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Greece denies report it will need third bailout September 14, 2012

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, France, Yunanistan.
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France's Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici (L) meets his Greek counterpart Yannis Stournaras (R) and Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Athens September 13, 2012. REUTERS/Aris Messinis/Pool
  Greece‘s finance minister on Thursday denied a report citing the country’s representative to the IMF as saying Athens would need a third bailout package.

The euro weakened against the dollar on the report, which was later also denied by the official quoted in the article and came as international inspectors are mulling handing over the next tranche of Greece’s second aid package.

“The country’s positions are formulated by the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister,” Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told Reuters in response to the Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal report.

The article quoted Thanos Catsambas, Alternate Executive Director at the IMF Executive Board representing Greece, as saying the country would need a third bailout from European creditors. It also reported Greece could not bridge a funding gap and had met only 22 percent of targets for the second bailout.

The euro fell to a session low of $1.2881, with traders citing the report of Greece needing a third bailout, and was last at $1.2898.

Catsambas issued a statement saying the article included “at least three important inaccuracies”.

“There was never a discussion or reference to a third bailout program, as the title of the article wrongly states,” he said.

He also denied that he had said the euro zone and European Central Bank (ECB) should fill Greece’s funding gap, as reported.

“I do not take any position regarding Greece’s euro zone partners. My statement was that the IMF has provided a four-year financing through the Extended Fund Facility and that at this juncture, no additional financing is envisaged,” he added.

Inspectors from the so-called troika of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Commission and ECB are in Athens to evaluate Greece’s progress on agreed targets before releasing the next, 32 billion euro ($41.30 billion), tranche from a 130 billion euro aid package.

IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in Washington that talks were focused on making progress with the current bailout.

Cash-strapped Greece must come up with nearly 12 billion euros of extra cuts for the next two years to get the money, and it has fallen behind in reforms.

France, Germany accused of ‘black campaign’ against Turkey’s EU bid May 16, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, France, Germany, Turkey.
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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there is a “black campaign” led by France and Germany to “destroy Turkish determination to become a member of the European Union,” Bloomberg reported Thursday.

“They want Turkey to give up,” Erdoğan said in an interview in Ankara with journalist Charlie Rose from the U.S. public broadcaster PBS that aired Wednesday night.

“Let me put it very clearly: France is number one, secondly Germany” in opposing Turkey’s EU membership, he said.

Turkey has been “at the doors of the European Union for more than 50 years and there is still a European Union that does not accept Turkey as a member,” Erdoğan said. He added that Turkey remains committed to joining, although the EU continues to “change the rules of the game.”

“It’s not honorable. They don’t stick to their promises,” he said.

‘Hamas not a terrorist group’

In the same interview, Erdoğan also expressed his belief that Hamas is not a terrorist organization, saying he felt the recently penned Palestinian reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah was an essential step toward Mideast peace.

Erdoğan’s comments came one day after Hamas’s Gaza strongman, Mahmoud Zahar, said that while his organization would accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, it would never recognize Israel. He said this was because of the damage such a move would do to Palestinian refugees in the “diaspora,” according to a report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Commenting on the recently achieved unity agreement between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, the Turkish prime minister said he did not feel Hamas was an obstacle in achieving Mideast peace.

“Let me give you a very clear message: I don’t see Hamas as a terror organization. Hamas is a political party,” Erdoğan told PBS. “It is a resistance movement trying to protect its country under occupation.”

Bağış discusses EU bid in talks in Paris April 7, 2011

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Turkish State Minister Egemen Bağış, who is also Turkey’s chief negotiator for European Union talks, on Wednesday met with French Minister for European Affairs Laurent Wauquiez.

Bağış, who is in Paris for formal talks, and Wauquiez met over a working lunch in Paris. The two discussed bilateral relations and Turkey’s troubled bid to join the EU, diplomats said. France, which opposes Turkey’s EU membership, blocks accession negotiations on five chapters that it says are directly related to accession.

Bağış expressed unease over the slow progress of accession negotiations and complained that the negotiation process was negatively affected by French and Greek Cypriot reluctance over opening of new chapters, diplomats said. Bağış was also due to have a meeting with Bruno Le Maire, French Minister for Agriculture, Food Supply, Fisheries, Rural Areas and Regional Development while in Paris.

East European Eyes on France’s Roma Policy October 19, 2010

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After a summer marked by a needless quarrel over how to treat their Roma population, the French seem on course for an autumn of discontent over issues much closer to their pocketbooks: the reform of their state pensions.

For the trade unionists and leftists gearing up to take on President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government over treasured welfare benefits, protests may well drown out the summer storm over the Roma.

For the rest of Europe, the memory may not fade so fast.

Karel Schwarzenberg, at 72 now foreign minister of the Czech Republic for a second time following the surprisingly strong showing of his new TOP09 party in elections last autumn, was musing on his embassy’s magnificent terrace overlooking the Eiffel Tower when he hit what felt like an important point.

“Especially in our part of the world,” he said, referring to Central and Eastern Europe, “we always look at France as a lighthouse of democracy and freedom.”

Many “refugees of our nations found asylum in France,” Mr. Schwarzenberg noted. No names were mentioned, but Milan Kundera, the Czech author who has been in Paris for decades, is a clear example.

So to have the president of France — the highest official of an esteemed European land — single out the Roma as some kind of hostile force was, Mr. Schwarzenberg said, “such a shock, and such a surprise.”

The scion of one of Central Europe’s mightiest landowning families, Mr. Schwarzenberg, who in Communist days supported anti-regime dissidents in his native Prague from his family holdings in Austria, might not seem the natural critic of a conservative French leader with Hungarian roots.

But he has seen the vicissitudes of power, and different fates, on a continent that 20 years after the Cold War still struggles for unity.

When it comes to problems like the Roma, he suggested, the best politics is local. Without sparing criticism of Czech policy — the “mistake,” for instance, of effectively segregating Czech Roma in special schools — he lauded the mayor of Cesky Krumlov, a Baroque jewel in the south of the Czech Republic, where Roma have not been marginalized in ghettoes and take a pride and a part in keeping the town spick and span.

“Let’s be honest,” the mustachioed, bow-tied aristocrat suggested, fussing with and eventually lighting a pipe. “In all our countries, the Roma are badly treated, especially by the police.”

Behind this lies a complex history of Nazi destruction of the Roma, one of Europe’s most ancient cultures, he noted. In Czech lands, almost all indigenous Roma died in Nazi camps, Mr. Schwarzenberg said. Those who settled in and near Czech cities after 1945 were already outsiders, descended from Roma from Romania, Hungary and Slovakia, and lacking the Czech language.

That kind of ethnic fracturing has vastly accelerated, Mr. Schwarzenberg noted, with the more recent migrations into Western Europe. When he studied in West Germany in the 1950s, he said, Italian and then Yugoslav workers were just arriving. There were almost no Turks — now estimated to number about 2.7 million in Germany. Similarly, the suburbs of Paris were French, and not — as in some areas today — North and sub-Saharan African. The Netherlands was home to some Indonesians loyal to Dutch colonial masters, but there was no sizeable immigration.

Europeans need “some time to adapt,” he said, while dismissing, as “a bit tactless,” the ideas of Thilo Sarrazin, the German banker who has created a stir for saying that immigrants, notably Turks, have contributed little or nothing in Germany.

The furor this summer over France’s expulsions of Roma to Romania and Bulgaria — European Union countries whose citizens still have limited rights to free travel in the 27-nation bloc — would pale by comparison to the prospect of full E.U. membership for Turkey, a country of 80 million people.

Mr. Schwarzenberg, conscious, he said, of being “only” foreign minister of a Central European nation of about 10 million people, has quite firm ideas about how Europe should react to Turkey, and what it must get done first.

If Turkey, whose membership is tied up in complex negotiations and is unlikely before 2020, meets all conditions, Mr. Schwarzenberg said, it should join. “A promise must be kept,” he said. If Turkey decides to pursue a more nationalist line but still seeks strong ties, “then let’s find another modus vivendi,” as well as working on “our own prejudices against the Turks.”

But before Turkey, Mr. Schwarzenberg said, let Europe finish other tasks. Noting the creation of a new European diplomatic service, he said, people like the Czechs should ensure they are well represented, thus increasing domestic identification with the European Union.

“We have to show that we are there to do our best and be valuable members of the E.U.,” he said, alluding to the gaffe-prone Czech presidency of 2009.

Next, he noted, all Europeans should work with the Poles and Swedes to emphasize partnerships to the East — Ukraine and Belarus, principally — to overcome lingering division of Europe. In the same vein, the western Balkans — Albania and the remnants of the old Yugoslavia — should join the fold.

If Mr. Schwarzenberg had one frustration, it was that the Czech Republic, ”the heart of Europe,” is still regarded by some Westerners as “the Far East.”

He conceded that parts of Eastern Europe bear scars of what he called the continent’s “prolonged civil war” between World War I in 1914 and the collapse of Communism in 1989. Yet 20 years after the Velvet Revolution, he said, his country is a fairly prosperous, fairly normal democracy.

How close to the dreams he nurtured from Vienna when his friend Vaclav Havel was still a dissident playwright pursued by the Communists? “Seldom,” he said, “the dreams you have are fulfilled completely.” And consolation, he smiled with perhaps a nod to his surroundings, is “only in a good bottle of wine.”

Commission closely following France’s Roma expulsions October 13, 2010

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The European Commission is following very closely France’s dealings with its Roma, who the authorities are planning to expel in groups, Commission representatives said yesterday (18 August), after being asked by the Brussels press whether the expulsions were in line with EU legislation.

Background

According to the European Commission, Roma are the EU’s largest ethnic minority, and trace their origins to medieval India. There are many Roma subgroups living in Europe.

Current census statistics state that 535,000 Roma live in Romania, 370,000 in Bulgaria, 205,000 in Hungary, 89,000 in Slovakia and 108,000 in Serbia. Some 200,000 Roma are estimated to live in the Czech Republic, while the same number are estimated to reside in Greece and an estimated 500,000 are in Turkey.

Many Roma from Eastern Europe moved to the West following the EU’s enlargement, creating tensions, particularly in Italy.

EU countries have the right to take security measures regarding foreigners residing on their territory, but “we’re following the situation with great attention,” Commission spokesperson Amelia Torres said.

Torres said two commissioners were dealing with the issue – Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Commissioner Viviane Reding and Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Commissioner László Andor.

Today (19 August), France begins to expel around 700 Roma, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, who are living illegally in the country, the French press reported. On 28 July, French President Nicolas Sarkozy launched a new anti-crime initiative targeting the “itinerant population,” with a particular emphasis on the Roma community (EurActiv 29/07/10).

Immigration Minister Eric Besson said 79 Roma, who have agreed to return home in exchange for 300 euros for adults and 100 euros for minors, will board a charter flight bound for the Romanian capital Bucharest on Thursday.

He said police had so far dismantled 51 illegal Roma camps and two flights would take the Roma to Romania and Bulgaria on 19 and 26 August, with a third flight set for the end of September.

Journalists wanted to know the basis on which the expulsions of 700 people were being made, as EU legislation requires each case to be examined individually. A Commission spokesperson replied by saying that he would give such details later, as for the time being the EU executive was monitoring the situation.

Teodor Basconschi, Romania’s foreign minister, voiced fears of mounting xenophobia in France over the Roma expulsions. “I am concerned about the risks of populist provocation and of creating xenophobic reactions at a time of economic crisis,” he said in an interview with the Romanian service of French radio station RFI.

Basconschi, a former ambassador to France, called for a joint Franco-Romanian approach to resolving the situation, devoid of artificial election fever. He was seemingly referring to Sarkozy’s weak prospects in view of the 2012 presidential elections.

The president and founder of the Party of the Left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, described as pitiful the French government’s policy toward Roma and accused Sarkozy of sparking a climate of tension just to be able to play the role of Zorro.

“No-one gains anything by trying to hide the complexity of certain topics,” he continued. “Since the beginning of the summer, the president needs scapegoats,” Mélenchon argued.

At official level, Bulgaria remained silent over the controversy, but editorialists from the opposition press blasted Sarkozy’s policy of “deportation”.

It is believed that the number of Roma from Bulgaria in France and Western Europe as a whole is much lower than the number who come from Romania.

Positions

France‘s ruling right-wing UMP party lashed out at a UN committee that accuses the government of failing to stem a rising tide of racism in the country. Members of the UN’s Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Cerd) come from countries which do not respect human rights and are “100 leagues from reality,” party leaders said on 13 August, quoted by RFI.

“Not every country that is on it is an example of living democracy or of respect for minorities,” said UMP MP Christian Vanneste. “Algeria, Russia and Romania, which treat Roma very badly – you see the state they’re in when they get here,” he added.

The committee’s report denounced the “lack of political will” to bring to an end the allegedly increasing number of racist and xenophobic incidents.

The report also criticised French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent declarations concerning the Roma population in France, as well as his plan to strip criminals of foreign origin of French citizenship.