Category Archives: Greece

(EUobserver) Greek austerity violated right to health, says watchdog

(EUobserver)

  • Greek unemployment is at 19.1 percent – higher than any other EU member state. (Photo: Eric Maurice)

 

Years of EU-led austerity in Greece continue to ravage a population that struggles with crippling poverty and access to basic health care and education, according to a new report from the Council of Europe (CoE).

Dunja Mijatovic, the CoE’s commissioner for human rights, told EUobserver that Greeks are still suffering from the aftermath of international bailouts and imposed economic structural reforms.

(GR) Greece ‘to Claim €280 Billion’ in War Reparations from Germany

(GR)

Greece is about to launch a campaign to claim €280 billion ($323 billion) in war reparations from Germany, reports Der Spiegel.

The German magazine notes that as long as Greece was dependent on EU support, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had avoided raising the issue. But now, after the end of the third bailout program, Athens is ready to take initiatives to claim the money, it says.

The issue is resurfacing a few days before the official visit of Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Athens where he will meet the President of the Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Tsipras.

Der Spiegel says it is no coincidence that the two highest ranking Greek politicians have both raised the issue in the last few days.

It marks the beginning of a long campaign, which, according to the German magazine, will start in November.

The Greek Parliament will endorse an audit report ready since August 2016, according to which Greece is entitled to €269.5 billion of repairs from the Second World War.

In addition, Greece demands the repayment of a €10.3 billion occupation loan.

The report remained under wraps throughout the last two years, but Tsipras seems ready to bring it back to the surface and start a campaign for war reparations, says Der Spiegel.

In the second phase, Greece intends to present its arguments at world organizations such as the European Parliament, the European Council, and the UN.

In the third phase, Greece plans to call on Germany to negotiate war reparations. For its part, the German government is expected to reject the request. Already in the past, it has made it clear that Greece has no legal right to claim damages for the Second World War.

In the opinion of some Greek lawyers, this German denial may open the way for the case to be brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, says the German magazine.

(KTG) Dijsselbloem: Greece should have been grateful to European aid, kept mouth shut

(KTG) Greece should have been grateful to European aid and kept its mouth shut, the former chief of Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem said more or less in an interview on Saturday. He has clearly not recovered yet from the traumatic experience with former Greek finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. At the same time and after three painful bailout agreements that increased the debt and pushed millions to impoverishment, Dijsselbloem dared saying that  “Greece is obviously not a success story, demands on Greeks were to heavy” and that the Greek “crisis has been so deep, that you can’t call it a success”

Euro zone countries have asked for too much from the Greek people in return for international bailout loans, former Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said in an interview on Dutch television on Saturday.

“On reforms, we have asked a lot from the Greek people, too much,” Dijsselbloem told current affairs program Nieuwsuur. “Reforms are hard enough to accomplish in a society with a well-functioning government, but this was obviously not the case in Greece.”

“Greece is obviously not a success story,” Dijsselbloem said. “Their crisis has been so deep, that you can’t call it a success.”

At the same time, in the usual North European arrogance, he said that Greece should be grateful for the help it received and keep its mouth shut.

Speaking about former ex finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, Dijsselbloem has obviously not recovered from the traumatic experience in front of the cameras in February 2015 in Athens.

Politics is just a tricky job, you have to compromise, Greece was dependent on help from others, and then to put a big mouth against the people who help you … We set conditions for that. Disagree, but you can not raise a big finger at them,” Dijsselboem said.

Is Dijsselbloem such a political naive to believe that Varoufakis was acting on his own and that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras did not agree with the negotiation policies in the first half of 2015? Apparently….

Does Dijsselbloem who blindly followed the strict austerity orders by German finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble during 2013-2018, now show some kind of remorse? Hardly.

He is one – yet another one – self-righteous, thin-weight man who found himself in a powerful position and who now has nothing else to do than write a book about his glorious past, when he was at the spotlight of media.

He and his Labor party were defeated big in the Dutch parliamentary elections last year and is set to publish a book on his time as head of the Eurogroup.

The book has the title “The Euro crisis the story from the inside” or else “The Animal Farm of Eurogroup and EU solidarity.”

The man who had nothing to say during his term as Eurogroup chief, suddenly has found his tongue and keeps giving interviews whenever sees a microphone in front of him.

In an interview last week with Greek daily tanea, Dijsselbloem also admitted that mistakes were made by the Europeans in handling the Greek crisis, saying that they initially experimented and it took four years for them to stand on their feet and set up mechanisms to confront the crisis.

He conceded that a different policy should have been implemented in Greece, as the bailout programmes were very strict, and their implementation was very difficult. He noted, however, that Greek politicians made many mistakes before the crisis.

The former Dutch Finance Minister who has zero knowledge about finances and who turned Eurogroup chief thanks to Schaeuble went so far to blame on Germany for its delay in accepting the need for collective European action, with the implementation of bailout programmes in countries that were in danger.

Greek Sunday newspaper Documento has also in interview with Dijsselbloem today.

The former eurogroup chief accuses PASOK and New Democracy saying “intermingling interests were enjoying protection by the previous governments.

(EurActiv) Activists held in Greece for illegally aiding migrants

(EurActiv) Police in Greece said on Tuesday (28 August) they had arrested three members of a Greek NGO on suspicion of helping migrants illegally enter the country.

The members of Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) were detained on the Greek island of Lesbos, where thousands of migrants are housed in squalid conditions in cramped camps.

“The activities of an organised criminal network that systematically facilitated the illegal entry of foreigners were fully exposed,” a police statement said.

Members of the group were in contact with migrants on social media groups and “actively assisted” their illegal entry into Greece from 2015 onwards, according to the statement.

To keep tabs on migrant flows, the accused also illegally monitored Greek coastguard and EU border agency Frontex radio traffic, authorities said.

Any information gathered was not shared with Greek authorities, the police said.

Overall, six Greeks and 24 foreign nationals were implicated in the case, they added.

Among those arrested was Sara Mardini, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee student and scholarship recipient of Bard College in Berlin.

SCI International@sciint

Do you know Sara Mardini? A 21 years old girl from , and she will be one of the speaker to the @Youth_Forum http://bit.ly/2kAsNxL 

Persona Grata Goods@refugeeartisans

Persona Grata Goods: Yusra Mardini: From Syrian refugee swimmer to voice for change https://ift.tt/2I5SAG9  | Upcoming film on Syrian refugee Olympic athlete!

“Yusra and her sister Sara were encouraged to swim before they could walk by their father, a coach, and the Olympic d…

Yusra Mardini: From Syrian refugee swimmer to voice for change

Tokyo 2020 is on the horizon for Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini, but the star of the Refugee Olympic Team knows that her greatest battle lies outside of the pool.

cnn.com

In 2015, the Mardini sisters, Sarah and Yusra, employed their swimming skills to pull the water-logged boat that brought them over from Turkey with another 18 people onboard.

EENA112

@112_sos

Sara & Yusra Mardini swam for over 3 hours pushing a capsizing dinghy to save all 18 refugees on board.

They thoroughly deserve the Inspiration Role Model award – the final 112 award of the night.

“They did nothing wrong, they want to help people out of idealism,” said Yusra’s swimming coach Sven Spannekrebs.

“I was on Lesbos a few weeks ago and saw what all the volunteers are doing: A great job,” he told AFP via email.

Spannekrebs said Mardini and another detainee, Sean Binder, were “long-term volunteers for ERCI (and) never engaged in any illegal activity as suggested by the authorities.”

He also cast doubt on the claim that the activists were illegally listening in on encrypted coastguard radio.

“The channels that the radios had access to are open to anyone to listen,” the coach said.

Police said two ERCI activists had already been arrested in February onboard a jeep with concealed fake army license plates.

ERCI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Overcrowded ‘hotspots’

Lesbos has been a key gateway into the European Union since the start of the bloc’s migration crisis in 2015.

At the height of the influx, some 5,000 migrants and refugees, mostly from war-torn Syria, landed on the island’s beaches on a daily basis.

The refugee-hosting crisis in the Greek islands is spiralling out of control, a regional governor said after violent clashes that took place yesterday (19 September).

It now has the highest concentration of migrants in Greece, with the worst conditions in the camp of Moria where over 8,300 people live, according to UN figures — about triple the nominal capacity.

Most wait months for their asylum applications to be processed. Living conditions are squalid and violent flare-ups common.

The overcrowding also means that the vulnerable — including women and unaccompanied minors — are in close quarters with non-family men.

Earlier this year, three Spaniards and two Danes were also accused of trying to help migrants illegally enter Greece.

They were cleared in court in May.

(CNBC) Greece ends nearly 10 years of bailouts — this is what it means

(CNBC)

  • The yield on the 10-year Greek bond is at about 4.3 percent — the highest across the region.
  • Analysts have pointed out that Greece ends this third rescue with a “massive cash buffer”— meaning that it won’t need market help for nearly two years.

Monday is an historic day for Greece as nearly a decade of external financial help comes to an end.

The Syriza-led government has managed to end a third bailout rescue, implementing all the measures demanded by creditors, despite earlier doubts whether the inexperienced party would manage to complete the arduous task.

“Today we celebrate the end of a very long and difficult journey,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told CNBC via email.

“What matters now is to build on this achievement by sticking to sound fiscal and economic policies,” he added.

However, some analysts argue that this is more a “symbolic” moment and there is plenty yet to do to improve the Greek economy. “Both the EU and the Greeks will try to put a positive spin on the end of the bailout, but there is little to celebrate,” Constantine Fraser, European analyst at research firm TS Lombard, told CNBC via email.

CNBC looks at what the completion of Greece’s third financial rescue means and how markets are set to react.

What does ending a bailout program mean?

As of Monday August 20, Greece will be a self-financing nation, so will no longer receive regular financial tranches from its European creditors.

As a result, whenever Athens finds it suitable, Greece will be able to tap financial markets to fund its activities — just like any other country in a relatively healthy economic situation.

Why is it important?

The first time that Greece asked for financial help was in 2010, when the country’s public debt pile became so high that investors were no longer willing to keep financing Athens.

Since then, Greece has relied on European creditors and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to keep its finances afloat. The financial crisis was perpetuated by a number of political events, including the historical spat between former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and other euro zone finance ministers.

As a result, Greece is the last country in the euro zone to end a financial assistance program on the back of the sovereign debt crisis. Portugal, Ireland and Spain (Madrid only requested some help towards its banking system) have all came back from the brink.

After eight years of economic turmoil, Greece can finally claim financial independence. And European institutions are also happy to officially turn the page on the financial crisis that seriously dented the continent’s economy.

How will the markets react?

“On Monday, there might be some positive movements in Greek bond markets, responding to a feelgood factor on the day, but I’d expect most of the news to already be priced-in by now,” Fraser from TS Lombard said.

The yield on the 10-year Greek bond is at about 4.3 percent — the highest across the region.

Premium greece woman 180518 EU
Sakis Mitrolidis | AFP | Getty Images

Analysts have pointed out that Greece ends this third rescue with a “massive cash buffer”— meaning that it won’t need market help for nearly two years.

This buffer stands at 24.1 billion euros ($27.4 billion), thanks to money that Greece put aside during the financial program and tranches from European creditors. The amount is expected to cover all sovereign needs for the next 22 months. This means that Greece won’t have to tap the markets in the coming year-and-a-half, unless it thinks there are favorable conditions to do so.

“Greece has build up a massive cash buffer, so they wont have to tap bond markets, in theory, for roughly two years. So the end of the bailout programme on Monday should not have an impact on the bond yields,” Carsten Hesse, European economist at Berenberg, told CNBC.

Nonetheless, he warned that there could be some contagion risks from other market events that could affect the performance of Greek bonds on Monday.

On the back of the ongoing economic turmoil in Turkey, Greek bonds saw “a little bit of contagion last week,” Hesse said. “But luckily, Greek banks have very, very little exposure to Turkey and trade between Turkey and Greece is also little. So, in theory, there should not be an impact (in the bond market).

“The threat is more politically. If a larger part of the (exiled) 3.5 million Syrians would come to Greece due to a potential massive crisis in Turkey, it would be a big political problem for Greece and could impact the standing of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.”

Greece is one of the main arrival points of Syrian refugees, which has caused several controversies at the European level. The EU made a pact with Turkey to stem the number of refugees crossing to Europe — something that could be at risk if the economic crisis there exacerbates.

Other analysts nonetheless, argue that Greece has yet to rebuild its reputation.

“Now Greece needs to bring confidence to the markets both by political actions and by the country’s gradual exit to the markets,” Constantinos Zouzoulas, head of research at Axia, told CNBC via email on Saturday.

Nevertheless, in the short term, and despite the program exit, Greek government bonds most likely to continue to be impacted by the turmoil in the neighboring countries, since, although not directly exposed, Greece is seen as a weak link, ” Zouzoulas added.

How’s the future for Greece looking?

“It is a historic day for Greece and will likely be used heavily by the current government coalition, with a view on the 2019 parliamentary elections,” Ricardo Garcia, chief euro zone economist at UBS, told CNBC via email.

Ahead of a general election next year, Tsipras will want to sell this moment as a key milestone that he and his party managed to achieve. Syriza is currently second to opposition party New Democracy in opinion polls — a position that the left-leaning party wants to reverse.

”(The end of the bailout) should also strengthen business and consumer confidence in Greece, as well as entice more foreign direct investment,” Garcia said.

After a decade of economic turmoil and about 260 billion euros in bailout money, Athens seems to be slowly returning to growth. It registered a positive growth rate of 1.4 percent in 2017, after contracting 0.2 percent in the previous year.

According to forecasts from the European Commission, the country is set to grow 1.9 percent in 2018 and 2.3 percent the year after. But Garcia, like other analysts, warned that “there is much more to be done, looking, for example, at competitiveness rankings.”

“However, Greece has already made a huge adjustment on the fiscal and current account side,” he added. “Nonetheless, it is important that fiscal discipline remains in place, and that reforms continue.”

(Ekathimerini) Moscow expels Greek diplomats, Athens warns of ‘proportionate’ response

(Ekathimerini)

Greece Monday said it would respond “in an appropriate and proportionate manner” after Russia announced it was kicking two Greek diplomats out of the country in a retaliatory move over a decision by Athens to expel two Russian envoys.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had summoned Greek Ambassador Andreas Friganas and handed him a diplomatic note informing him of “tit-for-tat measures” taken by Moscow.

Two Greek Embassy staff as well as the director of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias’s political bureau, Giorgos Sakellariou, were ordered to leave, Kathimerini understands.

Speaking to Kathimerini on condition of anonymity, diplomatic sources described the Russian response as “asymmetric.”

They said the Greek decision was made on the basis of clear evidence that specific individuals from inside the Russian Embassy in Athens were engaged in activities intruding into Greece’s domestic affairs.

The same sources added that Greece will respond in “an appropriate and proportionate manner.”

In July, Athens expelled two diplomats based at the Russian Embassy in Athens and barred two more from entering Greece after evidence showed they tried to foment opposition to a name deal between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) which opened the path to the Balkan state’s EU and NATO membership.

Russian officials had at the time described the Greek move as “unjustified” and warned of an “in-kind” response.

(KeepTalkingGreece) Germany makes €2.9billion profit from Greece’s crisis since 2010

(KeepTalkingGreece) Germany has earned around 2.9 billion euros in profit from interest rate since the first bailout for Greece in 2010. This is the official response of the Federal Government to a request submitted by the Green party in Berlin. The profit was transmitted to the central Bundesbank and from there to the federal budget.

The revenues came mainly due to purchases of Greek government bonds under the so-called Securities Markets Program (SMP) of the European Central Bank (ECB).

Previous agreements between the government in Athens and the eurozone states foresaw that other states will pay out the profits from this program to Greece if  Athens would meet all the austerity and reform requirements. However, according to Berlin’s response, only in 2013 and 2014 such funds have been transferred to the Greek State and the ESM. The money to the euro bailout landed on a seggregated account.

As the Federal Government announced, the Bundesbank achieved by 2017 about 3.4 billion euros in interest gains from the SMP purchases. In 2013, approximately 527 million euros were transferred back to Greece and around 387 million to the ESM in 2014. Therefore, the overall profit is 2.5 billion euros.

In addition, there are interest profits of 400 million euros from a loan from the state bank KfW.

“Contrary to all right-wing myths, Germany has benefited massively from the crisis in Greece,” said Greens household expert Sven Christian Kindler said and demanded a debt relief for Greece.

“It can not be that the federal government with billions of revenues from the Greek interest the German budget recapitalize,” Kindler criticized. “Greece has saved hard and kept its commitments, now the Eurogroup must keep its promise,” he stressed.

“Sorry, Angie, I couldn’t make more, yet 2.9billion is not bad profit either…”

The Eurogroup is meeting today to approve the last bailout tranche for Greece and eventually take crucial decisions on a settlement of the Greek debt, before the country exits the 3. fiscal adjustment program in August.

According to ESM chief Klaus Regling, Greece has been given loans of over 270 billion euros.

(JN) Nós não fomos a Grécia – Pedro Ivo Carvalho*

(JN) Nós não somos a Grécia, nós não somos a Grécia, nós não somos a Grécia. Houve um tempo em que o fado lusitano se engrandecia vituperando aqueles que, como nós, se debatiam para desenlaçar um apertado nó no pescoço. Na verdade, era mais instinto de sobrevivência do que desejo de maledicência. Sempre que Bruxelas agitava um documento sombrio ou produzia uma declaração paternalista sobre a nossa propensão para o abismo orçamental, ouvíamos o primeiro-ministro e a ministra das Finanças entoar a cantilena. Não nos deu a vitória na Eurovisão, mas ajudou a abrir caminho para metermos um solista português no palco do Eurogrupo. A proclamação de Pedro Passos Coelho e Maria Luís Albuquerque veio a provar-se verdadeira.

Hoje, nós só não somos a Grécia, porque ontem não fomos a Grécia. A qual, pese embora o relevantíssimo papel desempenhado na confrontação política ao discurso único da austeridade, veio a revelar-se um doente aparentemente incurável padecendo de um mal altamente contagioso. No final, a batuta do malfadado diretório europeu levou a orquestra para onde bem quis. Em 2018, os gregos continuam de mão estendida, estruturalmente não resolveram nenhum dos problemas que obliteravam o progresso económico do país e vão a meio do enésimo programa de austeridade. Nós não fomos a Grécia. Mas livrámo-nos desse anátema da pior maneira.

Ora, a economia, por mais que se alimente das variações de espírito dos consumidores, vive sobretudo de ciclos e de carradas de pragmatismo. Quem diria, por exemplo, que, apenas quatro anos depois da saída da troika do nosso regaço, teríamos um presidente português do Eurogrupo a exigir mais esforço orçamental à mesmíssima Grécia? O “Ronaldo” do Eurogrupo – que ameaça relegar CR7 para a categoria profissional de Mário Centeno do Real Madrid – estreou-se no cadeirão de Bruxelas com a natural candura de sempre e o discurso musculado do costume: se a Grécia não cumprir o plano de ajustamento, e não o fizer antes do prazo estipulado, não verá a cor do próximo cheque. A vida dá mesmo muitas voltas.

Ter Mário Centeno como decisor bipolar (um pé nas cativações domésticas, outro nas comunitárias) pode, pois, ser de grande utilidade. Basta lembrar que os que hoje nos chamam “nórdicos do Sul” são os mesmos que, não há muito tempo, nos adornavam a campa quando definhávamos no lamaçal dos P.I.G.S. Não nos esqueçamos. E, sobretudo, não nos iludamos com música celestial criada à medida dos nossos ouvidos.

*SUBDIRETOR

(Reuters) EU Commission sees Greek primary surplus at 3.9% GDP in 2018

(Reuters)

  • Greece will also start running a budget surplus of 0.9 percent next year in a sharp reversal of a budget deficit of 1.2 percent seen this year
  • The Commission also forecast that Greek public debt would fall rapidly over the next two years to 170.1 percent of GDP in 2019

A protestor holds a banner outside the Greek parliament during in a demonstration by municipal contract workers in Athens, Greece, on Thursday, June 29, 2017.

Kostas Tsironis | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A protestor holds a banner outside the Greek parliament during in a demonstration by municipal contract workers in Athens, Greece, on Thursday, June 29, 2017.

Greece’s primary surplus is likely to rise to 3.9 percent of GDP, beating a target of 3.5 percent, next year when the country is to exit the latest euro zone bailout programme and return to market financing, the European Commission forecast on Thursday.

In a regular forecast for all European Union economies, the Commission said that Greece would have a primary surplus — the budget balance before debt servicing costs — of 2.0 percent this year. The surplus is projected to be 3.7 percent in 2019.

The Commission also forecast that Greek public debt, the highest in the European Union, would fall rapidly over the next two years to 170.1 percent of GDP in 2019 from 179.6 expected this year.

The country will also start running a budget surplus of 0.9 percent next year in a sharp reversal of a budget deficit of 1.2 percent seen this year.

(BBG) A Turning Point for Greece

(BBGGreece is taking a step closer to get the respect it deserves from Europe.

Yields on the country’s government bonds, which have already taken great strides lower this year, hit a new low last week on news the government is preparing a major debt swap. The exercise, first reported by Bloomberg News, should allow Greece to sell bonds in future — and help end its dependence on the largess of its main creditors.

It comes after Europe’s peripheral debt markets all made impressive gains in recent months. Spreads on Spanish, Italian and Portuguese bonds have all tightening against their German equivalents.

The European Central Bank’s gentle tapering its quantitative easing program has reassured investors that the buyer-of-last-resort won’t disappear soon. That’s helped Portuguese yields to drop by about half in the past six months to trade less than 30 basis points above Italy.

Greece has performed even better — despite the fact its bonds still don’t figure in the ECB’s Public Sector Purchasing Program. While they are technically eligible, the ECB’s governing council still has to decide that it’s confident that Greece’s debt load is sustainable. Letting Greece into the program would put the country back in the euro zone fold.

Success in the next round of talks with creditors, early in 2018, should finally provide the necessary conditions. The IMF is no longer the barrier to progress it was: It stepped out of the way to allow Greece to increase its debt-load in July. It also softened its requirements on stress tests and bank asset reviews. Domestic politics are also less of an issue. Elections aren’t due for two years, and the ruling Syriza party’s ratings in the polls are lifting as the economy improves.

In the meantime, it makes sense for Greece to establish a simpler yield curve, with larger and more liquid benchmarks. That ought to attract more investors back to what is at present a backwater. That will be of importance not only to the ECB, but most importantly, when it comes to raising new money, something Greece surely needs to do.

Greece hopes to raise at least 6 billion euros to establish a capital buffer for when it falls out of the formal protection of its bailout next year. If the bond swap is a success, expect it to be followed by another fundraising, creditors permitting.

2017 has been a watershed for the euro zone’s peripheral countries. Greece will be hoping 2018 will see a permanent transformation from being a semi-detached basket case into an integral member of the European project.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

(BBG) Greece Is Planning a EU30 Billion Debt-Swap Exercise

(BBG) The Greek government is planning an unprecedented debt swap worth 29.7 billion euros ($34.5 billion) aimed at boosting the liquidity of its paper and easing the sale of new bonds in the future.

Under a project that could be launched in mid November, the government plans to swap 20 bonds issued after a restructuring of Greek debt held by private investors in 2012 with as many as five new fixed-coupon bonds, according to two senior bankers with knowledge of the swap plan. The bank officials requested anonymity as the plan has yet to be made public. The maturities of the new bonds may be the same as for the existing notes, which range from 2023 to 2042.

“The move aims to address the current illiquidity of the Greek bond market,” according to analysts at Pantelakis Securities SA in Athens. It will also “establish a decent yield curve, thus facilitating the country’s return to public debt markets.”

The move comes as Greece prepares for life after the end of its current bailout program in August 2018. The debt swap is a step toward the country’s full return to markets required to avoid a new bailout program. The government plans to tap the bond market in 2018 to raise at least 6 billion euros to create an adequate buffer to honor debt obligations, according to a government official.

The government has yet to decide on the exact timing of the swap, the Greek official said on condition of anonymity. One of the bank officials said that transaction could start on Nov. 13 and the settlement could happen a week later. The goal is to conclude the swap before the next mission of the country’s creditors, which is scheduled for the last week of November.

Market access

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said in October that tapping markets soon wouldn’t be aimed at getting fresh money so much as to better manage the country’s debt and make its bonds more attractive. The new bonds, following the swap, are expected to have the same value as the old ones and will have a fixed coupon, one of the people with knowledge of the matter said.

Yields on Greek bonds dropped Wednesday with the 15-year tenor hitting a fresh year-to-date low at 6.03 percent, a level unseen since September 2014. Five-year notes yielded a six-week low of 4.39 percent. The Athens benchmark stock index rose by 1.4 percent as of 2:22 p.m. Athens time, after touching its highest level since Sept. 22.

Greece returned to markets in July for the first time since 2014, raising 3 billion euros through new five-year bonds. Now, with the swap plan, the government wants to ensure it can tap the market for enough funds to refinance its debt obligations in 2019, which originally amounted to 19 billion euros. The government managed to reduce this number by 1.6 billion euros with the July bond issuance.

The country’s third bailout review started last week. Both Greek and European officials estimate that the review could be completed at the end of January or in early February.

— With assistance by Viktoria Dendrinou, and Vassilis Karamanis

Before it’s here, i

(BBG) Why Germany’s Shakeup Won’t Help Greece

(BBG) Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is on the way out. His replacement could prove even tougher.

Cash flow.

Photographer: Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg

Those cheering the looming departure of Wolfgang Schaeuble from the German Ministry of Finance should hold the champagne. His successor may not be as ornery, but southern Europeans — and above all Greeks — shouldn’t expect any better treatment.

Schaeuble has held a wide range of positions since he was first elected to the German parliament in 1972; he’s been interior minister, chief of staff to the chancellor and the leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party now headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel; he nearly became president at one point and chancellor at another. Only one of his post-World War II predecessors at the Ministry of Finance has served longer than his eight years, and not by much. But Schaeuble has always served his party in whatever position it could offer, and he’ll still be a formidable figure as speaker of the parliament, formally the second most senior office-holder in Germany after the president, just ahead of the chancellor.

Schaeuble’s protestant philosophy of political service is important for the understanding of his tenure as finance minister. Of course, it took personal conviction to steer his unwavering course of austerity, balanced budgets and respect for rules. Schaeuble was trained at the University of Freiburg, where ordoliberalism was developed in the 1930s through 1950s. This theory married a liberal, pro-market approach with a strong state, whose role is to maintain a high level of social security. Ordoliberalism has faded somewhat since the 1970s, but it still influences much of German economic thinking, and Schaeuble was close to its origins in his formative years. As finance minister late in his life, he tended to lean toward the “ordo” part. He once confessed to his brother: “The older I get and the more I see as finance minister, the more skeptical I get about capitalism.”

By and large, though, Schaeuble merely upheld his party’s long-standing political line, which was obvious long before he took up the finance minister’s job — as the economic foundations of the European Union and the euro area were being discussed. Markus Brunnermeier, Harold James and Jean-Pierre Landau described the “Rhine divide” between expansionist, pro-stimulus France and rules-loving Germany in their recent book, “The Euro and the Battle of Ideas.” More of a constitutional lawyer than an economist (although trained in economics, too), Schaeuble maintained continuity as best he could. His single-minded discipline has been his biggest asset to Merkel, whom he has served loyally though she had outmaneuvered him politically after Helmut Kohl was forced to give up party leadership in 1998.

This is not the end of the Schaeuble era in politics. This year, the parliament even changed the rules so he could open its first session after the election as the longest-serving member. Before, the oldest legislator got the honor, but in 2017, it would have been an Alternative for Germany (AfD) member — and the German establishment couldn’t allow it. It played the king of clubs: Schaeuble. Now that parliament includes an unruly group of nationalists elected from the AfD party and a Social Democratic faction that is determined to oppose Merkel, Schaeuble is in a better position to help the chancellor and the CDU. Keeping the debate in hand is suddenly important, and Schaeuble is a rock of fortitude, exuding a “natural authority,” as liberal Free Democratic Party leader Christian Lindner noted in a tweet supporting Schaeuble’s move.

That Merkel is willing to move Schaeuble out of the finance minister’s job shows the seriousness of her intention to build a stable coalition with the FDP and the Greens. But the finance ministry will likely go to the FDP, which won more votes in the election than the Greens, and made clear its ambition to secure the finance post even before the election campaign was over. Unfortunately for Greece and other southern European nations seeking financial help, the party’s potential candidates are likely to be as tight-fisted as Schaeuble. The FDP is not ordoliberal — it’s unabashedly neoliberal. It is firmly opposed to fiscal stimulus, debt write-offs, transfers of German money to neighboring countries, and budget deficits, and its opposition has less to do with continuity than Schaeuble’s was: It’s a matter of principle.

Schaeuble could be expected to look for compromise within the established rules. Setting up the European Stability Mechanism, for example, was such a compromise, allowing the transfer of financial reputation to the distressed economies without the straight transfer of taxpayer cash. The FDP dislikes the ESM, mistrusts it as a dishonest trick. Its leaders’ belief in capitalism is stronger than Schaeuble’s; their belief in solidarity is weaker. The FDP wants to go after EU countries that don’t stick to their fiscal commitments; Schaeuble was willing to give them a pass. Eurogroup partners knew Schaeuble was hard to please, but they got used to his acerbic style and figured out how to work with him. That may be more difficult with an FDP minister, who, at least initially, is likely to be more of a zealot than a tradition-keeper in the Schaeuble vein. It’s likely that southern Europeans will be nostalgic for Schaeuble soon enough.

(Forbes) Portugal Is Back From The Brink Of Economic Collapse — Could Greece Be Next?

(Forbes)

Photographer: Henrique Almeida/Bloomberg

Seven years after sliding into the swamp of depression, Portugal is still a rich country, at least according to one measure, per capita GDP, which stood at 22347.03 U.S. dollars in 2016.

That’s 177% of the world’s average, and close to its all-time high of 22829.85 USD in 2008, according to Tradingeconomics.com.

Portugal’s Key Metrics

Metric Value
Per Capita GDP 22347*
Per Capita GDP PPP 27007*
GDP Annual Growth Rate 2.9%
Global X MSCI Portugal Index YTD (PGAL) 33.73%

*2016

Source: Tradingeconomics.com 9/21/17

Then there’s human development, an index in which Portugal ranks among the top fifty countries in the world, close to Spain and Greece.

Portugal’s Human Development Metrics (2015)

Country Overall Ranking Life Expectancy Expected Years of Schooling
Greece 29/188 81.10 17.2
Spain 27 82.38 17.7
Portugal 42 80.37 16.6
France 21 82.57 16.30

Source: Human Development Report

Portugal is recovering from the deep recession that accompanied the debt crisis of 2010-14. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded by 2.90% in the second quarter of 2017, thanks to a rebound in investment spending. That’s well above the 1.22% 1996—2017 average, and a big comeback from the -5% during the bottom of  the 2010-14 depression.

Debt rating agencies have taken notice. Last week, S&P Global Ratings revised the country’s sovereign credit rating to “BBB-” from “BB+” and assigned a stable outlook.

My recent book The Ten Golden Rules Of Leadership is published by AMACOM, and can be found here.

(ECO) Grécia sai do Procedimento por Défice Excessivo

(ECO) O Conselho Europeu confirmou esta segunda-feira a recomendação da Comissão Europeia para retirar a Grécia do Procedimento por Défice Excessivo.

Portugal saiu oficialmente em junho. Três meses depois, é a vez de a Grécia sair do Procedimento por Défice Excessivo. O Conselho Europeu retificou esta segunda-feira a decisão de julho da Comissão Europeia.

Depois de muitos anos de dificuldades severas, as finanças gregas estão em muito melhor estado“, afirmou o representante da Estónia, Toomas Tõniste, cujo país ocupa neste momento na presidência do Conselho Europeu. “Estamos agora no último ano do programa de ajuda financeira, e o progresso que está a ser feito irá permitir à Grécia ter acesso ao financiamento nos mercados financeiros a juros sustentáveis”, explicou o ministro das Finanças estónio.

Tal como Portugal, a Grécia passará agora a estar sob as regras do braço preventivo das regras europeias. O país deixa de ter as suas finanças públicas sob vigilância reforçada de Bruxelas, goza de alguma flexibilização das regras orçamentais e liberta-se da ameaça das sanções por não cortar o défice.

Segundo o Conselho Europeu, as autoridades gregas comprometeram-se a manter um saldo primário de 3,5% do PIB até 2022. Ainda que para este ano esteja projetado um ligeiro défice, as autoridades europeias estão confiantes de que o equilíbrio orçamental foi atingido. Além disso, o Conselho Europeu espera que a Grécia diminua o seu rácio de dívida de 179%.

O Procedimento por Défice Excessivo à Grécia tinha sido aberto em abril de 2009. Nesse ano, o défice atingiu os 15,1%. Sete anos depois, em 2016, a Grécia atingiu um excedente orçamental de 0,7%. A Comissão Europeia prevê que o défice este ano seja de 1,2%.

Apesar das finanças públicas estarem em melhor estado, o mesmo não se pode dizer da economia grega. O PIB retraiu no final de 2016, tendo depois recuperado ligeiramente no primeiro trimestre deste ano. No segundo trimestre, a economia da Grécia avançou 0,8%, ainda aquém de crescimento mais significativos.

A 16 de junho, o Conselho de ministros das Finanças da União Europeia (Ecofin) formalizou, em Luxemburgo, a saída oficial de Portugal e da Croácia do PDE.

(ECO) Fundos dizem adeus à dívida portuguesa e olá à grega

(ECO) Com os juros da dívida portuguesa a descer e as obrigações a subir, os fundos de investimento começam a escolher dívidas de maior retorno como a grega ou a cipriota.

A Standard & Poor’s retirou a dívida portuguesa do “lixo”, considerando-a agora uma dívida de qualidade. Os juros da dívida atingiram mínimos de dois anos e as obrigações subiram. E embora estas pareçam boas notícias para os portugueses, para alguns fundos de investimento não são. É o caso do Blue Bay Asset Mangement e da Old Mutual Global Investors, que veem agora retornos mais altos em dívidas de mais risco, como a grega ou a cipriota.

A taxa a dez anos está a subir, mas continuam abaixo dos 2,50%, tendo já atingido os 2,387%, o valor mais baixo desde o final de setembro de 2015. E esta tendência de queda é transversal à maioria das maturidades, com a taxa do prazo a dois anos abaixo de zero. Mark Downing, investidor do Blue Bay, afirma à Bloomberg que “o dinheiro fácil” poderá já ter acabado. “Muitos dos retornos que tivemos vieram de Portugal e há mais a retirar de outras dívidas”, considera Dowding. “Temos fundos nos quais podemos investir, mas temos preferido o Chipre ou a Grécia a Portugal.”

“Muitos dos retornos que tivemos vieram de Portugal e há mais a retirar de outras dívidas. Temos fundos nos quais podemos investir, mas temos preferido o Chipre ou a Grécia a Portugal.”

Mark Dowding

Investidor do Blue Bay Asset Management

A dívida portuguesa continua a ser considerada “lixo” por duas das três principais agências de rating, mas também estas mantêm uma perspetiva positiva, com muitos a preverem uma subida de rating nos próximos 12 meses. Para Nicholas Wall, gestor de portefólio do Old Mutual, o fundo não está preparado para voltar a apostar nas obrigações nacionais, visto que “já aproveitámos a melhor parte do rally”. “Com estesspreads e tendo outras dívidas como da Grécia e do Chipre, não vamos atrás [da dívida portuguesa] por agora”, considera.

Ainda que existam dúvidas acerca da sustentabilidade da dívida grega quando o país terminar o programa de resgate, no próximo ano, os investidores têm contado com um retorno de 17% durante este ano, o valor mais alto da Europa, enquanto a dívida portuguesa tem gerado 11% de retorno.

Com o custos de financiamento a descer, os mercados estarão atentos à próxima emissão de dívida. A última vez que Portugal foi a mercado para se financiar em 1.750 milhões de euros obteve taxas negativas recorde. No prazo a 12 meses, a taxa ficou nos -0,345%. “Algumas pessoas que acompanham a história portuguesa poderão deixar de ser credores a longo prazo”, conclui Nicholas Wall, acrescentando que estes “se voltarão a envolver” se a pressão vendedora aumentar.

(BBG) The IMF Needs to Stop Torturing Greece

(BBG) The fund should write down the country’s debt, not demand another bank recapitalization.

Friend or frenemy?

 Photographer: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” wrote the ancient Roman poet Virgil. In the 21st century, it’s the Greeks who should have been more careful about accepting offerings — specifically from the International Monetary Fund, which is now torturing the country in a misguided effort to get its money back.

Greek officials have worked hard to shore up their economy and finances. From 2010 through 2016, the government achieved the all-but-impossible task of shrinking its primary budget deficit by nearly 18 percent of gross domestic product, and is finally in surplus. After a brutal contraction of almost 30 percent, the economy is exhibiting positive signs in almost every area — industrial production, new automobile registrations, construction permits, tourist arrivals.

The banking sector, too, has made great strides. After two full inspections of their loan books — first by BlackRock in 2013 and later by the European Central Bank’s Single Supervisory Mechanism — the banks have been fully recapitalized twice. They have bolstered their provisions against bad loans, and their capital ratios are now significantly higher than the European average, providing a buffer against any future losses.

Greece, however, still carries a heavy burden: the roughly 250 billion euros that the IMF and its European partners lent the country to save its economy and most likely the entire euro area. This stock of official bail-out debt remains due even though private creditors have been amply haircut, restructured and wiped out. In 2012, for example, the government’s private-sector bondholders were forced to accept a loss of nearly 80 percent. Greek bank shareholders have seen their investments wiped out twice in recapitalizations.

The IMF could write off its debt and lighten Greece’s burden. This would benefit the country’s long-term economic health, and therefore Europe’s, too. Instead, the fund is demanding further austerity measures and insisting on “structural” reforms of dubious value. By sticking to this economic ideology, it is neutering the nascent economic growth and stifling any hope of real prosperity.

The IMF came forward as Greece’s savior during Europe’s financial crisis, but now it looks more like a frenemy. Consider the history of the debt. When a country joins the IMF, it is assigned an initial “quota,” based primarily on its GDP. A member country can typically borrow up to 145 percent of its quota annually and up to 435 percent cumulatively — or possibly more in “exceptional circumstances.” These are essentially credit limits, designed to not overburden the borrower with debt. Yet amid the crisis, the IMF agreed to lend an eye-popping 3,212 percent of Greece’s quota. Together with loans from the fund’s European partners, Greece’s official-sector debt amounts to more than 135 percent of GDP.

The IMF knew perfectly well that its loans could never be repaid. I have heard this directly from officials involved in the process. All the participants at the time — including U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn — made a conscious and very political (not financial) decision to prevent the crisis from spreading and keep the euro area together. Without such an enormous loan, Greece would have certainly been forced to leave the currency union.

So what to do? Greece sorely needs to regain investor and consumer confidence today. For this to happen, the country’s official sector lenders need to write down the debt or convert it into equity, chalking it up to the cost of keeping the euro area together.

The IMF’s stance is preposterous. It is motivated by self-interest, rather than by what would be best for Greece. The fund has simultaneously tried to block Greece’s return to the capital markets and attempted to undermine Europe’s new banking union by demanding yet another recapitalization. Considering that the country — like all euro members — can’t achieve macroeconomic adjustment by devaluing its currency, extreme care must be taken. Consumer and investor confidence, not exports, will ultimately drive growth.

Lack of confidence is undermining the Greek economy. Sentiment indicators have remained in negative territory, even though industrial production has been growing since 2015. The gloom has prevented renascent growth from prompting a new cycle of investment, as it normally would. Without that positive feedback, growth can’t accelerate.

The banking system doesn’t need another recapitalization. Loans are best worked out by institutions that have a relationship with borrowers and can find solutions without creating unnecessary disruption. This is precisely how the U.S. went about restructuring troubled mortgages with its Home Affordable Refinance Program, which laid the foundation for an economic and housing recovery. This could be a model for Greece.

Greece has done its part, by pursuing legal reforms that provide banks with new tools to resolve troubled loans. But the IMF began undermining the new legislation even before it took effect, arguing that it would never work. This is counterproductive because it dissuades borrowers and lenders from cooperating to find solutions that make the debt burden manageable and ultimately allow businesses to return to growth. Backstabbing Greece as it tries to make progress is not responsible behavior.

Meanwhile, the negative effects of the IMF’s “plan” are easy to see: further erosion of investor confidence in Greece and an undermining of European banking regulators’ political independence. All parties need to focus on fostering stability and solvency, leaving past politics at the door. This is the missing ingredient which, when found, will bring the recovery that the Greek public has been waiting for.

Private investors have suffered. The Greek people have suffered mightily. Now the IMF has to do its part by writing off Greece’s debt, ceasing demands for another recapitalization and letting Europe’s leaders take charge.

(OBS) O caso do estatístico grego -Helena Garrido

(OBS) O homem que calculou o verdeiro défice público grego foi condenado a dois anos de pena suspensa. Um caso revelador das fragilidades da construção europeia. A independência passa a exigir heróis.

Tudo começou em 2010. Andreas Georgiou, um grego a viver nos Estados Unidos e a trabalhar para o FMI, resolve aceitar a liderança da autoridade estatística grega, que passaria a ter o estatuto de independência há muito exigido pelas entidades europeias. Nesta altura já estava identificado o problema das contas públicas gregas. O défice público estimado para o ano de 2009 era de 13,6% do PIB em Abril de 2010. O novo presidente limita-se a voltar a avaliar os números, na sequência até de reservas que ainda eram colocadas pelas autoridades europeias – que nesta altura já estão a emprestar dinheiro à Grécia. E em Outubro de 2010 Georgiou entrega um novo valor: 15,4% do PIB, mais 1,8 pontos percentuais que a estimativa anterior. E é aqui a origem de todo o processo judicial que cai sobre Andreas Georgiou a partir de 2011 e do qual se tem defendido com recursos próprios.

Numa história que envolve pormenores tão rocambolescos como a espionagem do seu mail — e que pode ser lida em pormenor aqui –, o então presidente do instituto de estatística começa a viver um pesadelo em 2011. É nesta altura que a justiça grega aceita investigar a acusação de que Andreas Georgiou inflacionou o défice público grego de 2009 prejudicando o país. Entre os mais variados processos, com recursos e anulações, a última decisão condena Andreas Georgiou a dois anos de prisão, neste caso por não ter levado a votação o valor que apurou para o défice público.

Nestes seis anos, o homem que desempenhou a sua profissão de estatístico de forma independente, que expôs a realidade financeira que os governos gregos anteriores tinham escondido, tem sido obrigado a defender-se por sua conta e risco, sem qualquer apoio institucional.Neste artigo da Bloomberg são revelados os apoios que tem tido de colegas e amigos para suportar os custos da sua defesa.

O caso do estatístico Georgiou mostra até que ponto pode ser perigoso exercer com independência a liderança de instituições e cumprir as regras europeias ou até estatísticas. Para respeitar as regras europeias – que deveriam aliás ser as de qualquer democracia -, o presidente de uma instituição pode enfrentar pena de prisão no seu país, pode ser acusado de trair a pátria. E se isso acontecer tem de se defender sozinho, tem de arranjar dinheiro para advogados.

Nenhum caso foi tão longe como este. Em Portugal também ouvimos e lemos, em momentos mais dramáticos, acusações de traição da pátria quando quem está a governar quer esconder informação. Na realidade, o que se está é a ameaçar os interesses do governo instalado na altura. Nunca se chegou ao ponto de processar ninguém mas, no último ano, por exemplo, assistimos ao condicionamento de instituições como o Conselho de Finanças Públicas.

O que aconteceu ao ex-presidente daquele que é o equivalente grego do nosso Instituto Nacional de Estatística (INE) expõe, de forma kafkiana, as incongruências da construção europeia. Enquanto presidente da autoridade nacional de estatística, que responde perante o Eurostat, entidade independente ligada à Comissão Europeia, Georgiou, como todos os seus colegas, é obrigado a respeitar as regras e as metodologias europeias. Mas perante o sistema judicial nacional está exposto a acusações de “inflacionar” números, transformado no “culpado” que desculpabiliza os erros dos governos.

Foi a falta de independência e poder das entidades que contabilizam o défice público que nos conduziu à “surpresa” da crise das dívidas soberanas na Zona Euro. Em Portugal, ainda que numa dimensão mais reduzida e sem o mesmo dramatismo, também se descobriu em 2011 que havia despesa não contabilizada, que o défice afinal era maior do que se dizia. A falta de transparência das contas públicas jogou até contra nós na altura do pedido do empréstimo – demasiado curto para as necessidades que tínhamos.

Como a independência política das instituições parece requerer cada vez mais heróis e o tempo não é de heróis, corremos um risco sério de assistirmos à repetição do passado. Por aqui, em Portugal, condiciona-se atacando ou tentando descredibilizar quem tem poder para ser independente ou não dando às instituições os recursos necessários. É a primeira fase de limitação da independência que dá aos governos o poder absoluto que não deveriam ter. As regras europeias podiam e devia dar uma ajuda, protegendo quem como Georgiu luta pela independência e transparência da informação.

(EUobserver) Macron to ‘rebuild’ EU with citizen conventions

(EUobserver)

Macron in Athens: “we must have the courage to find again the path of democracy.” (Photo: Emmanuel Macron/Twitter)

French president Emmanuel Macron wants to launch citizens’ debates across Europe in order to “rebuild” the EU in a more democratic way.

“Europe can continue its destiny only if it is chosen and wanted,” he said in Athens on Thursday (7 September).

In a speech symbolically delivered in “the cradle of democracy”, on the Pnyx hill, with the Acropolis behind him, the French leader called on Europeans to “have the courage to find again the path of democracy.”

He said that he wanted to organise a series of “democratic conventions” in the first half of 2018 in EU countries that were willing to do so.

He explained that “the peoples of Europe will be consulted and will debate on principles proposed by the governments.”

Then a “roadmap for Europe in the next 10 or 15 years” would be elaborated upon the citizens’ ideas.

Referring to previously lost EU referendums in France, Netherlands, and Ireland, he noted that “the European project was turned down by peoples” but that those peoples “were not heard”.

“In Europe today, sovereignty, democracy, and trust are in danger,” Macron said.

“We must rediscover the enthusiasm that the union was founded upon and change, not with technocrats and not with bureaucracy,” he added.

Macron’s proposal on conventions was reminiscent of how he launched his own political career last year.

He started with a questionnaire to citizens when he created his political movement, which helped him to make a “diagnosis” of voters’ expectations ahead of the 2017 elections.

His Athens gambit was also part of a strategy to shape EU politics, and to put France and Macron himself centre stage.

Macron, who has met almost all EU leaders in recent weeks, has said he will soon make 10 “concrete propositions” to rebuild Europe.

He intends to present them after the German elections on 24 September, but before German coalition talks start, so that they can be taken into account in the discussions to elaborate the next German government’s programme.

Macron gave some indications on Thursday of what he will propose.

He said he was in favour of transnational lists for the European elections. He also said that he wanted a eurozone parliament “which would enable the creation of democratic responsibility.”

The strengthening of the eurozone will form the bulk of Macron’s propositions.

Jab at IMF

Repeating ideas first aired last week, the French president said in Athens that he wanted a eurozone budget and a European finance minister. He added that the eurozone should have its own capacity to manage financial crises.

He criticised the EU management of the Greek crisis, in particular its call to involve the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2010.

“I don’t think it was the right method for the IMF to supervise European programmes and intervene in the way it did,” he said, pleasing his Greek hosts.

“The IMF had no place in EU matters,” Macron said.

Macron, who received the Order of the Redeemer, Greece’s highest decoration, said: “We still find in Greece the exacerbated problems Europe is suffering from.”

He called for debt relief for Greece and urged the IMF not to ask for new requirements to go down that path.

(EUobserver) EU brushes off ‘democratic scandal’ of Greek bailout

(EUobserver)

The European Commission has defended its role in the Greek bailout despite Pierre Moscovici, the EU finance commissioner, having called the Eurogroup “a democratic scandal.”

The Eurogroup is a club of eurozone states’ finance ministers presided over by Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem but dominated in practice by his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble.

  • Moscovici (l) reportedly caved into Dijsselbloem demands on the Greek bailout (Photo: eu2017mt/Flickr)

It imposed its will on Greece when the country was teetering on the verge of economic collapse and a eurozone exit in 2015, in exchange for access to bailout funds from the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund.

A Commission spokesperson on Tuesday (5 September) noted that the EU executive had “invested a lot of time and effort and resources to keep Greece in the eurozone.”

But Pierre Moscovici, the EU finance commissioner, took a more critical line.

Over the weekend, he described the Eurogroup as a “democratic scandal”, given that its talks are held behind closed doors and without any public accountability.

“Let’s face it, the Eurogroup as we know it is rather a pale imitation of a democratic body,” he said in his blog on Saturday (2 September).

Moscovici said the governance behind the EU’s economic and monetary union had also lacked proper democratic oversight.

“Sometimes in the past, when we look at Greece, it has been close to a democratic scandal,” he said.

Double standards

Moscovici’s admission is all the more striking given the recent publication of a book by Greece’s former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis.

Varoufakis, who steered Greek talks at the Eurogroup until his resignation in July 2015, provides a detailed account of the Commission’s double-standards during the initial rounds.

He said that Moscovici would agree in private to easing the austerity measures but, in the Eurogroup, the Commission’s representative would then reject everything in favour of harsh measures driven by Dijsselbloem and Schaeuble.

In one private meeting in Dijsselbloem’s office, Varoufakis said that Moscovici had even capitulated to Dijsselbloem, despite having previously agreed to concessions that would render the Greek programme more flexible.

Dijsselbloem refused to agree to the measures proposed by the Commission. Varoufakis said that Moscovici had responded to Dijsselbloem with “whatever the Eurogroup president says” in a voice that quavered with dejection.

“During the Eurogroup meeting, whenever I looked at him [Moscovici] I imagined the horror Jacques Delors or any of the EU’s founding fathers would have felt had they observed the scene in Jeroen’s [Dijsselbloem’s] office,” writes Varoufakis.

Greece is now facing years of austerity as its international creditors continue to dispute how to grapple the recession-hit country’s mountain of debt.

The International Monetary Fund, one of Greece’s three creditors, is pushing for concessions for debt relief against a resistance led by Germany and some other EU states.

Most of the bailout funds have gone towards paying off international loans and proved beneficial to German and French banks that were massively exposed to Greek public debt in the lead up to the financial crisis.

According to one study, Germany had also ended up with large profits, yielding interest savings on German bonds of more that €100 billion during the period of 2010 to 2015 from the Greek debt crisis.

(JE) Syriza retoma agenda política ‘radical’ para atrair apoiantes

(JE) “Tornou-se importante para o Syriza lembrar ao seu círculo eleitoral que ainda tem uma agenda ativista radical e que não amoleceu perante a pressão dos monitores de resgate financeiro”, explica o comentador político Aris Hatzis.

Os sucessivos apertos financeiros e reformas impostas pelo programa de resgate financeiro foram um golpe duro para a Grécia e para o partido no poder, o Syriza. Com a popularidade em queda vertiginosa nas sondagens, a coligação da esquerda radical, liderada por Alexis Tsipras, primeiro-ministro grego, procura agora reavivar algumas das suas ideologias consideradas radicais para atrair os seus principais apoiantes.

“Tornou-se importante para o Syriza lembrar ao seu círculo eleitoral que ainda tem uma agenda ativista radical e que não amoleceu perante a pressão dos monitores de resgate financeiro”, explica Aris Hatzis, professor de direito da Universidade de Atenas e comentador político.

Entre as medidas que o Syriza tem vindo a adotar nos últimos meses está o apertar do cerco aos tradicionais “inimigos do partido”: advogados e médicos de classes abastadas, académicos formados no estrangeiro e investidores privados. A nova legislação aprovada por Alexis Tsipras estipula um reforço do volume de impostos sobre estes profissionais e dos padrões académicos.

Os analistas acreditam que o Syriza quer, com estas medidas adotadas, recuperar o seu posicionamento na fação mais à esquerda e mostrar que este não ficou comprometido com o programa de assistência financeira ao país. Isto acontece depois de a Grécia concluir com sucesso a segunda revisão do resgate, com amplos elogios dos credores, União Europeia e Fundo Monetário Internacional (FMI).

Nas pesquisas de opinião, o partido conservador da Nova Democracia lidera as preferências dos gregos com dois dígitos de avanço sobre a Syriza. Nas ruas, a onda de protestos contra o Governo e as medidas de austeridade não para de aumentar, apesar dos sinais de retoma na economia.

Atenas voltou ao mercado de dívida soberana, pela primeira vez em três anos, em julho, com uma emissão de títulos de 3 mil milhões de euros. O Governo grego está concentrado na implementação de reformas económicas, depois de ter chegado a acordo com os parceiros europeus para continuar a receber financiamento do Banco Central Europeu (BCE) e Comissão Europeia no valor de 86 mil milhões de euros.