French version                                                                                                                     ...by Isa et David

www.toutsurlagrece.com

 

                                                                                              Greek News 2011 (from Yahoo news)    

Remember Athens 2004, the fires 2007, the riots of 2008, the plan 2010
and the others news concerning Greece by clicking under the archives below

Archives 2010
Archives 2009

Archives 2008
Archives 2007
 
Archives 2006
Archives 2005

Archives 2004

Monday the 26th of December 2011

Greece feels the Christmas pinch

Christmas shop sales in Greece fell by nearly a third this year in the worst festive trading for years as the country grapples with a debt crisis and a severe recession.

The National Confederation of Greek Commerce said clothes and shoe sales took the heaviest hit, falling 40% compared to last Christmas. It added that consumption of food and drinks fell 15%, while toy sales suffered least.

The statement said 90% of Greeks spent less in Christmas 2011, "out of necessity, not choice."

Greece is heading for a fourth year of recession and has near-record high unemployment. It has been kept afloat by foreign rescue loans since May 2010, after years of government overspending took it to the brink of bankruptcy.

 

Saturday the 24th of December 2011


Greek strikers close Acropolis over Christmas


ATHENS (Reuters) - Hundreds of tourists were barred from visiting the Athens Acropolis on Christmas Eve after the site's guards called a strike to demand overdue weekend pay.

Visitors had to resort to taking photos of themselves outside the monument's shuttered gates on Saturday, peering through the bars to get a look at the 5th century BC temple.

"It kind of sucks because this is one of your main sites here ... It throws off our whole weekend," said Anita Amin, 25, a tourist from the United States.

Greece has been hit by a wave of strikes provoked by cuts imposed by its debt-laden government to meet the terms of lifeline bailout deals from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The country's vital tourism industry has already taken a hit from walkouts by taxi drivers and other key workers.

Guards at many other archaeological sites across Greece went on strike on Saturday, saying they would stay home every weekend until the government hands out the two months of weekend pay it owes them.

"We are working people. We have seen our salaries greatly reduced because of the economic crisis and we can't keep working without getting paid," said the president of the guards' union, Yannis Mavrikopoulos.

The Acropolis is the leading attraction in a tourism industry which accounts for almost a fifth of the country's ailing economy.

"Considering that tourism is one of the main incomes for the country, I think that they should find another way to express their disappointment with their employers," said Eduardo Gouveia, 34, a visitor from Brazil.

 

 

Tuesday the 06th of December 2011

 


Athens riots mark anniversary of teenager's death

 

Greek police fired tear gas at dozens of hooded youths in Athens who hurled petrol bombs and stones, while hundreds marched to parliament to mark the shooting of a student by police in 2008.

The killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos three years ago sparked the country's worst riots in decades.

They were fuelled by anger over economic hardship and helped topple the then conservative government

 

Tuesday the 1st of December 2011


First strike in Greece since Papademos took office

Unions in Greece are holding their first general strike in protest at austerity plans since technocrat Lucas Papademos took over as prime minister.

Public services shut down along with rail and ferry services but airports stayed open, as did the Athens metro and the city's stock exchange.

Trade unionists representing about half of Greece's workforce gathered for marches in the main cities.

Greece has seen about a dozen general strikes in the past two years.

Spending cuts and tax rises are being introduced as a condition of the country's 110bn-euro (£94bn; $147bn) international bailout last year, negotiated to prevent Greece going bankrupt.

Earlier this week, Mr Papademos secured the latest 8bn-euro tranche of the loans package.

The unelected former banker, who took office on 11 November at the head of a broad coalition government, has said his priority is to activate a second bailout worth 130bn euros.

Waste collectors, teachers, doctors, journalists and bank employees were among those downing tools.

Christos Kiosis, a union chief at Athens water utility Eydap told NET TV: "Enough is enough.

"We have taken to the streets to say that this budget is an austerity budget - a starvation budget - which must not be passed."

"They are killing us," one demonstrator, 55-year-old Evangelos Routsas, told Reuters news agency in Athens.

"They are killing workers. They are killing the Greek spirit. We are here to tell them we won't be silent."

However, Thursday's 24-hour strike is expected to be smaller than a 48-hour action in October which degenerated into violence as rival groups clashed and police intervened.

Correspondents detected some weariness among the public after so many strikes.

"Unfortunately, my opinion is that they happen so often, almost on a daily basis, that they have lost their meaning," private sector worker Dmitris Papastathis told the Associated Press news agency in central Athens.

"All they do is make it hard for people to do their jobs. They could take place without bringing everything to a halt."

Mr Papademos, a former European Central Bank vice-president, was sworn in after his Socialist predecessor, George Papandreou, was ousted over his call for a referendum on the second bailout.

 


Tuesday the
29th of November 2011



 

Greece gets €8-billion bailout payment

Eurozone ministers threw a lifeline to Greece on Tuesday as they scrambled to prevent financial chaos from spreading further and driving Europe's common euro currency into a catastrophic breakup.

The monthly meeting of 17 nations was dominated by attempts to keep Greece afloat and find enough money to coat a veneer of credibility over Europe's rescue fund. It came on the third straight day that Italy has taken a beating in the bond markets, with investors growing increasingly wary of the country's chances of avoiding default.

The finance ministers approved the next installment of the Greece's bailout loan — €8 billion ($10.7-billion). Without that money, Greece would have run out of cash before Christmas, unable to pay employees or provide services. Two officials in Brussels reported the development, speaking on condition of anonymity while the meeting was still going on.

Monday the 21st of November 2011


Greek govt gives ray on property tax

Greece's new government has bowed to public pressure and announced that people on low-incomes who struggle to pay a new property tax levied via electricity bills will not have their power cut.

The state-run Public Power Corporation (Dei) was due to start disconnecting on Monday those who failed to pay the tax, one of numerous revenue-raising measures demanded in return for European Union and International Monetary Fund loans.

But after furious opposition by the unions, the environment and energy ministry said in a statement: "The government is in discussions with the management of Dei so that vulnerable groups are not cut off from the grid."

A finance ministry source told AFP a decision was due "in the next couple of days" about providing a formal exemption for the worst-off, including the poorest pensioners, the unemployed and the disabled.

The decision came as Lucas Papademos, the prime minister installed 10 days ago to save Greece from financial ruin, visited Brussels for talks on releasing desperately needed aid from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

The tax, the first property levy for ordinary Greek homeowners, was introduced by the previous government in September and would charge residents between 0.5 and 16 euros (A68 cents and $A21.75) per square metre, depending on their circumstances.

People living on less than 3000 euros a year would pay the lowest amount, while the long-term unemployed are already exempt.

The tax is administered through electricity bills to make it difficult to evade and this also provides the government with an automatic sanction - if no payment has been received 40 days after the bill is sent, the power is cut off.

Members of the powerful Genop-Dei union, which has led public opposition to the tax, occupied the Dei offices in Athens overnight and through Monday, holding up banners reading "We will resist" and "The tax should be paid by the rich".

Union secretary Nikos Katsaros told AFP they wanted "the abolition of the tax, or at least as a first step, an exemption for the poorest".

He confirmed that energy company staff had been told not to cut anyone off on Monday, the 41st day after the first bills containing the new tax were sent out.

The energy ministry denounced the union's sit-in as "irresponsible" and said the activists were acting "like Robin Hood, when it is clear that the government is reviewing the sanctions for vulnerable groups".

Katsaros said 50 per cent of households had so far failed to pay the tax, although Greek newspapers put this figure at 25 per cent.

 

Thursday the 17th of November 2011


Greek police tear gas austerity protest


 
ATHENS (AFP) - Riot police in Athens fired tear gas against masked youths during a march on Thursday by tens of thousands of Greeks protesting austerity measures demanded by the new unity government.

Police said 27,000 people in Athens and 15,000 in the second city of Thessalonika joined demonstrations marking a 1973 student uprising seen as a key moment in the restoration of democracy in Greece nearly four decades ago.

"We will throw all of them out," promised a banner held aloft by students in the capital while another carried by anarchists read: "In the face of tyranny, one must choose between chains and arms."

The march, the first test of the scale of public defiance against the coalition set up to deal with Greek's crippling debt crisis, was a sombre, largely peaceful affair although violence flared briefly during the afternoon.

A group of protesters threw stones and two firebombs at police outside parliament, while a dozen masked youths set two large dustbins alight near the US embassy, said police, who had deployed 7,000 officers in anticipation of trouble.

Riot officers wearing body armour and wielding batons and shields responded with tear gas, protecting themselves with gas masks as the crowds ran away.

An empty guard box outside European Union offices was also set on fire during the demonstration, which dwarfed the 20,000 who gathered in Athens last year.

Greece is slogging through a third year of recession exacerbated by wage cuts and tax hikes imposed by the previous socialist government of George Papandreou.

The measures are set to continue under the coalition set up last week under former European Central Bank deputy chief Lucas Papademos, as he seeks to implement reforms demanded by EU and International Monetary Fund creditors in exchange for a 130-billion-euro bailout.

"We have no money, no jobs, no future," said Sotiris Kirbas, a 52-year-old unemployed man on the protest in Athens. "The crisis is not only about numbers, it's about people."

The annual march of November 17 commemorates a student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic in 1973 which was violently repressed. At least 44 people died but it helped topple a US-backed army dictatorship and brought back the republic.

The bloodstained Greek flag that flew over the university that night is carried at the head of the demonstration each year.

Papademos said the anniversary was "an opportunity to emphasise that with determination and unity, we can achieve our national goals to resolve the crisis and guarantee the country's return to growth and jobs".

But the inclusion of far-right politicians in his cabinet, the first time they have been in power since democracy was restored in 1974, added to the outrage of the protesters.

"Down with the government of socialists, conservatives and fascists," a protester banner said.

Other demonstrators condemned the appointment of an unelected prime minister at the demand of EU leaders.

"We have a government that did not emerge from elections, nobody asked us. What is this, if not a junta?" asked Marita, a 23-year-old civil engineering student.

The socialist, conservative and far-right nationalist parties formed a coalition last week to save Greece from looming bankruptcy, and they must now approve a crucial eurozone debt bailout before holding early elections.

In rare good news, holders of Greek sovereign debt said Thursday they hope to reach a deal "within weeks" on the planned reduction in the value of their holdings, which is expected to see about 100 billion euros of debt cancelled.

The new Greek government was officially confirmed in parliament on Wednesday, with 255 out of 300 lawmakers showing their support in a vote of confidence.

But Greece's third largest party, the Communists, and the smaller leftist Syriza party have pledged to fight to bring down the government to prevent further belt-tightening after two years of austerity.
 

Thursday the 10th of November 2011


Greece picks Papademos to avert bankruptcy

Greece's new leader Lucas Papademos on Thursday steeled his country for tough times ahead, as he assured Greeks of the need to stick with the euro after being named to head a crisis government.

But Athens' European peers, who had watched with anxiety as power-sharing talks dragged on for four days, insisted on "strong cross-party" reassurances from the new team that will be sworn in on Friday.

Welcoming the designation of a new interim prime minister, EU president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said: "It is important for Greece's new government to send a strong cross-party message of reassurance to its European partners that it is committed to doing what it takes to set its debt on a steady downward path."

Giving his maiden speech moments after receiving a mandate from Greece's president, Papademos, a respected former vice-president of the European Central Bank, said the crisis-hit country was at a crossroads as bankruptcy loomed.

"The Greek economy is facing huge problems despite the enormous efforts made," the 64-year-old told a huge crowd of journalists outside the presidential mansion after political leaders took four days to appoint him.

"Greece is at a crucial crossroads ... the course will not be easy," he said.

He called on Greeks to pull together as the country faces up to its worst economic crisis in decades.

"The problems will be resolved faster ... if there is unity, cooperation and wisdom," said Papademos, who will head the transitional government until new elections are called.

The Athens market gained ground when his appointment was announced, but later slumped to losses of 0.72 percent shortly before closing.

Papademos, a former central banker who played a crucial role in Greece's entry into the eurozone nearly a decade ago, emphasised its benefits after weeks of speculation that Greece's problems could force it out of the 17-nation currency club.

"I am convinced that the participation in the eurozone is a guarantee of fiscal stability and a factor in economic prosperity," he said.

The United States said it "welcomed" Papademos' appointment and hailed what it called "the consensus that's been reached in Greece on the need to implement the country's reform commitments to the IMF as well as the European Union," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

Papademos said the new team's main task was to implement the terms of the vital EU bailout deal, but added that "no exact time" had been set for elections, initially pencilled in by the main political leaders for February.

His first job is to persuade the European Union and International Monetary Fund to disburse an eight-billion-euro ($11-billion) slice of aid from a 2010 bailout deal that is needed by December 15.

Then he must force through painful austerity measures exacted as the price for a second EU bailout package which gives Athens 100 billion euros in loans, the same amount in debt reduction and a further 30 billion in guarantees.

Drawing a firm line in the sand, crisis-weary France and Germany last week gave Athens a stark choice: pass these belt-tightening measures or leave the euro.

And highlighting the parlous position of the Greek economy, the European Commission said it had abandoned all hope of a climb out of recession next year, tipping another 12 months of economic contraction for the incoming government.

The previous EU forecast of 1.1-percent growth was ripped up -- with a 2.8 percent contraction now expected in 2012 after a brutal 5.5-percent recession this year.

Greek statistics showed unemployment in August -- the peak of the country's busy tourism season -- at 18.4 percent with over 900,000 people out of work.

Representatives of three Greek political parties met Thursday with Papademos to discuss ministerial posts, and afterwards a leader of the main opposition New Democracy party said conservatives would have a "substantial" representation in the coalition government.

It was not yet known who would hold the key post of finance minister, but Greek media has said it could remain in the hands of Greece's number two socialist, Evangelos Venizelos.

Papademos and his new government team will be sworn in Friday at 1200 GMT, the president's office said.

Soft-spoken and low-key, Papademos is seen by many as the safe pair of hands needed to haul Greece back from the brink.

"It is a great honour and the responsibility I undertake is greater still. I am not a politician, but I have dedicated the greater part of my life to economic policy," said the new premier-in-waiting.

The dramatic appointment of Papademos capped a chaotic week in Greece that ranged from drama to outright farce.

Outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou started the ball rolling last Monday when he shocked the rest of Europe by announcing a referendum on the EU bailout deal, sending markets worldwide into meltdown.

The surprise call for a popular vote also sparked a revolt in his own party and forced Papandreou to announce he would step down in favour of a unity government backed by the two main parties.
 

Sunday the 06th of November 2011

 

 


Greece's President Karolos Papoulias (R) and Prime Minister George Papandreou


Greece talks under way in bid to avoid bankruptcy


ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek leaders struggled for a second day Sunday to end an ongoing political crisis, under intense pressure to ensure the country doesn't go bankrupt in the next few weeks and that it remains in the eurozone.

Embattled Prime Minister George Papandreou, who narrowly survived a parliamentary confidence vote Saturday, has said he is prepared to step down once political leaders agree on an interim government to lead the country through the next four critical months.

The new government would secure a new European debt deal agreed on little more than a week ago, and ensure the country receives a critical installment of bailout loans. Then elections could be held in late February.

But Antonis Samaras, the leader of the main conservative opposition New Democracy party, said Sunday no talks between the two parties were taking place and he reiterated his stance that Papandreou must resign before any coalition discussions can take place.

That has been the main sticking point in forming an interim government.

Papandreou, who chaired an emergency Cabinet meeting Sunday evening, said in a statement he had contacted the country's president, asking him to chair a meeting with him and Samaras in order to find a solution "soon."

Arriving for the Cabinet meeting, Civil Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis said Papandreou's proposal was "a clear, honest ... proposal in today's situation."

Greek politicians were hoping to arrive at a solution by Sunday night, so the country can attend a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels Monday with a semblance of stability.

"It is evident ... that the entire government can and will resign once the national cooperation and discussions result in a new government," said Interior Minister Haris Kastanidis as he arrived for the Cabinet meeting.

"There is a eurogroup tomorrow. If the government resigns today without there being a new government, who will hold talks at the eurogroup?" Kastanidis said.

Greece has been surviving since May 2010 on a first euro110 billion ($152 billion) bailout. But its financial crisis was so severe that a second rescue was needed as the country remained locked out of international bond markets by sky-high interest rates and facing an unsustainable national debt increase.

The new European deal, agreed on by the 27-nation bloc on Oct. 27 after marathon negotiations, would give Greece an additional euro130 billion ($179 billion) in rescue loans and bank support. It would also see banks write off 50 percent of Greek debt, worth some euro100 billion ($138 billion). The goal is to reduce Greece's debts to the point where the country is able to handle its finances without relying on constant bailouts.

Greece's lawmakers must now approve the new rescue deal, putting intense pressure on the country's leaders to swiftly end the political crisis so parliament can convene and put the debt agreement to a vote.

"In these critical moments, the two (main) parties are merely wasting time," said lawmaker Giorgos Kontoyannis, a former New Democracy member of parliament who has joined the splinter group Democratic Alliance. "I want to say to my former New Democracy colleagues that our responsibility to our country is individual and not bound by party allegiance."

In return for bailout money, Greece was forced to embark on a punishing program of tax increases and cuts in pensions and salaries that sent Papandreou's popularity plummeting and his majority in parliament whittled down from a comfortable 10 seats to just two.

Papandreou's government came under renewed threat after his disastrous bid this past week to hold a public referendum on the new euro130 billion ($179 billion) deal. The idea was swiftly scrapped Thursday after an angry response from markets and European leaders who said any popular vote in Greece would determine whether the country would keep its cherished membership in the eurozone. They also vowed to withhold a critical euro8 billion ($11 billion) installment of loans from an existing bailout deal that Greece needs urgently to stave off an imminent and catastrophic default.

After the aborted referendum idea, Papandreou's government survived the confidence vote. Now, European Union partners and creditors are pressing Papandreou and other political leaders to form a coalition government as a condition to receive any further rescue funds.

Government spokesman Elias Mossialos told state television Sunday that talks have begun and the name of the new prime minister should be known by Monday, in which case Papandreou would resign. Mossialos later told The Associated Press that his remarks regarding a new premier expressed "a personal wish" and were not an official announcement.

Samaras' party denied any talks were taking place "either in the open or behind the scenes."

The socialists and New Democracy differ on the duration of such a caretaker government, with the opposition demanding elections within a few weeks and the government saying the coalition Cabinet should last through the end of February.

 

Thursday the 03rd of November 2011

 



 


Greece's Papandreou Squeezed on All Sides

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday took a step back from a plan to hold a referendum which had incensed European leaders trying to organise a rescue plan for the debt-ridden nation.

As eurozone leaders at the G20 conference in Cannes piled on the pressure, Papandreou said he was ready to drop the plan to put the European package aimed at keeping Greece in the euro to a vote.

But Germany and the European Union responded that Greece would be judged on its actions, not its words.

At the same time, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos warned that Greece needed the next eight-billion-euro slice ($11-billion) of aid from its partners by December 15.

Later, Papandreou, who faces a confidence vote in parliament on Friday, told members of his socialist PASOK party that Greece had to implement the terms of the rescue package designed to save the country from bankruptcy, or face a humiliating exit from the 17-nation eurozone.

"Rejecting the plan via a 'No' vote in a referendum, holding early elections, or not getting a (parliamentary) majority in favour of the package would mean leaving the euro," he said.

Papandreou stopped short of formally announcing the referendum was scrapped, but Venizelos was more clear.

From what we have understood from the speech of the prime minister, the government and therefore the country, is officially announcing that it is not heading towards organising a referendum," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted with caution.

"For us, it's actions that count," Merkel said in the southern French city of Cannes where leaders of the 20 top world economies were meeting for crisis talks on the eurozone debt woes.

"What's important is that there is a quick 'Yes' to the October 27 decisions," she added, referring to last week's offer by eurozone leaders to write down Greek debt in exchange for imposing strict fiscal controls on Athens.

EU paymaster Merkel reiterated her threat that the eight-billion euro pile of cash needed by mid-December would not be unlocked unless Greece accepted the terms of the bailout plan.

In addition, EU President Herman van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso ratcheted up the pressure on Papandreou, saying that Greece had to stick to the plan, agreed after marathon talks last week in Brussels.

"The euro area stands ready to continue to support Greece, but Greece needs to stick to the agreed package of 26-27 October and in particular to continue with the implementation of the EU/IMF programme. This needs to be crystal clear," they said in a joint statement on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

Papandreou's apparent change of heart came after the centre-right opposition indicated for the first time they would support the bailout plan.

"We had a dilemma -- either true assent or a referendum. I said yesterday, if the assent were there, we would not need a referendum," Papandreou told a crisis Cabinet meeting, according to a statement from his office.

We must hail the fact that (main opposition party) New Democracy will vote for the loan deal."

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras had previously been vehemently against the deal, which demands fierce austerity measures from the Greeks.

But on Thursday he said: "The new loan deal is inevitable and must be secured."

However, what Papandreou hailed as "the start of a new political culture in the country" lasted only a few hours before Samaras was accusing Papandreou of lying and blackmailing the Greeks in a rowdy parliamentary session.

He called on Papandreou to resign and led his MPs from the chamber ahead of a crunch confidence vote expected on Friday that could topple the socialist government and spark renewed turmoil in Europe.

A New Democracy spokesman later confirmed that they would return for the confidence vote -- to vote against Papandreou.

In an apparent concession to Samaras, Papandreou finally agreed that a government of national unity should be formed as soon as possible and opened the way to early elections, which he had previously rejected.

And with an eye towards Friday's pivotal vote, Papandreou appealed for unity within his party and "stability" in his parliamentary group amid a rebellion in the ranks.

"The confidence vote is particularly important and guarantees that decisions taken by the government can proceed," said Papandreou.

The vote, at the end of three days of debate, was expected to occur around midnight local time (2200 GMT) on Friday.

PASOK holds 152 seats in the 300-member parliament, but several political allies have threatened to rebel, throwing the result of the vote into doubt.

Papandreou's decision to put the new 100-billion-euro bailout package to a vote stunned fellow European leaders and prompted panic on the financial markets.

Greece's stock exchange collapsed by nearly seven percent after the announcement and other European bourses fell by around five percent as investors feared the eurozone was back to square one in tackling the crisis.

Despite the uncertainty on a tumultuous day for Greek politics, the stock market in Greece closed on Thursday with gains of 1.86 percent.


 

Tuesday the 02nd of November 2011


Greece plunges euro into crisis, France insists on debt deal

Greece plunged the eurozone back into crisis and markets into panic on Tuesday with a shock call for a referendum on a debt rescue package reached just days ago with huge difficulties.

Prime Minister George Papandreou's decision to hold a confidence vote on Friday and then a referendum on the debt deal stunned investors, angered EU leaders and left the eurozone back at square one, with Italy now under pressure just ahead of a high-profile Group of 20 summit in France.

The turmoil saw some European markets slump by 5.0 percent or more and pushed borrowing rates uncomfortably near record levels for Italy, which can ill afford to pay extra to raise funding given its strained finances.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Greece to order, insisting, in concert with Germany, that last week's accord was the only way to solve its debt problems.

Noting that the referendum call "surprised all of Europe," Sarkozy said "France reminds everyone that the accord adopted ... unanimously by the 17 member states ... is the sole possible way to resolve Greece's debt problems.

"Giving people a voice is always legitimate but the solidarity of all the eurozone countries is not possible unless each one agrees to measures deemed necessary," Sarkozy said.

France and Germany, he added, took the initiative to hold a meeting Thursday before the opening of the G20 summit in Cannes, of all European institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the Greek prime minister to discuss "the conditions under which the engagements undertaken will be kept."

The White House meanwhile said the uncertainty caused by Greek's move showed the need for rapid implementation of the eurozone deal.

The announcement "just reinforces the notion that ... the Europeans ... need to elaborate further and implement rapidly the decisions they made last week," US President Barack Obama's spokesman Jay Carney said.

"It remains the case that the Europeans have the capacity to deal with this crisis and they need to implement the very important decisions they made last week to provide a conclusive resolution to it," Carney added.

The latest turn in the eurozone debt saga put Italy right back in the firing line, raising fears that it could follow Greece, Ireland and Portugal in needing a bailout and that the contagion could spread even further, to Spain.

Italian stocks closed down 6.80 percent with bank shares in free fall, in the worst session since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008.

Borrowing rates also shot up to well above 6.0 percent, coming close to levels that most believe cannot be sustained for the long term.

In an effort to get ahead of the debt curve, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised to take "rapid" action on economic reforms, long sought by his European partners, ahead of the G20 summit.

He told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that "the Italian government is determined to introduce the measures rapidly," his press office said.

Berlusconi had sought to ease market concern and pressure from Italy's eurozone partners last week with promises to increase the pension age, launch a privatisation programme and reform labour laws to make firing easier.

In a brief phone call to Merkel, Papandreou told the chancellor that the referendum would "strengthen the country in the eurozone and globally" but other leaders voiced frustration and annoyance that they had not been informed of his plan at last week's negotiations.

Analysts said that the referendum call effectively left last week's accord dead in the water, with Greece facing default and even an exit from the eurozone.

If the vote is 'No,' it would scupper a deal to cut Greece's debt of more than 350 billion euros ($495 billion) by about 100 billion euros while recapitalising the banks who will take a 50-percent loss on their holdings of Greek government debt.

In a joint statement, EU president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said they had full trust in Greece to "honour the commitments undertaken."

Greece however was teetering on the edge of chaos, with military chiefs replaced ahead of a confidence vote on Friday that could bring down Papandreou's government


 

Monday the 31st of October 2011


Greece gambles on referendum for new debt deal

ATHENS, Greece - Taking a huge political gamble, Greece's prime minister announced Monday that his debt-strapped country will hold a referendum on the new European debt deal reached last week — the first such vote in 37 years.

Prime Minister George Papandreou appeared to take many lawmakers by surprise by saying that a hard-bargained agreement that took months for Europe's leaders to hammer out will be put to a public ballot.

He gave no date or other details on the proposed referendum, which would be the first in Greece since 1974, when the monarchy was abolished by a landslide vote months after the collapse of a military dictatorship.

"This will be the referendum: The citizen will be called upon to say a big 'yes' or a big 'no' to the new loan arrangement," Papandreou told Socialist members of parliament. "This is a supreme act of democracy and of patriotism for the people to make their own decision ... We have a duty to promote the role and the responsibility of the citizen."

The move allows Socialist lawmakers — who have been vilified by an increasingly hostile public during months of strikes, sit-ins and violent protests over rounds of austerity measures — to pass the responsibility for the country's fate to the Greek people themselves.
 

The new debt deal aims to seek 50 percent losses for private holders of Greek bonds and provide the troubled eurozone member with euro100 billion ($140 billion) in additional rescue loans.

Papandreou's government has seen its majority reduced to just three seats in parliament and its approval ratings plummet amid harsh austerity measures that are sending the country into a fourth year of recession in 2012.

The EU statistics agency Eurostat estimated in a report issued Monday that unemployment in Greece reached 17.6 percent in July — even higher than the Greek estimate for that month of 16.5 percent.

"This is just the latest twist in the unfolding Greek tragedy," said Sony Kapoor, managing director of Re-Define, a London-based think tank.

"With an irresponsible opposition that is promising Greek voters the moon, it is very difficult to see how this referendum could be won under the ongoing gut-wrenching austerity."

There was no immediate reaction from leaders of eurozone countries, who struggled for months to overcome their differences before reaching the Oct. 26 agreement — the second broad agreement reached in four months.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the referendum was "a matter for the Greeks."

"Every country needs to have their own domestic political approach to the problems ... The consequences of a 'yes' or 'no' vote are something that will have to be debated in Greece," Hague told Channel 4 News.

"We look to all the countries in the eurozone to honor the agreements they have entered into."

In Greece, opposition parties accused the government of calling the vote to save its teetering government, threatened by growing dissent from Socialist dissenters.

"The prime minister is trying to buy time," said Costas Gioulekas of the conservative New Democracy party said. "We want clear solutions. And a clear solution is obvious: Elections."

Under Greece's constitution, a referendum requires approval by parliament before it is officially declared by the country's president. Gioulekas would not say whether his party would back a "yes" vote.

Support for the Socialists has eroded so much that anti-government protesters forced authorities Friday to cancel an annual military parade to honor World War II veterans, causing deep embarrassment to the government.

Tuesday the 25th of October 2011


 

Greek public transport goes on strike
 

Greek public transport workers have taken part in a nationwide 24-hour strike in protest against the government's plans to cut public sector jobs and wages.



Metro, bus and tram services were halted as a result of the Tuesday walkout, leading to heavy traffic jams, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Traffic police were sent to regulate the increasing traffic in the early hours of the day as people were trying to get to work.

The strike follows the approval of the country's unpopular austerity measures by its government days ago.

Greece is struggling to reduce a huge government deficit amid fears of a possible default that may set off a eurozone crisis.

Since last year, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have provided Greece with two rescue packages worth over USD 380 billion in return for tough austerity measures.

The measures, which include cuts to public sector salaries and pensions, tax increases, and an overhaul of the pension system, have sparked nationwide protests in Greece.

Greece must persuade both the EU and the IMF that it is making sufficient financial reforms. Otherwise, it will not receive the next USD 11 billion of bailout loans and will go bankrupt within weeks.

 

 

Monday the 24th of October 2011


Greece, China to sign new trade memorandum: ministry


Greece and China will sign a trade memorandum on Monday during a visit by senior Chinese officials and conclude orders worth around 550 million euros ($766 million), the development ministry said.

The head of China's national consultative assembly, Jia Qinglin, is on a five-day business trip to Greece, accompanied by deputy trade minister Zhong Shan and a large business delegation.

Four trade deals were to be signed on Monday between Greek and Chinese companies, mainly involving exports to China worth around $764 million.

The development ministry said the delegations will discuss investment prospects in various Greek sectors including telecommunications, bank services, the automobile industry, railroad equipment, real estate, brewery, electronics, clothing and glassware.

Shan will sign a bilateral memorandum of economic cooperation with Greek Development Minister Michalis Chryssohoidis.

"Investment from China are increasingly turning towards our country," Chryssohoidis said after talks with Qinglin at the main port of Piraeus.

"There are major prospects in Greek-Chinese cooperation," he said.

"This investment in Piraeus is strategic, both for the Chinese and for ourselves," the minister said.

He noted that exports to China have increased by over 50 percent in 2011, though they still constitute just one percent of Greece's foreign trade.

The Piraeus port authority (OLP) has a concession agreement with Chinese global shipping giant Cosco which runs two of the port's container terminals.

The government has announced plans to sell a major part of its 75-percent stake in the company.

Greece is under pressure to raise as much money as it can from its assets to secure continued support for its troubled economy from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
 

Thursday the 20th of October 2011





Greece facing austerity vote

Greece is facing a critical austerity vote in parliament aimed at averting a debt default, as protesters rally on the second day of a general strike whose opening day saw widespread violence.

The streets around parliament resembled a battle zone on Wednesday after clashes between masked protesters and riot police left at least 45 people injured, and vandals attacked stores, banks and hotels in the centre of Athens.

The protesters threw firebombs, street railings, paint and stones hacked from buildings at police, who responded with heavy discharges of tear gas that blanketed the heart of the city.

The demonstrators also set fire to garbage, which has been littering the capital for over two weeks because of a strike by municipal refuse collectors.

Police arrested five people over the violence, which broke out on the sidelines of a giant rally which authorities estimated at 70,000 people. Unions put the participation at 200,000.

Overall, at least 125,000 people are estimated by police to have demonstrated in major cities around the country against the government's economic policies.

Another demonstration has been called by unions for Thursday morning on central Syntagma Square, alongside plans to encircle parliament, where the austerity bill demanded by Greece's creditors heads to a vote later in the day.

Late on Wednesday, the parliament adopted the first reading of the bill, which would introduce collective wage amendments, major cuts in tax breaks, a new civil service salary system and temporary layoffs for thousands of public sector staff.

During the largely procedural vote in the 300-member parliament, 154 deputies from the ruling socialist Pasok party voted in favour, 141 opposition deputies voted against, and five were absent.

But a number of government deputies have threatened to reject an article on wage amendments in a follow-up vote tonight.

The government has repeatedly warned that failure to pass the legislation ahead of an EU crisis summit on Sunday would prompt other nations to block the release of loans and cause a payments freeze.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told parliament on Wednesday that Greece faced a "battle of battles" at the European Union headquarters in Brussels and would be unable to finalise its budget without Thursday's new measures.

 

 

Tuesday the 18th of October 2011

 

 


Greece braces for 'mother of all strikes'


Embattled Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has made a final appeal for support from wavering deputies ahead of
a vote on unpopular new austerity measures that will be held against a backdrop of one of the biggest strikes in Greece
for years.

Unions representing around half of Greece's 4 million-strong workforce have called a 48 hour general strike for Wednesday
and Thursday (local time) to protest against a sweeping package of austerity measures due to be passed in parliament this
week.

"I'm asking for your support. I'm asking for all parties' support but we will be the ones who will once again bear the burden
of this decision," Papandreou told lawmakers from his ruling PASOK party.

He rejected any suggestion that Greece would be forced out of the euro as a result of the crisis that has left Athens
dependent on foreign support to stave off bankruptcy and appealed to European partners for support.

Juggling demands from international lenders for even tougher action and public discontent at home, he has appealed for
unity after one socialist deputy resigned in protest of the austerity package and others threatened to vote against parts of it.

"The parliament vote must give us the power to negotiate at the summit," Papandreou said. "This negotiation must end
uncertainty and insecurity."

"It's time for Europe to take serious and effective decisions to end the crisis in the euro zone."

A wave of smaller strikes over recent days by groups ranging from rubbish collectors to tax officials, journalists and seamen has
given a foretaste of this week's protest which will culminate in mass demonstrations in front of parliament, the scene of violent
clashes in June.

The protest, dubbed "the mother of all strikes" by the daily Ta Nea newspaper, is expected to be the biggest since the financial
crisis began two years ago, shutting state offices, shops and even providers of everyday staples like bakers.

Papandreou's struggling Socialist government, trailing badly in opinion polls, has 154 deputies in the 300-seat parliament and
is expected to pass the bill, which includes tax hikes, wage cuts, public sector layoffs and changes to collective bargaining
rules, in two votes on Wednesday and Thursday.

As European Union leaders race to put the foundations of a new rescue plan in place in time for a summit on Sunday, there was
growing talk of more direct intervention that would restrict Greek sovereignty in return for more aid.
 

Trapped in deep recession for the past three years, Greece is choking on a public debt that amounts to around 162 percent of gross
domestic product and there are growing doubts that it will be able to emerge from the crisis without defaulting.

An EU and IMF inspection team left Athens last week, recommending approval of a vital 8 billion euro loan tranche but said Greece
was falling behind on its budget targets and should move more quickly to cut spending and pass reforms.

Some euro zone countries have been pressing for a European Commission taskforce to be given direct powers to intervene in areas
 such as overseeing the sale of state assets.

The Greek government declined to comment on Tuesday but any outside taskforce would need to be ready to counter resistance from
a society deeply disillusioned with its own political leaders but also increasingly hostile to outside intervention.

"They've made people want to throw stones at them with these measures. If they were willing to give up their salaries and bonuses,
we would probably feel differently about them," said teacher Stamatina Lazopoulou, 36, a mother of two, who will take part in the strike

The latest austerity bill follows a series of painful measures that have so far failed to halt a steady rise in Greece's mountainous public
debt and have been attacked by the opposition for stifling any prospect of growth in the stricken economy.

Papandreou met conservative opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras in a bid to present a united front in Brussels.
A government official said the premier asked for support on the austerity bill.

The conservatives have ruled out cooperation with the government, saying austerity policies were stifling the economy and the bailout
plan must be renegotiated.

Underlining the problems facing an economy that is already forecast to contract 5.5 percent in 2011, data on Tuesday showed headline
unemployment rising to 16.5 percent in July, a month when summer tourism normally boosts job numbers. Youth unemployment was
running as high as 42 percent.

 

Tuesday the 13rd of October 2011

Greece hit by new strikes against austerity
ATHENS — New strikes hit Greece on Tuesday as the government finalised talks with its EU-IMF creditors on additional spending cuts to secure
payment of a bankruptcy-saving loan.

Civil servants blocked the entrance to several ministries, teachers and municipal staff walked out on their jobs and a key refinery began a protest
shutdown ahead of a general strike on October 19.

Hospital workers and prison guards will go on strike later this week while Greece's tax collectors and bank workers plan stoppages next week with
lawyers also threatening to join the fray.

Public sector workers are up in arms over pay cuts and government plans to put at least 30,000 on temporary leave this year, on top of cuts imposed
last year to rein in a budget deficit five times over the European Union ceiling.

Lawyers, pharmacists, taxi owners and other self-employed professionals are protesting against a parallel deregulation drive to improve the
competitiveness of the gridlocked Greek economy, which is in a deep recession.

Another strike by garbage collectors that began last week has left the capital Athens strewn with trash heaps.

The spending cuts and reforms are mandated by the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, which in 2010 bailed out Greece
with a 110 billion euro ($160 billion) huge loan.

Unions say the creditors are also pushing for cuts to the private sector minimum wage, currently at 750 euros, and a revision to collective labour
agreements.

The international trade union confederation condemned the plan on Tuesday.

"Collective bargaining, a core labour right, is being threatened by the Greek government, under heavy pressure from the International Monetary Fund
and the European Union," the ITUC said in a statement.

"A new labour law to be passed by the Greek parliament this week is an attack on freedom of association and should immediately be reviewed by the
International Labor Organisation to ensure compliance with ILO standards," it said.

On Monday, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said he had ended his talks with a mission from the three creditors, whose report later this month
will determine if Athens will receive the latest eight-billion-euro tranche from the bailout package.

The report is expected by October 24.

Greece's reserves to pay wages and pensions runs out in November, when the country could default if the 8.0 billion euros is blocked.

Athens has demanded improved debt rollover terms from its private creditors. It has a sovereign debt of over 350 billion euros ($474 billion) and faces
interest repayments of 17.9 billion euros in 2012, up from 16.3 billion euros in 2011.

Under an additional EU bailout for Greece agreed in July, banks were to take a 21-percent cut on their holdings of Greek government bonds maturing
up to 2020.

But after talks with the EU and IMF this week, Venizelos said an "improved" scheme would be discussed.

Tuesday the 11th of October 2011

Greece wraps up meetings with troika

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece moved closer on Monday to averting immediate bankruptcy, wrapping up talks with EU and IMF officials on a vital tranche
of aid and expressing hopes of winning better terms on a new bailout deal agreed by European Union leaders in July.
Without the next 8 billion euro aid installment Athens could run out of cash as soon as mid-November, risking a default that would suck the euro zone
deeper into a debt crisis already shaking financial markets worldwide.

"After a long series of talks and meetings with representatives of the troika, we have concluded the circle of scheduled meetings and the mission is expected to be concluded by tomorrow," Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told lawmakers.

The EU, IMF and ECB mission chiefs, known as the troika, are likely to conclude their visit to Athens by issuing a joint statement by Tuesday. Back in Brussels and Washington, they will prepare reports for euro zone finance ministers and the IMF's board, who will decide on the aid tranche.

Greece has returned to the center of the euro zone debt crisis as a deep recession and problems in implementing planned austerity measures have
upset the center-left government's deficit targets and threatened to derail international bailout efforts.

Prime Minister George Papandreou is expected to travel to Brussels on Thursday for talks with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy,
who said that a summit meeting planned for early next week would be delayed until Oct 23.

The aid tranche being discussed on Monday would come out of a 110 billion euro bailout deal agreed last year that is expected to be replaced by a
second package of measures agreed in July and amounting to some 109 billion euros.

Venizelos said Greece expected improvements on the second, 109 billion euro aid package and hinted that banks will take heavier losses than initially
discussed, calling it "PSI Plus".
 


W
ednesday
the 05th of October 2011



Greece Hit With Daylong Strike

Greece was hit with another 24-hour nationwide strike against proposed austerity cuts on Wednesday,
causing the debt-ridden nation’s transportation, municipal, and government infrastructure to grind to a halt,
according to media reports.

Flights, bus services, metro, trains, and other forms of transportation were canceled, BBC reported.
Hospitals worked with fewer staff members, and schools, government buildings, and tourist sites were shut
down for the day.

Two of Greece’s major unions called for the strike due to government cuts, which must be enacted if the Greece
is to receive a bailout from countries, which the nation needs to deal with its mounting debt.

More than 10,000 people took part in protests in Athens, as well as the city of Thessaloniki, according to AP.

Greece is seeking a $145 billion bailout plan from the eurozone to prevent it from defaulting.

Global markets have been adversely affected by fears that Greece will default on its debt.

But protesters say the government is placing too much burden on average taxpayers to pay off the debt.

“This is an opportunity for the Greek people—whether in the public or in the private sector—to fight this, to
deny this logic that we must bow our heads all the time to save the country and show patriotism,” a protester,
Dimitris Kizilis.

Sunday the 02nd of October 2011


Greece to miss deficit target imposed by lendors

ATHENS, Greece — Greece won't meet 2011-2012 deficit targets imposed by international lenders as part of the country's bailout,
the Finance Ministry said Sunday.

The country's deficit this year is expected to reach 8.5 percent of gross domestic product, or €18.69 billion ($25.2 billion)
higher than the targeted €17.1 billion ($23.1 billion), which would have been 7.8 percent of GDP, the ministry said.

Greece has been reliant since May 2010 on regular payouts of loans from a €110 billion ($150 billion) bailout from other eurozone
countries and the International Monetary Fund. It was granted a second €109 billion package in July, but details of that deal remain
to be worked out.

The Finance Ministry said the missed target was because of a deeper-than-expected recession, with the economy contracting by
5.5 percent instead of the 3.8 percent estimate made in May. It implied the deficit could even exceed this level by the end of the
year unless all new austerity measures were implemented.

"The final estimate for a deficit equal to 8.5 percent of GDP can be achieved, if there is a proper response by the state authorities
and the citizens themselves, on whose stance the country's financial ... and social future depends," the announcement said.

The announcement reflects the government's frustration with tax collection, which they blame on tax inspectors' lax performance,
and its fear that citizens, angry at seeing their wages shrink and, at the same time, having to pay an increasing amount of one-off
taxes, would refuse to pay.

There are already widespread calls not to pay a property surcharge, to be included in the next batch of state electricity company
bills, despite the fact that delinquent payers are threatened with having their houses disconnected from the grid. The government
hopes that revenue from the property levy will raise about €2 billion ($2.7 billion) in 2011 and a similar amount in 2012.

The 2012 budget is projected to reduce the deficit to €14.68 billion ($19.82 billion), or 6.8 percent of GDP. Excluding serving Greece
's debt, the budget is projected to have a primary surplus of €3.2 billion, or 1.5 percent of GDP, meaning that Greece's debt will
stop growing, as a percentage of GDP.

The Cabinet also was also expected to approve a plan to cut civil service staff by about 30,000 by the end of the year. It is still in
session.

 

Sunday the 02nd of October 2011


Greece plans huge public workers lay off

 
Greece has implemented plans to lay off thousands of public service workers to meet one of its creditors' key demands and receive the next tranche of its bailout fund.

Following consultations with the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) auditors, the government now seems to have fixed on a scheme to place 30,000 civil servants temporarily in a "labor reserve," a move which is going to be unveiled on Sunday, AFP reported.

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the government has developed the scheme to lay off state workers with "transparent and objective" criteria.

"It creates the lowest possible social cost and places on a 'reserve' those who in comparison can more likely cope with the difficulties of this new situation," Venizelos said in an interview with the Sunday edition of newspaper, To Vima.

The 17 eurozone countries, struggling with debt-crisis will meet in Luxembourg on Monday in an effort to reach an agreement on releasing the bailout tranche which has been blocked by the IMF for the past month.

Since last year, the EU and the IMF have provided Greece with two rescue packages worth over USD 380 billion in return for tough austerity measures.

Greece must persuade both the EU and the IMF that it is making sufficient financial reforms. Otherwise, it will not receive the next USD 11 billion of bailout loans and will go bankrupt within weeks.

A troika of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF inspectors returned to Greece on Thursday after quitting the country unexpectedly on September 2, accusing Athens of not taking enough measures to deserve a bailout.
 


Saturday
the 1st of October 2011

Greece and Qatar discuss future investments


Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou met on Saturday Qatar's emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and the country'
s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani to plan new investments in Greece.

"We have built a very strong bond of mutual respect, and we Greeks are especially pleased that this bond leads to investments
in our country," Papandreou said following the meeting with the Emir of Qatar.

Greece and Qatar signed an agreement on the sidelines of the meeting allowing the latter to provide an inflow of capital into
Halkidiki Mining Company "Hellenic Gold".

The 1.2-billion-euro ($1.6 billion) investment will create 1,500 new jobs upon its completion, the Athens News Agency reported.

Qatar has shown in the past interest in real-estate projects in Greece and has eyed the 550-hectare former Athens airport at
Hellenikon that is up for grabs under a five-year privatisation drive worth 50 billion euros the government is pushing.

Moreover, a capital increase of 500 million euros from the Qatari fund Paramount was announced on August 29 during the
merger between Greece's second and third-largest lenders, Eurobank and Alpha Bank.

 


 

Friday the 30th of September 2011





Fresh austerity protests erupt in Greece


Anti-austerity protests have escalated in Greece as protesters occupy government ministries ahead of Athens' talks with international
creditors on a bailout package for the debt-ridden country.

Civil servants occupied the transport ministry on Friday morning, forcing the country's international debt inspectors to reschedule their
meeting with the Greek transport minister, the Associated Press reported.

The minister's morning meeting was postponed to the evening when the debt inspectors, known collectively as the troika, came to find
the building under occupation and employees protesting in the courtyard.

An occupation of the finance ministry caused a similar meeting Thursday with the finance minister to be moved to a different government
building in central Athens.

The demonstrations were held after Greece's foreign creditors from the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European
Central Bank returned to the country as Greece resumed talks with EU and IMF inspectors on an eight-billion-euro aid package.

The inspectors' approval is essential for Greece to receive another eight billion euros of aid it needs to avoid bankruptcy next month.

Greece has said that it only has enough funds to last through mid-October without the next set of loans.

The inspectors seek to ensure that debt-ridden Greece implements the austerity measures needed to keep receiving aid.

They had halted their review earlier this month, frustrated at missed fiscal targets and delays in implementing austerity reforms.

Greece has pledged to speed up its economic reforms in a bid to ward off the country's looming default on its several hundred billion
dollar burgeoning debt.

 


 

Friday the 30th of September 2011


Sarkozy meets with Greece over bailout

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday he would meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the
coming days in Germany to discuss Greece's debt troubles, calling support for Greece a "moral obligation" for Europe.

Following a meeting with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in Paris, Sarkozy said he had been reassured by the
Greek leader that Athens was determined to deliver on its commitments in return for European aid.

"I will be in Germany in the coming days to continue with Chancellor Angela Merkel the collaboration and coordination works
between Germany and France that has ensured the protection of Europe," Sarkozy told reporters at his presidential palace.

He did not elaborate on the timing.

Papandreou, Sarkozy said, had assured him of the "total determination of the Greek government to scrupulously put in place
all commitments that Greece has taken on."

"Failure of Greece would be failure for all Europe, there is no other credible alternative," said Sarkozy, who said helping Greece
was a not just a "moral obligation" but an economic one.

Earlier this week, Sarkozy said he would discuss details of a new Franco-German approach to solving Europe's debt crisis following
Germany's parliamentary vote on Thursday that approved new powers for the euro zone's 440-billion euro (378 billion pound) bailout fund.

Although the German 'yes' vote met with widespread relief in markets, the existing European deal reached on July 21 is now widely
seen as insufficient to handle a potential debt default by a major European economy such as Spain or Italy.

Despite several rounds of stringent austerity measures, doubts are still hanging over Greece's ability to honour its debt payments on
time and a majority of analysts are now convinced that a partial default is inevitable.

Papandreou, who had met Merkel earlier in the week, pledged full transparency in Greece's debt-cutting efforts.

 


Wednesday the 28th of September 2011



Ability to pay new taxes exhausted

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece has "exhausted" its ability to pay more taxes to cover budget gaps, the deputy prime
minister declared Wednesday, saying he himself can't pay a new emergency tax without selling property.

Theodoros Pangalos spoke as the debt-shackled nation faced fresh strikes and braced for another inspection by international
creditors, starting Thursday, to decide whether to continue the vital bailout loan payouts.

Parliament approved a new emergency property tax Tuesday to be added to electricity bills later this year, as Greece remains
under strong international pressure to abide by its painful deficit-cutting targets. Greece will go bankrupt by mid-October if it
does not get an expected euro8 billion ($11 billion) loan.

"I believe that the tax limits of Greek society have been exhausted. I would say they have been exhausted for some time,"
Pangalos told private Mega television.

Pangalos, a 73-year-old Sorbonne-trained economist, is listed as owner or part-owner of eight properties and farmland in
greater Athens and several other parts of Greece.

"The property I own was purely obtained through inheritance. Personally, I have never bought anything ... I will be obliged to
sell some of these properties. There is nothing else I can do," Pangalos said.

Greeks have been outraged by the announcement of new austerity measures, including pension cuts and the new property
tax, coming after more than a year of spending cuts and tax hikes.

In Athens, another 24-hour public transport strike Wednesday left commuters struggling to reach work, as unions lashed out
against the austerity measures that the Socialist government hopes will get it access to crucial loans.

The strike left Athens without buses, subway services, taxis and trams. Customs and tax office workers were also on strike,
while about 350 retirees demonstrated outside the Finance Ministry against the latest pension cuts and tax increases.

The heads of Greece's international debt inspectors are due back in Athens on Thursday to complete a review of the
government's cost-cutting program.

International creditors have urged Greece's Socialist government to make deeper cuts in public payroll costs instead of
repeatedly raising taxes.

Late Wednesday, more than 1,000 protesters from a Communist-backed labor union demonstrated outside the Finance
Ministry, urging Greeks not to pay emergency property tax bills being sent to households this fall. Protesters burned
copies of the tax notices during the peaceful rally.

"We're against workers paying even one euro for this situation," Iota Tavoulari from the union of pharmaceutical workers
told The Associated Press.

"We know very well that none of the money from all the (loan) installments, received after really slaughtering the rights of
workers, is going to support the workers. Not one euro to salaries, not one euro to pensions, and not one euro to social
welfare," she said. "It is being paid to those who caused this crisis."

 


Thursday the 15th of September 2011

 


Greece Adopts New Property Tax

ATHENS — The Greek Parliament voted late Tuesday to back a hugely unpopular new property tax, one of a series of new
austerity measures, clearing the way for crucial international funding and staving off a looming default.

The Socialist Party of Prime Minister George Papandreou won the vote, which was conducted by roll call, with all 154 ruling
party lawmakers in the 300-seat Parliament expressing their support and one independent member backing the measure.
A total of 142 members voted against the tax; three members were absent.

The tax, which is to be applied annually through 2014 and will be added to electricity bills to ease its collection, is expected
to raise 2 billion euros this year alone, according to government calculations. It will affect 5.5 million homeowners and cost
the average family 800 to 1,500 euros, depending on the location and size of their property.

The vote was widely seen as a test for Mr. Papandreou’s embattled Socialist party, which must in coming weeks pass bills
for similarly controversial measures, like a plan to put 30,000 public workers on heavily reduced wages for the next 12 months
The plan has been condemned by Greek opposition parties as a back door to layoffs.

The successful vote on Tuesday was a sign that the premier managed to rally Socialist lawmakers despite earlier protests by
some and enduring rifts within the party over the government’s austerity drive.

But public opposition to the new tax was clear Tuesday as a small but vehement group of demonstrators clashed with police
outside Parliament during the vote.

Opposition to other measures was also clear earlier Tuesday as thousands of public transport workers walked off the job in
the latest in a series of 24-hour strikes protesting salary cuts and feared layoffs as state bodies are merged and abolished.

Tax office officials are also striking to protest public sector cuts while the umbrella civil servants union has said it will join two
general strikes scheduled for Oct. 5 and 19.

 


Tuesday
the 13rd of September 2011


Europe struggle to contain debt crisis

 
BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought Tuesday to calm market fears that Greece is
heading for a chaotic default as Europe struggles to contain a crippling financial crisis.

Merkel rejected the notion that a Greek bankruptcy -- a possibility raised a day earlier by her deputy that
spooked markets -- would provide a quick solution to the eurozone debt crisis.

She argued that Europe instead needs to stick to its efforts to cut budget deficits and improve its
competitiveness, and that resolving the crisis would be "a very long, step-by-step process."

Her comments came ahead of a teleconference Wednesday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Greek
Prime Minister George Papandreou.

Fears of an imminent Greek default pushed interest rates on the country's 10-year government bonds up Tuesday
to a new record of over 24 percent, although Merkel sounded optimistic regarding Greece's chances of getting
the next batch of bailout cash from the so-called troika -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank
and the International Monetary Fund.

Representatives from the three organizations are due back in Athens soon.

"Everything that I hear from Greece is that the Greek government has hopefully understood the signs of the time and is now
doing the things that are on the daily agenda," Merkel told rbb-Inforadio. "The fact that the troika is returning means that
Greece has started doing some things that need to be done."

Merkel also sought to defuse suggestions by Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler and others that a default by Greece is a possibility.

 



 

Monday the 12th of September 2011



 

Greece has cash until October, says deputy finance minister

Debt-laden Greece has cash to operate until next month, the country’s deputy finance minister said today
highlighting the country’s need to qualify for the next tranche out of its ongoing EU/IMF bailout.

Filippos Sachinidis’s statements confirm previous comments by Greek officials, made on condition of anonymity, that the country
 had cash for only a few more weeks.

“We have definitely manoeuvring space within October,” Sachinidis said in an interview on television channel Mega,
responding to questions how much longer the government will be able to pay wages and pensions.

“We are trying to make sure the state can continue to operate without problems,” he added.

Greece’s international lenders threatened last week to withhold the sixth bailout payment of about €8 billion (RM32.9 billion)
because of the country’s repeated fiscal slippages.

The Greek government announced yesterday a new property tax to make sure it will meet its budget targets and qualify for the
tranche. The EU’s Commissioner for Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, welcomed the move, saying it went “a long way” towards
meeting the country’s targets.

 

 

Wednesday the 07th of September 2011


France approves Greek bailout, ECB holds rates


France has become the first European country to approve the latest eurozone bailout package for Greece, after the French Senate
gave it the go-ahead on Thursday evening.

France's upper house of parliament on Thursday voted on France's contribution to bail out Greece's faltering economy alongside
President Nicolas Sarkozy's domestic austerity plan.

The 160-billion-euro ($223 billion) plan to strengthen the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) was agreed by eurozone leaders
on July 21. However, the plan has hit a number of political setbacks across the continent, and it's not certain that it will be passed
by all domestic parliaments.

In the French parliament, senators from the ruling right-wing UMP party voted for the measure while the opposition Socialists
abstained and the Communists voted against. The French chunk of the bailout package will amount to 15 billion euros.

France is the first eurozone nation to pass the measure, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel's bid to ratify her side of the bill ran
into a legal challenge.

On Thursday, the German Bundestag began debating boosting the scale of the EFSF. Just one day earlier, Germany's constitutional
court ruled that Berlin's contributions to aid eurozone countries were constitutional, but said parliament must have a bigger say in
future bailouts.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told the first-reading debate in the Bundestag that the enlarged EFSF was vital to stabilize the euro.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank on Thursday decided to hold interest rates steady at 1.5 percent, after increasing rates in April and
July.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said there were "intensified downside risks" to the economic outlook for the eurozone. He said the
ECB expected the euro area to "grow moderately."

Trichet's gloomy prognosis of an "enormous level of uncertainty" caused the euro to tumble in afternoon trading.

 

Tuesday the 06th of September 2011


Greece tests idea of faster bailout payment - source


ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece has floated the idea of speeding up payments under a second international bailout although it
has made no formal request and any such change would be unlikely, an official close to EU and IMF, negotiators told Reuters
on Tuesday.

The official said the idea would be to cover a higher-than-expected deficit.

Daily newspaper Kathimerini (Athens: KATHI.AT - news) reported earlier that Greece was expected to ask euro zone partners
to pay out all the bailout funds by the end of 2013 rather than until 2014, without giving any sources.

"They tested this idea without making a formal proposal. I don't think that this will fly," the official close to the EU/IMF
inspectors condition of anonymity.

The Finance Ministry declined to comment but a ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, dismissed the report.

"This is not true, it would be absurd," he told Reuters without elaborating.

Any such demand would further complicate talks between Greece and its international lenders, already fraught by the country's
repeated fiscal slippages and reform delays.

EU leaders agreed in July to extend a 109-billion euro bailout to Greece running through to 2014. The rescue package, which
still requires parliamentary approval in all euro zone countries, is meant to replace an ongoing 110 billion euro bailout the
debt-choked country obtained in May 2010.

Approval hinges on Greece meeting stringent fiscal and privatisation targets. But the country stands to miss a deficit target
of 7.6 percent of GDP for this year, partly due to a deeper than expected recession and partly because it is slow to reform
its uncompetitive economy.

Germany and others have said it is vital that the bailout and other measures are passed quickly by parliaments, but there have
been signs of problems including a row over the provision of collateral for Greece's additional loans.

 



 

Saturday the 3rd of September 2011



 

A protester holds a giant Greek national flag in front of the parliament building during a rally against austerity economic measures
and corruption in Athens' Syntagma (Constitution) square. Papandreou on Saturday ruled out snap elections and said his
government would succeed in bringing Greece out of the crisis by the end of his term in 2013.
Thousands of demonstrators, known as the "Indignant", returned to central Athens for the first time after the summer to protest
against unpopular austerity measures in exchange for more EU/IMF funds on the day the ruling socialist party met to mark
its 37th anniversary.

 

Saturday the 3rd of September 2011




 

Greek PM promises more reforms, no early polls

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's prime minister is pledging that financial and other reforms will go ahead despite widespread
opposition.

George Papandreou also says elections will take place as scheduled in 2013, not called early.

The premier spoke Saturday at a conference commemorating the 37th anniversary of the ruling socialist party's founding.

He says his government will do its part to fix Greece's finances but called for a more coordinated fiscal policy at European level.
He also attacked what he called an "out of control international financial system."

Papandreou also criticized some of his own party youth protesting higher education reforms, attacking "professional student
leaders" who remain students until their 30s and "act like parasites."

 

Friday the 2nd of September 2011


Greece expects EU/IMF aid despite dispute


ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece expects to receive another tranche of international aid on schedule in September despite a dispute with the EU and the IMF on fiscal slippages, and it even hopes to win a softer deficit target from its lenders, Greek officials said on Monday.

Athens faces no immediate danger of bankruptcy though it must repay about 10 billion euros of maturing bonds and interest by the end of the year, but any delay in the next tranche of aid could jolt the financial markets again.

"We expect the disbursement of the sixth tranche in September," government spokesman Ilias Mosialos told reporters, saying that Greece would implement the reforms required by its lenders. "Our cash needs will be covered."

Senior EU, IMF and ECB officials interrupted talks on a new aid tranche for the debt-laden country on Friday due to disagreements over why Athens had fallen behind schedule in cutting its budget deficit and what it must do to catch up.

They are due back in mid-September to pore over more data and reform plans for this year and next before deciding whether Greece will get its sixth, 8 billion euro loan instalment.

Greece, which sees the deficit at about 8.1 percent of GDP, blames the fiscal slippage on a deeper-than-expected recession.

Its lenders, who project the gap to reach at least 8.6 percent of GDP, point to delays in implementing reforms such as cutting the public sector payroll, opening up professions to competition and privatising state assets.

Athens now hopes the lenders will set it an easier target than the current 7.6 percent of GDP when they return on Sept. 14, to avoid having to implement even more unpopular austerity measures.

"The target for 2011 will be adjusted to take into account the recession," Finance Ministry Secretary General Ilias Plaskovitis said on state TV NET.

State TV NET reported, without quoting sources, that Greece was hoping for the target to be raised to about 8.6 percent of GDP. Mosialos said the government had not requested the change but was in constant talks with the EU and IMF over this issue.

The EU and IMF are showing signs of growing frustration over delays in the implementation of reforms and will not want to appear lenient on the deficit target -- a key benchmark of the bailout plan that saved it from bankruptcy last year.

 


 

Thursday the 1st of September 2011








 

Students carry a banner that reads "No to the new law- Businesses out of the Universities" during a protest in central Athens
Students are occupying dozens of university buildings around the country and planning more protest rallies against a university
reform bill. The protests are expected to fuel separate anti-austerity protests in the crisis-hit country

 

Wednesday the 24th of August 2011




 

Protesters scuffle with the police during a rally against government's planned education reform in Athens.
 Greece's parliamentarians debated on a Socialist government's new law about education reform



 

Monday the 22th of August 2011



 

An artifact, part of the exhibition "Brilliance of Byzantium" , is on display at the National Gallery of Foreign Art ,
the exhibitionto is featuring illuminated Greek manuscripts dating from the 6th through the 18th century and borrowed from
collections in Sofia, Plovdiv, Athens, Belgrade, Ohrid, Kalenik and Tirana.
The exposition is part of the 22nd International Congress of Byzantine Studies opening in Sofia Monday.

Sunday the 21st of August 2011


Greece brings wildfires under control


Hundreds of firefighters aided by Greek, French and Spanish water bombers on Saturday held back wildfires on several fronts
around the country after an all-night struggle, officials said.

Residents evacuated from three villages in the southern Peloponnese peninsula a day earlier returned to their homes and
progress was being made against a massive wildfire believed to have destroyed over 5,000 hectares of forest in the country's
northeastern Evros region, the authorities said.

"We have 22 active fronts around the country, but none of them threaten inhabited areas," fire department Nikos Tsongas told
private Flash Radio.

The biggest wildfire continued to burn for a fourth day in Evros, near the border with Turkey, where a state of emergency was
declared this week.

But aerial reinforcements sent from France and Spain have helped turn the tide, local governor Aris Yiannakidis told the station.

"The situation appears to be under control," he said, adding that two French and two Spanish water bombers were operating in
the area.

A 50-year-old farmer was arrested for starting the fire which had threatened the pine forest of Dadia, a national park sheltering
rare Balkans wildlife.

The farmer, who was handed a suspended five-year sentence and a 20,000-euro ($29,000) fine, claimed the blaze was started
by exhaust sparks from his tractor.

Scores of fires break out in Greece every summer, aided by high temperatures and strong winds, and are frequently attributed
to arson, though the perpetrators are rarely caught.

The civil protection authority has warned that strong winds continue to pose a threat around much of the country.

One firefighter died on Monday after getting trapped by flames in the southern Peloponnese peninsula.

More than 10 percent of Greek territory was devastated by forest fires from 1983 to 2003, according to a report published last
month by the Greek institute of agricultural research.

The country has seen an average 1,465 forest fires per year, the report said.

One of the most serious occured in 2007, when 77 people died and 250,000 hectares were ravaged, mainly in the Peloponnese
and on the island of Euboea.

 

Sunday the 21st of August 2011


Disagreements over Greece's massive budget deficits


BRUSSELS (AP) — Disagreements over Greece's massive budget deficits and how to make up for the funding shortfalls led
international debt inspectors to suspend their review and leave Athens on Friday, as the finance minister warned an even
deeper recession will hurt its deficit-cutting efforts.

The unexpected departure of the debt inspectors — officials from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and
the International Monetary Fund — marks yet another occasion of conflict between international institutions demanding greater
reform efforts and a government and country that are reaching their limits.

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who denied there were any serious disagreements, said Greece's economy will
likely shrink up to 5 percent this year — even more than the 4.5 percent decline seen in 2010 and far above the 3.75 percent
drop in 2011 output expected just three months ago.

A return to growth next year also looks increasingly unlikely, Venizelos warned.

The ever worsening recession will make it harder for Greece to cut its budget deficit to 7.5 percent of gross domestic product
by the end of this year, as it had promised in return for the bailout loans it needs to avoid bankruptcy.

Greece has been slashing spending and raising taxes since the government discovered in late 2009 that it was running a much
larger deficit than its predecessors had claimed — some 15.4 percent of economic output — and that it had run up almost euro
300 billion in debt.

As Venizelos prepared his nation for even more economic pain in a news conference Friday, the finance minister vowed that
there will be no further "revenue generating measures," government jargon for tax increases.

"The main thing for us is to halt the recession," Venizelos told journalists. "To not have actions or omissions that will make
the recession deeper and will not allow us in 2012 to have a better macroeconomic performance."

Venizelos said the departure of the so-called troika had been foreseen and that the experts would return in less than two weeks
once the government had finished its draft budget for 2012.

The talks "were conducted and are being conducted in a very friendly and creative climate," Venizelos added.

But a European Union official told the Associated Press that the interruption of the troika's mission was unplanned and that it
came amid disagreements over the level of Greece's deficit in 2011 and 2012 and how to deal with those budget shortfalls.

The mission had been expected to conclude early next week, the official said. He was speaking on condition of anonymity
because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Greece was granted a euro110 billion ($157 billion) bailout from other eurozone countries and the IMF in May 2010 and has
been promised an extra euro109 billion to keep it afloat until mid-2014.

Since then, the EU, the ECB and the IMF have been checking on the country's reform efforts every three months, adjusting
their economic projections and demanding more cuts to make up for shortfalls.

Their departure Friday brought back memories of a similar incident during their most recent mission in June, when the troika
left Athens and only returned weeks later, after Greece's parliament passed an extra euro28 billion in cuts and a euro50 billion
privatization plan.

But it is unclear whether there is room for even more efforts this time.

Greece's troubles are being worsened by a slowing global economy, with growth tapering off even in strong countries like
Germany and the U.S.

Venizelos said Greece's deficit targets have to be adjusted for the worse-than-expected recession, since much of the economic
decline is outside the country's control.

The finance ministry declined to release new projections for its 2011 deficit, but press reports have put the figure above 8
percent. The troika, meanwhile, insists that the technical adjustment for the steeper recession would raise the target only to
about 7.7 percent from 7.5 percent currently.

Greece has been struggling to meet its targets, particularly those for revenue, not only because of poor economic growth but
also because tax evasion remains rampant and it has been slow to implement reforms its creditors say will make it more
competitive.

In a statement Friday, the troika said it "temporarily left Athens to allow the authorities to complete technical work, among
other things, related to the 2012 budget and growth-enhancing structural reforms," adding that it plans to return by mid-September.

That leaves little time for the troika to complete its final report before Greece has to receive its next aid installment, some euro
8 billion, at the end of September.

Eurozone nations are also struggling to finalize the terms of the second Greek aid package. A demand from Finland to get
collateral for its contributions to the rescue loans has angered other countries, while Greece has threatened to abandon a crucial
bond swap deal for private investors unless it gets 90 percent participation.
 


 

Thursday the 18th of August 2011



 

A firefighting helicopter drops water over a forest fire at Kouvaras village, about 40km (25 miles) east of Athens.

 

Monday the 15th of August 2011

 



 

Orthodox worshippers attend the Virgin Mary service led by Ecumenical Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I at the ancient
Sumela Monastery in the Black Sea coastal province of Trabzon, northeastern Turkey.
Thousands of Orthodox pilgrims from Greece, Russia and Georgia attended the mass at the monastery.


Sund
ay the 17th of July 2011
 


Clinton backs Greek strategy on debt crisis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday voiced strong U.S. support for Greece's battle to overcome its
debt crisis, saying it was taking the difficult steps required for future growth.

Clinton's visit to Athens was intended to signal Washington's backing for Prime Minister George Papandreou ahead of a meeting
of euro zone leaders in Brussels on Thursday to decide on a new bailout package for Greece amid fears the debt crisis could
spill over to Spain and Italy.

"Americans know these are difficult days, and again we stand with you as friends and allies," Clinton said at a news conference.

"The United States strongly supports the Papandreou government's determination to make the necessary reforms to put Greece
back on a sound financial footing and to make Greece more competitive economically."

While Washington believes European countries should take the lead in managing the Greek debt crisis, it has also been pushing
through its membership in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support Papandreou's austerity plans, which have led to violent
protests at home.

Clinton said Greek's politically painful plan for a medium-term fiscal strategy and bringing down its whopping debt were like "chemotherapy,"
but would bring results in the end.

"I am not here to in any way downplay the immediate challenges because they are real. But I am here to say that we believe strongly that
this will give Greece a very strong economy going forward," Clinton said.

Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis said that despite the popular outrage over the deficit reduction plan, the government was
determined to forge ahead.

"We believe that we shall come out of this difficulty victorious," he said. "Many on both sides of the Atlantic have bet on the collapse
of Greece and then have been proven wrong. We will continue to prove them wrong."

Greece, which has launched an austerity plan, is hoping for a second European bailout package of about 110 billion euros of extra funds
to keep it financed until the end of 2014, when it is supposed to return to financial markets.

Clinton was due to meet Papandreou, President Karolos Papoulias and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos before heading to the
Acropolis museum in central Athens to sign a cultural agreement designed to prevent trafficking of Greece's rich trove of cultural artifacts.

Despite financial headaches on both sides of the Atlantic, U.S. officials say ties between Washington and Athens are strong and that
Greece has been a valuable partner in NATO-led campaigns in both Afghanistan and Libya.

The United States was also grateful to Athens for taking steps to prevent a planned activist flotilla from sailing for Gaza earlier in July,
heading off what Washington feared could have been a dangerous confrontation between the pro-Palestinian activists with Israel,
which had vowed to block the ships.

U.S. officials said Clinton also discussed several of Greece's diplomatic priorities including remaining strains in its relationship with
Turkey and slow reunification talks on the ethnically-split island of Cyprus.

Clinton, who arrived in Greece on Saturday after a visit to Turkey which included a meeting of the international contact group on Libya,
is due to depart on Monday for a visit to India that will begin the Asian segment of her round-the-world trip.
 


Sund
ay the 17th of July 2011
 

French Gaza flotilla boat sails from Greece

 
A source in the Greek coast guard said late on Saturday that a French boat «Al-Karama», which was part of a Gaza-bound flotilla and was docking in Greece, has set sail to the Alexandria port in Egypt.

The vessel tried to leave Crete towards the Gaza Strip earlier this month, but was stopped by Greek authorities and led back to the coast.

Nine other ships scheduled to sail to Gaza are still docking in Greece and have not received approval to leave for the Strip.






 

 

 

Wednesday the 13rd of July 2011
 

Greece puzzled by Fitch downgrade

Greece says a three-grade downgrade of its credit status by ratings agency Fitch is "puzzling" as the EU and the IMF had a
timetable on a rescue program for its debt-hit economy.

"It is puzzling why Fitch made today's announcement despite the fact that the timetable of actions by the eurozone and the
IMF is both decided and known," the Greek finance ministry said in a statement overnight.

The Fitch downgrade, the last of the three global agencies to demote Greek bonds to junk status, "will not affect the Greek banking
system and will be answered in practice when the new program is put in effect," it added.

Fitch had earlier announced it was downgrading Greece's status to CCC from its previous rating of B+ because of the absence of a new
European Union-International Monetary Fund program for Greece and growing uncertainty of the role private investors would play in any
bail-out.

It expressed concern that Greece was relying on getting 30 billion euros ($A39.73 billion) out of its privatisation program "and largely
unquantifiable private sector participation" to supplement any international bail-out.

"While asset sales of five billion euros look attainable in 2011, the privatisation program will become increasingly challenging," the agency
said.

"Fitch believes any new program must be backed by credible policy targets," it said.

The status demotion was a final blow for the struggling eurozone country after similar downgrades from Moody's and S&P last month.

With its weak recovery failing to impress creditors, Greece has been barred from borrowing on markets by prohibitive rates that exceed
16 per cent for 10-year bonds and approach 30 per cent for two-year papers.

The blow from Fitch fell as divided European leaders faced an onslaught of demands for rapid action to fight the spreading eurozone debt
crisis

The IMF on Wednesday said Greece would need an additional 71 billion euros ($A94.03 billion) in European Union aid plus 33 billion euros
($A43.7 billion) from private creditors to weather its debt crisis.

The possible involvement of banks, insurers and pension funds, opposed by the ECB, is a factor behind turmoil on financial markets and
has helped put Italy and Spain in the eurozone spotlight too.

 

 

Monday the 11th of July 2011
 

 

 


Athens mayor hopes to clear protesters from centre

 
Hoping to boost tourism in a city shaken by waves of protests, the mayor of Athens announced Friday that he will
try to convince protesters camped for more than a month in the city's central square to leave.

A spokesperson for Mayor George Kaminis said he plans to meet Friday evening with leaders of "indignants"
movement currently occupying Athens' Syntagma Square to protest tough budgets cuts adopted by the government.

The mayor's office said he hopes "to find a solution to restore the image of the square", which touches the Greek
parliament and two luxury hotels.

When he meets with the protest leaders, Kaminis will try to strike a deal that would remove them from the square,
"without violence", his spokesperson said.

Leaders from the indignants movement are planning to make decisions on the future of their movement this weekend
and declined to comment on the upcoming meeting with the mayor.

The indignants were at their strongest in late May, when tens of thousands of sympathisers rallied around the movement
as the Greek government prepared to push through another set of austerity measures demanded by the country's foreign
creditors to avoid default.

But their ranks have diminished significantly in recent weeks and on June 29 Greece's socialist government won parliamentary
approval for the new austerity law loathed by the protesters.

The movement has clashed several times with Athens police, notably on the day when lawmakers were voting on the new
austerity law.

City officials said the protesters had caused significant damage in central Athens.

They destroyed some 300 trash cans and uprooted bits of sidewalk and other fixtures, which were at times hurled as projectiles
at anti-riot police.

 

Wednesday the 06th of July 2011
 

 

Allow Gaza ships proceed, say MEPs
 
TWO SHIPS from the Gaza flotilla are still at sea in international waters and must be allowed reach their destination, a press
conference in the European Parliament fronted by Irish MEP Paul Murphy was told yesterday .

He was one of three MEPs who failed to make it to Gaza when it was alleged that the Irish boat was sabotaged by Israeli
agents in Turkey and then Greece imposed a ban on boats sailing there.

He and his MEP colleagues, Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, from Cyprus, and Nikos Chountis, from Greece, had been placed in
danger by the action of the Israeli authorities, he said.

He said it was “very unlikely” it could be proven the Israeli government had ordered the attack, which placed the life of the sailors
on board the Irish ship in danger because the propellers could have damaged the hull at sea.

Mr Chountis accused the Greek government of breaking not only international maritime law but also Greek domestic law by
preventing the boats from moving in its territorial waters and said this was not the will of the Greek people but its parliament.

The MEPs announced that they had demanded support for the flotilla in letters to the presidents of the European Commission,
José Manuel Barroso, European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, and European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and Baroness Catherine
Ashton, who represents the EU on external relations.

The letters outlined the case that the three MEPs, who had attempted to peacefully deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, had been
prevented from doing so by “severe acts of sabotage” against the Irish and Scandinavian boats.

“We condemn these acts of sabotage which also infringe on the sovereignty of the states where the boats were moored and the
states where the ships are registered,” said their letter.

“We demand an independent and impartial inquiry into these acts of sabotage and we also expect a condemnation of these acts
of sabotage by the Israeli authorities,” the letter added.

“We expect you to vigorously and publicly support those demands,” it said.

The letter said they were very concerned about the well-being of many European citizens who had peacefully engaged in the
humanitarian mission of the Freedom Flotilla 11.

“In light of these serious events, how do you intend to take up the above mentioned demands through your official and diplomatic
contact with the Israeli authorities?” the letter continued.

It asked what concrete steps they were willing to take to ensure the protection of all European citizens, including the elected
representatives of the European Parliament.

At the press conference, the MEPs announced the US captain of the US vessel who was under arrest in Greece had been
released but two ships which were part of the flotilla were still at sea in international waters. One, they said, was a French vessel
and the other was from Canada and they were demanding these vessels, which were carrying European citizens, should not be
interfered with by the Israeli authorities.
 

 

Monday the 04th of July 2011
 


Time for farewell to Athens 2011 Summer Special Olympics with message of hope for future
 
Greece is set to say farewell to the 2011 Athens World Summer Special Olympics later on Monday with
a closing ceremony to be hosted at the Panathinaikon Stadium in central Athens, where the first modern
1896 Olympic Games were held.

The farewell party, which will end with the passing over of the Special Olympics flag to the Organizing
Committee of the 2013 World Winter Games PyongChang in South Korea, was inspired by the strength
of youth, sending a message of hope for the future, organizers said laconically.

As the dozen of facilities across Athens which were buzzing with thousands of joyful athletes, volunteers
and spectators close down, Greek hosts, Special Olympics officials and ordinary members of the
international movement which honored every day heroes with mental disabilities and special talents over
the past ten days, chant “mission accomplished”.

Over 7,000 athletes from over 180 countries and regions competed in 22 Olympic-type sports in Athens
since June 25. They participated in the most important sports event of the year and the most significant
hosted in the city since the 2004 Olympic Games, cheered by tens of thousands members of their families
and new friends.

Both the Special Olympics and debt-ridden Greece had set out with a double goal to rekindle the Flame
of the 43-year-old movement, boosting its reach across the world, and restore the credibility of ailing
Greece. Concluding remarks are enthusiastic. The Games run smoothly and athletes and fans prepare
to return home, eager for the next Games.

“When we opened the Games we declared that we were for the first time at the birthplace of sport.
Greece has not failed us. On the contrary, we gained friends. The athletes had a great time and millions of
people worldwide found out the meaning of the Special Olympics,” said the Special Olympics chairman
Timothy Shriver.

“Despite difficult times, Greece showed to the world that we still remains a cradle of unity, hospitality,
culture and hope. On the other hand, the Special Olympics athletes showed the world that they are real
athletes that represent the best in sports,” said Joanna Despotopoulou, the president of the Special
Olympics World Summer Games Organizing Committee.

A total of 12,000 medals were awarded to the Special Olympics athletes during the Athens Games.
The Chinese delegation, which includes 97 athletes and 40 coaches and assistants, will return home with
137 medals.

 

Saturday the 02th of July 2011



Greece blocks Gaza flotilla boat


A boat taking part in a flotilla seeking to break Israel’s Gaza Strip sea blockade tried to leave the southern island of Crete
Monday but was turned back by Greek forces, as the Athens government warned that lives could be lost if the mission goes
forward.

The coast guard stopped the boat shortly after it set sail without permission from the port of Agios Nikolaos in northeastern
Crete, and towed it back into port, the Greek Merchant Marine Ministry said.

David Heap, a Canadian passenger, said by telephone from the boat that there were 43 people on board, and more than 30 of
them were Canadian. Others were from Italy, Belgium, Denmark, German, Turkey and Australia.

Greece last week banned all boats participating in the Gaza flotilla from leaving port, citing security concerns after a similar
flotilla last year was raided by Israeli forces, leaving nine activists on a Turkish boat dead. The Greek foreign ministry has
offered to deliver the humanitarian aid the activists want to take to Gaza.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras noted the attempt to break the blockade comes at a delicate time in the
Middle East. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party and Hamas have been trying to end a four-year rift that left
the Palestinians with rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza.

"Greece is taking a responsible stance and dealing with a particular situation. And this situation says that there is an immediate
danger to human life by participating in this attempt," Delavekouras said. "This is something that arises from experience. I think
we all remember the tragic events we had
last year. The region doesn’t need this at the moment."

Israel says it imposed the blockade in 2007 to stop weapons reaching Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza.
Israel eased its land blockade after an international uproar over last year’s raid on the Turkish boat.

The vessel that attempted to leave Monday, dubbed the Tahrir after the Cairo square that became a center of protest against
the Egyptian government this year, was carrying dozens of Canadians, activist Dror Feiler said.

 

Wednesday the 29th of June 2011

Greece clears final hurdle to get bailout funds


ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece has faced down street violence and strikes for the sake of financial aid
it was promised and needs to avoid bankruptcy. Now its fellow European countries will be expected
to come up with a second rescue package to convince investors that the 17-nation euro will survive
the debt crisis.

A new austerity package that lawmakers cleared in Athens is required to get more rescue loans but
will force deep changes on all parts of society. Minimum wages will be taxed more and key assets like
water, gas and oil companies will be sold, possibly to foreigners.

Having done what it was asked, Greece will now look to its bailout creditors to hold up their side of
the bargain.

Finance ministers from the eurozone meet in Brussels on Sunday to rubber-stamp the release of a euro
12 billion ($17 billion) installment of rescue loans from the existing euro110 billion ($159 billion) bailout.

They will also discuss the terms of a second rescue plan meant to reassure markets over Greece's longer-
term prospects, although many experts say the debt pile is so big that some form of default will eventually
be required.

"Greece has bought more time," said economist Vagelis Agapitos. "This time, however, will start running out
rather quickly unless Greece starts to deliver on its promises."

The EU and International Monetary Fund had said they would refuse to pay out the next installment unless
Greek lawmakers approved a new five-year package of euro28 billion ($40 billion) worth of spending cuts
and tax hikes, and a euro50 billion ($72 billion) privatization plan, before the end of June.

The lawmakers delivered what was asked of them, in votes Wednesday and Thursday. Global markets
cheered, but anger in the streets of Athens grew — and quickly turned violent.

More than 300 people, nearly half of them police, were injured in two days of mayhem.

As lawmakers debated the bills in parliament, rioters on the square outside pelted police with chunks of
marble and firebombs. Police responded with a barrage of stun grenades and tear gas. Windows at cafes
and shops were smashed, and a post office housed on the ground floor of the finance ministry building
was torched. Burning barricades set up across central streets smoldered into the early hours of Thursday.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who has been in the job less than two weeks after being appointed
in a cabinet reshuffle, has openly admitted some of the measures are unfair. But he has insisted the country
has no choice — Greece would have run out of money to pay salaries and pensions in mid-June had it not
passed the two austerity bills.

Caroline Atkinson, chief spokeswoman at the IMF, welcomed the vote in Athens. "This will pave the way
for the completion of the fourth review by the IMF's Executive Board and the release of the next tranche,
" she said.

But Greece has only won a reprieve of a few months. The next batch of rescue loans will see it through
September, after which it will once again have to prove it has implemented all it has promised before it
can receive any further funds.

The details of a second rescue plan from Greece's international creditors will be crucial. Prime Minister
George Papandreou has indicated it will be roughly the same size as the last one — but it is unclear how
much money will come from a voluntary debt rollover by private investors and how much of Greece's
sell-off of state assets will be used to plug the funding gaps.

The involvement of the private sector is likely to feature heavily at the Brussels talks after German banks
agreed to roll over some of the debts Greece owes them. The news follows a similar announcement earlier
 this week from French banks, although details of the initiatives remain sketchy.

Greece needs the second rescue plan to clear up market worries about a default.

Fears of a debt default have weighed heavily on global markets in recent weeks. Investors worry that it
could trigger a major banking crisis and turmoil in global markets, similar to what happened when the
Lehman Brothers investment house collapsed in 2008 in the United States.


 

Wednesday the 29th of June 2011















Greece backs first austerity package, violence worsens


ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece approved the first of two austerity measures on Wednesday despite worsening
street violence, in a vote vital to winning fresh international aid so it can pay its debts on time and stave off
bankruptcy.

Lawmakers voted by a clear margin for the five-year framework of $28 billion in spending cuts, tax rises and
state asset sales, handing a 155-138 vote victory to Prime Minister George Papandreou.

"We must avoid the country's collapse at all costs. Now is not the time to step back," the Socialist premier
told lawmakers just before the vote.

The solid margin suggested the government should be able to push through a second package of laws on
Thursday, implementing the specific budget measures and asset sales. This would clear the last obstacle
to release of 12 billion euros ($17.3 billion) of emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund and
European Union, which are essential to meet debt payments by mid-July.

Relief that Greece could avert sovereign default buoyed financial markets. Investors moved from safe-haven
assets such as U.S. Treasuries and world stocks advanced for the third straight day. The euro rallied 0.4
percent to trade around $1.4430.

But optimism was muted. It remains unclear whether the government will be able to actually implement the
deeply unpopular cuts required to meet a tight schedule imposed by the EU and IMF before the next round
of bailout funds are needed.

"There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the effective implementation of austerity measure
given the backdrop of increasing public anger in Greece," said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at
Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.

The full pain of pay and benefit cuts and sharp tax increases has yet to be felt, and public anger already is boiling.

Outside parliament, there were clashes between stone-throwing masked youths and riot police, who fired clouds of tear gas
from behind steel crash barriers to keep rioters at bay. Fires broke out in buildings and a party spokesman said a metro station
was "a gas chamber."

One group of anarchists armed with staves and iron bars attacked finance ministry offices just off Syntagma Square in central
Athens, smashing windows at the entrance and on higher floors. A post office on the ground floor of the building was set on
fire, sending acrid grey smoke billowing into the sky.

In cat-and-mouse clashes with police, rioters erected makeshift barricades with benches, chairs and garbage bins on the
fringes of the square, where thousands of peaceful protesters demonstrated against the austerity plan.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Europe's reluctant paymaster and the main contributor to the bailout of Greece, was
quick to praise the "brave" vote. But Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble stressed the importance of "implementing these
(measures) with resolve in the coming weeks, months and years."

The presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, Herman van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso,
said in a joint statement that Greece had taken "a vital step back from the very grave scenario of default."

However, many economists and investors still expect Greece to default in the medium term because its 340 billion euro
pile of sovereign debt is so huge, about 150 percent of the country's annual economic output. A senior German ruling coalition
politician, Free Democratic floor leader Rainer Bruederle, said on Wednesday that a debt restructuring was inevitable.

Despite a threat by trade unions staging a 48-hour general strike to prevent lawmakers entering the colonnaded parliament
building, deputies were able to reach the chamber. Strikes and sporadic violence have not blown the government off course so
far, but its approval rating has plunged in recent months.

Only one deputy in the ruling PASOK party voted against the plan and was immediately expelled from the party by Papandreou
At least one opposition deputy broke ranks with the main conservative New Democracy party and voted "yes."

In May last year Greece signed a 110 billion euro bailout deal with the EU and the IMF, which later jumped in to keep Ireland
and Portugal afloat as the euro zone reeled from high government debt in the wake of the global financial crisis.

If Greece's fiscal legislation passes on Thursday, euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Sunday are expected to
agree to release their part of the next aid tranche, with the IMF following on July 5.

Attention will then switch to putting together a second and longer-term rescue package for Greece of about the same magnitude
as the initial 110 billion euro bailout.

The new program would involve some 30 billion euros in private-sector participation via a "voluntary" rollover of maturing Greek
debt by banks, a similar sum from Greek privatization revenues, and an expected 55 billion euros in new official funding.

Banking sources said politicians and commercial bankers were confident that credit rating agencies would accept a French
proposal for a voluntary private sector rollover of Greek debt without triggering a default or a payout of credit insurance, which
could have vast ripple effects in financial markets.

The agencies have made no public comment on the plan, details of which are still under negotiation. It also will need the approval
of the European Central Bank, and its policymakers were cautious in their reactions. Germany's Juergen Stark rejected on
Wednesday any scheme that involved EU guarantees of bonds, saying it would breach European treaty rules.

Asked about a scenario in which banks would exchange their Greek bonds for new paper guaranteed by EU states -- an approach
similar to the "Brady bonds" used in Latin America in 1989 -- the ECB board member said: "This instrument is disqualified.


 
ECB board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi of Italy said the plan "looks like a syndicated loan, which brings together several banks."

"It's an interesting proposal but we really need to make sure that it fits the specified framework, no credit event," he said in a
newspaper interview.

Euro zone banks and insurers are considering a scheme under which private bondholders would reinvest half of the proceeds of
maturing Greek debt in new 30-year bonds paying 5.5 percent interest plus a bonus linked to Greece's economic growth rate.

Of the other half, 30 percent would be paid back to investors in cash and 20 percent invested in a "guarantee fund" of zero-coupon
AAA securities with deferred interest that might be issued by the euro zone's bailout fund, officials and banking sources said.

French banks had the largest exposure to the Greek economy, both the public and private sectors, at the end of 2010 with over
$56 billion, data from the Bank for International Settlements shows. The next most exposed country is Germany.


Tuesday
the 28th of June 2011








 

Protesters clash with riot police in Athens strike

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A general strike disrupted services across Greece and riots erupted once more
outside Parliament Tuesday as demonstrators protested more taxes and spending cuts essential for the
country to receive critical bailout funds that will prevent a potentially disastrous default.

Inside Parliament, lawmakers debated new austerity measures which must be passed Wednesday and
Thursday if Greece's international creditors are to release the next €12 billion batch of the country's
€110 billion bailout — and prevent a default that could drag down European banks and shake the European
and world economy.

But the measures, which include spending cuts and tax hikes on even those on minimum wages, have
caused widespread outrage.

Unions embarked on a two-day general strike Tuesday, halting nearly all public transport, forcing
airlines to reschedule or cancel dozens of flights and bringing public services to a standstill.

A peaceful protest by about 20,000 people quickly degenerated into violence, with riot police firing volleys
of tear gas and stun grenades to keep back hooded youths pelting them with thousands of chunks of ripped
up paving stones and marble chipped from building facades and steps. Police said 37 policemen were
injured during Tuesday's riots, while 14 protesters were arrested. Emergency services said nine protesters
 were injured.

Greece is no stranger to violent demonstrations or strikes, and they are not expected to derail the parliamentary
votes — but they have added to an atmosphere of deep dissatisfaction.

Even some deputies within Prime Minister George Papandreou's governing Socialists have voiced dissatisfaction with
the measures, with two of them indicating they might not vote in favor. However, the Socialists hold a five-seat
majority in the 300-member Parliament, and the bills should muster the simple majority of 151 votes to pass.

European officials have also been pressuring Greece's the main conservative opposition party to back the austerity bill,
 but so far their urgings have failed to convince conservative party leader Antonis Samaras.

"I trust that the Greek political leaders are fully aware of the responsibility that lies on their shoulders to avoid default,
" European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said.

In addition to seeking the next batch of bailout funds, Greece looks like it will need another financial rescue.
Papandreou has said a second bailout would be roughly the same size as the first and hopefully on better terms.

But the austerity imposed in order to get the funds have led to frequent strikes and demonstrations.

In Tuesday's violence, rioters set fire to giant parasols at an outdoor cafe, using some to form barricades, and smashed windows
of a McDonald's outlet and other snack shops. Snack vendors scattered, leaving half-grilled sausages lying in the street among
broken glass and smashed flower pots. Staff at upscale hotels handed out surgical masks to tourists and helped them with rolling
luggage past the rioting, over ground strewn with rubble.

Youths set fire to a satellite truck parked near parliament, which rolled downhill into a kiosk whose freezer exploded.
Hooded youths ducked behind the burning truck to help themselves to ice-cream cones.

"The situation that the workers are going through is tragic and we are near poverty levels," said Spyros Linardopoulos, a protester
with the PAME union blockading the port of Piraeus earlier in the day. "The government has declared war and to this war we
will answer back with war."

An ongoing strike by electricity company workers kept up rolling blackouts across Greece. Not far from the violent protest,
cafes and ice cream vendors popular with tourists used portable generators to keep the power on.

Many Greeks insist they should not be forced to pay for a crisis they believe politicians are responsible for.

"We don't owe any money, it's the others who stole it," said 69-year-old demonstrator Antonis Vrahas. "We're resisting for a
better society for the sake of our children and grandchildren."

Even with the new austerity measures and a second bailout, many investors still think Greece is heading for some sort of default
because its overall €340 billion debt burden is too great.
 


Saturday
the 25th of June 2011



The Athens 2011 Organizing Committee President Ioanna Despotopoulou, fourth right, the Greek President Carolos Papoulias


 

2011 World Summer Special Olympics opens in Athens

Greek President Karolos Papoulias officially declared open the Athens 2011 World Summer Special Olympics
on Saturday.

The opening ceremony of the Athens Games was held at Panathinaikon Stadium, the venue of the first modern
1896 Olympic Games.

With the goal to help bring all persons with intellectual disabilities into society, the Athens Games will run to July 4,
featuring a string of community building activities such as youth festivals, in parallel to the sports activities in 30 venues
across Athens, where athletes will compete in 22 Olympic type sports.

Approximately 7,500 Special Olympics athletes from 183 countries and regions, including 137 Chinese, participate
in the Games that will run to July 4 in a string of 30 venues across Athens.

From Sunday they will compete in 22 sports, sending the world the message that persons with mental disabilities can
become valuable members of the international community.

The three-hour ceremony featured a spectacular display of fireworks and the simplicity of music and dance performances
inspired by ancient Greek mythology and culture




 


Tuesday
the 21st of June 2011
 







 

Greece pledges to speed up reforms ahead of crisis vote

 
ATHENS (AFP) – Greece's finance minister on Tuesday pledged to exceed austerity reform goals set by the EU and the IMF
as the government headed for a confidence vote to avert bankruptcy and stave off eurozone chaos.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, newly appointed to the post on Friday, said Athens would aim at "broader and faster" state
cuts than those agreed with its creditors as he appealed for a "patriotic" vote to save the nation.

"We need to complete this mission for the benefit of the Greek people and the salvation of the homeland," Venizelos told parliament.

"We have the will and the obligation... (to formulate) a parallel programme that allows us to have better results," he said in reference
to a midterm plan of more than 28 billion euros ($40 billion) in savings demanded by the EU and IMF.

Athens effectively has two weeks to convince its European peers that it will carry out long-delayed structural reforms and privatisations
in order to secure badly needed bailout money before its funds run out in July.

Despite an unprecedented rescue by the EU and the IMF last year, Greece has been unable to restore its battered image on financial
markets -- a position hardly helped by a debt that has exploded to more than 350 billion euros -- and will urgently need additional cash
soon.

"We need to make the debt viable... and put a bottom in the barrel," Venizelos said.

Prime Minister George Papandreou reshuffled the government on Friday as protests mounted towards his government's economic
policies, which critics say made a crushing recession even worse.

Around 4,000 people gathered outside parliament on Tuesday, part of a movement that has drawn tens of thousands of angry Greeks
to the square opposite the legislature since May 25, an AFP journalist said.

Analysts say a victory in the confidence vote would almost certainly mean that Papandreou, who has staked his career on Greece's
economic recovery, would then get backing for other votes on the austerity cuts, and a special law applying them, by the end of the
month.

The vote is expected after 2100 GMT following three days of debate.

The Athens stock exchange closed with 3.74-percent gains ahead of the vote, which the ruling party is expected to carry by virtue of its
five-seat majority.

The eurozone issued an ultimatum to Greece on Monday, when it held back the latest slice of a 110-billion-euro ($160-billion) rescue
loan package agreed last year.

It told Greek lawmakers, in effect, to support the government and approve swingeing new budget cuts, saying further delay and uncertainty
could increase pressure throughout the eurozone.

But the European Union has tempered the warning with promises of additional funds if Athens gets its fiscal house in order.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday suggested the EU agree "emergency" measures to pump up the Greek
economy by swiftly unlocking up to one billion euros from the bloc's budget.

"I'd like to ask the European Council to discuss what we can do to assist Greece beyond its consolidation efforts to enhance competitiveness
and address the urgent problem of unemployment," Barroso said at a news conference held ahead of an EU summit Thursday and Friday.

Greece needs the 12-billion-euro ($17-billion-dollar) loan instalment to pay bills next month.

A much bigger issue for the whole eurozone is a second loan package, expected to be around 100 billion euros, needed by Athens to avoid
default on its debt in the months and years ahead.

Germany insists this second emergency package must include losses for private lenders such as banks and insurance companies, as well as
more pain for taxpayers.

But rating agencies have warned that this could spell default even if supposedly voluntary, and the European Central Bank has said that in that
event it might be forced to cut lifeline financing to Greek banks.

A Greek default would hit European banks hard, but would also likely damage investor sentiment towards Ireland and Portugal, already being rescued,
and Spain and even Italy and Belgium which have high debt loads.






 


Sunday
the 19th of June 2011



 


Greece vows austerity at euro talks to keep Athens afloat

LUXEMBOURG (AFP) – Greece's new finance minister on Sunday pledged to walk the path of debt reduction as his country's euro
partners mulled whether to release loans to keep Athens afloat this summer, and offer it a second major bailout.

Barely 48 hours after being handed the tough Greek portfolio, Evangelos Venizelos headed into two days of crunch talks with his 16
euro partners saying "we can achieve our target."

Eurozone finance ministers are to agree whether to pay out loans under last year's whopping 110-billion-euro (155 billion dollars)
bailout of Greece, while also discussing a new rescue tipped almost as big, that governments hope to share out between taxpayers
and the private sector.

"It is a great opportunity for me to repeat the strong commitment of the Greek government and the strong will of the Greek people for
the implementation of the programme," Venizelos said, referring to a four-year austerity package crucial to securing fresh aid.

"We can achieve our target, thanks to the efforts of our people, and thanks to the cooperation and the assistance of our partners,
" he said.

The former defence minister took on the country's crippling debt problems only Friday when Prime Minister George Papandreou
revamped his government in the face of threats of government meltdown due to protests over the austerity plan.

As ministers from the 17 nations using the euro began talks at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT), Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker,
who heads the eurogroup, said he expected no decision on Greece before Monday.

"There will be no agreement today," said Juncker. "We have a meeting tonight, we have a meeting tomorrow, so probably we will not
have a press conference tonight as the discussion will continue tomorrow morning."

The ministers aim to approve loans of over 8.7 billion euros ($12.5 billion), their share of a 12-billion-euro tranche of bailout funding
which Athens needs to avoid default next month.

A further 3.3-billion-euro portion from the IMF should follow once the ministers outline a new deal on how to finance Greece through
to the end of 2014 is agreed.

In talks running through Monday afternoon with the other 10 EU states, the real work will revolve around sharing the burden of a new
rescue package between taxpayers and the private sector.

But fresh help is contingent on Greece sticking to a harsh debt reduction plan that includes privatisations and belt-tightening.

And Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schauble made that more than clear on arriving for the talks.

"We will certainly work on ascertaining that conditions are fulfilled for the payment of the next tranche" of the May 2010 bailout,
he said.

However "the heart of the matter is not happening here but in Athens", he warned.

The Greek government is battling to push through a controversial budget plan, including 28.4 billion euros ($40.6 billion) of fiscal
belt-tightening, which has triggered wide unrest.

It must be adopted by the end of the month to convince creditor nations, the EU and the IMF to continue dishing out financial aid to
the country.

In Athens, Papandreou on Sunday urged political parties to forge a "national accord" and back him in a confidence vote in order to
overcome the economic crisis amid social unrest.

"I have asked for a renewal of the confidence in the government because the country finds itself at a crucial point," Papandreou said
at the opening of debate on a parliamentary vote of confidence in the new Greek cabinet.

 


Sunday
the 19th of June 2011
 



 

Sebastien Ogier takes his third victory of the season in Greece

ATHENS, July 19 (Reuters) - Frenchman Sebastien Ogier won the Acropolis Rally for the first time on Sunday following an thrilling duel
with Citroen team mate and overall leader Sebastian Loeb on the race's final day.

Ogier began proceedings just 2.2 seconds behind his compatriot in the overall classification and the two Citroen DS3 drivers reached
the mid-morning service in Loutraki east of the capital separated by a mere tenth of a second.

The 27-year-old then built up a 10.5-second advantage over Loeb heading into the event-closing Power Stage which he maintained after
both drivers posted almost identical times in a dramatic finish. Title rival Mikko Hirvonen finished third in his Ford Fiesta.

"It was a very good rally for me," said Ogier, who bagged three bonus points for his Power Stage victory. "At the beginning it was difficult
to find the rhythm but yesterday in the second loop we drove fast, we pushed hard and now we have a great result."

Ogier's victory ended Loeb's run of victories in this year's world championship, following the seven-time champion's triumphs in the
previous two rounds in Argentina and Italy.

It is the third time that the 27-year-old, whose last win came in Jordan two months ago, and co-driver Julien Ingrassia have triumphed
and as a result Citroen have now won the last six rounds of the series.

Loeb retains the overall leadership with 146 Points. Hirvonen lies second just 17 points behind while Ogier is third a further five points
adrift.

"It's been a great battle," Loeb told reporters. "It was frustrating not to win because I think we were the fastest in the rally. We were
first on the road for two days and second on one day so we had a disadvantage."

After securing the overnight lead, Loeb was favourite to win his third race in succession but had to settle for second after a tense battle
with Ogier.

Ogier led going into the final power stage, a four kms test using the start of Saturday's Nea Politia night stage and sections of two
stages already ran in the morning resulting in a tricky, rock-strewn surface.

The Power Stage is a new concept this season and awards bonus points to the fastest three drivers.

The rally, one of the most gruelling tests in the championship with cockpit temperatures usually well in excess of 30 degrees Celsius,
is returning to the calendar after a year's absence.

The seventh round of the championship marking the halfway stage of the season is the Rally of Finland from July 28-31.







 

 

Friday the 17th of June 2011
 

 


Greece gets new finance minister


Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou reshuffled his Cabinet on Friday amid a financial crisis that could reverberate far beyond his
country's borders.

Evangelos Venizelos, the former defense minister, now will serve as finance minister and deputy prime minister. He replaces Giorgos
Papakonstantinou, who will become the environment minister, a government spokesman said.

The new cabinet members were sworn in during a televised ceremony at about in at 1 p.m. local time.

Papandreou faces opposition from his party over the austerity measures, which are intended to reduce the government deficit in order to
secure a second bailout package from institutions including the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

There are fears that efforts to restructure Greece's debt could wreak havoc with Europe's banking sector, sparking investor panic similar
to the issues that caused the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank.

The crisis raises concerns for Europe's currency, the euro. If a struggling nation such as Greece, Portugal or Ireland were to default on its
debts, it could adversely affect the world economy.

The IMF said Thursday it would continue to back Greece provided that Greece carried out economic policy reforms agreed upon by the
government.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said U.S. officials are monitoring the situation in Greece closely but believe their
European counterparts have the capacity to deal with it.

"We consider it a headwind, if you will, in terms of the global economy and therefore the domestic economy," he said.
 


Wednesday
the 15th of June 2011


 


Greece wracked by political turmoil in debt crisis


 
ATHENS, Greece – Greece was wracked by political turmoil Thursday as the embattled prime minister faced
down a party revolt over new austerity measures — a bitter dispute that forced the EU to hint at new loans so
Greece can fend off a summer default.

Prime Minister George Papandreou has struggled to garner support for a new package of euro28 billion
($39.5 billion) in spending cuts and tax hikes demanded by the European Union and the International Monetary
Fund, which last year granted his debt-ridden nation euro110 billion ($155 billion) in bailout loans.

But the measures have sparked riots on the streets of Athens and open criticism from his own Socialist lawmakers
. Papandreou's desperate efforts to form a coalition government with the opposition conservatives collapsed
Wednesday, and the political crisis deepened Thursday when two of Papandreou's lawmakers resigned.
A planned Cabinet reshuffle was delayed till Friday, after Papandreou chaired a seven-hour emergency meeting
with Socialist lawmakers to try and ease the crisis.

The party feud heightened worldwide concern that a Greek financial collapse could trigger panic elsewhere in
the 17-nation eurozone — a fear that saw borrowing costs in vulnerable EU countries surge and stock markets
come under pressure.

"We will prevail and we will hold on. We have as a country in the past successfully faced major crises. As hard at
this struggle is, we cannot run away from our fight," Papandreou told party lawmakers. "We will fight and we will
win, for Greece, its people and the future of the new generations."

Fearing further chaos, the EU's top financial official, Olli Rehn, indicated in Brussels that Greece will likely get its
next financial lifeline in July, despite the EU finance ministers' failure to agree on a new bailout package for the
country.

Rich EU countries like Germany and the Netherlands want private creditors to share a big part of the burden of
helping Greece, while the European Central Bank fears those demands could trigger a partial default that would
spark panic on financial markets and pummel banks in Greece and across Europe.

Rehn, the EU's monetary affairs commissioner, said eurozone ministers would likely agree Sunday to give Greece
the next euro12 billion ($17 billion) loan from last year's euro110 billion package. However, the aid will only be paid
if Papandreou's government, which faces a vote of confidence within days, can get new budget cuts and privatizations
 through parliament before the end of the month.

The loan would keep Greece afloat until September and give finance ministers and the ECB until their next get-together
in July to resolve their differences, Rehn said.

His comments raised hopes that Greece would avoid a quick default, alleviating the selling pressure on the euro,
which had earlier fallen below $1.41 for the first time in three weeks.

But fears of a second Greek bailout drove the yield on Greece's two-year bonds above 30 percent for the first time
ever Thursday and kept the 10-year equivalent near all-time highs around 18 percent.

Even if a second bailout is granted to Greece, many analysts think the road will still end in default, and some even
wonder if Greece will stay in the 17-nation eurozone.

"While an additional bailout package may stave off near-term disaster, a major debt restructuring seems inevitable at
some point and Greece's future in the currency union is looking ever more doubtful," said Jonathan Loynes, chief
international economist at Capital Economics.

Some economists fear that a Greek default would trigger financial chaos like the Sept. 2008 collapse of the U.S.
investment bank Lehman Brothers.

"The risk of a 'Lehman moment' for the eurozone is increasing," says Neil MacKinnon, analyst at VTB Capital.

Nout Wellink, a member of the ECB's rate-setting council, said the situation means that European governments
need to be ready to double the size of their bailout fund to euro1.5 billion — a prospect sure to irritate German
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces unrest at home over Germany's role as the leading funder of bailouts.

In Athens, Papandreou said he would keep seeking a consensus with the opposition over the financial reforms that
creditors have demanded.

"I will serve and continue to serve the effort for broader consensus and we hope that this effort ultimately is successful,
" he said.

He admitted his government had displayed "mistakes and weaknesses," but promised a new, stronger Cabinet in a
reshuffle.

His strong words failed to reassure, and prominent Socialist lawmaker Vasso Papandreou was stinging in her criticism.

"The measures we are implementing are only cuts in salaries and pensions," she said during the emergency meeting.
"We voted for other measures but we have not implemented them."

The lawmaker — who is not related to the prime minister — said Greece was in a worse condition now than when it
first passed austerity measures last year.

"We have managed to mobilize nearly all of Greece's society against us," she noted.


 


Wednesday
the 15th of June 2011
 





 


Wave of anger blankets Athens as Greece weighs new austerity measures


 
Young Greek protesters in Athens are confronting police outside parliament ahead of a proposed new austerity budget,
even as European leaders meeting in Brussels last night remain divided on how to finance a second Greece bailout.

The some 20,000 protesters – many of whom refer to themselves as "indignants" – crossed police lines, angry about
what they perceive as a future riddled with debt and high unemployment.

Protestors want to stop an austerity package of $40 billion in cuts whose approval is required for the next installment
of last year's 160 billion bailout. Greece slipped toward bankruptcy in spring 2010 after revealing it had falsified its
financial position. Athens has since received $53 billion in bailout funds, following a contentious debate in Europe,
particularly in Germany, which initially opposed a bailout.

Yet Greece now desperately needs a second cash infusion. Last night, Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the eurozone
finance ministers, set a June 20 deadline to complete a bailout package for Greece, even as analysts say that the
longer the Greek crisis remains unresolved, the more words like “default” and “restructuring” threaten to undermine
the Greek position and cause market panic that could ripple even into US holdings.

What European officials are said to want is a restructuring of Greek finances – but without quite calling it a restructuring.
That Greece, a founding member of the eurozone, would default, or even be rated as a “selective default” in industry
terminology, is seen as uncharted territory.

“The best scenario is you don’t talk about restructuring and you do it quickly over a weekend,” says Sony Kapoor, director
of “Re-define,” a Brussels think tank. “The worst is you talk about restructuring a lot and then do nothing. That’s sort of where
we are. For Greece, today, it cannot honor its obligations. Most of the damage has already been inflicted.”

Greece holds some $400 billion in bond debt. Of this, $123 billion matures and must be paid off by 2014. Standard and
Poor’s this week dropped Greece’s rating from B to triple C, the lowest in the world. (Moody’s rating agency today
threatened to downgraded three French banks on their exposure to Greece. France has $14 billion bank exposure
to Greece; Germany has $21 billion.)

“The situation in Greece is very tense right now,” says Phillippe Waechter, chief economist at Natixis, a French investment
management group. “There are no margins; the Greeks need some breathing space.”

While few analysts predict a cataclysmic scenarios of European breakup stemming from the Greek crisis, it is
nonetheless seen as furthering long term strains of disunity, a rich-poor North-South Europe, and a lack of trust
in institutions and many of the ideals Europe was founded on.

Both Ireland and Portugal have experienced the cost of fearful market behavior in the past year, as rising debt-servicing
costs helped bring down both governments.

Prime Minister Georges Papandreou's proposed austerity plan, to be presented today, would cut $40 billion, partly by laying
off one-fifth of all government workers. A privatization component of the plan is expected to raise $70 billion.

On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are expected to meet on how to resolve
two different approaches to an expected second bailout. The German plan would essentially prolong for several years the
maturity of current bonds giving Greece more breathing room to pay them off. The other plan, proposed by the European
Central Bank and backed by France, favors a voluntary repurchasing of current Greek bonds by those holding them.

"It is really a question of finding a means of avoiding outright default, by going for a solution that would either extend the
maturity of Greek bonds or encourage creditors to voluntarily renew their bonds on maturity,” says Mr. Waechter.
“Whatever it might be, the priority is to give breathing space to the Greek economy. A real payment incident, i.e. straight
default, could prove very dangerous for Europe, in terms of its overall credibility, and also because European banks and
insurance companies are heavily exposed to the Greek economy."

Mr. Kapoor adds; “Headlines and market reaction are key to this situation. Given that economies depend on what markets
perceive, it is impossible to think that markets will not affect economic realities,” he says. “The longer this issue stays in
the headlines, the more the politics get damaged.”


 


Tuesday
the 14th of June 2011



 


Greek assembly faces protest cordon over austerity

 
(Reuters) - Greek demonstrators prepared to cordon off parliament and unions to strike on Wednesday in protest at the Socialist
government's efforts to approve a fresh round of austerity for the debt-stricken
euro zone state.

Prime Minister George Papandreou must push through a new five-year campaign of tax hikes, spending cuts and selloffs of state
property to continue receiving aid from the European Union and International Monetary Fund and avoid default.

He not only faces daily protests and resistance from a conservative opposition that has surpassed his Socialist party in opinion polls,
but backbenchers in his own parliamentary grouping are also threatening to reject the plan.

Tens of thousands of grassroots activists and unionists vowed to converge on Athens' central Syntagma square on the assembly's
front steps on Wednesday as Papandreou's PASOK party discusses the measures and opens talk on them in committee.

The new deal foresees 6.5 billion euros ($9.4 billion) worth of tax hikes and spending cuts this year, almost doubling steps already
agreed with bailout lenders that have raised the jobless rate to a record 16.2 percent and deepened a recession.

The government has appealed for national consensus on the laws, on which the EU and IMF have conditioned the release of another
12 billion euros in aid next month that Athens needs to pay off maturing debt.

"Every Greek, particularly the new generation, demands that we fight the battle with all our power, a battle to avoid a disastrous
bankruptcy which will undermine the future of the country," government spokesman George Petalotis told reporters.

"We are fighting the battle to serve the common good, in the most crucial moment in the country's modern democracy."

Among other items, the mid-term plan includes new luxury taxes, a proposed crackdown on rampant tax evasion, increased taxes
on soft-drinks, cars, swimming pools and real estate for a total savings of 28 billion euros through 2015.

It also entails cutting the eastern Mediterranean state's 750,000-strong public work force by a fifth over that period and raising 50 billion
euros by selling off state-owned firms.

Euro zone finance ministers, aiming to finalize a second aid deal at a June 23-24 summit, are pressing ahead with plans to make private
creditors share the costs of a second bailout, although the European Central Bank opposes the plan and says it could shock global markets
and put weaker euro states at risk.

PASOK has a majority in parliament and is expected to push through the deal by the end of the month as planned, possibly with a handful
of opposition deputies voting for it as well.

But one PASOK deputy defected from its parliament group on Tuesday, cutting its numbers to 155 of the chamber's 300 seats, and another
deputy said he would not back the package.

"You have to be as cruel as a tiger to vote for these measures. I am not," George Lianis said in a letter to Parliament Speaker Filippos Petsalnikos.

Many others also oppose the plan. Public sector union ADEDY, representing half a million workers, said it would join other demonstrators in
peaceful protest. Trains were to stop, ports close and hospitals cut staffing. Airports will stay open.

"The VAT increase to 23 pct from 13 pct on restaurant businesses is an act of suicide," the GSEVEE small business association said in a
letter to Papandreou.

Passing the plan will be the first step, to be followed by another set of laws on how to implement it. Analysts said that the plan was likely to
make it into law despite all the hurdles.

"I think it will go through -- but just," said Yanis Varoufakis, an economics professor at the University of Athens.


 

 

Monday the 13rd of June 2011



 


S&P cuts Greece's debt rating to CCC, sees default risk rising 'significantly'

 
Credit rating firm Standard & Poor's cut Greece's debt grade to CCC on Monday, the lowest of any rated country, citing a "significantly
higher likelihood of one or more defaults" by the Greek government.

S&P’s cut in Greece’s rating, from a previous grade of B, confirms what the Greek bond market has been signaling since March: that
there’s no way out of the country’s debt morass without forcing bondholders to take some kind of haircut.

The annualized yield on two-year Greek bonds rose back above 26% on Monday after falling as low as 22.7% early last week. The yield
has rocketed from 14.4% in mid-March as the market price of the bonds has plunged. By contrast, U.S. 2-year Treasury notes pay
0.39%.

Though S&P said it expected more financial help for Greece from the rest of the euro-zone countries, it also said it believes that “some
official creditors will see restructuring of commercial debt as a necessary condition to such additional funding.”

That’s an apparent reference to calls by German finance minister Wolfgang Schäeuble for private bondholders to assume a "fair" share
of another Greek bailout.

S&P said that forcing “burden sharing” on private bondholders “could take the form of a debt exchange offer or an extension of debt
maturities.”

In other words, bondholders wouldn’t be stiffed entirely. Nonetheless, “In our view, any such transactions would likely be on terms
less favorable than the debt being refinanced, which we, in turn, would view as a de facto default,” S&P said.

S&P's debt ratings range from D, denoting a bond in default, to AAA, the highest-quality rating.

Euro-zone finance ministers are expected to meet in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss Greece and other sovereign-debt issues.

The euro currency is trading up against the dollar Monday despite S&P’s decision. The euro rose to $1.441 from $1.434 on Friday.
though it’s down from nearly $1.47 last Tuesday.













 

 

Monday the 6th of June 2011




 

 


EU must make tough decisions on Greek rescue - IMF


ATHENS, Greece (AP) — European countries must decide how to plug potential funding gaps for Greece next year before the
International Monetary
Fund
can release the next batch of loans, an envoy from the Fund said Tuesday, as the struggling country's prime minister convened party deputies
to discuss further austerity measures.

Senior representative Bob Traa said EU leaders had "hard nuts to crack" at an EU summit in late June — agreeing on additional rescue support if
needed — before the IMF would release its part of a euro12 billion July installment, which is due as part of last year's euro110 billion bailout package.

The initial rescue loan agreement had predicted Greece would be able to borrow in the markets for part of its funding needs next year, but high interest
rates mean that is highly unlikely. As a result, it's expected that Greece will need extra help beyond the current package of rescue loans.

"What needs to be decided is how to fill in the various parts of the financing side ... I believe there is a summit in Europe by the heads of state
(in late June), where some hard nuts need to be cracked and they need to make some decisions," Traa said during a banking conference in Athens.
"And then we will actually be ready to go to our board and disburse in early July, but we know that time is of the essence."

Last week, debt monitors from the EU and IMF said Greece should receive the euro12 billion installment in early July — as long as additional austerity
and privatization measures are deemed sufficient. A final decision is to be taken by the
IMF board and the eurogroup in meetings later this month.

The government has been struggling to meet the terms of the EU and IMF bailout package despite an austerity package adopted last year. It has found
itself forced to announce new cutbacks and tax hikes, including euro6.4 billion worth of remedial austerity measures for this year, and a midterm
program to run from 2012-2015, two years beyond the current government's mandate. It is also pushing through a euro50 billion privatization program.

Prime Minister George Papandreou was meeting with his Socialist party's economic affairs deputies to discuss the issue, a day after holding a near
10-hour informal Cabinet meeting, as he seeks to quell internal party discontent. The new austerity plans are to be discussed by the Cabinet again on
Wednesday before the ministers submit the plans to Parliament for a vote.

Papandreou suggested late Monday he could hold a referendum on the measures, which have been immensely unpopular even with deputies of his
own party. The government also appears rattled by continued anti-austerity rallies in Greek cities, which climaxed with tens of thousands of protesters
thronging the main square outside Parliament in central Athens on Sunday.

Traa, the IMF envoy, urged the government to quickly make up for a slowdown in structural reforms in 2011, but also criticized contradicting statements
being made from European leaders and talk of a mild restructuring of Greece's massive national debt.

"There is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant," he said.

The government and several European officials have insisted a restructuring of debt — which could involve paying back less than the full amount Greece
owes, or at a later date — is not on the cards, but the rumors have persisted.

"If you want to do a debt restructuring that will really make a difference, it needs to be very large," he said. "And if you need a very large debt restructuring
that creates untold problems not just for Greece but also for the euro area."

 


Saturday
the 28th of May 2011


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Harper To Greece: Austerity Worth The Pain

 
ATHENS, Greece — Prime Minister Stephen Harper brought a message from Canadian politics to his Greek counterpart Saturday.

He said that sometimes, a government needs to act even if the opposition doesn't want to co-operate.

Harper arrived in Greece for his first bilateral visit as the country is being rocked by protests and political turmoil over its debt crisis and the austerity
measures required to get the deficit under control.

For the past year, Greece has relied on a $155 billion package of bailout loans from other EU countries and the International Monetary Fund.

But the first round of austerity measures agreed to in return didn't ease market concerns that the Greek economy can be salvaged.

On Friday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou failed to get all-party support on new measures, jeopardizing the next round of bailout funds from
the European Union and the IMF.

But on Saturday, Harper said he's confident the Greeks will get the situation under control.

"I know from experience that it is not unusual for opposition parties to refuse to co-operate with government," Harper said.

"But governments have a responsibility to act and I certainly honour the determination of Prime Minister Papandreou and the very difficult actions he's
had
to take in response to problems his government did not create."

Harper said he's using the Greek situation as an example.

Accompanying Harper on the trip is Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who is of Greek heritage. Clement will be in charge of making the $4 billion
in cuts to government services next year as Canada pays down it's deficit.

Harper said he wanted Clement to sit in on the meetings to show him "we have nothing like the challenges faced here in Greece. He has a comparatively
easy task."

Clement also signed a youth mobility agreement with Greece as part of the trip. The agreement helps facilitate work and tourist trips by young people.

But the challenges facing Greece did hit home for Harper.

He was originally supposed to stay in a hotel fronting the Hellenic Parliament but was moved to another after thousands of protesters had amassed there
late Friday.

Harper came to Greece following the G8 meetings in France, where leaders discussed the global economic crisis, including Greece's dilemma.

He had said going into Athens that he was looking forward to hearing about the situation from the Greek perspective. He received a full briefing on Saturday
as he visited Papanderou.

He wouldn't comment on what he heard

"We have every confidence that our Greek hosts here and our European friends will continue to deal with the matters so the global economy can continue
to grow," Harper said.

There are about 250,000 Canadians with Greek heritage and several within the prime minister's circle, including Clement and newly-elected member of
parliament Costas Menegakis. Both are on the trip.

They were part of a business roundtable Harper held earlier in the day with a group of Canadian and Greek executives, including representatives
of Coca-Cola and Bombardier.

Harper's director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, is also of Greek origin.

On Sunday, Harper will visit the village of Kalavryta, where members of Soudas' family still live.

Harper will be there to pay his respects at a memorial for the Greek men and boys rounded up and summarily killed by the Nazis during the Second World War.
They included Soudas' grandfather.

The prime minister had done very little international travel prior to entering politics, but he said Saturday Greece was one of the countries that had intrigued him.

"I have always been fascinated by your country as a cradle of democracy and this was one of the first places in the world I visited in fact 34 years ago as
a young man," Harper told Philippos Petsalnikos, the Speaker of the Hellenic parliament.

"And notwithstanding the challenges that we read about, I have observed the remarkable progress the country has made over the past several decades."

Later in the day, he and his wife Laureen had a chance to take in some of what Greece looked like centuries ago.

They visited the Acropolis museum in Athens and then the Acropolis itself.

As he toured the Greek ruins and posed for photos in front of the Parthenon, Harper pointed to the massive columns behind him and joked: "I should build this."


 


Wednesday
the 25th of May 2011
 




Thessaloniki
 

Protesters return to Athens for a second day

Thousands of people demonstrating against austerity measures braved heavy rain in Athens to protest in front of Parliament for a second consecutive day
on Thursday.

After a notable first day of protest in Athens and other Greek cities on Wednesday, thousands of people who are following the example of “The Indignant”
demonstrators in Spain gathered in Athens and other city centers on Thursday.

Social networking sites were abuzz with discussions about Wednesday’s protest and people were invited to return on Thursday to keep up
the pressure on politicians over austerity measures and the quality of life in Greece.

Apart from Athens, protests were also held on Wednesday in Thessaloniki, Patra, Larissa, Volos, Rethymno and Hania.

Such protests are something of a rarity for Greece as they are not linked to a particular party or political philosophy and not organized by labor unions.

More than 10,000 people crowded into and around Syntagma Square for a peaceful demonstration, chanting, “Thieves, thieves” and making offensive hand
gestures at the unseen lawmakers in Parliament behind a row of riot police officers. Another 5,000 or so gathered in the center of Thessaloniki.

The few banners in the crowds bore slogans that betrayed no allegiance to any political party. “What time is it? Time for them to go,” one banner read.

The protests were organized using social networking sites including Facebook, following the example of the Spanish campaign that has been driven largely
by young people.

The Greek initiative even adopted the name of Spain’s, Los Indignados, with groups calling themselves “The Indignant of Syntagma Square” and
“The Indignant of the White Tower,” in a reference to the Thessaloniki landmark.
 


Wednesday
the 25th of May 2011




Greek insult
 

Thousands gather to protest in central Athens


Following example of Spanish demonstrations, rallies in three cities target austerity measures

Thousands of protestors have gathered in Athens’s main Syntagma Square for a demonstration, along the lines of similar rallies being held in Spain, against
austerity measures.

Protestors gathered from about 6 p.m. in Athens and the crowd had swelled to several thousand people by early evening. The protest remained peaceful,
as participants demonstrated against the country’s politicians in front of Parliament.

Demonstrators held up a banner in front of the House reading: «We are awake! What time is it? It's time for them to go!"

Similar protests are being held in Thessaloniki and Patra.

Imitating a successful anti-austerity campaign by Spanish demonstrators - chiefly young people - that has filled Madrid’s main Puerta del Sol Square
 with crowds for more than a week, the Greek groups used social networking sites such as Facebook to drum up support.

One of the groups, called “The Indignant of Syntagma,” called on Athenians to gather in central Syntagma Square between 6 and 11.30 p.m.
on Wednesday.

“We want to rally peacefully and spontaneously, simply to declare our peaceful protest,” the organizers said in a statement.

Another group, “The Indignant of the White Tower,” appealed to residents of Thessaloniki to gather under the city landmark on Wednesday.

A third group, with the more rousing name of “Patras Greek Revolution,” called for demonstrators to gather in the western port’s central Georgiou Square.
This group, too, has declared its opposition to violence and has held up the ongoing Spanish protest as a model for Greeks to emulate.

“Let us start a peaceful revolution in our city, beyond political parties, without upheaval, masks and violence, following the footsteps of our Spanish
brothers and sisters,” a statement by the group said.
 
 

Tuesday the 24th of May 2011
 


George Papandreou, Antonis Samaras.
 

Main Greek opposition rejects government overtures for agreement on new austerity

ATHENS, Greece - Greece's main opposition leader has bluntly rejected a call for support from the prime minister for new austerity measures designed to
pull the country out of its crippling debt crisis.

The European Union has increased pressure on Greece to find cross-party support for a midterm austerity program that will go two years beyond the
current government's term, arguing that political bickering could derail fiscal efforts.

Prime Minister George Papandreou is meeting opposition party leaders Tuesday to seek consensus for new measures outlined the previous day.
But conservative leader Antonis Samaras says he "remained opposed" to the government's handling of the crisis, even though he agreed with certain measures.





 


Monday
the 23rdth of May 2011


 

Greece discusses fiscal plan, lenders' pressure up

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou discussed new emergency measures with his cabinet on Monday to cut the deficit,
keen to convince lenders Athens can deal with a debt crisis without a restructuring.

A raft of new austerity measures being studied include deeper cuts in public sector wages, more consumer tax increases, and even the taboo issue of
dismissing full-time civil servants.

At stake is a 12-billion euro aid tranche under the EU/IMF bailout agreed last year, as well as additional loans needed to plug a funding gap next year as the
overborrowed country is unlikely to return to bond markets in 2012.

With the tough austerity medicine to fast correct past profligacy knocking the wind out of Greece's economy, markets believe some form of debt restructuring is
inevitable but this is anathema to policy makers, especially at the ECB.

Instead, Frankfurt and Brussels are urging strict compliance with the bailout plan, meaning state divestments, reforms and more measures to shore up budget
revenues and lower the government's wage bill.

On Monday EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn pressed Athens to redouble its fiscal efforts and press on with privatizations.

"These are a matter of urgency," Rehn said in a speech to a conference on European integration in Vienna.

Belt-tightening to get Greece to primary surpluses is crucial to stem its ballooning debt but critics, including the conservative political opposition, say the
policy mix is wrong, hindering the economy from growing out of the debt mess.

Worried about the fallout of a default, the chief executive of Europe's largest insurer, Allianz (ALVG.DE), on Monday warned governments not to push
Athens toward insolvency by blocking further aid to Greece.

"We need an industrialization plan for Greece, a type of Marshall Plan. European labor and production need to be shifted to the country," CEO Michael
Diekmann told German daily Bild.

Newspapers said on Monday measures the cabinet will examine include halving a current 12,000-euro income tax exemption, and cuts in other exemptions
on medical expenses and interest on home loans, moves certain to squeeze take-home pay for millions of workers and pensioners.

Papandreou has vowed to speed up reforms and do everything it takes to avoid default, setting the stage for the announcement of a tough set of measures.

"We are in the middle of an ongoing battle. We will not surrender. We will do whatever it takes to make sure Greece stands on its own feet," he told a gathering
in the southern town of Nafplio last week.

Other new fiscal steps may include slapping a one-off levy on high incomes, possibly on those earning more than 80,000 euros ($112,500) annually, and a tax on
large real estate holdings.

The government is also considering a uniform value added tax (VAT) rate of 18 or 19 percent for all goods and services versus a current regime that ranges from
13 to 23 percent.

If adopted, the move will mean higher costs for foods, electricity bills and transport but some relief for other consumer goods such as cars, furniture, appliances
and apparel as retailers are hard-hit by the three-year recession.

The government is steadily losing public support in the face of harsh austerity. An opinion poll on Saturday showed 80 percent of Greeks won't accept more
measures and the ruling Socialists tied with the opposition for the first time since their October 2009 election victory.

"An explosive situation is building, people feel that the going is getting very tough," Dimitris Mavros, managing director of pollster MRB, which conducted
the survey, told Reuters.

 

 

Sunday 15th of May 2011

The arrest would not affect his nation's efforts to resolve its financial woes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Greece bailout talks on - despite IMF head's arrest

Eurozone financial leaders will press ahead with a meeting to discuss the region's debt crisis, despite the arrest of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Strauss-Kahn was arrested at the weekend in New York on suspicion of sexual assault on a hotel maid.

However experts insisted one man's troubles won't keep the 17 eurozone nations from trying to contain a debt crisis that threatens them all.

Eurozone financial leaders are to discuss Greece's deteriorating economy Monday at a Brussels meeting where experts will brief them on the situation in Athens. Key questions include what conditions to put on more help to the debt-strapped nation, with European leaders unhappy at what they see as limited Greek efforts to raise money by selling government property.

Despite Stauss-Kahn's arrest, the International Monetary Fund said in a statement it remains "fully functioning and operational." The IMF Executive Board convened an informal session Sunday and made Strauss-Kahn's deputy, John Lipsky, acting managing director while its chief was unavailable.

The Washington, D.C.-based lending body also sent Nemat Shafik, a deputy managing director who oversees IMF work in several EU countries, to Monday's eurozone meeting to replace Strauss-Kahn.

Strauss-Kahn had to cancel his Sunday meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, where the German public is deeply skeptical about putting up any more money for Greece. Germany, as Europe's largest economy, provided a large chunk of the 110 billion ($157 billion) bailout for Greece from the European Union and the IMF last year.

Greek government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis insisted the arrest would not affect his nation's efforts to resolve its financial woes.

"The Greek government deals with institutions, not individuals, and continues unimpeded to implement the program that will get it out of the crisis," Petalotis said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble struck a similar tone, saying the eurozone meeting would go ahead as planned. And European politicians had already gotten used to the idea that Strauss-Kahn may leave his post soon to run for president of France next year.

Yet others said Strauss-Kahn's immediate departure from the financial stage adds additional uncertainty to the already difficult situation in Europe.

"The leadership vacuum at the IMF comes at a highly inopportune time for Europe, which is teetering on the brink of a full-blown debt crisis," said Eswar Prasad, a professor of international economics at Cornell University and a former IMF official.

Many investors believe that Greece's financial troubles are so overwhelming that a Greek default or a restructuring that would give creditors less than the full value of their bonds is inevitable. But that would be a serious blow to the euro, and eurozone governments and the European Central Bank appear determined to prevent it.

Merkel has stressed that her government will need clear conditions for any new Greek loans before it will back more help. But Schaeuble has conceded that if the experts' full report in June shows that Greece can't pay its debts, something more will have to be done.

The IMF put up $43 billion of that Greek loan and also supplies expertise in assessing whether Greece and other countries that get emergency loans are living up to the conditions attached to them.

A $111 billion bailout for Portugal was also on the agenda for Monday's meeting in Brussels, as is Ireland's progress in dealing with the financial morass that led to its own EU-IMF bailout. With the terms of the Portuguese bailout largely decided, EU finance ministers are expected to signal approval of that deal.

Although eurozone ministers were talking about Greece, a new bailout announcement was not planned for Monday. Instead, investors expected a general statement of support, followed by days or weeks of more haggling.

Marco Valli, chief eurozone economist at UniCredit, said Greece's troubles were separate from those of Strauss-Kahn, and he expected a decision on more help for Greece in the near future.

"There is no way that just because the IMF's chief gets into personal trouble that Greece would be left alone," Valli said. "Maybe it can have some impact on timing, but our view is that this is not going to have a meaningful impact on the bottom line, which is that Greece would get a second bailout package."

Other analysts agreed that the IMF will simply navigate through the upcoming difficulties.

"The IMF is not a one-trick pony," David Buik at BGC Partners in London. "European markets may be damaged by this news for a few hours but there is plenty of depth to the IMF."

 

Wednesday 11th of May 2011

 









 


Clashes near Greek parliament in austerity protest


ATHENS (AFP) - Police clashed with protesters near the Greek parliament on Wednesday as thousands demonstrated against a new wave of austerity cuts designed to keep the country's sinking economy above water.

Security forces fired tear gas after being hit with stones by a small group of protesters who retreated, leaving behind a trail of vandalised garbage bins, bus shelters and stores in the Athens centre.

At least 14 people were injured according to reports, and police said they had detained 24 people for questioning.

One protester in his 30s was hospitalised with a serious head injury caused by truncheon strikes, a medical official said.

The left-wing militant underwent an emergency operation at a hospital in the southwest suburb of Nikaia.

The incidents were limited compared to previous demonstrations against austerity in Greece which often turn brutally violent.

The turnout was also smaller than recent street protests, with around 20,000 people participating in Athens and Thessaloniki, Greece's second city, according to police.

The protests were coupled with a general strike, Greece's second this year, which shut down state services, halted maritime and train traffic and disrupted flights.

Greece last year pledged to put its economy in order after taking a 110-billion-euro ($158-billion) loan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to avert insolvency when its borrowing costs went through the roof.

But despite a huge effort in 2010 -- when hundreds of thousands of Greeks saw their wages and pensions trimmed while many also lost their jobs -- the country failed to meet its deficit reduction goals because the economy shrank faster than expected.

"Greece is well behind schedule in the process of budget consolidation in the first four months of the year. This is because revenues are well below target," Commerzbank analyst Christoph Weil said in a note.

"Without additional measures, the deficit in 2011 could be some five-eight billion euros higher than planned," Weil said.

The government has now rolled out a new programme to save some 26 billion euros over three years to help bring down Greece's enormous debt.

It also plans to sell a first batch of state assets worth 15 billion euros including stakes in several public corporations.

Many Greeks see this strategy as pointless.

"They want to suppress social rights acquired in past decades and take us back to the Middle Ages to save banks and bankers," thundered protester Vangelis Papadoyiannis, a 46-year-old IT employee.

"In my company there were 100 layoffs just in January, our salaries were cut by 15 percent and there's more to come," he told AFP.

"We said a year ago that the government's measures were unfair and we had foreseen that they would have no effect," said the head of Greece's top union GSEE, Yiannis Panagopoulos.

"Today, sadly, we are justified," he said in a statement.

Athens' overall debt has exploded to 340 billion euros, leading to mounting speculation -- even from Greek officials -- that it will need alternative options to keep up with repayments when the EU-IMF loan runs out in 2013.

Experts from the EU, IMF and European Central Bank are currently in Athens for a scheduled audit of finances and reforms to determine if Greece merits a critical new 12-billion-euro slice of funding from last year's bailout package.

Senior EU and Greek officials have denied that any debt restructuring is on the agenda, although eurozone officials have begun to admit that Greece is likely to need more aid in some form.

At the weekend the head of the group of eurozone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that "we think that Greece does need a further adjustment programme".

And an EU source told AFP on Monday that eurozone ministers were considering extra help for next year which would be in exchange for new budget constraints from Greece.

With Greece unlikely to be able to raise money on financial markets next year as initially planned, there has been increasing speculation it will need another 60 billion euros.

EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, who is the bloc's top official behind bailout negotiations, said a decision on further aid is a few weeks away pending the result of the joint audit.

The bloc's economic frontrunner Germany has also called for decisions to be taken after the EU-IMF mission delivers its report.
"We'll have to wait until June and the handing over of the report," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told journalists in Berlin.
 

Monday the 09th of May 2010
 

New forecasts see higher debt, deficit for Greece

BRUSSELS — The European Union warned Friday that Greece’s already massive debt is growing much faster than forecast, putting pressure on the region’s finance chiefs to come up with new support for the country at their get-together next week.

Until a few days ago it looked as if the main objective of this month’s meeting of EU finance ministers was to sign off on a 78-billion euro ($111 billion) aid package for Portugal. But admissions that Greece’s 110-billion euro rescue plan agreed last year is failing to restore investor confidence have brought the focus back on Athens.

Several EU officials have hinted in recent days that Greece may need a second bailout to plug financial shortfalls in 2012 and 2013, but stressed that any new help would only come in return for further austerity measures and economic reforms.

At their meetings on Monday and Tuesday in Brussels, EU finance ministers will be joined by Dominique Strauss Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, which is responsible for one-third of Greece’s existing loan package.

His presence underlines the gravity of the Greek situation, coming just one week after the region’s financial heavyweights discussed the country’s problems in a secret meeting in Luxembourg. Strauss Kahn is already travelling to Berlin on Sunday to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose stance on potential aid will be crucial.

The EU’s Monetary Affairs Commissioner, Olli Rehn, on Friday called the situation in Greece “very serious” and said the country needed to cut spending even further than foreseen in its bailout program.

Greece’s debt will reach 157.7 per cent of economic output this year and jump to 166.1 per cent in 2012, the European Commission, the EU’s executive, said in its biannual economic forecast. That’s up from 150.2 per cent and 156 per cent respectively, it predicted last fall.

The country’s budget deficit doesn’t look much better, reaching 9.5 per cent of GDP this year, about two percentage points above previous predictions and the targets set out in its bailout program. The shortfall is expected to remain high at 9.3 per cent in 2012.

The pessimistic financial data are in part due to Greece’s economic collapse over the past two years and mean the country will be effectively locked out of international debt markets for longer than expected. In 2012, Greece is supposed to raise 27 billion euros to help pay its bills, but with investors demanding a 15 per cent interest rate to give it 10-year loans, that prospect looks increasingly unlikely.

The commission’s sharp debt revisions will likely spice up discussions among finance ministers Monday and Tuesday. It will also fuel calls from many economists who say the country needs to restructure its debts — forcing private creditors such as banks and investment funds to accept later or lower repayments on the bonds they hold.

European officials have so far ruled out a debt restructuring, arguing that it could trigger financial panic similar to the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. However, pouring yet more money into the eurozone’s weakest states is becoming more and more difficult, with opposition to bailouts growing in rich and poor countries.

 


Saturday the
24th of April 2010



 

Orthodox Christians to celebrate Easter

This week was the so called Megali Evdomada, Great Week, which is Easter Week for all Greek Orthodox people. Anyone that has spent this week in Greece will have noticed that it is the most important holiday of the year.

Many Orthodox fast before Easter, and are not allowed to eat various foods such as meat, butter, milk as well as olive oil for the last few days. Then they will go to a priest for confession, and are so allowed to partake in the Holy Communion.

The actual Easter festival begins on Good Friday and people go to the churches to see how the priests and monk's take down the icon of Christ off the cross, wrap it in linen and put it in a great casket covered in flowers symbolizing the tomb of Christ. Then the bier is taken through the town or village, with people lamenting the death of Christ.

On Saturday everyone goes to church late in the evening, carrying with them unlit candles. At midnight the priest announces the resurrection of Christ ("Christos anesti") and lets the people light their candles of the Holy Flame taken from Christ's nativity cave in Jerusalem. As everybody does this fireworks and crackers go off and the dark night is filled with light from the candles. After this, everybody goes home for a meal - the fast is over. If their candles are still burning, a cross is made in the doorway with the soot, to protect the house for the coming year.

On Easter Sunday friends and family gather in homes, eating lamb on the spit and dyed eggs. Before the red eggs are eaten, however, you must crack them against your neighbours, and whoever wins by having a whole egg at the end, will get all the luck.

Xristos Anesti ! Alifeos Anesti !


Ecumenical Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I leads the Easter service at the patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul,
April 23, 2010


Friday
the 15th of April 2011


 

 

 


Greece Aims to Raise $50 Billion From Sales of State-Owned Property Assets

Greece plans to raise 35 billion euros ($50.5 billion) from state-owned real estate assets by 2015, according to a report released yesterday by the Greek Finance Ministry.

“The state owns a vast portfolio of real estate assets that today is underdeveloped or is exploited by uncontrolled, private vested interests,” the Finance Ministry wrote in the presentation, adding that the development and management of the assets is an “obligation for the state.”

The plan is part of a 50 billion euro asset-sale program to reduce Greece’s public debt, the highest in the European Union as a percentage of gross domestic product.

The government will value and register all state-owned commercial real estate assets and record them for the first time in a single land registry, according to the presentation.

Greece is the only country in Europe without a centralized registry of deeds. About 40 percent of registered state properties are disputed and an additional 25 percent don’t have enough data on their legal status and are “questionable,”Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told lawmakers last month.

Greek and international banks will create real estate investment portfolios grouping the assets and four of them will be presented by 2012, according to the presentation. The first will be put forward in June.

Other measures to be taken this year by the government to ensure the success of the plan will include legally establishing long-term leaseholds, defining conditions for vacation and tourist accommodation and speeding up processes for obtaining building and development licences, according to the report.


Monday
the 11th of April 2011


 


Acropolis Museum is Greece's top site: official data

 
ATHENS (AFP) – The Acropolis Museum was Greece's top tourist draw in 2010, eclipsing for the first time the ancient Athens citadel whose sculptures it showcases, official data showed on Monday.

Over 1.3 million people queued to visit the country's newest museum between January and December last year, the Greek statistics authority (Esa) said.

Designed by Franco-Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi, the ultra-modern building lies within sight of the ancient Acropolis citadel and showcases sculptures from the golden age of Athenian democracy in the fifth century BCE.

By comparison, the Acropolis citadel itself drew just over 990,000 people last year after being hit with several strike shutdowns in a broader protest movement against unpopular austerity cuts imposed by the debt-hit government.

Inaugurated in June 2009, the new museum includes a section reserved for the disputed Parthenon Marbles, currently at the British Museum in London.

Greece has long pursued a campaign for the return of the priceless friezes, removed in 1806 by Lord Elgin when Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Empire, which the British Museum refuses to repatriate.

The Greek statistics authority said overall attendance in 2010 had increased by 11.5 percent at the country's museums and fallen by 7.1 percent at archaeological sites.

Museum income increased by 31.7 percent compared to the same 12-month period in 2009 while site revenues dropped by 8.8 percent, Esa said.

Tourism proceeds are a major source of income for Greece which is battling to emerge from recession after a narrow brush with bankruptcy last year.

 

Wednesday the 06th of April 2011






Ancient clay tablet is opening eyes on life in Europe
A piece of an ancient clay tablet found in Greece may have something to say about the written word and the people who produced it.

Discovered last summer by a St. Louis archeological team that's been working the Greek site for more than a decade, the tablet is challenging some conventional thinking.

"It shouldn't even be there according to what we know about ancient Greek writing," said Michael Cosmopoulos, an archeology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and leader of the Iklaina Archaeological Project.

So what's so exciting about a series of ancient symbols preserved on a small chunk of dried mud?

It's no steamy romance novel. Nor is it a tale of glorious battle. It offers no glimpse of court intrigue.

One side appears to talk about some sort of manufacturing process, while the other looks to be nothing more than a government record of taxes or the like.

Yes, bureaucracy has been around for a long time. Maybe longer than originally thought.

Cosmopoulos said the mere presence of the tablet suggests Europeans were writing more than a century earlier than previously thought. But the exact date of fragment may shed some light on how early the ancient Greeks began their ground-breaking work on bureaucracy.

The key is whether the clay tablet was created before or after the city (its ancient name was Aphy) was conquered and destroyed by a neighboring king sometime around 1400 B.C. Incidentally, Aphy was later part of the kingdom of Nestor, a key figure in Homer's "Iliad."

"If it dates before the destruction of the site, it means bureaucracy started much earlier than we thought," Cosmopoulos said.

It may be a couple of years before a more precise date is established for the tablet. But the initial findings will be published this month in an issue of the "Proceedings of the Athens Archeological Society" and presented on April 12 in a formal lecture at the Missouri History Museum.

Like all other items taken from site, the tablet must remain, by law, in Greek museums.

One interesting aspect of the clay tablet — the fragment measures just 2 inches by 3 inches — is that it was never supposed to last more than a year or two. It was preserved only by chance when it was tossed into a rubbish pit and burned, creating a sort of accidental kiln.

But with any luck, more tablet pieces may remain in the earth, said Cosmopoulos, whose work on the site is supported by the Pylos Archaeology Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

He's preparing now for his next trip to Greece, where he returns each summer with a team that includes as many as 60 students from UMSL and other universities.

And while every trip yields something of interest, Cosmopoulos admits the mystery surrounding the tablet is creating a bit of extra buzz this time around.

"There's always this adventure, an Indiana Jones thing, with archeology," he said. "But knowing what you might find adds to the excitement."

 

Sunday the 03rd of April 2011


Abdelati al-Obeïdi


Qaddafi Emissary Meets Greece's Papandreou as U.S. Extends Air Assistance

An emissary of Muammar Qaddafi was meeting with Greece’s prime minister in Athens today as NATO said the U.S. would extend through the weekend its combat role in air strikes against forces loyal to the Libyan leader.

Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi, identified as Libya’s acting foreign minister, is meeting with Greek leader George Papandreou at an undisclosed location, Greece’s government said in a statement today. Al-Obeidi came as a representative of Qaddafi, according to the statement.

In Brussels, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said that because of poor weather over the last few days, NATO had asked that U.S. strike aircraft continue to fly and support the allied planes attacking Qaddafi’s ground forces.

Al-Obeidi, whose name has also been transliterated from Arabic as Abdelaati Obeidi and Abdelaati Laabidi in news stories, was reported by the Tunisian news agency to have crossed into Tunisia from Libya earlier today.

NATO and allied officials are increasing efforts for a diplomatic solution in Libya to avoid being drawn further into fighting there. Greece’s Papandreou has spoken with the prime ministers of the U.K., Turkey, Qatar and Libya regarding the situation in Libya since April 1, the prime minister’s office said in today’s statement.

The Libyan government is open to talks to find an end to the conflict, al-Obeidi, a former prime minister, told British television on April 1. British officials also met with Mohammed Ismail, a senior aide to one of Qaddafi’s sons, the New York Times reported.

Qaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, is also proposing a resolution, one that would entail his father relinquishing power to his son, the New York Times reported today, citing an unidentified diplomat with close ties to the government. Neither Qaddafi nor the rebels appear ready to accept the proposal, the newspaper cited the diplomat as saying.

Libyan rebels faced setbacks on the ground, including the deaths of at least 13 fighters when their convoy was mistakenly hit by an allied air strike.

NATO said it was “looking into” the reports of the strike near Brega yesterday while the leaders of the rebellion, who are based in the eastern city of Benghazi, said their
own fighters were at fault.
 

Friday the 01st of April 2011


Greece Earthquake: Very Strong Quake Hits, Tremors Felt In Cairo


ATHENS, Greece -- A strong earthquake struck the southern Greek island of Crete Friday, rattling buildings as far away as Egypt and Turkey. Local police said they had no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 and struck off the southern coast of Crete at 4:29 p.m., the Athens Geological Institute and the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany, said. The U.S. Geological Survey gave a slightly lower preliminary magnitude of 5.9. Magnitudes recorded by geological institutes often differ.Police in Ierapetra, a town on the southern coast of Crete closest to the epicenter, said it was strongly felt but that they had no initial reports of damage or injuries.

The quake was felt as far away as Cairo across the Mediterranean Sea, and the Turkish news agency Anatolia said it also caused panic in the Turkish resorts of Bodrum, Fethiye and Marmaris.

"It was a strong earthquake in a region that is in the eastern section of area known as the Aegean Arc," said Manolis Skordilis, Associate Professor of Seismology at the University of Thessaloniki in northern Greece.

"This is a very seismically active area that has seen more powerful quakes in the past. We are monitoring the post-earthquake activity, which so far is not intense," he said.

Greece is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, but the thousands of quakes recorded each year rarely cause severe damage or fatalities.

In June 2008, a 6.5-magnitude quake struck near the western port city of Patras, about 120 miles west of Athens, killing two people, injuring more than 200 and damaging hundreds of buildings. In 1999, a magnitude 5.9 quake near Athens killed 143 people.
 


Tuesday
the 29th of March 2011


 

Greek police clash with protesters opposing new garbage dump near Athens; 4 officers wounded

ATHENS, Greece - Riot police fired repeated volleys of tear gas Tuesday to push back firebomb-wielding residents of a town near the Greek capital in the latest violence over plans for a garbage dump in the area.

The extensive clashes in Keratea, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Athens, began Tuesday morning, when protesters set fire to a bulldozer sent to clear roads they had blocked for more than a day with rubble.

In pitched battles fought across rural roads and in fields on the outskirts of the town, hooded and masked protesters hurled rocks and dozens of firebombs at lines of riot police as evening fell, and threatened the few journalists covering the violence.

Police said four officers were injured in the clashes. Authorities called in bulldozers to clear road blocks set up by the protesters.
The clashes in Keratea were the latest in a series of violent demonstrations against the plans to set up a dump in the area.

Keratea residents have been involved in running clashes with riot police for much of the past three months, arguing the dump will degrade their area and damage local antiquities.
 

Wednesday the 15th of March 2011


Greek Anti-Terror Police Seize Weapons, Arrest 6
ATHENS, Greece -- Greek authorities arrested six people -- including three suspected members of a group behind a string of letter bomb attacks -- and seized weapons during raids on two suspected hideouts for domestic terrorists, police said Monday.
Anti-terrorist police conducting raids on apartments in the central city of Volos and the Greek capital confiscated three automatic assault rifles, seven handguns, a revolver, ammunition, police uniforms, wigs, computers, radios, metal clubs and knuckle-dusters.
Seven people were detained for questioning, of whom six -- five men and a woman -- were arrested. Three of those had been named as suspected members of the Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire group, which has claimed responsibility for a series of letter bomb attacks, most of them sent to embassies in Athens in November.
Police also recovered notes in the Volos apartment which indicated the group was preparing a bank robbery in the area.
Far-left militant and armed anarchist groups have been active in Greece for decades. But attacks have spiked in the past two years, despite the arrest of more than a dozen suspects, following the fatal police shooting of a teenager in Athens in December 2008 that led to widespread riots across the country.
The vast majority of the letter bombs were intercepted before they exploded, and none caused any injuries. One of the packages made it to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office in Berlin while another, addressed to Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, caught fire aboard a courier flight that had landed at Italy's Bologna airport.
Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire claimed responsibility for those attacks, as well as for sending a letter bomb to the Justice Ministry in Athens last month.
Nine suspected members of the group, mostly in their early 20s, went on trial in January over the attacks.
The six arrested Monday face charges of participation in a terrorist organization, supply and possession of explosives and making bombs, and causing explosions.
Police released photos of the three -- Giorgos Nikolopoulos, 25; Bolano Ntamiano, 24; and Christos Tsakalos, 32 -- who had been wanted as suspected Conspiracy members, and called on the public to call hotlines with any information.
 

Wednesday the 15th of March 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strauss-Kahn Says EU Must Convince Investors on Debt Crisis Before summits
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said European Union leaders must convince investors that they can fix the region’s debt crisis and he’s “confident” they will do so by the end of next month.

“Markets aren’t everything, but markets are important,” Strauss-Kahn said in a Bloomberg Television interview with David Tweed in Paris. “You have to do something that will be seen, not only by markets, to work.”

After rescuing Greece and Ireland, EU leaders are now seeking to overhaul the governance of the 17-nation euro area and create a permanent system to offer members financial support. While talks continue as governments prepare for two summits in Brussels next month, the EU’s decision-making process has sometimes slowed a resolution to the crisis that began more than a year ago.

If a solution “comes too late, you’re always behind the curve,” Strauss-Kahn said in an interview after meeting with Group of 20 officials in Paris. “Talking with the most important leaders inEurope, I think they understand well the need to have a comprehensive approach” and “I’m rather confident they’ll come up with something rather comprehensive by the end of March.”

Political resistance to transferring funds between different countries could yet derail the plan.Government bonds in Greece and Portugal dropped this week as Germany sought to tie EU efforts to overhaul the 440 billion-euro ($597 billion) European rescue fund for indebted states to measures aimed at increasing competitiveness.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government may bear the greatest burden in a bailout mechanism. She is negotiating a comprehensive EU plan to stem the debt contagion that has driven bond yields for some nations to euro-era highs as her party fights elections in seven ofGermany’s 16 states. The ballots begin Feb. 20 in Hamburg, the richest state of all.

“Don’t expect me to say elections are a bad thing,” Strauss-Kahn said, when asked whether he was concerned that politics could prevent an agreement. “The more you have domestic political concern, the less you’re able to have a statesmen’s view.”

Euro-region finance ministers shifted the focus away from the near-term crisis managementwith a decision last week that the permanent said mechanism to be set up in 2013 will be able to lend 500 billion euros ($675 billion), twice the amount of the fund set up in the wake of Greece’s near-default last year. As with the current mechanism, the IMF will contribute 50 cents for every euro from European governments.

Strauss-Kahn wasn’t alone today in stepping up pressure on EU governments. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet told the region’s leaders that it’s up to them to retain the confidence of bond investors.

“We call all governments in Europe without any exception” to “apply the plan they have as rigorously and as convincingly” as possible, Trichet said at a press conference in Paris after the G-20 meeting. “We have a very strong message for Portugal as well as for others. It’s up to countries to be convincing” and make their case to the markets.

Strauss-Kahn, who repeatedly shows up in polls as the most popular potential candidate forFrance’s 2012 presidential election, also emphasized the need for euro-area governments to reduce their indebtedness in the years ahead. In his view, the easiest way to do that would be to increase the growth rates of their economies.

“We just can’t continue to function with debt” equivalent to 100 percent of gross domestic product, Strauss-Kahn said at a press conference. “But the most important thing” isn’t budget cuts, “it’s growth. It’s finding the keys to growth again. Because without growth, you can do what you like on deficits and debt, but the European economy won’t recover.”

At his press conference, the 61 year-old also discussed the need to boost employment and reduce inequality in remarks which could be aimed at the French electorate. The former Socialist finance minister, who was nominated for the IMF post by Sarkozy in 2007, featured on the cover of two of the three national news magazines last week. His wife, Anne Sinclair, was quoted in Le Point weekly magazine saying she does not want him to stay in Washington at the IMF.

Strauss-Kahn’s approval-rating lead over President Nicolas Sarkozy is widening among French voters, according to an Ifop poll for Paris Match magazine published Feb. 16. Asked whether they “prefer” Strauss-Kahn or Sarkozy, 64 percent of those surveyed said they favored Strauss-Kahn while 33 percent opted for Sarkozy, Ifop said today. The 31-point gap compares with a lead of 29 points in July and 21 points last March, Ifop said.

In the Bloomberg Television interview, Strauss-Kahn brushed off questions about whether he intends to run.

“I have my kids here, the more I’m in France, the better it is,” he said. “I like restaurants here and I like to walk in the streets,” though “frankly, I have a job. I have no time to think of something else.”

 

Wednesday the 9th of March 2011

Stone tool troves point to highland Neanderthals

ATHENS, Greece – High in the wind-swept mountain ridges of northern Greece, archaeologists have made a surprising discovery: hundreds of prehistoric stone tools that may have been used by some of the last Neanderthals in Europe, at a time when hunter-gatherers were thought to have kept to much lower altitudes.

The two sites used between 50,000 to 35,000 years ago were found last summer in the Pindos Mountains, near the village of Samarina — one of Greece's highest — some 400 kilometers (250 miles) northwest of Athens.

At an altitude of more than 1,700 meters (5,500 feet), the Pindos Neanderthal sites are the highest known so far in southeastern Europe, although that's probably because nobody thought of searching so high before, archaeologist Nikos Efstratiou said Wednesday.

"It's not that such sites don't exist," Efstratiou told The Associated Press. "For the first time, Greek archaeology has gone to the mountains."

Efstratiou and a team of Italian colleagues started the Pindos survey in 2003, pinpointing more than 200 small concentrations of up to a dozen tools. But last summer's discoveries were much richer, and their location challenged theories that modern humans' extinct, thickset cousins were constrained in their movements to lowland areas.

"We found hundreds of tools, which means that these people continuously visited and revisited these locations, for hundreds or thousands of years," said Efstratiou, a professor at the University of Thessaloniki.

"They were moving at high altitudes of up to 2,200 meters ... and not lower, along river beds, which we believed until now was the only course these groups followed."

The closest extinct relative to modern people, Neanderthals lived in much of central and southern Europe and western Asia from about 400,000 years ago to about 30,000 years ago. They coexisted with modern humans for 30,000 to 50,000 years, and recent genetic research suggested that the two species interbred.

The story of the Neanderthals in Greece remains as elusive as their skeletal remains. While several lower-lying sites have been found, only a single tooth has survived from their users.

Paleoanthropologist Katerina Harvati said the discovery of Paleolithic stone artefacts in great concentrations in the Pindos highlands "is certainly important."

"(The discovery) will help us understand the lifestyle and capabilities of prehistoric people like Neanderthals and early modern humans and their reactions to climatic shifts during the Late Pleistocene" period, which ended about 12,000 years ago, she told the AP in an e-mail.

Harvati, who is head of Paleoanthropology at the Tubingen/Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoecology in Germany, was not involved in the Pindos project.

Efstratiou believes the Neanderthals were drawn to the water-rich highlands by the animals they hunted, which favored the open, treeless spaces, and an abundance of flint that they chipped into tools and weapons.

"We found flint blades and sharp-tipped implements ... with which they hunted and skinned their prey," he said.

"It appears that these late groups of Neanderthal hunter-gatherers may have been among the last that survived in Europe," he added. "Although not everybody agrees on this, it seems that because climate conditions in central Europe were very unfriendly, they moved south in search of warmer areas.

"And then they disappeared, leaving their place to modern humans — but that is another prehistoric mystery."

The team's findings will be presented at an archaeological conference in northern Greece on Thursday.

 


 

Wednesday the 9th of March 2011



 

Migrants end Greek hunger strike after government offer

Details of the deal were not immediately available but it is believed the mainly North African protesters will get temporary permits.
More than 100 protesters had been taken to hospital and some were being treated for acute kidney failure.

Many of the hunger strikers had lived and worked in Greece for years.

Despite not achieving all their aims, the protesters - illegal immigrants and asylum seekers - are claiming victory over the government, our correspondent says.

They wanted the state to stop treating them like illegal immigrants and grant them permanent residence status as well as work permits.

The government now appears to have persuaded them to accept a compromise under which they will have temporary residence permits that will be automatically renewed every six months while individual cases are investigated.

Residence permits are necessary in Greece to receive social insurance payments, and because unemployment has risen steeply as a result of the economic crisis, the number of people requiring welfare has also increased.

The end of the hunger strike will do little to alter Greece's international reputation for dealing with asylum seekers, our correspondent says, as it rejects 99% of all claims.

Greece has become the main transit point for illegal migration into the European Union. In the first six months of 2010, it reported 45,000 illegal border crossings into its territory.

In an October 2010 report by UN special rapporteur Dr Manfred Novak, Greece's asylum system was described as "dysfunctional".

Dr Novak said that many of Athens' police stations were being used as detention centres for migrants and although the Greek government wanted to improve the situation it lacked the funds to do so.
 

Monday the 7th of March 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greece blasts Moody over downgrade

ATHENS/LONDON — Moody's slashed Greece's credit rating by three notches on Monday, raising the spectre that the distressed eurozone sovereign may be forced to restructure its debt, perhaps even before 2013.

The move increased pressure on European leaders to ease repayment terms on bailout loans to Greece, just as Germany and its allies appear to have turned their backs on radical steps to help Athens reduce its debt through bond purchases or buy-backs.

Moody's Investors Service downgraded Greek debt to B1 from Ba1 and said it may cut further, citing significant risks to the government's fiscal consolidation programme from a revenue shortfall and difficulties in reforming healthcare and state-owned companies.

"The sheer magnitude of the task becomes ever more apparent," Sarah Carlson, Moody's lead analyst on Greece, said.

The downgrade sent a ripple of concern around credit markets, raising the price of insuring Greek, Portuguese and Spanish debt against default and the risk premium on holding Greek bonds rather than benchmark German bunds.

Greece signed a 110 billion euros (US$154 billion) rescue package with the EU and IMF last May to avoid default in exchange for draconian austerity measures which it has begun to implement. But many see the repayment terms as too onerous.

Even if it fulfils the entire three-year adjustment program, its debt is projected to reach 158% of gross domestic product in 2013, a level widely seen as unsustainable.

"There is a risk that conditions attached to any kind of continuing support after 2013 could take solvency criteria into account that the country may not be able to satisfy, and therefore could result in a restructuring of existing debt," Carlson told Reuters.

Moody's was the first of the three major ratings agencies to classify Greek debt as "highly speculative", rating it lower than Egypt, and drew an indignant protest from Athens.

The Greek Finance Ministry said Moody's had ignored progress in implementing its fiscal consolidation plan, including an improvement in revenue collection.

"The rating downgrade announced by Moody's today is completely unjustified," it said in a statement.

But it did say the downgrade would add to Greece's problems.

"Decisions such as Moody's today can initiate damaging self-fulfilling prophecies," it said.

However, some analysts said the bond market was already pricing in a managed Greek default.

"This is not going to be the last downgrade for Greece," said Christoph Weil, an economist at Commerzbank. "The market has already discounted that Greece will need to restructure its debt, so the rating agencies are just running behind the market."

Eurozone leaders will hold summit talks on Friday to discuss measures to enforce stricter budget discipline, boost economic competitiveness and strengthen the bloc's financial rescue fund in an attempt to draw a line under the debt crisis.

European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told a German newspaper on Saturday that countries that share the euro currency must grant Greece and fellow debt-strapped nation Ireland easier terms on loans they have taken.

Germany, the EU's reluctant paymaster, has hinted it may agree to extending the maturity of Greek loans to seven years, like Ireland's, and possibly ease the interest rate slightly.

But Berlin's ruling centre-right coalition parties and the Bundesbank have strongly opposed any purchase of distressed sovereign bonds by the euro zone rescue fund and any lending to Greece to buy back its own debt on the market at a discount.

Moody's said it was concerned by the lack of certainty about the nature of financial support that will be available to Greece after 2013, and its implications for bondholders.

"The likelihood of a default or distressed exchange has risen since its last downgrade of the Greek government debt rating in June 2010," the agency said.

However, Carlson stressed: "Our central case remains that the Greek government is going to achieve its objectives without needing to impose losses on creditors."

"Greek debt remains high and there is always the risk of a haircut," said Juergen Michels at Citigroup. "We expect, not immediately but in the coming years, that more measures will be needed, maybe even a haircut."

The spread on 10-year Greek debt against benchmark Bunds widened by 8 basis points following the Moody's downgrade.

The latest ratings action came amid intense negotiations among euro zone countries on a package of measures intended to overcome the sovereign debt crisis that has shaken the single currency area since November 2009.

Earlier this month, Standard & Poor's said it may cut its rating of Greece, depending on the details of Europe's crisis fund that euro zone policymakers are discussing.

Centre-right leaders meeting in Helsinki last Friday agreed in principle to increase the effective lending capacity of the temporary European Financial Stability Facility and review the loan conditions to Greece and Ireland.

But Germany, Finland and the Netherlands opposed allowing the rescue fund to buy bonds or to lend distressed countries money to buy their own bonds, participants said.

Some EU officials see the hardline stance as pushing Greece towards restructuring, but only after west European banks have had time to raise their capital base to cope with the fallout from potential Greek losses.

 

Wednesday the 2nd of March 2011


Athens top city for online flirting-dating website

LONDON (Reuters) – The home of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle is the "most flirtatious city" of the modern world, a new study showed on Monday.

Athens topped a "World Flirtation League," which ranked cities by the number of online flirtations initiated per month by the average user in each on online social networking site Badoo.com (www.badoo.com).

Moscow came second, while Rome placed 8th and Madrid 31st, Paris 38th, London 57th, Berlin 79th, and New York 89th in the study of nearly 200 cities across the world in which Badoo analyzed 12 million flirtatious contacts made during a month, with 108 million users chatting and flirting in 180 countries.

The Lonely Planet Encounter Guide to Athens author Victoria Kyriakopoulous said the results are hardly surprising as the Greek capital is a seductive city, with a hedonistic lifestyle.

"Athenians love to party and they love to talk," she said. "Flirting and sexual banter are not just a means to an end but part of social interaction."

She said the internet is just a new means to the age-old dance of attraction and love.

"Old people flirt, married people flirt, now young people are simply using technology to do what Athenians have always done."

The average Badoo user in Athens initiated 25.7 online flirtations per month -- over twice as many as in Rio (12.4) Warsaw (12.1) or Prague (12.6) and far more than in Paris (20.7), London (19.0), Berlin (17.7) or New York (16.1).

Tunis, birthplace of the "Jasmine Revolution," is among three Arab cities (with Kuwait and Beirut) to make the world top 10, along with three former Soviet ones (Moscow, Kiev and Baku in Azerbaijan) and three Italian (Turin, Rome and Bari).

Plato said "Love is a serious mental disease." The great man never shared his views on online flirting but he knew something at least about offline flirting, said Simon Hardy, British academic and author of "The Greeks, Eroticism and Ourselves."

He said ancient Athenians may have honed the art of flirtation at drinking parties known as symposia, drinking parties where men flirted with dancing girls among other entertainment.

"It is probably fair to say that the Athenians perfected the art of flirtation in ancient times, especially at the time of symposia described by Plato."

 

 

Tuesday the 1st of March 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Greece: 59 migrants on hunger strike hospitalized

ATHENS, Greece –  In the opulent settings of a central Athens mansion, more than 200 North African immigrants are slowly starving themselves to death in a bid to secure legal residence — the latest headache for debt-crippled Greece's governing Socialists.

By late Tuesday, the 36th day of the hunger strike, 59 of the men had been hospitalized with kidney, heart and other problems. Doctors say several more will require treatment very soon as dozens have stopped taking liquids.

"We keep seeing more people who need to be taken to hospital," said Thanassis Karabelis, a doctor monitoring the protest. "The strikers' lives are in danger, and they could end up with permanent disabilities."

Another 50 men are holding a similar protest in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, where 14 of them have been hospitalized.
Most of the immigrants are from Morocco, but a handful are from Tunisia. They say they have worked for up to ten years in Greece, facing discrimination and police harassment, and are willing to risk their lives for legal status.

"This effort has stretched us to our limits," Hassan Kavvoi said in an interview with The Associated Press from his Athens hospital bed where he has been treated for the past four days.

"We know very well that this is the only way to make ourselves heard. Our cause is just but there is no justice for us. We can find jobs, but without legal papers we can have no insurance or health care if something goes wrong," said the Moroccan, who has worked as a tiler and a farm worker in Greece for six years.

"I have come to love Greece like my second country," he said. "I could have left but I hoped to stay here for ever. But I want to have the same rights as any Greek."

The men are just a small percentage of the thousands of illegal immigrants that arrive on Greek shores each year.

The Greek government is battling two years of recession, unemployment is around 14 percent and unpopular austerity measures taken to secure a €110 billion ($152 billion) foreign loan package to free the country from bankruptcy have slashed incomes.

Meanwhile, its borders have become the main gateway into the European Union. About 128,000 immigrants entered the country in 2010, adding pressure to a strained welfare system and prompting a nationalist backlash.

To stem the tide, Prime Minister George Papandreou's government has announced plans to build an 8-mile (12.5-kilometer) fence at the main entry point on the Turkish border, which other European Union countries are helping patrol.

In Athens, officials, who fear a new influx of migrants after weeks of unrest in northern Africa, have ruled out granting the hunger strikers' demand for residence and work papers, saying that would encourage copycat protests.

On Monday, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis questioned in a newspaper interview why the African immigrants thought they deserved preferential treatment.

"Why these 300 ... and not another 300 or 400,000 people who are in the same position?" he said. "It is impossible for Greece to allow mass legalizations," he told Ta Nea.

"One need only consider the prospect of boats from north Africa heading for Cretan ports with thousands of immigrants, who would start hunger strikes to demand their own legalization."

But labor unions, left wing activists and supporters have urged the government Tuesday to reconsider.

"We believe in the necessity of legalizing immigrants, and a solution can be found even at this point," said Despina Spanou, of the civil servants union ADEDY.

Prominent Greek-French novelist Vassilis Alexakis said Monday that Greece depended on migrants as much as immigrants depended on Greece.

"A wretched life like theirs is not better than a dignified death," he said at a press conference outside Parliament.

The migrants in Athens started their protest at the Athens Law School in January, but were quickly forced out. They are now living in a private mansion opposite the capital's National Archaeological Museum, provided by the owner under a deal brokered by university authorities to end the law school sit-in.

Many huddle on the polished wooden floors wrapped in blankets, under porphyry columns and decorative marble statues. The rest live in half a dozen tents on the mansion's lawns, amid portable toilets and stacks of plastic water bottles.

A Pakistani supporter in the building's courtyard who identified himself as Hanjra said while other migrants backed the strikers, there was no sign of the protest spreading.

"Those who have legal status are comfortably settled and don't really care," said Hanjra, who has lived legally in Greece for the past eight years. "The other 500,000 who don't have papers are scared. But the strikers' cause is just ... if there is no solution some people will die."

Kavvoi called on Papandreou — who spent years in Sweden, Canada and the US during the 1967-74 Greek dictatorship — to discuss the protesters' demands "because people's lives are at risk."

"If somebody dies, the disgrace will be his," he said. "I will be happy to die, because I will have entered history through the main door. I was sad when I woke up in hospital... I would have liked to have been in a cemetery."

 

 

 

Wednesday the 23rd of February 2011



 

Greece hit with general strike over austerity measures

ATHENS (AFP) – Greece was hit with a general strike Wednesday, the first this year, against the government's austerity policies as Prime Minister George Papandreou sought a loan payment extension from EU peers.

The strike, the latest after months of labour unrest last year, paralysed maritime traffic and train services, disrupted urban transport in Athens and was set to cause a four-hour flight blackout from 1000 to 1400 GMT.

The industrial action has also affected the operation of hospitals and schools and shut down public administration offices.

Also joining Wednesday's strike will be the Union of Journalists while the National Trade Confederation called on members to close their shops.

The strike was called by Greece's biggest private-sector and public sector unions GSEE and ADEDY, while the Communist Party-affiliated Pame trade union mounted a separate mobilisation.

The unions were to hold separate street protests later on Wednesday.

The ADEDY is opposed to new cuts in state payrolls since those imposed last year, while the million-member strong GSEE is against Athens' efforts to liberalise the economy, calling them "anti-social and anti-worker".

Seven general strikes were held last year over tough spending cuts imposed by Papandreou's Socialist government in return for a 110-billion-euro ($150 billion) from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The cuts have pushed debt-hit Greece into a deepening recession with many analysts doubting whether its ailing economy can keep up with its loan obligations.

Papandreou has embarked on a European trip to convince eurozone peers to extend Greece's repayment of the EU-IMF bailout loan.

He was in Berlin on Tuesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other party leaders and was to fly to Helsinki on Wednesday to confer with Finnish counterpart Mari Kiviniemi.

The IMF has warned that Athens must accelerate structural reforms, including to the labour market, the tourism trade and the retail sector.

The Greek government has given the green light for a five-year privatisation plan to raise 50 billion euros through the exploitation of state companies and other assets.

 

 


Tuesday
the 15th of February 2011


 


Greek transport workers on strike


Bus, metro and tram workers in Athens have been staging a 24-hour strike in the latest in a series of almost daily walkouts and demonstrations against cost-cutting reforms in the transport sector.

The reforms are designed to reduce expenditure and waste at Greece's loss-making public transport companies, but workers fear they will erode their rights.

They have planned a demonstration outside Parliament, when politicians will be discussing and voting on the Bill.

Public transport ticket prices were increased by up to 80% earlier this month.

Greece avoided bankruptcy last year through a 110 billion euro (£92.6 billion) international rescue loan package. In return, the Socialist government implemented unpopular austerity measures.

 

Friday the 11th of February 2011



Greece's Prime Minister George Papandreou (L) welcomes Eurogroup's chairman and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncke


Greece blasts EU, IMF auditors


ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece accused the EU and IMF of interfering in its domestic affairs on Saturday after the international
lenders said Athens must speed up reforms and sell more public assets.

On Friday, EU and IMF inspectors visiting Greece to monitor the implementation of a bailout plan that saved Greece from bankruptcy, approved more aid for the country but adopted a more critical tone than on previous visits.

In rare harsh words, the Greek government said the inspectors' approach was unacceptable, after coming under fire from local media for not reacting to criticism of the pace of reforms and the call for privatisations.

Prime Minister George Papandreou talked with both IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn and EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn on Saturday to complain, his office said.

In his telephone conversation with Strauss-Kahn, Papandreou "conveyed the message of the Greek government about the unacceptable behaviour of the representatives of the European Commission, ECB and IMF during yesterday's news conference," Papandreou's office said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, government spokesman George Petalotis said: "We asked nobody to interfere in domestic affairs ... We only take orders from the Greek people."

The inspectors were in Athens to monitor fourth quarter progress on the 110 billion euro fiscal consolidation plan. They commended Greece for being broadly on track with the plan and approved a 15 billion euro aid instalment.

But they said the government must sell far more assets to come back on its feet and not be slowed down by those who oppose reforms.

The lenders set an ambitious target for privatisation proceeds, saying that 50 billion euros should be raised in 2011-2015. The government's previous target was for 7 billion euros in 2011-2013.

International Monetary Fund mission chief Poul Thomsen urged Greeks during the news conference not to let "those who have vested interests" prevent the many from benefiting from privatisations.

Referring to groups opposing plans to open up highly regulated professions, he said: "Some of the groups who are out on the streets, truck drivers, pharmacists ... They are hiding behind their privileges that allow them to extract high prices, impose a big burden on the rest of society."

Pharmacists, bus drivers and doctors have been holding on and off strikes for weeks over reforms of their professions, creating massive traffic jams in central Athens.

In another sign of tension over cooperation with the IMF and Greece's euro zone partners, who allowed the country to avoid default but imposed unpopular public wage cuts and tax rises, a minister said the new privatisations target was unrealistic.

"Revenues of 50 billion euros by 2015 from privatisations of state assets are not possible," Infrastructure Minister Dimitris Reppas told state TV Net on Saturday, the day after the EU and IMF officials ended their visit.

A finance ministry official, however, had said on Friday that Greece had agreed to the new target of 50 billion euros.

An IMF spokesperson said that during his conversation with Papandreou, Strauss-Kahn said the fiscal program was on track and "reiterated his deepest respect for the Greek government and people in their efforts to meet the economic challenges facing their country."
 

 

Wednesday the 9th of February 2011

 

Greece Pushes On With Health-Care Reform Amid Prolonged Strikes

ATHENS -The Greek socialist government will push through deep reforms to the troubled health system with a legislative vote Wednesday despite lengthy and disruptive strikes by doctors and pharmacists.

The reform of the heavily indebted and inefficient health system is a key demand of the International Monetary Fund and European Union in exchange for Greece drawing down on the EUR110 billion bailout to prevent the insolvency and default of the Mediterranean country.

The bill is expected to be passed in a late-evening session Wednesday as the government holds 156 seats in the 300-member legislature.

"The Greek public sector spends about EUR13 billion on health each year, or 5.8% of gross domestic product. If private health expenditure is also counted then the amount jumps to EUR25 billion," said Dimitris Maroulis, senior economist at Alpha Bank.

The new legislation is aimed at revamping the hospital system. The outstanding debts, which are estimated to top many billions, will be restructured and the supplies system will be revamped to prevent waste and corruption.

There is also a proposal to create a fresh institutional framework for the provision of primary care designed to give patients wider access to practitioners, to solve chronic delays and improve service quality. The state would also like to ease the burden on the public hospital system which has inevitably been pushed to the front line of primary care due to delays and unavailable doctors' appointments for patients.
But medical practitioners and health workers fear these change will impact their earnings and other exclusive privileges. Doctors of the largest social security fund IKA have been on strike all week leading to the cancellation of up to 35,000 patient appointments.

Many medical practitioners have also taken over rooms in the health ministry and advised patients to visit their protest movement there so they can have prescriptions written up.

"I invite the representatives of the medical associations and unions to a sincere dialogue so we can talk and resolve problem issues," Health Minister Andreas Loverdos said Tuesday.

The law also opens up the pharmacist profession, sweeping away geographic restrictions, predetermined profit margins and extending opening hours.

Greek pharmacists, who are usually sole proprietors, have been on nationwide rolling strikes for weeks to resist reforms and are expected to continue their action until Wednesday. The pharmacists' association will meet again Thursday to decide on the future course of protes


 

 

Monday the 7th of February 2011


Protest means no tolls for Greek drivers

ATHENS, Greece -- Greek motorists had a holiday from paying tolls Sunday, thanks to protesters who feel abused by private contractors who run the toll roads.

Members of the "I won't pay" movement raised the gates at toll posts for several hours across Greece, letting motorists roll on by for free, the Athens News Agency reported.

The organizers say they oppose toll hikes when the contractors have not built alternative access roads for local communities.

"We pay taxes on fuel and road taxes so that roads can be built," protest organizer Stratis Loupatatzis told

the news agency. "We will not pre-pay road tolls as well."

He said the protesters are ready to go to court to get the toll road concessions contracts canceled.

Greeks take this issue seriously. Hundreds of thousands of drivers refused to pay the tolls during the Christmas period. And last month, Stylida Mayor Apostolos Gletsos, who also is a television actor, became a national hero to many when he drove a municipal bulldozer through the barriers of a toll booth to make his displeasure clear, The Guardian reported at the time.

"What I did was within the realm of my duties to defend the legal rights of citizens. I don't regret it and would

do it again," said Gletsos who was arrested and charged.

 

Wednesday the 2nd of February 2011


 

 

 

 

 

 


Greece's Acropolis: no crisis for restoration


ATHENS (AFP) – Like the victory goddess it honours, Athens' ancient Temple of Athena Nike stands free of scaffolding for the first time in nine years in a testament to another triumph -- the prolific restoration of the Acropolis.

Greece may be struggling to ward off financial collapse but nothing will crush the ambitious plan -- first started in 1975 -- to restore Classical glory to the country's most visited monument.

The government vowed in May to press ahead with the drive to restore the landmark despite making deep budget cuts to battle its debt crisis. Even paycuts for the restoration team haven't dampened their determination to see it through.

"People have lower salaries as everybody in Greece today, but working here is a privilege and we have to keep our enthusiasm," said Mary Ioannidou, an engineer who spent 35 years of her life working on the site and today heads the Acropolis Restoration Service.

Yet another round of restoration started in January, this latest to last three years. The EU has already sunk millions of euros into the painstaking work and will finance 80 percent of the 12 million-euro budget (16 million dollars) for the new phase.

Whatever the crisis, "the Greek state never stops to take care of this monument," Ioannidou told AFP. "EU funds never stop; it's a symbol not only for Greece but for all European civilisation.

"It's a monument devoted to Western civilsation," she said.

The exquisite Temple of Athena Nike, on a rise flanking the entrance to the 5th-century BC citadel that towers over the capital, once again dazzles after nearly a decade hidden from view. Its pure Ionic columns support now-complete porticos that cut a fine angle against the deep blue sky. Only its walls hint at change -- where bright new blocks of marble contrast with the centuries-old patina on original stones.

"We don't want to cheat, that's why we use this new marble, so that everybody can understand which is original and which is not," said Ioannidou, as jackhammers blare in the background.

The small temple's scaffolding came down in September at the start of a brief pause in restoration. Two months later, scaffolding was back up, this time on part of the Propylaea, a huge, semi-ruined gateway that served as the entrance to the Acropolis, and the celebrated Parthenon, the temple to Athena, protector of Athens.

The culture ministry plans to hire 50 more archaeologists, architects, stone masons and other artisans in the coming weeks, which would bring the restoration team to 200.

"Human interventions are our biggest enemy," said Ioannidou.

Damage came from many sources -- transformation of temples into churches or mosques, bombings, demolition during the Ottomon empire, fires and notably what Ioannidou called bad restoration work in the early 20th century.

While the ancient Greeks took care to cover with lead the iron rods that link blocks of marble, early 20th-century restorers used ordinary, unprotected iron. "The iron elements rusted, expanded and caused a lot of damage," she said.

Today, modern materials are used, notably corrosion-resistant titanium, and the team's methods have become a reference point. "We have archaeologists coming from all over the world, we even had visitors from Korea where they used our methodology to restore some ancient stone pagodas," said Ioannidou.

Pollution and acid rain have also been a problem. Some sculptures and artefacts have been replaced on site with reproductions and the originals put in the ultra-modern Acropolis Museum that opened at the foot of the citadel in 2009.

Among these are the famous Caryatids, columns sculpted as females holding up the roof of a porch on the southern side of the Erectheum temple, and the frieze from the Temple of Athena Nike.

Six huge metopes, or square spaces on a frieze, from the west side of the Parthenon will also be replaced by copies.

The museum already already houses part of the Parthenon's priceless Elgin Marbles -- with other fragments in the British Museum in London, a sore point between the two capitals. Greece has stepped up pressure on London in recent years to return the fragments, which it says were illegally removed in 1806 by British ambassador Lord Elgin when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire.

For Italian architect Constantin Karanassos, who has worked on the Acropolis for the last decade, "contemporary architects still have a lot to learn from the perfection of this construction.

"The ancient Greeks used their head and their eyes to measure 'optical accuracy' that today we rely on computers to do," he said.

 


Friday
the 28th of January 2011


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Greece loses Mediterranean Games over budget cuts


ATHENS, Greece — More than six years after successfully organizing the 2004 Athens Olympics, Greece lost the 2013 Mediterranean Games hosting rights on Friday after seeking to slash the budget due to its acute financial troubles.

The decision by the International Committee of Mediterranean Games, or CIJM, in Paris was because of Greece's bid to cut the "extravagant" cost of the event by two thirds, the Greece Culture Ministry said in a statement.

A new host was not named, and the CIJM issued no official announcement on the decision.

The 2013 Games were due to be held in the central towns of Volos and Larissa.

Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos said the initial budget would have wasted money "on a big, spendthrift party."

"There are much better things we could spend that money on in the current situation," he said.

Debt-ridden Greece avoided bankruptcy last year after securing —110 billion ($150 billion) in international rescue loans through mid-2013. In return, it took deeply unpopular austerity measures, slashing pensions and salaries while hiking taxes and retirement ages.

"From the very beginning, the government had made clear that it would guarantee an excellent hosting of the games with a considerably reduced budget ... specifying that there was no leeway for frivolous spending," the ministry statement said.

The ministry said the games had an initial budget of —358 million ($490 million), and this month Athens proposed slashing the cost to —126 million ($175 million), citing economic hardship.

"This was a responsible proposal, given the country's financial difficulties," the statement said.

Hobbled by years of government overspending and a runaway public debt, Greece was still suffering a hangover from the 2004 Olympics, which cost nearly $11 billion by current exchange rates — twice the initial budget, and with an additional security tab of more than $1.2 billion.

More than half of Athens' purpose-built Olympic sites, including a massive artificial canoe and kayak course, are barely used or empty, as plans for post-Olympic use were later ignored.

The Volos-Larissa 2013 organizing committee said it received no official communication from the CIJM on losing its hosting rights.

"But following today's press reports ... we are convening a board meeting to determine our next moves," an organizing committee statement said.

Volos Mayor Costas Skoteiniotis blamed the setback on government procrastination.

"There is an issue of serious political responsibility for ... the time that was inexplicably lost since we undertook to host the games," he said.

Last hosted in Pescara, Italy, the Mediterranean Games started in 1951 and are held every four years. They include athletics, swimming, cycling, weightlifting and shooting events.

 

Friday the 21st of January 2011
 


Greece announces €600m solar project

Greece's prime minister has announced a €600m project to build on a brownfield site what would be the world's largest photovoltaic solar power installation.

George Papandreou's government is trying to promote green investment, especially in renewables, to help pull the country out of the deepest recession on record.

"This photovoltaic park is a defining project in our drive to change the Greek development model and attract innovative investment," Mr Papandreou said of the scheme in the north of the country.

The prime minister made the announcement on Thursday during a visit to Kozani, where an ageing power complex generates more than 40 per cent of Greece's electricity supply from locally mined lignite, known as brown coal.

The 200-megawatt photovoltaic installation would partly cover a site close to the complex, formerly used for strip-mining of lignite. Its capacity would be more than double that of the 80MW Sarnia photovoltaic park in Canada, currently the world's largest.

Photovoltaics is the creation of a voltage or electric current in a material upon exposure to light.

Arthur Zervos, chief executive of the state electricity utility Public Power Corporation, said the project would include a plant to produce solar panels for a growing regional market.

He said PPC Renewables, a wholly owned subsidiary, was seeking a strategic partnership with an international provider of solar power technology and services.

A proposed deal between PPC and SunEdison, the solar power division of US chipmaker MEMC, fell through last year over concerns about compliance with European Union regulations on public procurement.

"As a public company we chose to launch an international tender for the Kozani project in order to ensure full transparency," Mr Zervos said.

He said PPC expected to close a deal with a strategic partner this year. The installation would start operating in 2013.

PPC is already developing a 50MW photovoltaic park at Megalopolis in southern Greece, also close to an elderly lignite-fired power plant.

"It helps that the grid infrastructure is already in place at these kinds of sites," Mr Zervos said.

As well as SunEdison, Chinese and German investors have shown interest in the Kozani project, according to government officials.

Greece has lagged behind Spain and Italy in developing photovoltaic installations in spite of offering subsidies for renewables investments, because of long drawn-out licensing procedures.

Private investors face growing difficulty in raising finance for building new parks or expanding existing installations amid fears the country may be heading for a sovereign default.

 

Monday the 17th of January 2011


Suspected members of armed anarchist group on trial in Greece

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Nine suspected members of a Greek armed anarchist group went on trial Monday over a series of bomb attacks, in a heavily policed Athens court set up inside a maximum security prison.

The group, mostly in their early 20s, are suspected members of the group Revolutionary Nuclei of Fire. Four other wanted suspects will be tried in absentia.

The suspects are on trial over bombings that targeted a government building and the office and home of two politicians — in each case causing no injuries and limited damage. They each face a maximum of 25 years in prison.

Dozens of riot police and special police wearing black ski masks stood guard outside Athens' Korydallos prison, amid fears of violent protests by supporters of the armed group. About 30 protesters chanted anti-government slogans near the court, and tried to approach a van transporting the suspects from another wing of the prison.

The anarchist group claimed responsibility for a spate of parcel bombings in November and the bombing of a court building last month — reflecting a surge in recent years in violence by anarchist and far-left militant groups.

Monday's hearing in front of a panel of three senior judges — and no jurors — was interrupted several times. The defendants demanded that supporters not be obliged to show police identity cards when they attended the court hearings, but the request was turned down.

Revolutionary Nuclei of Fire is accused of carrying out numerous arson attacks and bombings since it first appeared in early 2008.

Greece has been plagued by armed radical groups for decades, but the violence was typically limited to organizations with a small number of members.

"This is a decade that has seen change in organization. In some ways it is more dangerous because the suspects are very young," criminologist Angelos Tsigris told private Skai television.

"It is a much more generalized phenomenon now, and no longer involves a very small number of people," he said.

"Of course their actions are condemned by society ... but there are lasting and underlying factors that encourage violence: State corruption, the lack of opportunities for young people, and the feeling among these people that they have no prospects."


 


 

Thursday the 13rd of January 2011


 

Greek strikes continue amid spike in unemployment


ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek unemployment has risen to its highest level in at least six years, official data showed Thursday, as government austerity measures continued to prompt strikes and street protests.

The annual jobless rate jumped to 13.5 percent in October, the Greek Statistical Authority said, the highest rate since monthly figures were first released in 2004.

Some 192,000 people lost their jobs during the 12 months since October 2009, when the country's financial crisis became acute.

Greece, battling recession and rising unemployment, is struggling to cut costs and to meet targets set under the euro110 billion ($143 billion) bailout loan deal with European countries and the IMF.

The Socialist government came under further pressure in November when the EU added losses by Greek state companies to the national deficit figures.

In Athens, public transport workers defied a court order and went on a 24-hour strike against the austerity measures.

About 2,000 strikers marched to parliament in a rally that ended peacefully.

The protest, which halted most services, went ahead after the government announced plans to restructure loss-making state transport companies, using fare increases and involuntary staff transfers.

A court late Wednesday declared the strike illegal, but protesters leaders claimed they had not been formally notified of the decision when the walked-out started.

Tickets for public transport services will rise on Feb. 1 from the current price of euro1 ($1.30) to up to euro1.40 ($1.82), but the government said it was maintaining high subsidy levels to keep prices low.

"We have the cheapest public transport in Europe," deputy transport minister Spyros Vouyias told parliament.

 


Saturday the
08th of January 2011




 


Colony of rare seals found in Greece

ATHENS, Greece, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Scientists say they've discovered a colony of rare Mediterranean monk seals, the world's most endangered seals, at a secret location on the coast of Greece.

The seals are also one of the world's most endangered sea mammals, with fewer than 600 individuals thought to exist, the BBC reported Sunday.

Researchers say they are keeping the location of the seal colony secret so human visitors won't disturb them.

It is the only location in the region where the monk seals lie on open beaches rather than hiding in coastal caves.

Being on the beach was the seal's "original behavior," one scientist says.

"It is human disturbance that has caused the species to retreat to inaccessible caves," says Alexandros Karamanlidis, scientific coordinator of the Mom/Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal.

"So this place is incredibly important -- the seals feel so secure that they go out on to open beaches."

Human activity has also affected the number of seal pups that survive into adulthood, he says.

"Because of human disturbance, [the seals] give birth in these coastal caves, [meaning that] more pups die during storms," Karamanlidis says.

The society has asked the Greek government to make the area where the seals live a marine protected area.



Read more:
http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2011/01/03/Colony-of-rare-seals-found-in-Greece/UPI-28981294095397/#ixzz1AlddRQ35
ATHENS, Greece, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Scientists say they've discovered a colony of rare Mediterranean monk seals, the world's most endangered seals, at a secret location on the coast of Greece.

The seals are also one of the world's most endangered sea mammals, with fewer than 600 individuals thought to exist, the BBC reported Sunday.

Researchers say they are keeping the location of the seal colony secret so human visitors won't disturb them.

It is the only location in the region where the monk seals lie on open beaches rather than hiding in coastal caves.

Being on the beach was the seal's "original behavior," one scientist says.

"It is human disturbance that has caused the species to retreat to inaccessible caves," says Alexandros Karamanlidis, scientific coordinator of the Mom/Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal.

"So this place is incredibly important -- the seals feel so secure that they go out on to open beaches."

Human activity has also affected the number of seal pups that survive into adulthood, he says.

"Because of human disturbance, [the seals] give birth in these coastal caves, [meaning that] more pups die during storms," Karamanlidis says.

The society has asked the Greek government to make the area where the seals live a marine protected area.



Read more:
http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2011/01/03/Colony-of-rare-seals-found-in-Greece/UPI-28981294095397/#ixzz1AlddRQ35

ATHENS, Greece, Scientists say they've discovered a colony of rare Mediterranean monk seals, the world's most endangered seals, at a secret location on the coast of Greece.

The seals are also one of the world's most endangered sea mammals, with fewer than 600 individuals thought to exist, the BBC reported Sunday.

Researchers say they are keeping the location of the seal colony secret so human visitors won't disturb them.

It is the only location in the region where the monk seals lie on open beaches rather than hiding in coastal caves.

Being on the beach was the seal's "original behavior," one scientist says.

"It is human disturbance that has caused the species to retreat to inaccessible caves," says Alexandros Karamanlidis, scientific coordinator of the Mom/Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal.

"So this place is incredibly important -- the seals feel so secure that they go out on to open beaches."

Human activity has also affected the number of seal pups that survive into adulthood, he says.

"Because of human disturbance, the seals give birth in these coastal caves, meaning that more pups die during storms," Karamanlidis says.

The society has asked the Greek government to make the area where the seals live a marine protected area.

                                  

Friday the 07th of January 2011

Visit of Yakutiye Madrassah  in Erzurum


 


Turkish, Greek PMs show unity over illegal migrants


The prime ministers of Greece and Turkey voiced solidarity in their approach to tackling the growing problem of illegal immigration, after the Greek government announced plans to fence part of its border.

"We give great importance to working together with Turkey on the issue of illegal immigration," Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said in translated remarks at a joint news conference in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum.

Greece said this week it was planning to erect a fence on its Turkish border, having complained in the past that Turkey was not doing enough to stem a flood of illegal migrants.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan played down the significance of the fence, which will cover just 12.5 km (8 miles) of a 206 km-long border.

"This is not a measure taken against Turkey or Greece," Erdogan said. "It's wrong to see this is as a wall. We fully trust each other on this."
Erdogan said his appreciation of the problem had changed after Papandreou told him there were one million illegal immigrants in Greece.

Athens has long complained that Ankara's refusal to take back immigrants who have crossed from its territory encourages would-be migrants to use that route.

Papandreou went on to restate his desire to see Turkey become a member of the European Union, and said he would try to help remove obstacles stalling progress, notably over the divided island of Cyprus.

"We have to solve the problems that delay Turkey's EU membership or the process will freeze," Papandreou said in an address to a gathering of Turkish ambassadors in Erzurum, moments before the news conference.

Cyprus is an EU member governed by a Greek Cypriot government, while a breakaway Turkish enclave in the north is subject to an EU embargo and only recognized by Turkey.

Turkey has backed efforts to reunite Cyprus, and the lack of headway has stymied Turkey's EU bid.
Erdogan, after venting frustration with the EU, went on to speak of the great strides made to improve Turkish relations with Greece.

The two fellow members of NATO almost went to war in 1996 over an uninhabited island and have territorial disputes in the Aegean.
But in recent years they have undertaken confidence-building measures, including several related to their armed forces.
"We both have the will to turn both the Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas in to seas of peace," said Erdogan, who earlier walked arm-in-arm with the Greek premier in Erzurum, where they attended an opening ceremony for the facilities of the World Winter Student Games.

Papandreou, however, delivered a chill reminder over airspace violations by Turkish military jets.
"For years we have been struggling to create trust, but this can be quickly ruined," he said.

 

Thursday the 06th of January 2011


 


Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, holds a wooden cross as he arrives for an Epiphany ceremony to bless the water in the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011. Similar ceremonies to mark Epiphany day were held across Greece on river banks, seafronts and lakes. Bartholomew I threw the cross into the water and swimmers raced to be the first to retrieve it


  
 

Monday the 03rd of January 2011


Greece considers fence on part of Turkish border

ATHENS, Greece – Greece is considering building a fence along a section of its border with Turkey that is the busiest transit point for illegal immigration in Europe, the country's public order minister said in an interview posted on his web site Monday.

Christos Papoutsis said the fence would be part of an effort to stop illegal immigrants from entering the European Union.

"We also plan to upgrade and modernize the Greek Coast Guard and at our land borders to create a fence to deter illegal immigrants," he said in an interview with Greece's state news agency that was posted on his web site.

"Greek society has exceeded its limit in its capacity to accommodate illegal immigrants," Papoutsis said. "Greece can no longer tolerate this."

In a separate statement Monday he said 128,000 immigrants had entered Greece illegally in 2010.

Ministry officials said a final decision on the fence had not been made. If it is built, would cover a 12.5-kilometer (8-mile) stretch of border that does not run along the Evros River — known as the Meric River in Turkey — meaning there is no natural boundary separating the two countries, the officials said.

Left-wing opposition parties sharply criticized the plan. The Communist Party described it as "inhuman and ineffective."

Last month, the EU's border protection agency, Frontex, sent a 200-member force from 25 EU countries to the Greek-Turkish border area, to provide Greece emergency assistance. The deployment was recently extended for three months, through March 3.

The number of immigrants detected crossing the Greek-Turkish border illegally at the site of the proposed fence rose throughout the year and averaged 245 per day in October, according to Frontex data.

Frontex and the European Union did not comment directly on Papoutsis' remarks.

"We made clear with Greece that the country needs sound and long-term structural reforms and measures to better manage its border, to better address the challenges linked to migration flows," EU Commission spokesman Michele Cercone said in Brussels.

"It is important that these borders are surveilled, these borders are managed in order to discourage and interrupt traffickers and smugglers that exploit (illegal immigrants)."

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said it was seeking information from Athens about the proposed fence. The regional governor of Edirne, a Turkish border province, defended his country's efforts to combat illegal migration.

Gokhan Sozer said Turkish authorities had apprehended 11,000 would-be immigrants last year.

"Sovereign states are free to take measures they like. But physical barriers can also be surmounted," Sozer told Turkey's private NTV television.

"There's a 200 kilometer river that can be passed with boats in winter and by foot in summer when the water level is low."

 

Monday the 03rd of January 2011


Cretan tools point to 130,000-year-old sea travel


ATHENS, Greece—Archaeologists on the island of Crete have discovered what may be evidence of one of the world's first sea voyages by human ancestors, the Greek Culture Ministry said Monday. A ministry statement said experts from Greece and the U.S. have found rough axes and other tools thought to be between 130,000 and 700,000 years old close to shelters on the island's south coast.
Crete has been separated from the mainland for about five million years, so whoever made the tools must have traveled there by sea (a distance of at least 40 miles). That would upset the current view that human ancestors migrated to Europe from Africa by land alone.

"The results of the survey not only provide evidence of sea voyages in the Mediterranean tens of thousands of years earlier than we were aware of so far, but also change our understanding of early hominids' cognitive abilities," the ministry statement said.

The previous earliest evidence of open-sea travel in Greece dates back 11,000 years (worldwide, about 60,000 years—although considerably earlier dates have been proposed).

The tools were found during a survey of caves and rock shelters near the village of Plakias by archaeologists from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Culture Ministry.

Such rough stone implements are associated with Heidelberg Man and Homo Erectus, extinct precursors of the modern human race, which evolved from Africa about 200,000 years ago.

"Up to now we had no proof of Early Stone Age presence on Crete," said senior ministry archaeologist Maria Vlazaki, who was not involved in the survey. She said it was unclear where the hominids had sailed from, or whether the settlements were permanent.

"They may have come from Africa or from the east," she said. "Future study should help."

The team of archaeologists has applied for permission to conduct a more thorough excavation of the area, which Greek authorities are expected to approve later this year.




 


 

Sunday the 1st of January 2011


 

Happy New Year 2011 ! Kali Kronia ! Kronia Polla !!!