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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Greek gas company wins contract boost before privatisation


Greek gas company wins contract boost before privatisation
Reuters
Natural gas firm DEPA renews contract to supply power utility PPC. * PPC sells buy option for a 30 percent stake in DEPA. * Deal clears the way for DEPA's privatisation. ATHENS, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Greek natural gas company DEPA got a major boost ahead ...

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Greece's coalition split over demands for job cuts as unemployment rises

Pasok and Democratic Left promise to block plans for 50,000 layoffs after inter-party talks fail to reach agreement

The crisis engulfing Greece has deepened after two of the governing coalition parties resisted demands from Brussels for 50,000 public sector job cuts, and unions called a general strike for later this month.

The left-of-centre Pasok and Democratic Left parties vowed to prevent the government from capitulating to demands for jobs cuts after figures revealed a jump in the unemployment rate to almost 24%.

Tensions rose inside the prime minister's official residence, the Maximos Mansion, during a meeting of the three party leaders that make up Greece's new government. Under pressure from Brussels, right-of-centre prime minister Antonis Samaras has promised to find an extra €11.5bn in public spending cuts and tax rises over the next two years, and is under pressure to fire large numbers of workers as part of the plan.

Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis, who has already voiced his objections to the plan, was joined in opposition at the crunch meetings by Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos, who said: "For us there is no question of layoffs of civil servants."

Venizelos, who is also under pressure to agree a six-day working week as part of the proposals, said Greeks must continue to enjoy the labour rights enjoyed by other Europeans. "There can be no further change in labour relations beyond the European framework. Whatever is valid in the rest of Europe must also be valid in Greece. We are a member state of the European Union, not just the eurozone," he said.

Echoing widespread concerns that cuts will drive Greece further into recession, he insisted that the financial realignment deadline of 2013-14 must be extended another two years to 2015-16: "Just as I said … after my discussion with the troika, the extension of the fiscal adjustment period to four years is a foregone conclusion. The discussion with the troika was also based on this case."

The troika is made up of officials from Brussels, the European Central Bank in Frankfurt and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund, whose inspectors are concluding a review that will determine whether Greece gets further aid.

A spokesman said the government would resist proposals for further wage cuts and was making "every effort to not touch labour relations". Simos Kedikoglou said a pay reduction of 6% for police and military personnel, which is among the proposals in a package of austerity measures, must be overturned. "We have already lowered labour costs, and there is no reason for such issues to be raised by the troika", Kedikoglou said.

Unions called for a 24-hour stoppage on 24 September as the jobless rate hit 23.6%, leaving 1.17m people out of work.

Although no final agreement was reached between the coalition parties, Venizelos said there had been an "improvement" in the discussions and that an end was in sight.

French finance minister Pierre Moscovici, in Greece for talks with Samaras said: "The essential thing is that the commitments made by Greece are met and that an agreement is reached with the troika."

Analysts said Moscovici showed no sign of being willing to back Greek requests for an extension of its latest bailout package, saying that it was vital that the conservative-led government in Athens maintained "determination" in pursuing reform goals.

"We hope that this determination is unwavering," he said.


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Greek unions announce strike against further austerity


Greek unions announce strike against further austerity
GlobalPost (blog)
Municipality workers protest at the Finance ministry in Athens on September 12, 2012. Anti-austerity protests have clogged Athens as the government struggles to finalize additional cutbacks with its creditors. Meanwhile, labor unions declared that a ...


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More pain in Spain: Waiting for Rajoy

IT WAS designed to rescue Spain and, as a result, the euro. So why has the government in Madrid not immediately jumped into the life raft built by Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, with his bond-buying plan? The answer has a name: Mariano Rajoy, the country’s studiously enigmatic prime minister.First, Mr Rajoy continues to pretend that Spain might not need a bail-out. “Before taking a decision we must see whether it is really necessary,” he said recently. Few Spaniards are fooled. Mr Draghi’s announcement has pushed bond yields to levels lower than when Mr Rajoy’s centre-right People’s Party won power in November. But that will not hold for ever. Spain’s economic mess—a combination of ailing banks, double-dip recession and 25% unemployment—is getting worse. Mr Rajoy’s labour and other reforms may eventually help, but in the meantime, the patient needs an emergency infusion.Second, Mr Rajoy knows that Spaniards will find the tutelage humiliating. Polls show his government losing a third of its support in just six months. In Greece, Ireland and Portugal bailed-out governments were quickly ejected. This explains why Mr Rajoy’s government—despite a solid parliamentary majority and four more years in power—does not dare to use the B-word.Third, Mr Rajoy claims that Spain does not need to be told what to do. He insists his government will manage to cut a...


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Eying Golden Dawn, Greece To Toughen Hate Crime Penalties


7Online WSVN-TV

Eying Golden Dawn, Greece To Toughen Hate Crime Penalties
Greek Reporter
Battling with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party that has 18 seats in Parliament and has been involved in a number of assaults on immigrants, the Greek government is planning to increase the penalties for hate crimes. The Parliament is also moving to strip ...
Greece to toughen hate crime sentencingMyrtleBeachOnline.com

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Papariga demands grass-roots action

Aleka Papariga, General Secretary of the Communist Party (KKE), on Thursday underlined that the crisis in Greece was "very bad and will get worse". She called for a grass-roots mobilisation by workers and the popular masses, saying they must rally their forces in order to fight back, while speaking on a morning programme on the state television channel NET.

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Greek unions call general strike for 26 September

Greece's largest labour unions has called a general strike for 26 September, responding to a major new government austerity package that is expected to worsen hardship in the recession-hit country.



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Greek unions call general strike for Sept. 26, as country faces deep cuts


Greek unions call general strike for Sept. 26, as country faces deep cuts
Washington Post
... a major new government austerity package that is expected to worsen hardship in the recession-hit country. A spokeswoman for the General Confederation of Greek Labor told The Associated Press that the date of the 24-hour strike was decided Thursday.


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Greek unions call general strike for Sept. 26

Greece's largest labor unions have called a general strike for Sept. 26 in response to a major new government austerity package that is expected to worsen hardship in the recession-hit country.

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Greek islands for rent

A list of the forty uninhabited Greek islands to be leased was published on Thursday. The islands will be leased primarily to individuals or companies for touristic development,for a period of approximately 50 years.

The Israeli government even considered purchasing an island for military training, thought they later rejected the idea as too costly, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

READ THE ORIGINAL POST AT www.athensnews.gr

Dutch prepare for conservative-Labor coalition





THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Conservative Dutch leader Mark Rutte began forging a new ruling coalition Thursday after bucking a European trend by winning an election despite pushing through tough austerity measures to counter the continent's devastating debt crisis.

Dutch voters clearly chose to reinforce pro-European measures.

Since Europe's debt crisis erupted in 2009 and plunged the continent into the economic doldrums, longtime Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi quit, Greece's government fell and French President Nicolas Sarkozy — a conservative like Rutte — was voted out of office.

"The direction can and must change," Samsom told supporters in Amsterdam.

Because the right wing policies of the last two years cannot continue.


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Greeks fearful of what will follow US elections


Wall Street Journal (blog)

Greeks fearful of what will follow US elections
CNN
If anything, Greek public opinion is wary of what might happen after the election is over, fearful that Germany and the European Central Bank may be delaying any attempt to amputate Greece from the eurozone until after the political dust has settled in ...
Greece revs up privatisation drive to sway troikaReuters
News Summary: More Greek anti-austerity strikesHuffington Post
Greek Premier Pushes for Reprofiling ECB BondsWall Street Journal (blog)
Chicago Tribune
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Ruling Dutch party claims victory in elections





The result sets the stage for the VVD and Labor — both pro-Europe parties — to forge a two-party ruling coalition with Rutte returning for a second term as prime minister.

The election was cast as a virtual referendum on Europe amid the continent's crippling debt crisis, but the result was a stark rejection of the most radical critic of the EU, anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party was forecast to lose 8 seats, dropping to 16.

Wilders' calls to ditch the euro may have been too radical for voters, or he may have lost support for walking out of talks with Rutte in April to hammer out an austerity package to rein in the Dutch budget deficit.

[...] they also support exceptions or even bailouts for fiscally stressed countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy — as long as they adhere to externally mandated cost-cutting targets and labor market reforms.

By not flocking to Wilders or the euro-skeptical Socialist Party, Dutch voters signaled at least an acceptance of the importance of a healthy Europe: in national polls, voters said that no election issue was nearly as important as the state of the Dutch economy and the effect Europe's sovereign debt crisis is having on it.

For the first time since the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim radical, the election focused on economic policies such as mortgage deductions and the retirement age, rather than Muslim integration and immigrant crime.


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Wave of protests hits Greece ahead of new austerity measures

A wave of protests hit Greece on Wednesday with municipal workers, teachers, doctors, patients and armed forces personnel taking to the streets of central Athens denouncing a planned fresh austerity package.

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Dutch election: pro-EU parties come out on top

Two Dutch centrist parties may form a left-right coalition after securing an absolute majority between them in the election

Two Dutch centrist parties were preparing to stitch up a new left-right coalition after securing an absolute parliamentary majority between them in a surprise outcome to Wednesday's election.

The projected result represented a triumph for the incumbent prime minister, Mark Rutte, head of the VVD rightwing liberals, as well as for the resurgent social democrats of the Dutch Labour party under a new leader, Diederik Samsom.

In the poll, which has been watched closely across Europe because of its potential impact on the euro crisis, Rutte's VVD took 41 seat to Labour's 40 in the 150-seat chamber, with both parties gaining 10 seats on the 2010 election. The big losers were the Freedom party, headed by maverick far-right populist Geert Wilders, which slumped from 24 to 13 seats, according to projections, and the Christian Democrats, the traditional powerbrokers of Dutch politics, who collapsed from 21 to 13 seats.

Months of coalition wrangling are now likely over attempts to finesse an accord over austerity, spending cuts, Europe and the single currency crisis – the issues that shaped the campaign.

A coalition would muster a comfortable two-party majority, unusual in recent Dutch politics, and could count on the support of the centrist pro-European D-66 which increased its seats from 10 to 12, according to projections.

The hard left socialist party, leading overall in the polls until a fortnight ago, remained level on 2010 with 15 seats in an outcome that showed voters closing ranks to reject explicitly anti-European campaigners.

The VVD and Labour party leaders can lay fair claim to remarkable victories – Rutte's success is a rare case of an incumbent winning re-election in the midst of the euro crisis and Samsom, after only a few months as Labour leader, has hauled his party back from the brink in a matter of weeks.

Rutte's minority centre-right coalition was closely allied with Germany in taking a hawkish line on austerity and dictating tough terms to bail out beneficiaries, but it collapsed in April after less than two years when it emerged that The Netherlands also needed to fill a huge funding gap to meet EU-set budget deficit targets by next year. Wilders, propping up the minority government in parliament, vetoed the welfare cuts needed to meet the targets set by Brussels.

Samsom is a 41-year-old former Greenpeace activist and nuclear scientist who emerged as a prime ministerial contender due to his strong television performance in the campaign debates, but indications on Wednesday night appeared to show that Rutte had first claim on being prime minister.

Power politics in The Netherlands get under way in the wake of, rather than before, an election because of the coalition system and the highly fragmented party spectrum. The horse trading will start on Thursday and the formation of a government could take months.

The key sticking points of a Lib-Lab partnership will be over the pace, scale and location of spending cuts and tax rises. There could also be disputes over the ongoing attempts to stabilise the euro and Holland's participation in bailing out weaker eurozone countries.

The outcome represented a victory for pro-EU parties, although Rutte has had little good to say about the EU and attracted some of Wilders' anti-EU voters by, for example, declaring on television that Greece would not get another euro of Dutch money.

Labour is likely to argue for slower spending cuts than Rutte, take a softer line on eurozone bailouts and seek to temper the austerity, trying to tilt the balance of power in the eurozone towards President Fran├žois Hollande's socialists in France and away from Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

The two biggest parties, if joined in a coalition, will need to agree on raising the retirement age, on how to reform the most generous system of mortgage tax relief in Europe, on health, social security and other welfare cuts, all to meet EU budget targets by next year in one of the wealthiest countries in the Europe with some of the lowest unemployment.

The election was followed intensely in EU capitals for the message being sent on austerity and the euro crisis. Brussels will be relieved by the result, although the Dutch have become much more wary of the EU, albeit keen to keep the union and the euro. While broadly pro-EU, voters are hostile to greater European integration entailing surrender of more sovereign powers to EU institutions.


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German Court Approves Rescue Fund


Wall Street Journal

German Court Approves Rescue Fund
Wall Street Journal
By HARRIET TORRY and GEOFFREY T. SMITH Germany's highest court cleared the way for the euro zone's permanent bailout mechanism to go ahead. Dow Jones's Jenny Paris and Martin Essex discuss what the court ruling means and how markets reacted to the ...
Euro hits highest since Mid-May on German rulingMarketWatch
Stocks, euro gain on German ruling; Fed in focusReuters
Euro rises to 4-month high on German rulingThe Associated Press
Economic Times
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Greece: Strikes flare as coalition government struggles to clinch new ...


AFP

Greece: Strikes flare as coalition government struggles to clinch new ...
Washington Post
ATHENS, Greece — A fresh wave of anti-austerity strikes hit Greece Wednesday as the leaders of the governing coalition remained unable to finalize further spending cuts for the coming two years without which the country will lose its vital rescue loans.
Greece revs up privatization drive to sway troikaReuters
Greece faces more anti-austerity strikes, protestsThe Associated Press
Greece Aid Decision May Be Delayed to November - EU SourcesWall Street Journal

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Greek Democratic left head Kouvelis: No public sector layoffs


Greek Democratic left head Kouvelis: No public sector layoffs
ForexLive (blog)
... to understand Greek society; Spending cuts difficult to implement; Talks on budget continuing. Dude, Greece needs to understand the mindset of its creditors. No one gives a toss about the Greek mindset after flushing hundreds of billions down the ...

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