Friday, February 24, 2017

Half of Germans against debt relief for Greece, survey shows

Fri Feb 24, 2017 | 4:05am EST


Around half of Germans are against granting debt relief to Greece and around three in 10 want the debt-laden country to quit the euro zone, a survey showed on Friday.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

IMF Signals Greek Debt to Be Dealt With at End of Aid Program

by Birgit Jennen
22 February 2017, 8:41 μ.μ. EET


IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde signaled that Greek debt restructuring can wait and the country should focus on overhauling its economy for the duration of its latest bailout, which expires in 2018.

Brexit Bulletin: What Can By-Elections Tell Us About Brexit?Bre

Labour is facing a stiff challenge in its traditional heartlands.
by David Goodman
23 February 2017, 9:30 π.μ. EET


Voters in Copeland and Stoke Central take center stage today in by-elections that will have an impact beyond the borders of the two constituencies.

Both districts have traditionally elected Labour MPs but voted for Brexit, putting it firmly on the agenda during the campaigns, alongside more granular local issues. That, coupled with timing of the polls and the positions of the parties involved, mean they matter more than the average by-election, according to Bloomberg’s Robert Hutton.

Greece Teeters Back to the Edge of the European Union

The bailout program has fallen far behind schedule and is on the verge of falling apart.

The Wall Street Journal

"It is inconsistent to attack the government both for not completing the review and for the measures needed to complete it."

Feb. 21, 2017 4:07 p.m. ET
Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been in a defiant mood lately. Some say it’s just a ploy, others believe he’s sincere. Either way, he could be pushing his country back to the brink of Grexit.

Speaking to his party’s central committee earlier this month, the prime minister had harsh words for Wolfang Schäuble, speaking of the German finance minister’s “constant aggressiveness” against Greece and his “contemptuous remarks” toward the country.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Save Greece by Saving Its Economy First

FEB. 21, 2017

The New York Times

With the Greek government set to run out of cash by the end of July, the country’s main creditors in Europe continue to demand harsh budget cuts as a condition for crucial loans. But after a decade of failing to save Greece, Germany and other European nations, along with the International Monetary Fund, ought to try a different approach, one that makes reviving the economy a priority.

Greece’s creditors appear willing to provide new loans to pay off debts coming due this year as long as the country commits to achieving a fiscal surplus of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product before interest payments by 2018. The I.M.F., more sensibly, has argued for a surplus of 1.5 percent. It also says that European officials should commit to reducing the Greek government’s debt, which is so huge that it equals about 180 percent of the country’s annual economic output. That debt relief could come in various forms, including giving the country more time to repay or reducing the amount owed.

Eurozone Agrees to Greece Talks in Exchange for Bailout Payments


The New York Times

BRUSSELS — Eurozone finance ministers agreed on Monday to begin negotiations in Athens as soon as next week over much-needed overhauls in exchange for bailout payments, with Greece appearing to win a reprieve from the crippling austerity that it has faced for years.

The agreement fell short of an all-encompassing deal, with key questions unresolved over the shape of the changes to Greece’s pensions, as well as its tax and labor rules. But it is a positive sign ahead of a meeting this week between Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, who have taken contrasting positions on debt relief toward Athens.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Greece needs 'far less' money than agreed in third bailout: ESM head

Mon Feb 20, 2017 | 3:20am EST

Greece will need less in emergency loans from international lenders than originally agreed in its third bailout program due to a better-than-expected budgetary developments, the head of the euro zone bailout fund was reported on Monday as saying.

Klaus Regling told German newspaper Bild that at the end of Greece's money-for-reforms package in August 2018, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will "probably have paid out far less than the agreed maximum amount of 86 billion euros" because the Greek budget was developing better than expected.

Schaeuble denies 'Grexit' threat, says Greece on right pathGre

 Sun Feb 19, 2017 | 12:13pm EST


By Erik Kirschbaum | BERLIN
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble denied on Sunday that he had said Greece would have to leave the euro zone if it failed to implement economic reforms.

Schaeuble said in an ARD television interview that Greece would not have problems if it implemented agreed reforms, but would if it fails to carry these out.

"I never made any ('Grexit') threats," Schaeuble told ARD's Bericht aus Berlin program just before the network played recent comments in which he said Greece was "not yet over the hill" and the "pressure needed to stay on" Greece or it "couldn't stay in the currency union".

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Swift deal on Greece needed to avert fresh uncertainty: EU's Dombrovskis

Thu Feb 16, 2017 | 4:45am EST


There are costs in delaying agreement on Greece's bailout review, the European Commission's vice president responsible for the euro was quoted as saying on Thursday, and a solution needs to be found swiftly.

Inconclusive talks between Greece and its international creditors on economic reforms and debt relief have cast doubt over the future of Greece's 85 billion euro bailout program.

"There is a common understanding that time lost in reaching an agreement will have a cost for everyone," Valdis Dombrovskis told Greek news portal Euro2day.

EU Sends Envoy to Salvage Greece Deal as February Date Looms

by Eleni Chrepa  and Marcus Bensasson
15 February 2017, 2:00 π.μ.

Greece and its creditors are intensifying efforts to complete a stalled review of the nation’s bailout that would unlock much-needed aid before more than 6 billion euros ($6.3 billion) in obligations come due in July.

EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs Pierre Moscovici met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos in Athens Wednesday to try to reconcile differences over what reforms are needed to stabilize the country’s economy. European rescue monitors had wanted a deal reached by Feb. 20 when euro-area finance ministers gather in Brussels.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Germany wants Greece in euro zone, IMF says no special deals

BUSINESS NEWS | Mon Feb 13, 2017 | 5:20pm EST

By Jan Strupczewski and Joseph Nasr | BRUSSELS/BERLIN
Germany on Monday voiced support for Greece to stay in the euro zone and the European Commission dispatched a senior official to Athens to persuade it to take on further reforms to salvage its bailout accord.

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, meanwhile, remained firm that as a lender the IMF could not cut any special deals for the crisis-hit country, which has received three bailouts since 2010.

The moves came as the European Commission forecast a large jump in economic growth for Greece of 2.7 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively, this year and next.

Brexit Bulletin: Can Britain Split the Difference?

The U.K. may need to drive a wedge between EU states in Brexit talks. So far the Continent is singing with one voice.
by Simon Kennedy
14 February 2017, 9:30 π.μ. EET

It now looks like Theresa May was a little naive.

Back in October, the U.K. prime minister said she hoped her commitment to start the Brexit process by the end of March would prove enough for the European Union to engage in some “preparatory work” beforehand.

“This is important,” she told the BBC. “It’s not just important for the U.K.; it’s important for Europe as a whole.”

Instead, European officials held their line that there would be “no negotiation without notification” that Britain was definitely leaving.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

As Ties With U.S. Cool, Europeans Look to Forge Other Alliances


The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The weather, and her reception here, were far colder than when she visited last summer during the Obama administration, but Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign minister, made it clear that she can handle a chill in the air.

“I think we are entering into a different phase of our relationship,” Ms. Mogherini said Friday in a 30-minute interview, adding, “A more transactional approach means Europeans will be more transactional, and we will base our approach on our interests.”

But Ms. Mogherini said she had received important reassurances from top administration officials on the Iran nuclear deal and on Russian sanctions.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The IMF Staff Has It Right on Greece

FEB 8, 2017 2:00 AM EST
By Mohamed A. El-Erian

When the International Monetary Fund’s board met Monday to discuss Greece, it was heartening to read that “most Executive Directors” agreed with the staff’s view that the country’s debt, at 179 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2015, was “unsustainable.” Yet “some directors had different views on the fiscal path and debt sustainability.” This division within the board also applied to what Greece still needs to do with its budget. With the medium-term primary fiscal surplus heading to 1.5 percent of GDP, “most Directors agreed that Greece does not require further fiscal consolidation at this time.” But, again, “some Directors favored a surplus of 3.5 of GDP by 2018.”

Brexit Bulletin: Victory, But at What Price?

Theresa May is now a technicality away from starting Brexit.
by Simon Kennedy  and Tim Ross
9 February 2017, 9:30 π.μ. EET

Theresa May was celebrating on Wednesday night as the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to approve starting the Brexit process.

Not only that, but the government managed to avoid any amendment to its 137-word bill, leaving it on track to invoke Article 50 by the end of March. The unelected House of Lords will now debate the legislation, but doesn’t have the authority to derail it.

Brexit Secretary David Davis hailed the 494-122 vote as “historic” and said it was time for the county “to unite to make a success of the important task at hand.” Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage was exultant, as was one-time Tory leadership hopeful Andrea Leadsom.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Greece: Priorities for a Return to Sustainable Growth

(From the IMF site)
February 7, 2017

Greece should deepen and accelerate reforms, which, together with further debt relief, are needed to allow the economy to return to a sustainable growth path, the IMF said in its latest annual assessment of the Greek economy.

The IMF’s Article IV report notes that the country has made progress in reining in its fiscal and external deficits, although this has taken a heavy toll on society. The report identifies a path to sustainable growth and prosperity that requires a two-pronged approach: ambitious policies on the part of the Greek authorities and significant debt relief on the part of Greece’s European partners.

The Q&A below highlights some of the key issues about the country’s progress and its reform priorities for the period ahead.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Το διαμέρισμα της συζύγου του κ Μητσοτάκη στο Παρίσι.

Το άρθρο που ανακίνησε το θέμα είναι αυτό:

Αφού το διάβασα (όχι όλο) κατέληξα στις παρακάτω παρατηρήσεις:
Στο κείμενο δίνει τιμή συμβολαίου 1.470.000 Ευρώ τα οποία σύμφωνα πάντα με το κείμενο πληρώθηκαν με 900.000 Ευρώ δάνειο (3.000 ευρώ ανά μήνα δόση) και με 470.000 μετρητά. Το άθροισμα του ποσού του δανείου και του ποσού των μετρητών που καταβλήθηκαν για την αγορά του συγκεκριμένου διαμερίσματος δεν είναι ίσο με το ποσό που αναγράφεται ως τιμή αγοράς στο συμβόλαιο. Συγκεκριμένα το ποσό της τιμής του συμβολαίου είναι κατά 100.000 Ευρώ μεγαλύτερο από το άθροισμα του δανείου (900.000 Ευρώ) και των μετρητών (470.000 Ευρώ). 
Επίσης λέει ότι η τιμή στο έβδομο διαμέρισμα του Παρισιού (εκεί όπου είναι το διαμέρισμα) κυμαίνονται στις 20.000-28.000 Ευρώ το τετραγωνικό, και τέλος ότι η επιφάνεια του διαμερίσματος είναι 92 τ.μ. Αν όμως διαιρέσουμε την αξία του συμβολαίου με την μέγιστη τιμή της αξίας του τ.μ. στο έβδομο διαμέρισμα (28.000 Ευρώ), όπως την δίνουν οι συγγραφείς του άρθρου, έχουμε 52,5 τ.μ. Δηλαδή, με την τιμή που δίνει το άρθρο για το τετραγωνικό μέτρο στο συγκεκριμένο διαμέρισμα του Παρισιού, μπορούσε να αγοράσει διαμέρισμα με περίπου τα μισά τ.μ. Επειδή το διαμέρισμα είναι 92 τ.μ. και η αξία του συμβολαίου είναι 1.470.000 Ευρώ συμπεραίνουμε ότι ότι το άρθρο δίνει, κατά προσέγγιση, διπλάσια αντικειμενική αξία για το συγκεκριμένο διαμέρισμα του Παρισιού, όπως αυτό προκύπτει από τα δεδομένα του άρθρου. Η ίδια διαδικασία με την ελάχιστη τιμή για το τ.μ. στο έβδομο διαμέρισμα του Παρισιού δίνει 73,5 τ.μ. για το διαμέρισμα. Με βάση την τιμή του συμβολαίου και τα 92 τ.μ. του διαμερίσματος η τιμή ανά τ.μ. είναι 15.978 Ευρώ ανά τ.μ. Επειδή τα δύο τελευταία στοιχεία (αξία διαμερίσματος σύμφωνα με το συμβόλαιο και επιφάνεια του διαμερίσματος) ήταν γνωστά στους συγγραφείς του άρθρου ήταν γνωστή και η πραγματική τιμή του τ.μ. του διαμερίσματος της κ. Μητσοτάκη. Η τιμή αυτή όμως δεν αναγράφεται στο άρθρο. Αντί αυτής, της πραγματικής τιμής του τ.μ. του διαμερίσματος, αναγράφονται τιμές (20.000 και 28.000) που είναι σημαντικά υψηλότερες της πραγματικής.

Από το ίδιο κείμενο:
Η τιμή των ακινήτων με βάση το συμβόλαιο είναι 1.470.000 ευρώ. Το 95% του ακινήτου ανήκει στην ίδια και το 5% στον Γιώργο Παπαζήση. Εκτός από το τίμημα αγοράς, πληρώνει ακόμη 80.000 ευρώ σε μεσιτικό γραφείο και 74.823 ευρώ σε φόρους και συμβολαιογραφικά έξοδα. Δηλαδή η Μαρέβα Μητσοτάκη πληρώνει περίπου 2 εκατομμύρια για να αποκτήσει το σπίτι του Βολταίρου.
Εάν προσθέσουμε το τίμημα αγοράς (1.470.000 Ευρώ), την δαπάνη για το μεσιτικό γραφείο (80.000 Ευρώ) και την δαπάνη για τους φόρους το σύνολο είναι 1.624.823 Ευρώ που απέχει μακράν των “περίπου” 2 εκατομμυρίων που ισχυρίζεται το άρθρο.

Για τους λοιπούς ισχυρισμούς του άρθρου και των συγγραφέων περί υποχρέωσης υποβολής δήλωσης πόθεν έσχες από την σύζυγο σε περίπτωση διάστασης και όχι διαζυγίου, και τα όρια του νόμου που επικαλούνται, μπορώ να υποθέσω ότι είναι το ίδιο πρόχειρα και αυθαίρετα με τα οικονομικά στοιχεία για την αγορά του διαμερίσματος. Ο ίδιος δεν είμαι νομικός για να τα ελέγξω ούτε και έχω τα στοιχεία στην κατοχή μου που θα μου επέτρεπαν κάτι τέτοιο ακόμη και αν ήμουν νομικός.

IMF says Greece should meet lower fiscal surplus target

 Mon Feb 6, 2017 | 9:36pm EST


By David Lawder | WASHINGTON
The International Monetary Fund said on Monday that Greece's economy would only grow by just under 1.0 percent in the long run given the constraints of its bailout program, but should meet the fiscal surplus target preferred by most IMF directors.

In its annual review of Greece's economic policies, the IMF said most of its board directors favor a Greek fiscal surplus target of 1.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2018, while some directors favor the higher 3.5 percent target sought by Greece's European lender group.

Trump: militant attacks 'all over Europe,' some not reported

Mon Feb 6, 2017 | 9:06pm EST


By Steve Holland | TAMPA, FLA.
President Donald Trump on Monday accused the news media of ignoring attacks by Islamist militants in Europe.

Trump, who has made defeating Islamic State a core goal of his presidency, did not specify which attacks were going unreported, which news media organizations were ignoring them, or offer any details to support his claims.

"All over Europe, it's happening. It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported," he told a group of about 300 U.S. troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

Syria has secretly executed thousands of political prisoners: rights group

The Washington Post

By Liz Sly February 6 at 8:18 PM
BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government secretly executed between 5,000 and 13,000 people in just one prison as part of its campaign to eliminate opposition to his rule, a new report by the watchdog group Amnesty International has found.

The killings took place over a four-year period between 2011 and 2015 in the notorious Sednaya facility outside Damascus, and the bodies were later disposed of in mass graves, according to the report released Monday by Amnesty.