2011 (from Yahoo news)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
country's vital tourism industry has already taken a hit from walkouts
by taxi drivers and other key workers.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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
living on less than 3000 euros a year would pay the
lowest amount, while the long-term unemployed are
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
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
secretary Nikos Katsaros told AFP they wanted "the
abolition of the tax, or at least as a first step, an
exemption for the poorest".
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.
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".
said 50 per cent of households had so far failed to pay
the tax, although Greek newspapers put this figure at 25
Greek police tear gas
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
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
"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
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
Greece is slogging through a third year
of recession exacerbated by wage cuts
and tax hikes imposed by the previous
socialist government of George
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
The bloodstained Greek flag that flew
over the university that night is
carried at the head of the demonstration
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"Greece is at a crucial crossroads ... the course will not be easy," he
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
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
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.
Greece's President Karolos Papoulias (R) and Prime Minister George Papandreou
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
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
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
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
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.
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
"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.
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
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
A New Democracy spokesman later
confirmed that they would return for the
confidence vote -- to vote against
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
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 confidence vote is particularly
important and guarantees that decisions
taken by the government can proceed,"
The vote, at the end of three days of
debate, was expected to occur around
midnight local time (2200 GMT) on
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.
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.
George Papandreou's decision to
confidence vote on Friday and
then a referendum on the debt deal
stunned investors, angered EU leaders
and left the eurozone back at square
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
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
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
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
debt deal reached last week — the
first such vote in 37 years.
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
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
"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
of a 'yes'
back a "yes"
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
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.
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
The Piraeus port authority (OLP) has a concession agreement with Chinese
global shipping giant Cosco which runs two of the port's container
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
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
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.
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.
demonstrators also set fire to garbage, which has been
littering the capital for over two weeks because of a
strike by municipal refuse collectors.
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
least 125,000 people are estimated by police to have
demonstrated in major cities around the country against
the government's economic policies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
parliament vote must give us the power to negotiate at the
summit," Papandreou said. "This negotiation must end
uncertainty and insecurity."
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
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.
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.
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
rules, in two votes on Wednesday and Thursday.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
last year to rein in a budget deficit five times over the European Union
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
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
The international trade union confederation condemned the plan on
"Collective bargaining, a core labour right, is being threatened by the
Greek government, under heavy pressure from the International Monetary
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
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
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
up to 2020.
But after talks with the EU and IMF this week, Venizelos said an "improved"
scheme would be discussed.
the 11th of October 2011
Greece wraps up meetings
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
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
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
Venizelos said Greece expected improvements on the second, 109 billion
euro aid package and hinted that banks will take heavier losses than
discussed, calling it "PSI Plus".
the 05th of October 2011
Greece Hit With
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,
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
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
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
"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
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
the 1st of October 2011
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
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".
($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.
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
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
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.
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
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
Papandreou, who had met
Merkel earlier in the week, pledged full transparency in Greece's debt-cutting
the 28th of September 2011
Ability to pay new taxes
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
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.
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."
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
doing the things that
are on the daily
agenda," Merkel told rbb-Inforadio.
"The fact that the
troika is returning
Greece has started doing
some things that need to
Merkel also sought to
defuse suggestions by
Vice Chancellor Philipp
Roesler and others that
a default by Greece is a
the 12th of September 2011
Greece has cash until October, says deputy
Debt-laden Greece has cash to operate until next
month, the country’s deputy finance minister
highlighting the country’s need to qualify for
the next tranche out of its ongoing EU/IMF
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
“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
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.
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.
upper house of parliament on Thursday voted on
France's contribution to bail out Greece's faltering
President Nicolas Sarkozy's domestic austerity plan.
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.
the French parliament, senators from the ruling
right-wing UMP party voted for the measure while the
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.
Thursday, the German Bundestag began debating
boosting the scale of the EFSF. Just one day earlier,
court ruled that Berlin's contributions to aid
eurozone countries were constitutional, but said
parliament must have a bigger say in
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
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
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
The official said the idea would be to cover a higher-than-expected
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
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.
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
corruption in Athens' Syntagma (Constitution) square.
Papandreou on Saturday ruled out snap elections and said his
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
against unpopular austerity measures in exchange for more EU/IMF
funds on the day the ruling socialist party met to mark
the 3rd of September 2011
Greek PM promises more reforms, no early
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's prime
minister is pledging that financial and
other reforms will go ahead despite
George Papandreou also says elections
will take place as scheduled in 2013,
not called early.
premier spoke Saturday at a conference
commemorating the 37th anniversary of
the ruling socialist party's founding.
says his government will do its part to
fix Greece's finances but called for a
more coordinated fiscal policy at
He also attacked what he
called an "out of control international
Papandreou also criticized some of his
own party youth protesting higher
education reforms, attacking "professional
leaders" who remain students
until their 30s and "act like
the 2nd of September 2011
Greece expects EU/IMF aid despite
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
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
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
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
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
reform bill. The protests are expected to fuel separate anti-austerity
protests in the crisis-hit country
of August 2011
Protesters scuffle with the police during a rally against government's
planned education reform in Athens.
parliamentarians debated on a Socialist government's new law about
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
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
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
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
Evros region, the authorities said.
"We have 22 active fronts around the
country, but none of them threaten
inhabited areas," fire department Nikos
private Flash Radio.
biggest wildfire continued to burn for a
fourth day in Evros, near the border
with Turkey, where a state of emergency
declared this week.
aerial reinforcements sent from France
and Spain have helped turn the tide,
local governor Aris Yiannakidis told the
"The situation appears to be under
control," he said, adding that two
French and two Spanish water bombers
were operating in
50-year-old farmer was arrested for
starting the fire which had threatened
the pine forest of Dadia, a national
rare Balkans wildlife.
farmer, who was handed a suspended five-year
sentence and a 20,000-euro ($29,000)
fine, claimed the blaze was started
exhaust sparks from his tractor.
Scores of fires break out in Greece
every summer, aided by high temperatures
and strong winds, and are frequently
to arson, though the
perpetrators are rarely caught.
civil protection authority has warned
that strong winds continue to pose a
threat around much of the country.
firefighter died on Monday after getting
trapped by flames in the southern
More than 10 percent of Greek territory
was devastated by forest fires from 1983
to 2003, according to a report published
month by the Greek institute of
country has seen an average 1,465 forest
fires per year, the report said.
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.
of August 2011
Greece's massive budget deficits
BRUSSELS (AP) — Disagreements over
Greece's massive budget deficits and how
to make up for the funding shortfalls
international debt inspectors to
suspend their review and leave Athens on
Friday, as the finance minister warned
deeper recession will hurt its
unexpected departure of the debt
inspectors — officials from the European
Commission, the European Central Bank
the International Monetary Fund —
marks yet another occasion of conflict
between international institutions
reform efforts and a
government and country that are reaching
Greek Finance Minister Evangelos
Venizelos, who denied there were any
serious disagreements, said Greece's
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.
return to growth next year also looks
increasingly unlikely, Venizelos warned.
ever worsening recession will make it
harder for Greece to cut its budget
deficit to 7.5 percent of gross domestic
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.
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
the recession deeper and will
not allow us in 2012 to have a better
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
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
because of the sensitivity of
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
Since then, the EU, the ECB and the
IMF have been checking on the country's
reform efforts every three months,
their economic projections and
demanding more cuts to make up for
Their departure Friday brought back
memories of a similar incident during
their most recent mission in June, when
left Athens and only returned
weeks later, after Greece's parliament
passed an extra euro28 billion in cuts
and a euro50 billion
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
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
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
In a statement Friday, the troika
said it "temporarily left Athens to
allow the authorities to complete
technical work, among
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
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
18th of August 2011
A firefighting helicopter drops water over a forest fire at Kouvaras
village, about 40km (25 miles) east of Athens.
15th of August 2011
Orthodox worshippers attend the Virgin Mary service led by Ecumenical
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I at the ancient
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.
of July 2011
Clinton backs Greek
strategy on debt crisis
(Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton on Sunday voiced strong U.S.
support for Greece's battle to overcome
debt crisis, saying it was taking the
difficult steps required for future
Clinton's visit to Athens was intended
to signal Washington's backing for Prime
Minister George Papandreou ahead of a
of euro zone leaders in Brussels on
Thursday to decide on a new bailout
package for Greece amid fears the debt
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
of July 2011
flotilla boat sails
|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.
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
"It is puzzling why Fitch made today's
announcement despite the fact that the
timetable of actions by the eurozone and
IMF is both decided and known," the
Greek finance ministry said in a
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,"
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
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
"While asset sales of five billion euros
look attainable in 2011, the
privatisation program will become
increasingly challenging," the agency
"Fitch believes any new program must be
backed by credible policy targets," it
The status demotion was a final blow for
the struggling eurozone country after
similar downgrades from Moody's and S&P
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
The IMF on Wednesday said Greece would
need an additional 71 billion euros
($A94.03 billion) in European Union aid
plus 33 billion euros
The possible involvement of banks,
insurers and pension funds, opposed by
the ECB, is a factor behind turmoil on
financial markets and
($A43.7 billion) from private creditors
to weather its debt crisis.
has helped put Italy and Spain in the
eurozone spotlight too.
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
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
creditors to avoid default.
But their ranks have diminished
significantly in recent weeks and on
June 29 Greece's socialist government
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
City officials said the protesters had
caused significant damage in central
They destroyed some 300 trash cans and
uprooted bits of sidewalk and other
fixtures, which were at times hurled as
at anti-riot police.
of July 2011
Allow Gaza ships
proceed, say MEPs
from the Gaza flotilla are still at sea in international
waters and must be allowed reach their destination, a
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
his MEP colleagues, Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, from
Cyprus, and Nikos Chountis, from Greece, had been placed
danger by the action of the Israeli authorities, 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.
Chountis accused the Greek government of breaking not
only international maritime law but also Greek domestic
preventing the boats from moving in its territorial
waters and said this was not the will of the Greek
people but its parliament.
announced that they had demanded support for the
flotilla in letters to the presidents of the European
José Manuel Barroso, European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek,
and European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and Baroness
Ashton, who represents the EU on external relations.
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.
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
demand an independent and impartial inquiry into these
acts of sabotage and we also expect a condemnation of
of sabotage by the Israeli authorities,” the letter
expect you to vigorously and publicly support those
demands,” it said.
letter said they were very concerned about the well-being
of many European citizens who had peacefully engaged in
humanitarian mission of the Freedom Flotilla 11.
of these serious events, how do you intend to take up
the above mentioned demands through your official and
contact with the Israeli authorities?” the letter
what concrete steps they were willing to take to ensure
the protection of all European citizens, including the
representatives of the European Parliament.
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.
of July 2011
Time for farewell to Athens 2011 Summer Special Olympics with message of
hope for future
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
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
Greece needs the second rescue plan to clear up market worries about a
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.
of June 2011
Greece backs first austerity package,
ATHENS (Reuters) -
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
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
"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
($17.3 billion) of emergency loans from
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
The full pain of pay and benefit cuts
and sharp tax increases has yet to be
felt, and public anger already is
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
was "a gas chamber."
via a "voluntary"
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
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.
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
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
"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
"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.
of June 2011
The Athens 2011
Organizing Committee President Ioanna Despotopoulou, fourth right, the Greek
President Carolos Papoulias
World Summer Special Olympics opens in Athens
Greek President Karolos Papoulias officially declared
open the Athens 2011 World Summer Special Olympics
opening ceremony of the Athens Games was held at
Panathinaikon Stadium, the venue of the first modern
1896 Olympic Games.
goal to help bring all persons with intellectual
disabilities into society, the Athens Games will run to
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
Approximately 7,500 Special Olympics athletes from 183
countries and regions, including 137 Chinese,
in the Games that will run to July 4 in a string of 30
venues across Athens.
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.
ceremony featured a spectacular display of fireworks and
the simplicity of music and dance performances
inspired by ancient Greek mythology and culture
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
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
"We need to complete this mission for the
benefit of the Greek people and the
salvation of the homeland," Venizelos told
"We have the will and the obligation... (to
formulate) a parallel programme that allows
us to have better results," he said in
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
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
markets -- a position hardly helped by a
debt that has exploded to more than 350
billion euros -- and will urgently need
"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
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
economic recovery, would then get backing
for other votes on the austerity cuts, and a
special law applying them, by the end of the
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
The eurozone issued an ultimatum to Greece
on Monday, when it held back the latest
slice of a 110-billion-euro ($160-billion)
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
could increase pressure throughout the
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
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
default on its debt in the months and years
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.
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."
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
"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
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.
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
"We will certainly
work on ascertaining that conditions are fulfilled for the payment
of the next tranche" of the May 2010 bailout,
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
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.
of June 2011
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.
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.
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."
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
Loeb retains the
overall leadership with 146 Points. Hirvonen lies second just 17
points behind while Ogier is third a further five points
"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
the overnight lead, Loeb was favourite to win his third race in
succession but had to settle for second after a tense battle
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
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.
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
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
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
The crisis raises concerns for Europe's currency, the euro. If a
struggling nation such as Greece, Portugal or Ireland were to default on
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
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.
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
Fund, which last year granted his debt-ridden
nation euro110 billion ($155 billion) in
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
Wednesday, and the political crisis deepened
Thursday when two of Papandreou's lawmakers
A planned Cabinet reshuffle was delayed till
Friday, after Papandreou chaired a seven-hour
with Socialist lawmakers to try and ease the
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
are fighting the battle to serve the common good, in
the most crucial moment in the country's modern
other items, the mid-term plan includes new luxury
taxes, a proposed crackdown on rampant tax evasion,
on soft-drinks, cars, swimming pools and real estate
for a total savings of 28 billion euros through
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
think it will go through -- but just," said Yanis
Varoufakis, an economics professor at the University
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
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
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
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
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
Euro-zone finance ministers are expected
to meet in Brussels on Tuesday to
discuss Greece and other sovereign-debt
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
though it’s down from nearly $1.47 last
of June 2011
EU must make tough decisions on Greek rescue
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — European countries
must decide how to plug potential funding
gaps for Greece next year before the
Fund can release
the next batch of loans, an envoy from the
Fund said Tuesday, as the struggling
country's prime minister convened party
to discuss further austerity
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
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
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
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
being made from
European leaders and talk of a mild
restructuring of Greece's massive national
"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
untold problems not just for Greece but also
for the euro area."
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
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
required to get the deficit under
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
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,"
"But governments have a
responsibility to act and I certainly
honour the determination of Prime
Minister Papandreou and the very
difficult actions he's
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
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
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
They were part of a business roundtable
Harper held earlier in the day with a
group of Canadian and Greek executives,
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
"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
"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
of May 2011
Protesters return to Athens for a second day
Thousands of people
braved heavy rain in
Athens to protest in
front of Parliament for
a second consecutive day
After a notable first
day of protest in Athens
and other Greek cities
on Wednesday, thousands
of people who are
following the example of
demonstrators in Spain
gathered in Athens and
other city centers on
Social networking sites
were abuzz with
Wednesday’s protest and
people were invited to
return on Thursday to
the pressure on
austerity measures and
the quality of life in
Apart from Athens,
protests were also held
on Wednesday in
Larissa, Volos, Rethymno
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
More than 10,000 people
crowded into and around
Syntagma Square for a
thieves” and making
gestures at the unseen
lawmakers in Parliament
behind a row of riot
police officers. Another
5,000 or so gathered in
the center of
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
The protests were
organized using social
following the example of
the Spanish campaign
that has been driven
by young people.
The Greek initiative
even adopted the name of
Spain’s, Los Indignados,
with groups calling
Indignant of Syntagma
“The Indignant of the
White Tower,” in a
reference to the
of May 2011
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
Protestors gathered from about 6 p.m. in Athens and the crowd had
swelled to several thousand people by early evening. The protest
as participants demonstrated against the country’s politicians in front
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
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.
“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
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.
of May 2011
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
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
current government's term, arguing that political bickering could derail
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
of May 2011
discusses fiscal plan, lenders' pressure up
ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister
George Papandreou discussed new emergency
measures with his cabinet on Monday to cut
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
On Monday EU Economic and Monetary Affairs
Commissioner Olli Rehn pressed Athens to
redouble its fiscal efforts and press on
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
24th of April
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
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
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
of April 2011
Greece Aims to Raise $50 Billion From Sales of State-Owned Property Assets
of April 2011
Acropolis Museum is Greece's
top site: official data
(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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
"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
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
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
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."
of April 2011
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
of March 2011
Strauss-Kahn Says EU Must
Convince Investors on Debt Crisis Before summits
International Monetary Fund Managing
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
Political resistance to transferring funds between
different countries could yet derail the plan.Government
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
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
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
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
Strauss-Kahn wasn’t alone today in
stepping up pressure on EU governments. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude
the region’s leaders that it’s up to them to retain the confidence of bond
“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
Strauss-Kahn’s approval-rating lead over
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
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
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
"(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
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.
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
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.
of March 2011
Greece blasts Moody over
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
"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
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
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
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.
of March 2011
Athens top city for online
LONDON (Reuters) – The home
of Socrates, Plato and
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
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.
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
"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
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
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
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."
of March 2011
Greece: 59 migrants on hunger strike hospitalized
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
are just a small percentage of the thousands of illegal immigrants that arrive
on Greek shores each year.
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
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.
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.
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.
Monday, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis questioned in a newspaper interview
why the African immigrants thought they deserved preferential treatment.
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.
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."
labor unions, left wing activists and supporters have urged the government
Tuesday to reconsider.
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.
wretched life like theirs is not better than a dignified death," he said at a
press conference outside Parliament.
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.
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.
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
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."
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."
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."
of February 2011
Greece hit with general
strike over austerity
ATHENS (AFP) – Greece was hit with a general strike
Wednesday, the first this year, against the
government's austerity policies as
sought a loan payment extension from EU peers.
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.
industrial action has also affected the operation of
hospitals and schools and shut down public
joining Wednesday's strike will be the Union of
Journalists while the National Trade Confederation
called on members to close their shops.
strike was called by Greece's biggest private-sector
and public sector unions GSEE and
while the Communist Party-affiliated Pame trade
union mounted a separate mobilisation.
unions were to hold separate street protests later
ADEDY is opposed to new cuts in
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".
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
cuts have pushed debt-hit Greece into a deepening
recession with many analysts doubting whether its
ailing economy can keep up with its loan
Papandreou has embarked on a European trip to
convince eurozone peers to extend Greece's repayment
of the EU-IMF bailout loan.
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.
IMF has warned that Athens must accelerate
structural reforms, including to the labour market,
the tourism trade and the retail sector.
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.
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.
of February 2011
Greece's Prime Minister George
Papandreou (L) welcomes Eurogroup's chairman and Luxembourg's Prime Minister
Greece blasts EU, IMF auditors
(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
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
"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."
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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
monument devoted to Western civilsation," she said.
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
"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
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
temple to Athena, protector of Athens.
ministry plans to hire 50 more archaeologists, architects, stone masons and
other artisans in the coming weeks, which would bring the restoration team to
interventions are our biggest enemy," said Ioannidou.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
metopes, or square spaces on a frieze, from the west side of the Parthenon will
also be replaced by copies.
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
Elgin when Greece
was part of the Ottoman Empire.
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.
Greeks used their head and their eyes to measure 'optical accuracy' that today
we rely on computers to do," he said.
of January 2011
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
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.
of January 2011
Suspected members of armed anarchist group on trial in 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
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."
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.
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.
192,000 people lost their jobs during the 12 months
since October 2009, when the country's financial crisis
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.
Socialist government came under further pressure in
November when the EU added losses by Greek state
companies to the national deficit figures.
public transport workers defied a court order and went
on a 24-hour strike against the austerity measures.
2,000 strikers marched to parliament in a rally that
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.
late Wednesday declared the strike illegal, but
protesters leaders claimed they had not been formally
notified of the decision when the walked-out started.
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.
the cheapest public transport in Europe," deputy
transport minister Spyros Vouyias told parliament.
of January 2011
rare seals found in Greece
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.
of January 2011
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 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.
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
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
Christos Papoutsis said the
fence would be part of an
effort to stop illegal
immigrants from entering the
"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
"Greek society has exceeded
its limit in its capacity to
immigrants," Papoutsis said.
"Greece can no longer
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
Left-wing opposition parties
sharply criticized the plan.
The Communist Party
described it as "inhuman and
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 and the European
Union did not comment
directly on Papoutsis'
"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
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
Gokhan Sozer said Turkish
authorities had apprehended
11,000 would-be immigrants
"Sovereign states are free
to take measures they like.
But physical barriers can
also be surmounted," Sozer
told Turkey's private NTV
"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."
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
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
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.