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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Greek Finance Minister: 'We've Turned A Corner'

Business Insider

Greek Finance Minister: 'We've Turned A Corner'
Business Insider
Greece, the country long at the epicentre of Europe's economic crisis, has "turned a corner" said its finance minister Yannis Stournaras on Sunday after international lenders gave their strongest signal yet that the debt-stricken nation would be given ...
Greece to get "few weeks" more to hit targets: FekterReuters
More time but no more money for Greek bailout - Austrian Finance Minister
Greece will get 'cost-neutral' debt extension, says Austrian Finance MinisterEconomic Times (blog)
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Finance minister says Greece has turned a corner in effort to cut deficit

Yannis Stournaras hails trust between Greece and partners over €31.5bn aid instalment

Greece, the country long at the epicentre of Europe's economic crisis, has "turned a corner" said its finance minister Yannis Stournaras on Sunday after international lenders gave their strongest signal yet that the debt-stricken nation would be given more time to meet repayment targets.

Following an informal summit of eurozone finance ministers in Cyprus, Stournaras insisted he was "more optimistic" about Greece's prospects, even though it remains in a race against time to meet the onerous conditions that would unlock the rescue loans to keep bankruptcy at bay.

"I am more optimistic ... we have turned the corner. There is more trust between us and our partners but we still have a long way to go," Stournaras told the Guardian. "We have to have cleared up everything in the next two weeks so that everything can be put on the table at the [next] euro group meeting on October 8. If we can't clear everything there can be no agreement," he said referring to the €31.5bn (£25.5m) aid instalment Athens has been attempting to win since July.

Asked if relations had improved between Greece and Germany – ties that have been unusually stormy since the outbreak of the crisis in late 2009 – the Oxford-trained economist was unequivocal.

"There is a better chemistry in relations between Greece and Germany. That is what I feel, but they [the Germans] have to be asked as well."

Stournaras made the comments as euro zone fiscal diehards appeared to cut the country some slack saying they would yield to Athens' demand for more time to apply a gruelling fiscal adjustment programme.

In an interview published in Sunday's edition of the Oesterreich paper, the Austrian finance minister, Maria Fekter, said Greece would be given more time to meet deficit reduction targets although she made clear the payment extension would not mean more money being injected into the €240bn EU-IMF-sponsored bailout already agreed with Athens.

"We are still awaiting the troika report," Fekter said of the assessment of Greece's fiscal progress that debt auditors are expected to deliver in October. "And Greece still has to get some things on track but we will achieve a cost-neutral extension."

However, in a separate interview with Dutch newspaper Der Standard, Fekter suggested Greece might only receive "a few more weeks time".

The Troika report – a quarterly review of the headway the country has made in meeting the terms of its international rescue package – is crucial to releasing funds to recapitalise Greek banks and the cash-starved Greek economy.

Conservative prime minister, Antonis Samaras, has repeatedly appealed for a two-year extension of the deficit-reducing programme, arguing that this would not only give Greece more time to narrow its spending gap but the leeway to enforce long overdue structural reforms deemed vital to improving the country's competitiveness.

Austria, one of the loudest critics of Greek foot-dragging, had previously said the nation risked exiting the euro zone as a result of its failure to meet commitments.

Fekter's change of heart reflects the shift in attitude in Europe at large, with the continent's policy makers now calculating that a confrontation with Athens would likely backfire as Samaras' fragile coalition attempts to muster the necessary support for a new round of budget cuts worth nearly €12bn.

After years of putting austerity policies first – measures that in Greece's case have seen the economy contract by nearly 20% over the last three years amid soaring unemployment and poverty rates – EU governments are tilting increasingly towards favouring growth over belt-tightening, a shift inaugurated with the June election of socialist president Fran├žois Hollande in France.

Their latest concession comes despite Stournaras's inability to present counterparts with breakdown of the cuts – demanded in return for aid by creditors – following infighting in the three-party alliance over the measures.

But hardening his anti-bailout stance, Greece's main opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras, said the government was "dangerously deluded" if it believed the extension would offer relief to the country. The head of the radical left Syriza party vowed on Sunday to step up opposition to cuts, which he said would once again fall on society's most vulnerable. Calling for the international rescue package to be immediately annulled Tsipras said: "The slippery road towards catastrophe must be stopped now."

"Our first concern is that society puts up a fight so that measures worth €11.6bn are neither passed nor implemented," he told reporters in Thessaloniki where Greece's annual international trade fair is taking place.

Tsipras argued that the three-month coalition should step down for failing to live up to pre-election pledges to abolish the loss of further benefits, pay and pension cuts – instead insisting on an "absurd fiscal policy" that relied on foreign aid injections to keep the economy afloat.

"From being a guinea pig where the most extreme model of neo-liberalism is imposed, Greece can become a leader in progressive solutions on a pan-European level," said the leftist, without explaining what those solutions could be. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


David Blunkett attacks Germany in blueprint to engage voters

Former Labour minister says Merkel acting in overbearing manner and politicians risk alienating public

The former cabinet minister David Blunkett will on Monday deliver a stinging attack on "the dangerous overbearing imperialism of Germany", as he makes a call to find new ways to end public disengagement with politics and strengthen the power of elected politicians to combat the power of unfettered markets.

He accuses the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, of trying to "veto the voters" in sovereign countries, and claims that without German-imposed austerity measures, the crises in Spain and Greece might not have happened.

Warning about new levels of alienation from politics in the UK, Blunkett claims governments can only act as a counterweight to the debilitating global power of bond markets and technocrats if they have an engaged electorate behind them.

He says in a pamphlet titled In Defence of Politics, with a foreword by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, that rebuilding interest in politics from the bottom up will need initiatives to help school governors, community health commissioning groups and even state funding of campaigns such as Make Poverty History. Recent constitutional reforms such as an elected House of Lords are irrelevant to re-engaging ordinary people with the potential power of democracy and collective action, he claims.

"The left has to put a shot of electricity back in the political system and find new ways of re-engaging people with government, or else it will be lost, and people will turn to the politics of grievance offered by extremists. A functioning, engaged political democracy has to be the countervailing force against the unfettered and unregulated market. You rebuild commitment to the political process from the bottom, and not from top-down reforms," he said.

Blunkett, one of the older heads that advises Miliband, also addresses:

• what he regards as the irrelevance of the Leveson inquiry. He believes it has failed to address the real risk that the entire traditional newspaper industry is on the brink of commercial collapse, leading to a decline in reliable journalism – a bulwark of democracy. He proposes a tax on search engines, such as Google, recycling journalism. "If proper journalism goes down the pan, we are all doomed", he said.

• the likelihood that vast swaths of local government services will after 2015 be delivered by volunteers, or by fractured education and health services for which there is no true accountability.

• the failure of Labour politicians to offer voters a coherent narrative for the causes of the banking crisis of 2008, so allowing the right and the bond markets to seize back control of the argument on the economy.

In an accompanying interview, Blunkett says the bureaucracy and interference of the EU has been a force for alienation in the UK, saying we need to be crystal clear about what Europe does". He singles out Germany for the way in which it has sought to impose its thinking across Europe on how to respond to the economic crisis.

He said: "Angela Merkel has behaved in a very dangerous, almost imperialist, manner. It is ironic that Europe was established to stop one individual government having overbearing power, and here we are.

"It could be described as nothing short of a coup in terms of what occurred in Greece, with the removal of the prime minister, and in Italy, with the removal of both the prime minister and the cabinet.

Blunkett said: "No sooner had the voters given their verdict than the chancellor of Germany was seeking to veto the voters with the argument that recently signed pacts cannot be easily unpicked by incoming governments. The tone and nature of the German response was, however, deeply unhelpful and the height of arrogance. Once again, the Germans were appearing to believe that they had the right (or their leadership had the right) to trump the decisions of voters in individual sovereign countries".

He claimed: "If Germany had been willing to be flexible earlier, we probably would not had the last three years".

He also warns that greater transparency about the lives of elected politicians has increased rather than decreased voter scepticism. "More is known about our professional politicians than in the whole of our history. Their lives, their income, their contacts are registered, surveyed and commented upon; a transformation from the much-revered and often grossly overblown view of the past. Taken together, the24-hour, seven-day-a-week news, instant communication through the internet and social media such as Twitter, has changed the terms on which we do our politics." © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


'This Government's Policies Are Causing Too Much Pain'

MADRID -- Tens of thousands of people from all over Spain rallied in the capital Saturday against punishing austerity measures enacted by the government, which...


Privatisations, a long-haul in debt-wracked Greece

Privatisations, a long-haul in debt-wracked Greece
By Isabel Malsang (AFP) – 3 hours ago. ATHENS — Greece has relaunched its privatisation programme to appease its bailout creditors, but efforts so far to raise money by selling off state assets have failed to attract investors due to the country's ...


More pressure on Greece as EU finance ministers meet

Deutsche Welle

More pressure on Greece as EU finance ministers meet
Malta Independent Online
Finance ministers met in Cyprus to put more pressure on Greece to implement promised budget cuts, so that bailout payments can resume in November. The informal meeting of finance ministers took place Friday and yesterday in Nicosia was originally ...
Is Greece a security risk for NATO?Deutsche Welle
Senior German coalition lawmaker says parliament won't approve 3rd Greek ...Greenfield Daily Reporter
Senior German coalition lawmaker says parliament won't approve 3rd Greek ...Washington Post
The Associated Press -The Daily Telegraph
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Greece: Neo-Fascist Rampage Protected By Police; Strikes Gather Momentum

Greece: Neo-Fascist Rampage Protected By Police; Strikes Gather Momentum
By greydogg and snake arbusto, 99GetSmart. - Elected MPs from Greece's radical parties, SYRIZA and Golden Dawn, participated and cooperated in an organized demonstration by the Greek police to protest looming cuts in their wages and pensions.


Greece school officials visit homes with message on attendance

Greece school officials visit homes with message on attendance
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Barbara Deane-Williams, superintendent of schools, said the idea is to “connect with families and students and encourage them to take advantage of programs available at Greece Central that will put them on a path toward graduation.” The initiative is ...

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In defence, as in finance, the truth is clear – our future lies in Europe | Will Hutton

The Eurosceptics are just like the Tea Party, living in their own parallel universe and making up the facts to fit their story

Germany, France and Spain want a defence industry – so does Britain. The only structure that makes any sense as defence spending is slashed everywhere is for the national industries to be brought together into one single European defence contractor. Last week EADS, the umbrella company for the German, French and Spanish defence industries, and Britain's BAE Systems proposed to do just that in a £30bn merger.

It will be a giant company. All four governments will jockey for advantage; the deal could fail. The US might signal it is not interested in giving business beyond the British. But for all that, the logic is obvious. Divided, European defence contractors will fail. United they might hold the line – giving European countries a defence capability to act independently from the US, along with maintaining jobs and frontier technology.Everybody in the defence community has understood the inevitability of this for years.

Similarly with the armed services. British defence chiefs have always been privately in favour of developing a joint European army, navy and air force A British general and admiral would have a good chance of commanding the European army and navy, forces with real clout..

European countries' strategic defence interests, after all, are almost identical. What the British military faces instead is decades of decline in morale, ageing equipment and military marginalisation, increasingly neutered. It is a parallel story in finance. Our Eurosceptic chancellor was in Cyprus to defend British interests to the last as the EU launches its new system of banking supervision – which even he concedes is a vital precondition to securing the future of the euro. Treasury officials privately admit we don't have a negotiating position. Britain can be safely ignored. Essentially the European Central Bank, Germany, France and the European Commission will decide on the pan-European regulatory regime: British banks, to sustain their business, will have to follow suit.

In other words the fate of two great British industries – defence and financial services – is now intertwined with the EU. There is no other option. You might think that as a country there would be some resolve to stay in the governing councils of the political architecture managing our continent, and of which, ineluctably, we are part. This is the only way to nurture our great industries and remain an influence within the power relationships that determine the modern world. Supranational governance and collaboration are inescapable: and for a European country that means engaging with the EU.

Yet almost no one will say so – virtually no politician, commentator or business leader will speak out. They might get castigated as "guilty men" by a media mob for "selling out" to Europe, when in truth the guilty men and women are those conniving – actively and passively – in the process of our marginalisation. Modern Europe is characterised as a spent force hidebound in red tape, welfarism and preoccupied with the absurd ambition of creating a single currency. National sovereignty and the Anglo-Saxon community are what Britain must cherish. The future allegedly lies in China, despite the fact that a Chinese Spring – and associated turmoil – is drawing closer.

It is a mindset in which the immediate end of the euro has now been joyfully – and wrongfully – predicted some half a dozen times in the last two years. Almost every self-respecting commentator on left and right has felt it a badge of honour to deride the euro and anyone who supports it as a fool and a knave. Yet the euro is still standing. When there are elections and referendums – in Greece, Ireland and Holland – pro-European parties win, democratically validating this alleged anti-democratic project. The key measures to make the euro survive – the creation of a European Stability Mechanism, the buying of euro bonds by the European Central Bank and pan-European banking supervision – have been or are being put into place.

Real wages are falling painfully to produce the required adjustment, especially in Ireland and Greece. Greece will get more time to service its debts. Although the next 18 months of collective austerity – in my view vastly more than what was needed – will be tough, after that the EU will start to grow again. The euro will survive.

There is rational Euroscepticism – grounded in genuine concerns about the likelihood of creating a pan-European democracy and integrating disparate economies. In fact one of the by-products of the crisis has been the creation of a phenomenal cross-European democratic discussion: Europeans know more about each other than ever before.

Equally, the German challenge to many eurozone countries – be serious about production and wealth-creation as we are – is well made and being accepted. But the proposed EADs/BAE Systems merger highlights that even rational scepticism is trumped by another reality: if we want to preserve strategic industries and grow others they need the clout and scale that only European countries acting collaboratively can provide.

I can't and don't pretend the current euro is great; I only maintain that it is better than the way floating exchange rates work in reality – "dirty floats" (where central banks seek to manipulate their native rates) and competitive devaluations. Also, Europe gets some countervailing power on Germany. But none of these reflections cut any ice with irrational Euroscepticism – the fulminations of former defence secretary Liam Fox, for example, or those of Ukip leader Nigel Farrage or of most of our media.

Increasingly I see them as European versions of the Tea Party; passionately arguing for bonfires of red tape, low taxes; anti-Brussels instead of anti-Washington. And, like the Tea Party, if the facts don't fit make them up. Yet does anybody seriously believe that red tape – home- and EU-made – is really the cause of an even longer and deeper recession than that of the 1930s? Nor is social spending, as long as it is well-designed not to undermine incentives, anywhere associated with economic underperformance.

The future of our defence, like the future of the City, lies in making common cause with Europe. It will be a rocky ride – the sceptics could yet force and win an anti-EU referendum. But exit will only trigger a faster recognition of the reality that is forcing the proposed deal between BAE and EADS. Our only future is European. Before 2030 Britain will be applying to join the euro – and thus beginning a catch-up with a Europe which by then will be much more prosperous than us, looted by our feckless elite and their Eurosceptic apologists. Watch and wait. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Voters more likely to back an anti-Muslim party than reject it – poll

Research suggests that many voters are open to views associated with far-right groups

More people would support a political party that pledged to stop all immigration or promised to reduce the number of Muslims than one that encouraged multiculturalism, a survey conducted in the wake of the Olympics reveals.

Despite London 2012 being heralded as a celebration of a diverse society, the research suggests much of the electorate remains open to views traditionally associated with far-right groups.

The survey, conducted by YouGov with 1,750 respondents, found that 41% of people would be more likely to vote for a party that promised to stop all immigration, compared with 28% who said they would be less likely to support a group that promoted such policies.

In addition, 37% admitted that they would be more likely to support a political party that promised to reduce the number of Muslims in Britain and the presence of Islam in society, compared with 23% who said it would make them less likely.

Matthew Goodwin of the Extremis Project, an independent group monitoring extremism and terrorism that commissioned the research, said that, although Britain lacked a successful extremist political party, much of the public was susceptible to far-right ideology.

He said: "The results clearly point towards enduring public anxieties over the performance of mainstream political and business elites, immigration and also the role of Muslims and Islam in society."

In Europe, far-right parties have gained an increasing foothold, with Marine le Pen's National Front recently polling 6.5 million votes and a poll in Greece indicating that support for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn has grown to 10.5%, up from 7% at the last election. However, the fiercely anti-Islamic Freedom party of Geert Wilders won only 15 seats in last week's Dutch elections, compared with its previous 24 seats.

The UK poll results suggest, however, that Britain may struggle to host far-right groups capable of such popularity, revealing a striking generational divide in attitudes towards multiculturalism. It found that large majorities of 18-to -24-year-olds rejected radical rightwing policies, with 60% saying that a party campaigning to halt all immigration would make them less likely to support it or that it did not matter to them.

Less than a quarter of 18-to-24-year-olds said they would be more likely to vote for a party that promised to halt all immigration, compared with more than half of those aged above 60. Similarly, 27% of the younger age group said they would vote for a party that campaigned to reduce the number of Muslims, compared with 49% of those aged over 60.

Goodwin, a lecturer at Nottingham University, said: "While we see further evidence of an emerging generation that is more tolerant towards – and accepting of – immigration and diversity, there remains clear potential for a party that … promises to halt immigration, reduce the number of Muslims and prioritise traditional British values over other cultures." © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Greece police looking for missing girl, 16

Greece police looking for missing girl, 16
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
The Greece Police Department is seeking the public's help in finding a missing 16-year-old girl last seen at her residence on Jade Creek Drive. Megan Tuohey is described as a white female, 5-feet, 1-inch tall with brown hair and brown eyes. She was ...
Greece Police investigate string of burglariesNews 10NBC
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