoufakis responded.

Their encounter came hours after Greece lost a critical funding artery when the ECB restricted loans to its financial system. That raised pressure on the 10-day-old government to yield to German-led austerity demands to stay in the eurozone.

...Varoufakis said Greece is looking for a financial lifeline to keep the country afloat for four months while it negotiates a “new contract” with the rest of the euro region.

...Schaeuble bristled at the Greek finance chief’s announcement last week that he was abandoning the country’s existing bailout deal and poured cold water on Greece’s calls for a debt restructuring and its plans to reverse austerity."

This time next year Greece will be out of the euro or Syriza will be out of power - Spectator

"Ever since the creation of the first bailout to Greece, it has been an insult to junk bonds to put them in the company of Greek government bonds. Greece’s debt is not sustainable and the expectation of a magical economic turnaround, like in the Baltics after the 2008 crisis, has been delusional. The only reason the ECB accepted Greek government bonds as decent collateral in the first place is because the gnomes of Frankfurt were forced into that delusion...

....The ECB is neither the problem nor the solution for Greece. The problem Greece now faces is its new government in Athens. It’s got one thing right, which is that Greece’s debt should be written off in part. But Alexis Tsipras and his Finance Minister – the preening intellectual flâneur who the German press likens to Lord Voldemort – are on a collision course with their Eurozone colleagues. Their economic diplomacy is for the junior league. And the plan to rush the Eurozone to a new deal with Greece before the country runs out of money is met with scorn. Other governments rather think Tsipras and Varoufakis could stew in their own juice for a while. Make no mistake: this is going to end badly. By this time next year, either Greece will be out of the euro – or Syriza will be out of power."

February 4, 2015

Greece May Run Out of Cash as Early as March - Bloomberg

"With Greeks yanking their cash from banks and withholding tax payments, Tsipras would only be able to survive for a few more weeks by tapping social-security funds and withholding payments to vendors, the person said. By the end of March he may face existential choices: accepting a lifeline with conditions he has consistently rejected or abandoning the euro.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis travels to Berlin Thursday for his first meeting with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, with the time he has to negotiate running out. The Germans, by contrast, have all the time in the world."

Greece seeks ECB emergency funds as threat of eurozone exit mounts - Financial Post

"Greece’s new leftist government appealed to the European Central Bank on Wednesday to keep its banks afloat as it seeks to negotiate debt relief with its eurozone partners, but Germany rejected any roll-back of agreed austerity policies.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said after meeting ECB President Mario Draghi in Frankfurt he believed Athens could count on central bank support during the short period it would take to conclude talks with international lenders.

Banking sources told Reuters that two Greek banks have begun to tap emergency liquidity assistance from the Bank of Greece after an outflow of deposits accelerated after the victory of the hard left Syriza party in a general election on Jan. 25.

The Greek government wants that funding to continue because if the ECB were to halt it, Greek banks could collapse, forcing the country out of the eurozone."

Greece tones down its debt demands - CNN Money

"The country's new radical left government revealed a new plan to manage the debt. Instead of asking for an outright "haircut" that would wipe away some of its debt, the country is proposing to swap its debt for growth-linked bonds.

The announcement sent Greek stock markets soaring -- the benchmark Athens index was up 10% midday."

Greece braces for talks with Germany amid market relief - Advertiser-Tribune

"Germany has flatly ruled out Greek debt forgiveness. But calming tension with the new Tsipras government, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on a visit to Singapore that there would be "sufficient opportunities" to discuss the new proposals.

In Rome, Varoufakis was joined in Rome by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who met Italian Premier Matteo Renzi and is due to hold talks with Juncker in Brussels Wednesday.

"We didn't discuss the (new) proposals today but you will always find Italy ready to discuss them," Renzi told a joint news conference with Tsipras.

Greece has to strike a deal with creditors by the end of June or be unable to repay about 7 billion euros ($8 billion) worth of bonds maturing in July and August."

February 3, 2015

Greece's New Finance Minister Is Brilliant. So Why Does He Make Everyone So Nervous? - Bloomberg

"Yanis knows far more about the current situation than some of the people he will be negotiating with," adds Stuart Holland, an economist and former British Labour Party politician who has co-authored a series of papers with Varoufakis on the euro zone debt crisis.

What's more, Varoufakis's academic specialty is game theory, the study of strategic decision-making in situations where people with differing interests try to maximize their gains and minimize their losses. Varoufakis knows as much about this subject "as anyone on the planet," Galbraith says. "He will be thinking more than a few steps ahead" in any interactions with the troika.

Market analyst Nicholas Spiro, of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London, says Varoufakis might be stirring things up on purpose. Syriza's leaders are "trying to establish their anti-austerity credentials, to show the Greek electorate that their vote was not in vain," Spiro says. "They will play this game as long as they possibly can. This will give them political cover to climb down" and compromise later.

That's one possibility. Another is that Varoufakis, a self-described "libertarian Marxist," simply can't hold his tongue. He wrote on his website that he was advised to stop blogging after joining the cabinet but had decided "to defy such advice … even though it is normally considered irresponsible for a Finance Minister to indulge in such crass forms of communication." And he seems to love a good fight: "It was fun!" he blogged after the bruising BBC interview.

Greece offers hope for Europe - Washington Post

"Don’t believe the tripe about the crisis in Europe. With the election of the Syriza Party in Greece, the Greek people have offered Europe hope. This is Europe’s chance to turn from the crippling austerity that has left the South mired in depression and the North sinking in deflation. Syriza is calling for a “New Deal,” not only for Greece but for all of Europe.

The question is whether the rest of Europe will exhibit statesmanship — or condemn the people of Europe to years more of misery. The initial reactions in Germany and Brussels opt for misery. Now is the time for the Obama administration, progressives in Congress and across the country to join in a bold call to save Europe from its folly."

EU, Greece signal readiness to compromise on terms of bailout - US News and World Report

The Financial Times reported that during a visit to London on Monday, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis had backed off the idea of a flat debt write-off. Instead, he suggested exchanging Greece's debt to its bailout creditors with bonds that would be repaid only if Greece's economy grows. He also offered using so-called "perpetual" bonds — which allow issuers to pay interest forever while foregoing the principal.

...Historically, creditor countries have often written off debt owed by poorer nations. Greece's case is complicated, however, by the fact that it is part of a currency union — richer countries like Germany do not want to set a precedent for other states that might get into financial trouble.

...Greece has to strike a comprehensive deal with its creditors by the end of June, as otherwise it would be unable to repay some 7 billion euros ($8 billion) worth of bonds maturing in July and August.

February 2, 2015

Greece rules out aid from Russia, argues case in Europe - Reuters

"Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras ruled out seeking aid from Russia and said on Monday he would pursue negotiations for a new debt agreement with European partners, but saw little sign of compromise from Germany.

"...We are in substantial negotiations with our partners in Europe and those that have lent to us. We have obligations towards them," Tsipras said at a news conference in Cyprus during his first foreign visit as prime minister.

"Right now, there are no other thoughts on the table," he said, when asked whether Greece would seek aid from Russia, which has suggested it could be willing to listen to a request for support from Athens.

The remarks on Russia could reassure EU partners shocked last week when the Tsipras government initially appeared to reject the bloc's consensus on economic sanctions against Moscow. Greece eventually signed up last Thursday to extending existing sanctions against Russia for six more months."

France Supports Greece in EU Debt Battle - WSJ

"France expressed sympathy for the new Greek government’s hope of renegotiating the tough terms of its bailout, amid growing international calls for Germany to rethink its austerity-heavy approach to the debt crises in Greece and Europe.

French Finance Minister Michael Sapin said on Sunday that Greece needs a “new contract” with Europe, backing the demand of the Athens government, led by the left-wing Syriza party, to end the previous framework of Greece’s bailout program, which has become politically toxic in the heavily indebted nation.

France, which has lent about €41 billion ($46.24 billion) to Greece through various bailout mechanisms, continues to reject Syriza’s election-campaign demand for outright debt forgiveness. Syriza officials have said they would settle for gentler options for restructuring Greek debt, such as prolonging maturities and reducing interest rates.

Mr. Sapin said Greece’s debt burden would be “only one of the issues that must be included in a new contract between Greece and its partners.” The new arrangement, he said, must “allow Greece to demonstrate its will to reform” its economy."

February 1, 2015

Greece says will not cooperate with 'troika' or seek aid extension - Reuters

"Greece's new leftist government opened talks on its bailout with European partners on Friday by flatly refusing to extend the program or to cooperate with the international inspectors overseeing it.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government also sacked the heads of the state privatization agency after halting a series of state asset sales.

The politically unpopular policy of privatization to help cut debt is one of the conditions of Greece's 240-billion-euro bailout that has imposed years of harsh austerity on Greece.

...Tsipras has repeatedly said he wants to keep Greece in the euro but he has also made clear he will not back away from election campaign pledges to roll back the terms of the bailout."

Greece Will Repay ECB, IMF, Reach Deal With EU, Tsipras Says - Bloomberg

"Greece will repay its debts to the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund and reach a deal “soon” with the euro-area nations that funded most of the country’s financial rescue, Tsipras said in a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg News on Saturday.

“...We need time to breathe and create our own medium-term recovery program, which amongst other things will incorporate the targets of primary balanced budgets and radical reforms to address the issues of tax evasion, corruption and clientelistic policies,” he said.

The government started to roll back the austerity program last week. Tsipras asked for the resignation of Emmanuel Kondylis, chairman of the fund overseeing the country’s privatization program, and Paschalis Bouhoris, the chief executive officer, a spokeswoman for the fund said late Friday."


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