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Greece Braces for Visit by Merkel October 9, 2012

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Germany, Yunanistan.
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Greece while the country remains locked in negotiations with its creditors over a package of austerity measures. Dow Jones’s Jenny Paris discusses the latest developments.

The Greek capital was bracing for a security clampdown as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday on her first visit to Athens since the debt crisis began.

In a sign of the reception Ms. Merkel is likely to receive on her seven-hour stopover in the Greek capital, several thousand demonstrators gathered in the city’s main Syntagma Square on Monday evening, blaring revolutionary music from loudspeakers and holding banners decrying planned government austerity measures, which many Greeks blame on Ms. Merkel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Athens on Tuesday but she will likely be met with mixed reaction from the Greeks, Charles Forelle discusses on Markets Hub.

One banner, modeled on the German flag and written in German, read: “Angela don’t cry. There is nothing left in the larder to take.”

Fearing wider protests will cast a shadow on the leaders’ effort to promote an image of renewed solidarity, police were expected to dispatch some 7,000 officers, coast-guard personnel, sharpshooters and navy divers, in what is being billed as the biggest security operation since then-President Bill Clinton came in late 1999.

The police presence will be bolstered by six-foot-high metal barriers outside Parliament, two police helicopters, and 10 extra riot-police units—with a water cannon on standby, according to state-owned television. Police have banned all gatherings Tuesday in a one-square-kilometer area encompassing the prime minister’s office and the German Embassy, while staff inside Greece’s tightly guarded Parliament building have been told not to show up for work.

Many analysts expect the chancellor to reaffirm Greece’s place inside the euro zone—something that looked in doubt just a few months ago—and express her sympathy for the sacrifices made by Greeks in an austerity push that has driven the economy into a five-year recession and unemployment to record highs.

The visit comes amid a recent thaw in relations between Ms. Merkel and Mr. Samaras—a longtime critic of the austerity measures that are a quid pro quo for Greece’s latest €173 billion ($224.3 billion) bailout—whom Ms. Merkel blamed for undermining the previous government’s reform efforts.

But since coming to office in June at the head of a three-way coalition, Mr. Samaras has changed tack and now supports the bailout, something that has won him the backing of the German chancellor.

Ms. Merkel—facing a German electorate deeply skeptical over Greece’s bailout—is expected to renew her warnings to Greece that it must abide by its reform program. Few expect her to offer any specific proposals to ease the pain of Greece’s adjustment.

Reuters
A Greek pensioner protesting against austerity cuts, confronted riot police in Athens as tensions built on Monday, the eve of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Greece.

“The fact that she is coming to Athens now is an indication that she sees Greece’s future in the euro zone and she’s not about to pull the plug on support,” said David Lea, a London-based analyst at Control Risks, an independent risk-consulting firm in London. “I don’t think any concrete measures will come out of it,” he added. “It’s more of a symbolic visit.”

Her visit also comes as Greece remains locked in negotiations with a visiting troika of international inspectors from the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank on some €13.5 billion worth of austerity measures the country must take over the next two years to cut its budget deficit.

An agreement on those measures, as well as other structural reforms, are a precondition for Greece to receive the next tranche of aid promised under the terms of its bailout. If it doesn’t receive that next 31.5 billion aid tranche, the Greek government risks running out of money in November.

Although the details of the austerity package are still being negotiated, the measures are expected to bite deeply, slashing pensions across the board and further paring back wages and bonuses in the public sector. In the face of those cutbacks, most Greeks view Ms. Merkel’s visit as a mixed-blessing.

“Merkel’s visit is clearly provocative,” said 52-year-old telecommunications worker Antonis Panagiotakopoulos, who was participating in Monday’s protest, saying her visit had more to do with German elections set for next year than her interest in the fate of Greeks. “She comes to us with a carrot and a stick.”

 

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Anti-Austerity Anger: Greeks take to streets in light of new cuts September 21, 2012

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Thousands have taken to the streets throughout Greece to protest the drastic budget cuts proposed by the government. Minor scuffles with riot police took place in Thessaloniki after some youths set rubbish on fire and burned an EU flag.

In Athens some 2,000 pensioners marched through the city to protest newly introduced pension cuts.

It was announced that those who earn more than 1,000 euros a month will have 10 percent of their pensions axed. This is despite a 25 per cent cut over the last two years.

“They have cut our pensions into little pieces. They’ve imposed an unfair property tax, other taxes, taxes on petrol, the supermarkets are expensive. They have squeezed the life out of us, they’ve disgraced us,” a pensioner told AP.

Saturday’s protests in Athens, which also included trade unionists, caused severe disruptions to traffic. Major roads in the downtown area were also blocked to weekend traffic.

Meanwhile, several demonstrations are taking place in the northern city of Thessaloniki. The largest one is by military and police personnel, who protest wage cuts.

The streets were decorated with banners reading “Solidarity” and “Overthrow” as protesters marched, AP reported.

On Monday the country’s Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, is expected to meet with Troika senior austerity inspectors, who are to decide whether the country is to be given a long-awaited 31 billion euro rescue loan.

In order to secure the rescue package the Greek government is to introduce another round of austerity measures that Samaras himself called painful and unjust, but necessary.

Many people in Greece think that the country has suffered enough already from being in the Euro, while they are only being offered more of the same, William Dartmouth, MEP from the UK Independence Party told RT.

“The political establishment in these countries always tends to be in favor of more Euro and people are basically against it, because it is not in their interest,” he asserted. 

“What we are watching is a slow-motion train crash which also could endanger the entire world economy,” Dartmouth concluded.

 A pensioner chants slogans during a protest organized by the communist affiliated PAME union in Athens, on September 8, 2012. Some 3000 pensioners marched through city center to protest against social security cuts.  (AFP Photo/STR)
A pensioner chants slogans during a protest organized by the communist affiliated PAME union in Athens, on September 8, 2012. Some 3000 pensioners marched through city center to protest against social security cuts. (AFP Photo/STR)
AFP Photo/STR
AFP Photo/STR
AFP Photo/STR
 Thousands of workers protest against budget cuts on September 8, 2012 in Thessaloniki. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)
Thousands of workers protest against budget cuts on September 8, 2012 in Thessaloniki. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)
Greek firefighters shout slogans during a protest against budget cuts in Thessaloniki on 8 September, 2012. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)
Greek firefighters shout slogans during a protest against budget cuts in Thessaloniki on 8 September, 2012. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)
Greek policemen shout slogans during a protest against budget cuts in Thessaloniki on 8 September, 2012. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)
Greek policemen shout slogans during a protest against budget cuts in Thessaloniki on 8 September, 2012. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)
Workers from Greece state postal serive Hellenic post hold a banner that reads "No sale", as thousands of workers protest against budget cuts on 8 September, 2012 in Thessaloniki. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)
Workers from Greece state postal serive Hellenic post hold a banner that reads “No sale”, as thousands of workers protest against budget cuts on 8 September, 2012 in Thessaloniki. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)
Demonstrators walk past watermelons and peaches thrown in front of the entrance of International Trade Fair conference during a protest against austerity measures and budget cuts on September 8, 2012, in Thessaloniki. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)
Demonstrators walk past watermelons and peaches thrown in front of the entrance of International Trade Fair conference during a protest against austerity measures and budget cuts on September 8, 2012, in Selanik/Solun. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)
Demonstrators march during a protest against austerity measures and budget cuts on September 8, 2012, in Thessaloniki. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)
Demonstrators march during a protest against austerity measures and budget cuts on September 8, 2012, in Selanik/Solun. (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)

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.

Dutch PM: Greece should not get more financial help September 6, 2012

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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the liberal party leader who is battling for re-election next week, says Greece should not get more financial aid from Europe.

During a televised election debate on 4 September, the leader of the VVD stressed that Greece had already been given support twice and received loans of €240 billion and that is “enough”.

“The Greeks are in a better position because of it, but I say ‘enough is enough’,” Rutte said.

The election campaign in the Netherlands has highlighted growing discontent over Europe, in particular over the high cost of bailing out weaker eurozone members.

The Dutch voters are also unhappy with the pressure for belt-tightening at home where welfare benefits are being steadily whittled away by budget cuts.

“I want to keep Greece with us, but the dikes around Greece are high enough. Leaving the euro may become unavoidable. That is a decision for Greece,” he added.

Subsequently, Rutte was attacked by all the other party leaders for his comments.

Labour leader Diederik Samsom, who has so far not ruled out supporting Rutte in a new coalition after the election, said the prime minister has made similar threats before. Still Rutte had decided to send more cash to Greece.

“What should people think?” Samsom asked.

Alexander Pechtold, leader of D66, the social-liberal party, asked Rutte: “Will you not do all you can to save the Dutch economy? What should industry think about this? What are you afraid of?”

Third bailout ruled out

Rutte replied that countries in trouble have to do their best and if they don’t, then they cannot count on support.

“I am against a third bailout package,” the Dutch prime minister said.

Simon O’Connor, spokesperson to Economics and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, declined on Wednesday to comment on Rutte’s statement at a press briefing in Brussels.

Dutch commentators eventually said Rutte’s comments on Greece had been prompted by the rise in support for both Labour and the Socialists.

However, two polls on Tuesday published before the debate showed that Rutte and the VVD would win 34 seats next week, making it the largest party in the 150-seat chamber. Both the Labour Party and the Socialist Party are expected to get 27 seats.

Six-day week or else, Greece told September 6, 2012

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Yunanistan.
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Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, speaks next to Jean Claude Juncker, unseen, prime minister, of Luxembourg and President of Eurogroup during a joint news conference after their meeting in Athens, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012. The meeting is the first of several Samaras will hold this week with European leaders to press the case for granting Athens more time to complete its reforms. He will be in Berlin on Friday to speak with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and in Paris on Saturday with French President Francois Hollande. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Yunanistan

Seeking a four year deadline to fulfill debt reduction targets and spending cuts … Antonis Samaras. 

GREECE’S eurozone creditors are demanding that the government introduce a six-day working week as part of the stiff terms for a second bailout.

The demand is contained in a leaked letter from the ”troika” of the country’s lenders, the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In the letter, the officials policing Greece’s compliance with the austerity imposed in return for the bailout insist on radical labour market reforms, from minimum wages to overtime limits to flexible working hours.

This is likely to worsen the standoff between the government and organised labour.

 

After a long delay caused by months of political paralysis in Greece, the troika of inspectors return to Athens this week to scrutinise observance of its bailout terms. They are expected to deliver a verdict next month that will determine whether Greece is ultimately allowed to remain in the single currency.

The letter, sent last week to finance and labour ministries, orders the government to extend the working week into the weekend.

”Measure: increase flexibility of work schedules: increase the number of maximum workdays to six days per week for all sectors.

”Set the minimum daily rest to 11 hours; delink the working hours of employees from the opening hours of the establishment; eliminate restrictions on minimum/maximum time between morning and afternoon shifts; allow the consecutive two-week leave to be taken any time during the year in seasonal sectors.”

The instructions focus on labour market reforms, calling for the national labour inspectorate to be radically reformed and put under European supervision.

The letter reveals the detail of eurozone intrusion into a national system and culture of work widely seen outside Greece as dysfunctional.

There should be a permanent ”single-rate statutory minimum wage”, seen as an incentive for getting people back to work in a country where unemployment has soared to about 30 per cent.

”Unemployment is too high, and policies are needed to prevent it from becoming structural,” the letter says.

It also calls for non-wage labour costs to be lowered, employers’ welfare contributions to be cut, and deregulation of the labour market.

There is growing conviction in Berlin and Brussels that the government of Antonis Samaras has fallen well behind in the economic and fiscal reform programs imposed in return for two bailouts in the past two years.

The government is struggling to come up with persuasive policies to enact spending cuts.

Mr Samaras is pleading for more time – four years rather than two – to fulfil debt reduction targets and spending cuts.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/sixday-week-or-else-greece-told-20120905-25epi.html#ixzz25gdfThpz