Thursday, September 29, 2016

A New Twist on Greece’s Old-Style Dysfunction

A complex scandal signals Syriza is reviving the government-bank-media axis the party once campaigned against.
Sept. 28, 2016 3:54 p.m. ET

The Wall Street Journal

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing in Europe about the rise of right-wing populism, about the clampdown on media freedom and judicial independence in places such as Hungary and Poland. But Greece’s populist government, led by the hard-left Syriza party, seems to share many of the same authoritarian instincts of its formerly communist partners, whose values Syriza claims to abhor.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

More Parent Groups In Northern Greece Speak Out Against Refugee Children Joining Schools

One group suggested refugee children could be housed in a completely different location, but the Ministry of Education rejected their proposal.
 09/27/2016 03:45 pm ET

The Huffington Post

Danae Leivada
Reporter, The Huffington Post

Two parents associations in northern Greece voted last week to oppose refugee children attending their schools, publicly denouncing the government’s plans to include the children in the Greek education system.

Following the example of parents in Oreokastro and Filippiada, in northern and western Greece respectively, parents from two primary schools in the northern town of Alexandria voted on Friday against 60 refugee children joining their schools.

Greece passes new reforms for fresh batch of bailout aid

Tue Sep 27, 2016 | 3:02pm EDT


Greek lawmakers on Tuesday passed reforms sought by the country's creditors to cut pension spending and expedite privatisations in exchange for financial aid under the country's latest international bailout.

Signalling the conclusion of a first review of bailout terms, parliament voted by a majority to reform the country's electricity market and transfer state assets into an umbrella sovereign wealth fund.

The reforms were passed by a majority vote in the 300-seat parliament by members of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' leftist-led government. Passage of the reforms may unlock 2.8 billion euros of loans when deputy euro zone finance ministers meet this week.

Fatigued Investors Want Draghi to Buy Greece Before They Do

 Nikos Chrysoloras

September 28, 2016 — 4:03 AM EEST Updated on September 28, 2016 — 10:05 AM EEST


Michel Danechi isn’t buying the Greek turnaround story just yet.
As Greek business leaders and government officials presented to investors last week in London a list of reasons why valuations of the country’s assets make them attractive, Danechi’s Duet Asset Management took note. But what he wants to see is for Greece to show it can make good on pledges made to euro-area creditors so it can be included in the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s quantitative easing program.

Greece approves plan to transfer state utilities to new asset fund

State assets, including water and electricity utilities, are to be transferred to a new asset fund created by international creditors. The plans have sparked demonstrations and public sector strikes across the country.

Deutsche Welle

Greece's parliament passed new reforms on Tuesday night to cut pension expenditure and transfer control of public utilities to a new asset fund.
 The reforms seek to unlock 2.8 billion euros ($3.14 billion) in financial loans as part of the country's latest bailout program.
The reforms were passed by a narrow 152-141 majority vote in Greece's 300-seat parliament, after 152 parliamentary members of the ruling Syriza-Independent Greeks coalition approved the reform bill. Only one member of the coalition voted against the bill, along with all opposition members.
The reforms will see public assets transferred to a new asset fund created by Greece's creditors. Assets include airports and motorways, as well as water and electricity utilities. The holding company groups together these state entities with the country's privatization agency, the bank stability fund and state real estate. It will be led by an official chosen by Greece's creditors, although Greece's Finance Ministry will retain overall control.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Economic imbalances risk 'destabilising' euro zone: ECB's Draghi

Mon Sep 26, 2016 | 5:11pm EDT


Economic imbalances within the euro zone risk destabilising the currency bloc, top European Central Bank officials said on Monday, stressing the responsibility of governments to help boost growth while respecting EU rules.

ECB President Mario Draghi and board member Benoit Coeure also acknowledged the limitations of the ECB's ultra-expansionary policy of low interest rates and money printing.

"In our Economic and Monetary Union, in particular, the economic governance framework is essential to avoid imbalances that would eventually risk destabilising the euro area," Draghi told a European parliamentary committee in Brussels.

Greece, lenders agree supervisors for new privatisation fund

Mon Sep 26, 2016 | 8:28am EDT


Greece and its lenders have agreed on a five-member supervisory board for a new privatisation fund following wrangling over its composition, government sources said on Monday, meeting a key condition under the country's 86 billion euro bailout.

Athens had to agree on nominations with its EU/IMF lenders by the end of September to conclude a first progress assessment and qualify for a further 2.8 billion euros in bailout loans.

Greece govt populism made adjustment worse: EU's Dombrovskis

Mon Sep 26, 2016 | 9:28am EDT


Greece has had to go through tougher austerity than it would have otherwise been necessary, because of the populist stance of the left-wing government of Alexis Tsipras in 2015, European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said on Monday.

Tsipras, who took power in January 2015, rejected belt-tightening in public finances requested by lenders in exchange for emergency loans and reversed some of the reforms introduced by the previous Greek governments.

As new loans were frozen, Greece defaulted on the International Monetary Fund in July 2015 and had to introduce capital controls to prevent its banking system from collapse.

The Deutsche Bank crisis could take Angela Merkel down – and the Euro

Matthew Lynn 26 SEPTEMBER 2016 • 4:43PM

The Telegraph

here are some words that make such an unlikely pairing that we find it hard to put them together.  Italy and efficiency, for example. Or Bake Off and Channel 4. And ‘Germany’ and ‘banking crisis’ is another one. Our image of German banks, and the German economy, as completely rock solid is so strong that it takes a lot to persuade us they might be in trouble.

And yet it has become increasingly hard to ignore the slow-motion car crash that is Deutsche Bank, or to avoid the conclusion that something very nasty is developing at what was once seen as Europe’s strongest financial institution. Its shares have been in free-fall for a year, touching a new low of 10.7 euros on Monday, down from 27 euros a year ago. Over the weekend, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel waded into the mess, briefing that there could be no government bail-out of the bank.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Greece Rejects Asylum Requests by Three Turkish Officers

Trio were part of group of eight soldiers who fled after failed coup attempt in Turkey

The Wall Street Journal


Sept. 21, 2016 1:08 p.m. ET

ATHENS—Three of the eight Turkish army officers who fled to Greece after July’s failed coup attempt in Turkey have had their asylum requests rejected, a Greek government official said Wednesday.

The requests of two of the officers were rejected owing to a lack of cooperation with authorities, a second Greek government official said. All three have the right to appeal.

Amnesty: Refugees in Greece Live in 'Appalling Conditions'

SEPT. 22, 2016, 9:55 A.M. E.D.T.

The New  York Times

ATHENS, Greece — Most of the roughly 60,000 refugees and other migrants stranded in Greece are living in "appalling conditions" and face "immense and avoidable suffering," rights group Amnesty International said in a report Thursday slamming Europe's response to the refugee crisis.

The group criticized Europe for failing to fulfill commitments to relocate refugees from the countries they entered, saying only 6 percent — about 4,000 people — of the 66,400 relocations promised over two years have taken place.

COSCO sees Greece's Piraeus among world's top 30 ports by 2018

Thu Sep 22, 2016 | 2:10pm EDT


By Angeliki Koutantou | ATHENS
China's biggest shipping company, COSCO Shipping, plans to ramp up container volume at Greece's biggest port in Piraeus by 35 percent by 2018, the port's new managing director, Fu Cheng Qiu, told Reuters on Thursday.

COSCO Shipping, which owns the world's fourth-largest container shipping fleet, bought 51 percent of the port's operating company last month for 280.5 million euros ($315.5 million), one of Greece's biggest and most strategic privatizations since a debt crisis began in 2009.

Potemkin Euro-armies

Grand talk of a “defence union” risks exposing Europe’s weakness
Sep 24th 2016 | From the print edition

The Economist

THE idea of a European army is as old as the hope for European unity. After creating the European Coal and Steel Community, the embryo of today’s European Union, the six founding members agreed in 1952 to form a supranational European force. But the plan was voted down by the French parliament; thereafter countries focused on gradual economic integration.

Banks Said to Plan for Loss of Euro Clearing After Brexit

September 22, 2016 — 2:01 AM EEST Updated on September 22, 2016 — 2:33 PM EEST

Executives at global investment banks in London expect France and Germany will prevail in a tussle over the clearing of $570 billion of euro derivatives and are making plans to deal with the fallout, according to people at four of the biggest firms.
They assume the City of London will eventually be stripped of the ability to clear euro denominated swaps after Britain formally exits the European Union, said the people involved in their firms’ contingency planning, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. While that might take years to happen, employees and operations central to the clearing function will be among the first moved to the continent once Brexit is triggered, one person said.
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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Greece’s Alexis Tsipras Seeks to Revive his Political Fortunes on Economic Promises

Europe’s most electorally successful populist has become nearly as unpopular as the Greek political establishment he ousted almost two years ago

The Wall Street Journal

Sept. 11, 2016 2:15 p.m. ET

THESSALONIKI, Greece—Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, languishing in polls, sought to reboot his premiership over the weekend. But his economically depressed country has largely given up hope on the imminent change he is promising.

Europe’s most electorally successful populist has become nearly as unpopular as the Greek political establishment he ousted almost two years ago. A recent survey showed only 19% of Greeks view him favorably and 85% are dissatisfied with his government.

Syriza Strains Greece’s Credibility

The country’s hard-left government continues to put politics before reform.

The Wall Street Journal

Sept. 7, 2016 3:23 p.m. ET

Independent institutions remain anathema to the government in Greece. Two cases that have dominated the headlines in recent weeks demonstrate how the country’s populist government, led by the hard-left Syriza party, continues to put politics before reform and refuses to learn the right lessons from the country’s recent past.
The criminal case against economist Andreas Georgiou returned to the spotlight last month when it was reopened by the country’s Supreme Court. A longtime official with the International Monetary Fund, Mr. Georgiou had been appointed six years ago to head the independent Hellenistic Statistical Authority, or Elstat. The prime minister at the time, George Papandreou, created Elstat as a response to the discovery that the government under his predecessor, Costas Karamanlis, had underreported the country’s fiscal deficit.

'Times are changing, pay your taxes', euro zone chief tells corporations

Sat Sep 10, 2016 11:50am EDT


By Francesco Guarascio and Jason Hovet | BRATISLAVA
Multinational companies should refrain from tax-avoidance practices and pay their fair share, the head of euro zone finance ministers said on Saturday in a new endorsement of the European Union's fight against tax-dodging.

In the wake of the 'Panama Papers' revelations of widespread tax-avoidance practices, Brussels has toughened up its drive for fairness by tightening controls and adopting stricter rules.

The recent shock multi-billion euro tax demand on Apple (AAPL.O) was part of that trend as the EU also drafts plans for a common corporate tax base and a single European blacklist for tax havens.

Did Hillary Clinton just make her own ‘47 percent’ gaffe?

The Washington Post

By Aaron Blake September 10 at 2:11 PM

Update: Clinton has expressed "regret" for using the word "half." See her statement at the bottom of this post.

Hillary Clinton said Friday night in New York that half of Donald Trump's supporters are racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic and/or Islamophobic.

At an "LGBT for Hillary" fundraiser, where Barbra Streisand performed, Clinton expanded on previous comments about many Trump supporters falling into a "basket of deplorables" that includes the groups listed above.

Monday, September 5, 2016

U.S., Russia not yet eye-to-eye on possible resumption of Syrian cease-fire

The Washington Post
By William Wan, Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly September 4 at 2:05 PM

HANGZHOU, China— Efforts by the United States and Russia to forge a deal for a cease-fire in Syria and to coordinate their counterterrorism operations there faltered again Sunday, even as a major new Syrian-Russian offensive in the besieged city of Aleppo appeared to undermine key components of the proposed agreement.

After an anticipated news conference did not take place, Secretary of State John F. Kerry told reporters that his negotiations here with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov snagged on “a couple of tough issues” — nearly identical to the language he used when the two failed to reach agreement in their last meeting, just over a week ago in Geneva. Officials said they would meet again Monday.

EU will not release more bailout money for Greece this month: paper

Sun Sep 4, 2016 3:09pm EDT

The euro zone will not release additional bailout money for Greece at a meeting in Bratislava this month, Germany's Handelsblatt Global reported on Sunday, citing European Union diplomats.

The online edition of the German business daily quoted the diplomats as saying that Athens had only implemented two of 15 political reforms that are conditions for the bailout money. Above all, they said, Greece had been slow to privatize state assets.

Under a deal signed last year with euro zone countries, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the ESM will provide financial assistance of up to 86 billion euros to Greece by 2018 in return for the agreed reforms.