Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Greek View of Brexit

 Nikos Konstandaras
APRIL 25, 2016
The New York Times

ATHENS — Greeks, clinging precariously to our European Union membership for the past few years, have watched with particular fascination while at the other end of Europe, Britons head for a referendum on June 23 to decide whether to leave the Union.

For around 200 years, Greece and Britain have been tied together. Britain, as a leading economic, political, military and technological power, has had inordinate influence on modern Greek history. At the height of its imperial power, Britain was decisive in helping the Greeks break free of the Ottoman Empire; in World War II and the Greek civil war that followed, Winston Churchill fought to keep Greece in the Western camp and succeeded. Now both nations, from very different positions, pose a serious threat to the European Union.

Greece Returns 12 Syrians to Turkey; Will Build 4 More Camps

APRIL 27, 2016, 10:54 A.M. E.D.T.

The New York Times

ATHENS, Greece — Greece on Wednesday returned 12 Syrians, including a woman and her four children, to Turkey as part of a European Union-Turkey agreement aiming to stop the flow of refugees and migrants across the Aegean to Europe's more prosperous heartland.

The 12 were flown from the Greek island of Lesbos to Adana in Turkey by a plane chartered by the European border agency Frontex, Greece's citizens' protection ministry said, noting all had expressed the wish to return and none had applied for asylum in Greece.

Under last month's EU-Turkey deal, people arriving clandestinely on Greek islands from Turkey from March 20 onward face being returned unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece. So far, 386 people have been returned under the deal, Greece says.

Greece Pushes for Eurozone Summit Meeting to Unblock Debt Talks


The New York Times

BRUSSELS — Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece asked on Wednesday for a summit meeting of eurozone leaders that would allow him to make his case for easier terms on sorely needed aid to help his country avoid bankruptcy.

Without new rescue money by July, Greece could default on its debts and throw the 19-member eurozone into another period of chaos. There could also be a domestic upheaval in Greece similar to last summer, when the country had a referendum on the terms accompanying its third bailout, followed by snap general elections.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Negotiations Stall Between Greece and International Creditors

Greece’s government and IMF at odds over “contingency” austerity measures
The Wall Street Journal

Updated April 26, 2016 4:31 p.m. ET
ATHENS—Negotiations between Greece and its international creditors ran into trouble on Tuesday over demands for extra austerity measures, denting hopes for a quick end to the monthslong deadlock over the country’s bailout.

The impasse is the latest in a saga of troubled talks. The Greek government and the International Monetary Fund are at loggerheads over how to find up to €3.6 billion ($4 billion) in so-called contingency measures, or additional austerity, if Greece misses its budget targets.

Friday, April 22, 2016

No deal between Greece and lenders seen on Friday: Eurogroup head

Fri Apr 22, 2016 3:29am EDT


Greece and its international lenders are unlikely to reach an agreement on Friday that would unlock further loans and pave the way for debt relief talks, despite some progress made in talks on reforms, euro zone officials said on Friday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Euro zone ready to finalize Greek deal next week, if talks succeed

Wed Apr 20, 2016 11:27am EDT Related: WORLD, GREECE, CAMPAIGN FINANCE


Euro zone finance ministers are ready to hold an extraordinary meeting next week if negotiations on the review of the Greek reform program are concluded, a senior EU official said on Wednesday, commenting that talks remained difficult.

Discussions between Greek authorities and international lenders have resumed this week in Athens with the aim to conclude a reform review which is a condition to release more bailout money to Greece.

Islam, interment and Greece

Burying drowned migrants is part of a broader Greek problem
Apr 20th 2016, 12:55 BY M.TZ. AND ERASMUS | MYTILENE
The Economist

THE newly established graveyard, a short drive west of Mytilene port, is a desperately sad place. In the middle of an olive grove, there are dozens of mounds of crumbly earth, some created only a month ago, with markers offering perfunctory information about the people who lie underneath: a name, a date of death or discovery and a date of interment. Sometimes the name is not known.

The crazy reason we might be facing a huge crisis in Greece again

By Matt O'Brien
April 20 at 6:30 AM

The Washington Post

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether history is repeating itself as tragedy or as farce.

Greece, after all, has had plenty of both over the past eight years. Its economy has shrunk as much as the United States' did during the Great Depression, its government has collapsed over and over and over again as a result, and its bailout is in its third iteration — without which it would have been forced out of the euro zone. How bad are things?  Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras just touted the fact that his country's unemployment rate has fallen from 26.5 percent to 24.9 percent, and that there was a month last year in which Greece's industrial production grew faster than anyone else's in Europe.

When life doesn't even give you lemons, you have to pick cherries instead.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Greek Minister Reaches Out to Lagarde as Bailout Talks Drag

 Theophilos Argitis
 Rainer Buergin
April 17, 2016 — 1:54 AM EEST Updated on April 17, 2016 — 6:04 AM EEST

Greece’s finance minister arranged a last-minute follow-up meeting with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde before returning to Athens from a gathering of global policy makers in Washington, as the nation seeks to unlock more bailout funds from creditors.
The creditors are considering proposing additional austerity measures that would kick in if the nation missed budget targets, according to a European official familiar with the talks who asked not to be identified. The potential plan is part of efforts to conclude the current round of talks with Greece amid differences between Europe and the IMF, which is reviewing whether to join the latest program and is skeptical that Greece will be able to achieve the fiscal goals.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

ISIS Expands Reach Despite Military and Financial Setbacks


The New York Times

WASHINGTON — American airstrikes have killed 25,000 Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria and incinerated millions of dollars plundered by the militants, according to Pentagon officials.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces have taken back 40 percent of the militant group’s land in Iraq, the officials say, and forces backed by the West have seized a sizable amount of territory in Syria that had been controlled by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

But the battlefield successes enjoyed by Western-backed forces in the Islamic State’s heartland have done little to stop the expansion of the militants to Europe, North Africa and Afghanistan. The attacks this year in Brussels, Istanbul and other cities only reinforced the sense of a terrorist group on the march, and among American officials and military experts, there is renewed caution in predicting progress in a fight that they say is likely to go on for years.

Greece Holds Activists as Migrants and Police Clash Anew at Macedonia Border


The New York Times

ATHENS — Clashes erupted at Greece’s northern border for the second time in three days on Wednesday, with the Macedonian police firing tear gas on scores of migrants as they protested border closings that have left more than 12,000 stranded in a makeshift refugee camp.

The protests in Idomeni, a town in Greece on the border with Macedonia, came as Greek authorities arrested 14 activists there, saying that they had incited the migrants to storm the razor-wire fence dividing the two countries.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Number Of Refugees Arriving In Greece Drops Dramatically

Only 80 migrants and refugees arrived in Greece over a 24-hour period this week, compared to an average of 1,150 per day in mid-March.
 04/12/2016 06:55 pm ET
The Huffington Post

Danae Leivada
Reporter, The Huffington Post

ATHENS, Greece — Fewer than 100 migrants and refugees crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece over a 24-hour span Monday and Tuesday, a dramatic drop from the number of arrivals earlier this year. The declining numbers could fuel hope that an agreement between Turkey and the European Union to stem the flow of migrants to Greece is starting to have an effect.

Just 80 migrants and refugees arrived in Greece from Monday morning to 9 a.m. Tuesday, compared to an average of 1,150 per day in mid-March, before the implementation of the agreement, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ten Billion Risks in Greece's Summer of Discontent

APRIL 12, 2016 2:05 AM EST
Mark Gilbert
Europe is gearing up for a summer of discontent. There's the U.K. referendum on European Union membership, a simmering refugee crisis and an increasingly desperate European Central Bank. Taken together, this list gives reason enough to be fearful about the health of the European project in the coming months.

But there is also Greece, which is caught in a spat between Germany and the International Monetary Fund over debt relief as it seeks yet more bailout money. Greece -- whose economic crisis already threatened to destroy the irrevocable nature of euro membership -- still seems to be dragging its feet over state asset sales and pension reform. It is hemorrhaging cash from its banking system. Athens has to find more than 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) to meet its debts in June -- and another 5 billion euros in July.

Greece condemns Macedonian use of force to stop migrants crossing border

Police action on unarmed people ‘unworthy of a European nation’ says Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
The Wall Street Journal

April 11, 2016 11:08 a.m. ET

ATHENS–Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Monday accused Macedonia of “shameful” actions, after Macedonian police used tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets in attempt to prevent migrants crossing the border between the two countries Sunday.

Macedonia’s police action against “people who did not constitute a threat and were not armed and were attacked with chemicals, [rubber] bullets is unworthy of a European nation,” the Greek Prime Minister said in a press conference with his Portuguese counterpart António Costa, who is currently visiting Athens.

Frustrated refugee in Germany sets fire to his new home, police say

The Washington Post
By Rick Noack April 11 at 2:42 PM

When a house used to shelter refugees was burned down in an arson attack last week, there seemed to be no doubt about the motives behind it. Someone had sprayed a swastika on one of the house's walls, which made investigators believe that they were dealing with right-wing extremism. Local politicians in the city of Bingen were shocked and immediately set up a pro-refugee march to advocate for tolerance.

That was before a Syrian refugee — an inhabitant of the house — reportedly confessed to the crime.

According to police, the 26-year-old had lived in the house for more than half a year and wanted to express his dissatisfaction with the accommodations, which he described as cramped. He has since been jailed, as investigators search for explanations and evidence.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Turkey, Germany herald progress as migrant flow to Greece slows

Wed Apr 6, 2016 9:19pm EDT Related: WORLD, GERMANY, TURKEY, GREECE



Turkey and Germany said on Wednesday an agreement between Ankara and the EU meant to stem the flow of migrants to the Greek islands was showing signs of success, but many were still trying to cross the sea and the route remained far from sealed off.

The accord, which came into force on Monday, aims to help end the chaotic arrival of migrants and refugees, most fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, after more than a million reached Europe last year.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Leaked Call Shows Continued Strains Between Greece and Its Creditors

IMF officials’ conversation highlights risk that bailout program could be headed for more drama

The Wall Street Journal

Updated April 2, 2016 1:38 p.m. ET

ATHENS—A leaked phone call held by International Monetary Fund officials is exposing strains between Greece and its international creditors, highlighting the risk that the country’s bailout program could be headed for more drama this summer.

A transcript of the March 19 phone call, involving IMF officials in Washington and Athens, was published by the Wikileaks website on Saturday and shows how IMF officials are struggling to persuade Germany and other eurozone countries to give Greece the debt relief and easier fiscal targets that the IMF thinks are needed.

Greece's Path to New IMF Loan Grows Even Rockier Following Leak

 Andrew Mayeda
April 5, 2016 — 12:00 AM EEST
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras may be alienating the International Monetary Fund just when he needs it most.
The IMF has questioned whether the goal of reaching a fiscal surplus of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product, agreed to in last year’s euro-area bailout of Greece, is realistic. In the transcript of a conference call published by WikiLeaks on Saturday, the fund’s European Department director, Poul Thomsen, suggests the IMF would accept a revised goal of 1.5 percent. Thomsen has said euro-area countries would have to offer more debt relief if the target is loosened.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Time Is Running Out (Again) for Greece

APRIL 4, 2016 10:14 AM EST
Editorial Board
The Greek economy is still in desperate trouble, and yet another crisis is looming. If it happens, this could set back hopes of recovery across much of Europe. The last emergency won't soon be forgotten -- yet nothing is being done to avoid a rerun.

The latest quarrel between Greece's government and the International Monetary Fund, one of its official creditors, only underlines this continuing dysfunction. The impasse has to be broken. For that to happen, the European Union must take the lead, rethink its current position, and grant Greece debt relief.

Greece's gross domestic product is still falling year over year. About a quarter of the population is out of work. Depositors pulled a further 500 million euros ($570 million) out of the country's banks in February, showing that last year's rescue plan has failed to restore confidence.

IMF Tries To Put Out Fire From Bombshell Greece Leak, But Doesn’t Apologize

Speculation that the IMF would pressure Greece to negotiate is “nonsense,” says a letter rife with thinly veiled criticism.
 04/03/2016 05:33 pm ET | Updated 14 hours ago
The Huffington Post

Daniel Marans
Reporter, Huffington Post

The International Monetary Fund’s managing director told Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras on Sunday that the IMF remains committed to good faith negotiations, trying to assuage concerns raised by a Saturday leak.

Christine Lagarde dismissed the possibility the IMF would use underhanded tactics to pressure Greece in the letter, which was also posted on the IMF’s website.

The Huffington Post first reported on Saturday that Tsipras had asked Lagarde whether Greece could “trust” the IMF in light of leaked remarks by IMF officials suggesting that a crisis-inducing “event” was necessary to get Greece to comply with IMF austerity requests.

“Of course, any speculation that IMF staff would consider using a credit event as a negotiating tactic is simply nonsense,” Lagarde wrote Sunday.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Greece demands IMF explanation over leaked debt transcript

Sun Apr 3, 2016 8:28am EDT Related: GREECE, IMF


Greece demanded an explanation from the International Monetary Fund after an apparent leaked transcript suggested the IMF may threaten to pull out of the country's bailout as a tactic to force European lenders to offer more debt relief.

EU/IMF lenders will resume talks on Greece's fiscal and reform progress in Athens on Monday, aiming to conclude a bailout review that will unlock further loans and pave the way for negotiations on long-desired debt restructuring.

The review has been adjourned twice since January due to a rift among the lenders over the estimated size of Greece's fiscal gap by 2018, as well as disagreements with Athens on pension reforms and the management of bad loans.

Greece Grapples With Unrest Ahead of Migrant Transfers to Turkey

First transfers under agreement between EU, Turkey set to take place Monday

The Wall Street Journal

By NEKTARIA STAMOULI in Athens and AYLA ALBAYRAK in Izmir, Turkey
April 3, 2016 11:27 a.m. ET

Greece is due to start sending Syrian refugees and other migrants back across the Aegean Sea to Turkey on Monday, putting into practice a controversial deal between the European Union and Turkey aimed at stemming the migration flow into Europe.

Returns are scheduled to take place from the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios and will be carried out by EU border agency Frontex. Government and police officials are bracing themselves for resistance from migrants.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Protests Against Migrants' Presence in Greece and Turkey


The New York Times

IDOMENI, Greece — 'Anti-migrants protesters staged demonstrations in Turkey and Greece against the plan to send back migrants from Greece to Turkey is set to be implemented starting Monday.

At the same time, migrants stranded at a makeshift camp in this small town on Greece's border with Macedonia staged a protest demanding that the border be opened and that they be allowed to continue their journeys to central and northern Europe.

Several dozen people living in the Idomeni camp staged a protest Saturday morning, blocking a local road for about an hour to demand the evacuation of more than 11,000 stranded migrants to "transit centers" across the Greek mainland.

After WikiLeaks Revelation, Greece Asks I.M.F. to Clarify Bailout Plan


The New York Times

Greece called on the International Monetary Fund on Saturday to explain whether it was seeking to usher Athens toward bankruptcy ahead of a pivotal referendum in June on Britain’s membership in Europe. Greece’s comments came after I.M.F. officials raised questions in a private discussion published by WikiLeaks about what it would take to get Greece’s creditors to agree to debt relief.

The transcript, which captures what WikiLeaks said was a teleconference conversation in March between Poul Thomsen, the head of the I.M.F.’s European operations, and the I.M.F.’s Greek bailout monitor, underscored a widening rift between the I.M.F. and Greece’s European creditors that could jeopardize Greece’s new 86 billion euro bailout. It also exposed the fraught behind-the-scenes political machinations that have led to a deadlock on how to deal with a country still regarded as Europe’s weakest link.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Syrian Refugee’s Message to the European Union

We fled war to find safety with our families. Why is the E.U. making our lives more miserable?
MARCH 31, 2016

The New York Times

IDOMENI, Greece — WHEN we first got here we had money to buy a little food. Now it’s gone. We stand in line for hours for a sandwich. My husband told a journalist recently: “People are fed up. Maybe tomorrow they will break down the gate and flood across the border.” The journalist said, “How many weapons do you have?” If we knew how to carry weapons or wanted to carry weapons we would not have fled Syria. We want peace. We are sick of killing.

We fled a war, and now the European Union is making war against us, a psychological war. When we hear rumors that we’ll be let into Europe, we celebrate. These leaders give us new hope, then they extinguish it. Why did you open the door to refugees? Why did you welcome people? If they had stopped it before, we would not have come. We would not have risked death, me and my children, and thousands of others, to make the crossing.

Greece, Turkey take legal short-cuts in race to return migrants

Greece and Turkey are rushing through changes to their asylum rules in a race to implement a EU-Turkey agreement on the return of refugees and migrants from Greek islands to Turkey from next Monday, EU officials and diplomats said.

Both Athens and Ankara must amend their legislation to permit the start of a scheme - denounced by the U.N. refugee agency and rights groups - to send back all migrants who crossed to Greece after March 20.

The policy is meant to end the uncontrolled influx of refugees and other migrants in which more than a million people crossed into Europe last year.