Saturday, December 13, 2014


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December 13 2014 at 1:02 AM

ISTANBUL — As Israel increases its aggression towards Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, anger in Europe has been on the rise with many Europeans condemning Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli embassy in Athens was fired upon on Friday morning. The shots were reportedly fired from a motorcycle with two persons passing in front of the embassy. The incident came two days after a Palestinian minister, Ziad Abu Ein, died following a confrontation with Israeli soldiers during protests in the West Bank.

In response to Israel's reluctant commitment to a two-state solution to solve the long-lasting Israeli-Palestinian conflict, more European countries have been giving considerable attention to the worsening situation of Palestinians, who continue to face hostility from Israel. Switzerland, the depository state for the Geneva Conventions on humanitarian conduct in conflicts, has organized an international meeting to discuss the protection of Palestinianrights that has long been violated by Israeli authorities in the occupied territories. Israel criticized Switzerland over the meeting on Palestinian's rights, saying that "The conference of signatories is a political move whose sole purpose is to exploit the important stage of the Geneva Conventions for the sake of assailing Israel," the Israeli embassy in Geneva said, DPA news agency reported. Israel's failure to protect the civilian Palestinian population during the 51-day long conflict in the Gaza Strip was criticized by Amnesty International. The human rights group accused the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) of its deliberate and unjustified bombing of civilian buildings in Gaza during the conflict, calling Israeli actions "a symbolic form of collective punishment."

After the brutal Israeli onslaught on Gaza, Palestinian statehood has been on the agenda of many European countries. Following the Israeli onslaught that brought the near-total destruction of the Gaza Strip, the worsening humanitarian situation in Palestinian territories has gained an international voice that condemns Israeli settlement and actions in the besieged enclave. On Thursday, France's upper house of parliament urged the government to recognize Palestine as a state. The Irish parliament also called for the recognition of Palestine as a state. Sweden is the only European country that officially recognizes Palestinian statehood. The British move came two weeks after Sweden had pledged it would recognize Palestine. However, all European moves, from countries such as Spain, Belgium, the United Kingdom and France, so far have been symbolic. Regarding international support for Palestinian statehood, in the international arena, more than 130 countries have already symbolically recognized Palestine. However the European Union has not yet given it official recognition. The EU called on Israel to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip, stressing that Israeli commitment to a two state solution would reflect on its EU relations in a positive way.

In addition to the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip, the tension in East Jerusalem was exacerbated after Israeli authorities announced the expansion of its settlement project that includes major construction in the area as well as an increase in Jewish settlers. As Israel tries to expand its influence over the enclave by allowing Jewish settlers to reside in the disputed area, the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories has doubled in the last four and a half years. The continued settlement threatens the pursuit of peace in the sacred territories through deepening divisions between two communities and further exacerbating the conflict.


‘If US sends weapons to Ukraine, Russia should send troops’ - lawmaker

Published time: December 12, 2014 10:52
Ukrainian army soldiers sitting atop an armoured vehicle maneuver on the coastline near the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on October 21, 2014. (AFP Photo)
Ukrainian army soldiers sitting atop an armoured vehicle maneuver on the coastline near the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on October 21, 2014. (AFP Photo)
A leftist MP has said the US Senate’s decision to arm the Kiev regime should prompt ‘adequate measures’ from Russia, such as deploying military force on Ukrainian territory before the threat becomes too high.
The decision of the US Senate is extremely dangerous. If it is supported by the House of Representatives and signed by their president, Russia must reply with adequate measures,” Mikhail Yemelyanov of the Fair Russia party told reporters on Friday.
It is quite possible that we should return to the decision by our Upper House and give the Russian president an opportunity to use military force on Ukrainian territory preemptively. We should not wait until Ukraine is armed and becomes really dangerous,” the lawmaker stated.
Yemelyanov also noted that in his opinion the US Senate’s decision to arm Ukraine had revealed that Washington wasn’t interested in the de-escalation of the Ukrainian conflict. He then said that US actions gave him the impression they was seeking to turn Ukraine into some sort of an “international militant targeting the Russian Federation.”
In a few years Ukraine will turn into a poor and hungry country with an anti-Russian government that will teach its population to hate Russia. They will be armed to the teeth and Ukraine and US reluctance to recognize the Russian Federation within its current borders would always provoke conflicts,” the MP said.
The US Senate on Thursday passed the so called "Ukraine Freedom Support Act" allowing for the provision of lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine and imposing additional sanctions against Russia. The bill was passed by a unanimous vote, according to one of its main sponsors - Republican Senator Bob Corker. The motion is yet to be passed by the US House of Representatives.
The bill was opposed by US President Barack Obama, who spoke before the White House Export Council on Thursday and said that the move would be counterproductive and create divisions with Washington's European allies.
On March 1 this year, the Upper House of the Russian Parliament – the Federation Council – approved a resolution allowing the president to use military force on the territory of Ukraine “until the normalization of the social and political situation in that country.” The resolution was adopted in accordance with the first part of Article 102 of the constitution of the Russian Federation.
However, on June 25 the Federation Council voted to repeal the legislation following a request from Vladimir Putin. The Russian president instigated the move from a desire to discharge tensions in view of the three-party talks on a peaceful settlement in the East and South-East of Ukraine.
Federation Council chair, Valentina Matviyenko, said after the June vote that Russia would continue monitoring the situation in Ukraine, but added that she personally didn’t believe that the Upper House would vote again to adopt legislation allowing military action in Ukraine.

Investors in Greece’s future spooked by political uncertainty

Greece is in the midst of a snap election meant to resolve political indecision over economics
Antonis Samaras
Antonis Samaras addresses members of parliament in Athens, 11 December 2014. Photograph: Pantelis Saitas/EPA
Greece spooked investors for a third day running on Thursday as the Athens stock exchange fell 7.35% amid fears over the debt-stricken country’s future in the eurozone.
Yields on Athens’ 10-year bonds rose to nearly 9% – two percentage points above the level that is considered sustainable – reviving memories of the euro crisis in the country where it began. Mounting concerns over Greece’s ability to weather a presidential election, brought forward in a surprise move by the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, continued to unnerve investors ahead of the first round of the vote in the Greek parliament next week.
Under Greek law failure to elect a new head of state by the ballot’s third round on 29 December could trigger a general election. The stridently anti-bailout main opposition party, Syriza, is tipped to win that poll. The radical leftists have made a debt writedown and the end of austerity their overriding priorities if voted into office.
Although Samaras called the election in a bid to expunge the political uncertainty engulfing Greece, the slim majority held by his government, compounded by the leader’s repeated warnings of Greece leaving the eurozone if Syriza assumes power, has accelerated investor nervousness.
The sell-off on Thursday intensified after the prime minister called on MPs to assume “political responsibility” by backing Stavros Dimas, the ruling coalition’s candidate for president. With a narrow majority of 155 seats, Samaras must muster a further 25 votes if his nominee is to garner the requisite 180.
“Syriza has once again brought the word Grexit [Greek exit] to the mouths of foreigners,” he told deputies in his conservative New Democracy party. “What Syriza says provokes fear and doubt everywhere … the markets are reacting because the possibility of elections occurring, and Syriza winning, is interpreted as assured catastrophe for the country.”
Greece, which returned to the international debt market in April after a four-year hiatus, could throw away its economic recovery, Samaras said.
“If a president is not elected on 29 December and we go to elections in January everything will be up in the air. Fear will rule over the country. And if populism prevails then Greece will not be able to stand on its feet after February,” he added.
This week Athens was granted a two-month extension of its bailout programme by the EU, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund, its “troika” of creditors, after negotiations aimed at taking Greece into a “post-bailout” era stalled. Four years after receiving some €240bn (£189bn) in emergency funds – the biggest rescue programme in global financial history – the nation had just begun to show tentative signs of economic recovery, recording its first growth since 2008.
Failure to meet the 28 February troika deadline has raised the spectre of Greek banks running out of liquidity if life support money from the ECB is put on hold as a result of a stand-off between a Syriza-led government and western lenders.
Amid tensions that are bound to worsen ahead of the presidential poll, the leftists accused the conservative-dominated coalition of fearmongering in a desperate move to persuade MPs to vote for the 73-year-old Dimas.
“The prime minister doesn’t hesitate to beseech the markets to attack the country,” Syriza said. “[Samaras] is very mistaken if [he] believes that by rehashing that old dish of exiting the eurozone, he will terrorise society, which is suffocating under the anti-social policies of the memorandum [bailout accord].”

Army chief, KFOR commander discuss security

NIS -- Serbian army chief Ljubisa Dikovic KFOR commander Francesco Paolo Figliuolo met and discussed the security situation in Kosovo and on the administrative line.
Dikovic and Figliuolo also discussed the cooperation between the Serbian Army and KFOR so far and the directions of their future cooperation, the Serbian Ministry of Defense said.
This is the first official meeting between the two general since Figliuolo assumed office as the KFOR commander in Kosovo and Metohija in September 2014.

This was a high-level meeting of the joint commission for implementation of the Military-technical agreement comprising the KFOR Command commission and the commission of representatives of Serbia's security forces.

The meetings are being held on a regular basis on various levels since 1999 and their aim is to ensure successful fulfilment of the Military-technical agreement, said the ministry.

The agreement was signed in Kumanovo, Macedonia, on June 9, 1999, and it put an end to the NATO war against Serbia. The Serbian army and police withdrew from Kosovo and Metohija, which created the conditions for adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and constitution of the UN Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK) in the southern Serbian province.

"Serb minority in Albania denied rights"

Serbia has the full moral right to demand for its minority in Albania the same that it provides for the Albanian minority in Serbia, says an MP.
(Tanjug, file)

  1. Daniel you do realize Serbs claim everyone is "like" them the Slovenians, Croatians, Bosnians, Macedonians and Sanxjaks.
    (azir, 12 December 2014 17:06)

    Look, I'll keep this brief and simple because you're one of the more dim posters here.

    Serb never claim Slovenes, Croats or Bosnians are one of them. Slovenes have always had a distinct culture and unless you're referring to outdated 19th century ethnography which argued Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians were all the same ethnicity because of language, you're wrong in that assertion too. As far as Macedonians are concerned, no Serb has ever claimed they are the same. More likely Macedonians are closer to Bulgarians.

    I have no idea who the Hell "Sanxjaks" are. I assume you meant to say "Sanxhak", which is the Albanian bastardization of "Sandzak", but got confused along the way and mixed the two together. It's ok, I won't think any less of you since you're already foolish enough to take a geographic region and somehow equate it with a distinct ethnic race.

    The only group of people in the Balkans with an unhealthy fetish in claiming everything for themselves are Albanians, or more specifically Albanians with a complex issue.

    I feel my reply may have been a little too complicated for you, now that I read it over. Apologies if you have a look of confusion on your face, but have an adult help you through it if you need clarification. In the meantime, stay away from ledges and sharp objects.
    (Balkan Anthropologist, 12 December 2014 23:48)

Friday, December 12, 2014

US approved to sale 10 Chinook helicopters

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December 12 2014

WASHINGTON, Dec 11, 2014 - The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Greece for CH-47D Chinook helicopters and associated equipment, parts and logistical support for an estimated cost of $150 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.

The Government of Greece has requested a possible sale of 10 CH-47D Model Chinook Helicopters to include 23 T55-GA-714A Engines (20 installed and, 3 spares), 12 AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning System (10 installed and 2 spares), 12 AN/ARC-220 High Frequency (HF) Radios, 12 AN/ARC-186 Very High Frequency (VHF) AM/FM Radios, 12 AN/ARC-164 Ultra High Frequency (UHF)-AM, 12 AN/ARN 123 VOR ILS Marker Beacons, 12 AN/ARN-89 or AN/ARN-149 Direction Finder Sets, 12 AN/ASN-128 Doppler/Global Positioning System Navigation Sets, 12 AN/ARC-201D or AN/ARC-201E VHF FM Homing Radios, 12 AN/APX-118 Transponders, 3 AN/APX-118A Transponders, 12 AN/APR-39A(V)1 Radar Signal Detecting Sets, mission equipment, communication and navigation equipment, Maintenance Work Orders/Engineering Change Proposals (MWO/ECPs), aircraft hardware and software support, repair and return, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, support equipment, minor modifications, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. government and contractor technical and engineering support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $150 million.

The New York Times

Attackers Open Fire on Israeli Embassy in Athens

ATHENS — The Greek authorities said on Friday that an early-morning gun attack on the Israeli Embassy used the same weapons as and closely resembled a similar attack on the residence of the German ambassador a year ago.
Neither attack caused any casualties or serious damage.
Witnesses told the police that four assailants had arrived on motorcycles around 3 a.m. and that two had raked the embassy building with Kalashnikov fire. A police spokesman said the authorities would await a review of footage from the embassy’s surveillance camera to corroborate those accounts.
According to a police statement, ballistics tests on 54 bullet casings found in front of the embassy building, in the capital’s affluent northern suburbs, showed that the shots were fired from two Kalashnikov rifles used in a similar attack in December 2013 on the German ambassador’s home, also in northern Athens.
Responsibility for that attack was claimed by an organization called the Group of Popular Rebels, which also said it had carried out a shooting at the offices of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy party in January last year.
“The modus operandi is 99 percent the same as the attack in December last year,” the police official said of the shooting on Friday, noting that a claim of responsibility could come “within hours.”
He said the attack might be claimed by the same group or by members of the same group under a different name.
The Greek public order minister, Vassilis Kikilias, who visited the scene of the attack, insisted that Greece “is still a safe country.” “No one is going to affect relations between Greece and Israel,” he added. A government spokeswoman, Sofia Voultepsi, said, “Every terrorist attack strikes at the heart of democracy, at the heart of the country itself.”
The attack on Friday came amid mounting political and financial turmoil in Greece. The debt-racked country will probably face early elections next year, and there has been fear about the resurgence of guerrilla groups. On Wednesday, the police destroyed a bomb planted outside a bank, also in northern Athens, after receiving a warning by telephone.
The motive for the attack on the Israeli Embassy was unclear, although Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza have been condemned in protests in Greece.

"EU - Western Balkans" conference held in Belgrade

BELGRADE -- A forum gathering ministers of interior and justice, dubbed "EU - Western Balkans," was held in Belgrade on Friday.
The ministers discussed the fight against organized crime and corruption.
Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said that all Balkan countries are vital partners of the European Union and urged strengthening of this partnership.

Opening the gathering held at the Palace of Serbia, Alfano said that all EU countries are "doomed to work together" and that he expected details of this work to be agreed today.

In his opening speech, Minister of Internal Affairs of Serbia Nebojsa Stefanovic said that Serbia prepared for EU's decision on the formal opening of negotiations with Serbia on chapter 24.

He said that he was pleased with EC's progress report on Serbia's EU integration, especially in the part relating to chapter 24, but noted that Serbia is aware that there is room for improvement.

"We expect to by March 2015 finish work on the Action Plan for this negotiation area and to harmonize with Brussels, and then have it adopted by the government," said Stefanovic.

He added that the long-term goal is to complete the harmonization with EU standards by 2018, as well as successful implementation, in order to ensure greater security and a better life for all citizens of Serbia.

"When all the planned reforms have been completed, and the work of the Serbian police improved and harmonized with EU norms, that will bring greater security not only to citizens of Serbia but also other European nations," said Stefanovic.

He said that in addition to legal and organizational reforms MUP's focus will continue to be the fight against organized crime and corruption, terrorism, particularly trafficking, human trafficking and illegal migration.

Stefanovic said that illegal migrants, drugs and human traffickers and their victims all aim to pass through Serbia, "and that is why it is important for all of Europe that Serbia is a solid bulwark and that the police are doing a good job."

In his opening speech, Minister of Justice of Serbia Nikola Selakovic expressed the hope that Serbia in the period ahead will continue to be a reliable partner of the EU and will effectively overcome the challenges facing each country candidate during accession negotiations.

He said that 2014 "can be called historic" when it comes to the intensity of collaboration between Serbia and the EU, as well as with countries in the region.

Selakovic said the year was marked by preparation for the opening of chapters 23 and 24, and that Serbia in this process received assistance received from neighbors and suggestions from the European Commission.

"I am pleased to note that the negotiating group for chapter 23 a week ago sent a second draft of the Action Plan to the EC, which will in the shortest possible time be followed by adoption," said he.

The event today was organized by Serbian ministries of interior and justice with the support of Italy, which heads the EU presidency until the end of the year, and in cooperation with the European Commission.

A delegation from Kosovo also took part in the forum.

After the opening speeches the conference continued behind closed doors.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Navy’s 'fully operational' laser gun blows up boats, drones (VIDEO)

Published time: December 11, 2014 16:33
Edited time: December 11, 2014 18:50
Still from YouTube video/NavyRecognition
Still from YouTube video/NavyRecognition
The US Navy continues to tout its sophisticated warship laser system, saying it has performed above expectations for the last four months of operational testing aboard the USS Ponce during its deployment in the Persian Gulf.
The $40 million Laser Weapon System (LaWS) was fully integrated on the USS Ponce at the end of the summer for a year of testing, according to Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, head of the Office of Naval Research.
Recently-released video of the 30-kilowatt laser showed it taking down a small aerial drone in two seconds before the aircraft plunged into the sea.

LaWS works by focusing beams from six solid-state commercial welding lasers into a single strong beam, which can be used both as a blinding warning shot or as a weapon capable of setting fire to anti-ship arms or other threats to US warships, especially small, fast-moving targets.
"This is the first time in recorded history that a directed energy weapons system has ever deployed on anything," Klunder said, according to Reuters.
Another clip in the new video showed LaWS successfully detonating a rocket-propelled grenade shot from a small, distant boat.
"We're not testing it any more. This is operational. It's on a ship in the Persian Gulf," Klunder said. "This isn't something we've got in a box we're saving for ... a special moment. They're using it every single day."
The technology’s big advantage is its operational efficiency, as firing one shot costs just around $1, the Navy has repeatedly stressed. But lasers have their own peculiarities, with efficacy depending on weather conditions, the presence of dust and vapors in the air, and other factors. The range of the LaWS, which is limited by those factors, remains classified.
Despite those hypothetical limitations, the Navy announced that sailors working with the system reported that “the weapon performed flawlessly, including in adverse weather conditions of high winds, heat and humidity.”
There is also the issue of power, which the laser weapon requires in abundance – hence its deployment by the Navy on a warship with powerful generators.
In April, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, called the deployment of LaWS on the USS Ponce “a worthwhile experiment” because “it’ll help us feel out the operational limitations” such as power constraints.

The laser weapon system (LaWS) is tested aboard the USS Ponce amphibious transport dock (Reuters/U.S. Navy)
The laser weapon system (LaWS) is tested aboard the USS Ponce amphibious transport dock (Reuters/U.S. Navy)
It was crucial to learn how the system would operate in the environment and how much energy it would consume, Kendall added.
The US Navy has boosted its presence in the Persian Gulf in recent years. The US targeted Iran’s oil industry and financial sector with economic sanctions aimed to add leverage against Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.
Amid the tensions, Iran threatened to close the Persian Gulf’s bottleneck, the Strait of Hormuz, through which one-fifth of the global oil trade passes. Washington’s response was that it would use its Navy to prevent any such blockade.
China, Iran, and other countries have worked to develop precision anti-ship missiles in reported efforts to force a further buffer-zone between their respective shores and the US Navy.
Meanwhile, the US Navy is developing a more powerful 100-to-150-kilowatt laser system that could destroy more sophisticated anti-ship missile technology. That heightened laser system is expected to be ready for deployment in 2017, Klunder said.
For now, the 30-kilowatt LaWS has operated with fantastic precision, the Navy says, though it has not encountered actual threats to the USS Ponce.
"That's all worked well. As a matter of fact, we've never missed," Klunder said. "If we have to defend that ship today, we will destroy a threat if it comes inbound."

U.S. ambassador praises military cooperation

BELGRADE -- U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby hosted a reception on Wednesday for the Serbian Armed Forces members who had attended U.S. military schools.
The military cooperation between the two countries is very good, he was quoted as saying.
Based on the US State Department International Military Education Training Program, the US provides USD 900,000-1,000,000 for Serbian troops training at US military academies, Kirby stated.

The cooperation is good and deep and shows that the US and Serbian armed forces thing the same way, and that the two countries dedicate the same amount of attention to constant improvement of their troops, he pointed out.

The Serbian military is highly professional and the idea of continuous education of its members is deeply rooted in its system, Kirby said.

He remarked that it was one of the reasons he enjoyed his post in Serbia so much, because he could always see around him professionals willing to learn more.

US officers are also attending Serbian schools, he noted, adding that the US Armed Forces had things to learn from Serbia as well and appreciated that very much.

The Serbian military works a lot more with the UN and EU now and has been increasing its contribution to peace missions in recent years, he underscored.

It is good for the US, Serbia and the world, the ambassador concluded.

Greece Reruns Doomsday Scenario as Politics Rock Markets

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Syriza Party Leader Alexis Tsipras speaks during a news conference at the Greek parliament building after meeting Antonis Samaras, leader of New Democracy, following the country's general election in Athens. Greece’s voting system gives Tsipras an outside shot of winning an absolute majority in parliament. Close
Syriza Party Leader Alexis Tsipras speaks during a news conference at the Greek... Read
Syriza Party Leader Alexis Tsipras speaks during a news conference at the Greek parliament building after meeting Antonis Samaras, leader of New Democracy, following the country's general election in Athens. Greece’s voting system gives Tsipras an outside shot of winning an absolute majority in parliament.
Political tumult in Greece, plunging stock and bond markets, the threat of default and exit from the euro: the script is eerily similar to the nightmare scenarios of 2010 and 2011.
Debt-infested Greece skidded close to the edge then, saved by 240 billion euros ($297 billion) in emergency loans improvised by European governments led by a reluctant Germany. Now, after achieving some signs of economic recovery, the government in Athens is again teetering, provoking a fresh round of doomsday speculation.
Investors ran through the worst-case options this week, as they contemplated a chain of events starting with a deadlocked presidential election this month that could bring anti-bailout forces to power, putting Greece’s status in the euro back into question.
Europe’s not out of the woods yet,” Peter Fisher, a former U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve official who is now senior director at the BlackRock Investment Institute, said on Bloomberg Television late yesterday. “They’ve got a long way to go to create a real monetary and capital markets union.”
Greek stocks dropped 1 percent yesterday after the benchmark Athens Stock Exchange Index plunged 13 percent the previous day, the steepest fall since 1987. Ten-year bond yields soared again after jumping 93 basis points to 8.18 percent on Dec. 9, roughly where they were in April 2010 during negotiations on the first bailout.

Lessons Learned

To be sure, the European Union is better prepared now than in 2010, when a 20 billion-euro hole in the Greek budget evolved into a continental crisis that claimed Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus as victims, and nearly splintered the now 18-nation euro.
Back then, aid funds like the European Financial Stability Facility and European Stability Mechanism didn’t exist. Neither did the European Commission’s intrusive monitoring system, designed to flash red when a country is headed for economic or fiscal trouble.
Most important, European leaders bred to see the euro as permanent and indissoluble were blindsided by the crisis. Don’t “overrate” Greece’s woes, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in December 2009 as the budgetary bad news was trickling out of Athens. “There are deficits in other parts of the world as well.”
Europe’s stewards received a lesson in crisis management and the whims of markets, and can point to success stories since. Ireland, Portugal and Spain have been weaned off aid, and the sums in dispute with Greece -- roughly 7 billion euros -- are small change compared to what it swallowed before.

Political Backlash

The euro’s survival intact isn’t proof that Europe’s stewards found the right long-term recipe. Bailouts went only to governments that made drastic budget cuts, driving up unemployment -- Greece’s rate is now 25.9 percent -- and fueling radical politics.
In Greece, the backlash has a name: Alexis Tsipras, head of the Syriza party, who made a first, failed run at the job of prime minister in 2012 by denouncing the cuts in the public welfare system imposed by creditors. Since then, his stock has been rising. Polls consistently rank Syriza as Greece’s most popular party, and the most likely to form the next government.
“The risk of having parties with an anti-Europe agenda close to snatching power is not a risk exclusive to Greece,” Maltese Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said in an interview in Brussels. “We have seen this happen in other countries too.”

Electoral Path

Greece could start down that path on Dec. 17, when Prime Minister Antonis Samaras puts his candidate for the largely ceremonial presidency, Stavros Dimas, to a vote in the 300-seat parliament. Samaras’s coalition has only 155 seats, making it likely that Dimas, a former European commissioner, will fall short of the 200-vote supermajority then and in a second round on Dec. 23.
The do-or-die moment will probably come in a third round, on Dec. 29, with the bar lowered to 180 votes. Under Greece’s constitution, Samaras’s failure to get his man past that hurdle would trigger fresh parliamentary elections, probably in late January or early February.
European leaders, used to Greek political gambles like an aborted referendum on staying in the euro in 2011 and two rounds of elections the following year, professed faith in Samaras, himself a bailout doubter until assuming power in 2012.
“He knows where he’s going,” EU Economic Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told reporters Dec. 9, after Greece was given two extra months to qualify for the final slice of aid loans. “If Prime Minister Samaras chose this way, it’s because he’s confident in his capacity to have a successful election of the president.”

Timelines Compress

A defeat and the ensuing national elections would compress the political and crisis management timelines. Greece’s voting system gives Tsipras an outside shot of winning an absolute majority in parliament. Failing that, he would be mired in coalition talks in parallel with efforts to secure the remaining bailout loans by the new Feb. 28 deadline.
And yet it might not get to that stage. Some on the ground, such as Andreas Kontogouris from Athens-based Beta Securities, say that Samaras will get his 180 votes on Dec. 29. Even if not, and Syriza goes on to win the subsequent election, says Kontogouris, Tspiras won’t be as radical as his rhetoric implies.
“There are no magic solutions for Greece,” Andreas Antoniades, a senior lecturer in political economy at the University of Sussex in the U.K., said by telephone. “But the snap presidential elections will hopefully force all political forces to rethink what the main problem is.”

Set Off Tripwires

A standoff between a rudderless or Tsipras-led government and European creditors would catapult Greece through a number of tripwires. Casualties would include Greece’s commercial banks, relying as of late October on 44 billion euros of life-support money from the European Central Bank.
Comforted by Greece’s binding arrangements with creditors, the ECB has bent its rules and allows the banks to put up junk-rated collateral. A breakdown of the aid package under Syriza might prompt the ECB to pull out, leaving Greek banks reliant on more expensive funding from their own central bank.
Not for the first time, European governments would look to the ECB as the ultimate guardian of Greece and the euro.
“We have been solving these issues through unifying our policies in Europe and also assuming that our European Central Bank must have a much more active and assertive way to fight this crisis,” Portuguese Economy Minister Antonio Pires de Lima said in a Bloomberg Television interview in New York.
To contact the reporter on this story: James G. Neuger in Brussels at

Albania picks Mott MacDonald to develop national water strategy

Albania’s Ministry of Environment has appointed Mott MacDonald to provide technical advice in the preparation of an integrated national strategy for water resource management.

The World Bank-funded strategy is intended to promote the co-ordinated development and management of water, land and related resources without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems in the country.

The integrated water resource management (IWRM) strategy will outline action plans for priority areas and specific proposals for capacity development. It will address the environmental objectives of the European Union’s Water Framework Directive (EU-WFD) and include analysis and specification of related policy and resource implications. This includes adapting the EU gender legislation to Albanian conditions to ensure that men and women benefit equally from the proposals.

Mott MacDonald will consult a broad range of national stakeholders to assess the current state of water resource management in Albania. The consultancy will identify crucial issues as well as collect, analyse and combine relevant available documentation on the country’s water resources. Additionally, Mott MacDonald will facilitate the entire strategy development process, including the preparation of discussion papers for workshops and reports on the conclusions.

Wim Verheugt, Mott MacDonald’s project director, said: “Having a national strategy, combined with training at national and regional levels, will support Albania’s central and local authorities in managing issues such as water shortages, climate change and flood management. The IWRM will create the backbone of Albania’s compliance with EU water regulations. Adapting the environmental objectives of the EU-WFD to Albanian conditions will be fundamental for making the strategy realistic and effective.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Independent MPs take sides in Greek presidential election thriller

First entry: 10 December 2014 - 12:39 Athens, 10:39 GMT
Last update: 03:30 Athens, 01:30 GMTPolitics
Independent MPs take sides in Greek presidential election thriller
Independent MPs take sides in Greek presidential election thriller
Greek independent MPs on Wednesday appeared divided in the stance they intend to keep during the election for a new president, a process that is scheduled to start on Dec. 17 in parliament.
The government on Monday announced it would bring forward the presidential poll to Dec. 17, proposing former EU Commissioner Stavros Dimas for the job.
According to the constitution, the coalition government, which has 155 lawmakers in parliament, needs to secure 180 votes to elect a new president and avoid calling snap general elections.
The success of the vote hangs on the stance held by the almost half a dozen independent lawmakers who may tip the scale in favour of the coalition.
Panagiotis Melas, formerly of the Independent Greeks (ANEL), indicated late on Tuesday that he took a positive view of Stavros Dimas' candidacy for president, when asked by reporters after the prime minister's announcement.
"I am moving in a positive direction," the MP replied in response to questions.
Earlier, another independent MP, Vassilis Kapernaros rejected the government's candidate saying it "changed nothing" with respect to his position, in a message posted on Facebook.
"I remain steadfast in my position. Nothing changes as a result of Stavros Dimas' selection. The rest are ...mere scenarios," he said.
Source: ANA-MPA

Greece: Politics, anarchy and a hunger strike

As the life of an anarchist hunger-striker slips away, the Greek government refuses to compromise on his education.

Last updated: 10 Dec 2014
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Ailing Nikos Romanos, 21, began a hunger strike while in jail demanding his right to an education [AP]
Athens, Greece - In a volatile political terrain, where anger is rampant and long-simmering political tensions dominate public debate, hunger-striker Nikos Romanos, 21, has emerged as a symbol of resistance for young Greeks whose lives are in limbo as the country enters its fifth year of recession.
The Greek economy is suffering one of the worst financial crises faced by a developed country. As a result of lofty public spending, which soared after Greece adopted the euro, in conjunction with widespread tax evasion, the country is bankrupt, heavily indebted and wrestling with strict austerity measures.
Romanos was caught up in the turmoil and is now in critical condition near death in a hospital after refusing food for more than four weeks. 
Follow our comprehensive Euro Crisis spotlight coverage
Romanos' story goes back to 2008, just before Greece started the downward spiral into the financial abyss. He was a 15-year-old schoolboy when he witnessed the murder of his best friend, Alexis Grigoropoulos, by a police officer in Athens, while the two boys were celebrating Romanos' name day - the tradition commemorating the saint after whom Nikos is named.
Grigoropoulos' killing sparked an unprecedented wave of protests in Athens, which raged for weeks as thousands of young Greeks took over the streets.
Right to an education
Little had been heard since then about Romanos until last October, when he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for having participated in an armed bank robbery two years before with three other young anarchists.
The case caused a public outcry after Greek police released digitally manipulated photographs of all four offenders that clearly showed an effort to erase bruises and cuts inflicted upon them after their arrests.
Romanos has become a figurehead of the anarchist movement and a 'martyr' for the majority of the Greek youth.
- Costas Efimeros, The Press Project

Romanos confessed to the robbery, possession of weapons, and declared political motives for his actions. Although initially charged with terrorism, he was acquitted of being a member of the urban guerrilla group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire - a charge he had always denied.
While awaiting trial in prison, he married his girlfriend and successfully prepared for and passed the entrance exams to study at the School of Business Administration of Athens
The Greek penal code grants educational furlough to inmates to attend lectures outside the prison, setting as a prerequisite only the assessment of the benefits the education may bring for the rehabilitation of the prisoner.
But Romanos' demand for the study furlough was rejected on the grounds that he's still awaiting trial on two counts and may abscond.
The rejection prompted the young man to launch a hunger strike on November 10, demanding his statutory right to attend university courses.
As Nikos Romanos' condition deteriorated, he was transferred to a hospital on November 28, where he remains under police guard. Doctors say he could die at any time.
Minister of Justice Charalampos Athanasiou supported the decision of the prison council to reject the education demand and called on Romano to end his hunger strike. 
The government, in an effort to ease tensions, has announced it will pass legislation allowing Romanos to pursue distance learning courses, a measure that indirectly suspends all study furloughs for other inmates. 
Michalis Bratakos, president of Athens Technical College, told Al Jazeera such legislation would not offer any solution to Romanos' case.
"It could be possible only for the theoretical courses," he told Al Jazeera. "But when the programme requires four to six hours of laboratory courses per week, there is no way to replace the physical presence of the student."
Criminal or victim?
Romanos, through his lawyer Fragkiskos Ragkousis, announced he would stop taking water if this legislation passes. He said he does not want to become an excuse for the government to further curtail the rights to education of other prisoners.
The Ministry of Justice declined to answer questions when asked to comment by Al Jazeera.
While the government is hardening its position on the case, solidarity protests and riots have taken place in major centres. Last Saturday, some 6,000 protesters clashed in central Athens with riot police who used tear-gas and water cannon to beat back demonstrators. 
Romanos' father Giorgos met with Greece's prime minister but was offered no compromises [AP]
On Monday, Romanos' father met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the minister of justice to discuss a solution about his son. The government reiterated its no-movement position during the meeting.
"My child will continue [the hunger strike] and a large part of the Greek society knows what is right. Nikos' health is critical and the possibility of death is increasing every hour that passes, with whatever consequences for the government," Giorgos Romanos said after the meeting.
Playing with people's lives
With the case now in complete deadlock, the debate over Romanos' fate has become highly politicised.
For many the state is playing political games with Romanos' life. His doctors warn he is in critical condition and could succumb to heart or kidney failure at any time.
"The Greek government attempts a political crackdown on an anarchist prisoner, not to say on the anarchist movement in general," Costas Efimeros, an investigative reporter and co-founder of the media platform The Press Project, told Al Jazeera.
"While the government knows that Nikos Romanos will not compromise, they refuse to offer a way out of the deadlock under the pretext that he could abscond."
Supporters of Nikos Romanos clash with police [EPA]

According to Efimeros, the reason behind the government's rigidity is to escalate tensions in a deeply divided and now largely impoverished society.
If Romanos' health deteriorates further and violent protests erupt again, the government will step in to place itself as the guarantor of stability and order in the country, Efimeros said.
"The government had a unique opportunity on Monday - when the prime minister met with Romanos' father on his own request - to end the deadlock," he said.
"Romanos has become a figurehead of the anarchist movement and a martyr for the majority of the Greek youth."
Efimeros said granting the anarchist the education furlough he demands would force him to end the hunger strike and strip him of his "martyr" status, which would give a great advantage to the ruling party.
"Instead, they have decided to harden their position leaving no space for a solution," said Efimeros.

Statement by George J. Tenet on the Release of the SSCI Report on CIA Rendition, Detention and Interrogation

December 9, 2014

The report released today by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) does damage to U.S. national security, to the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency, and most of all to the truth.

No one should blindly accept the Committee's assertions without a careful reading of the rebuttals by the SSCI Minority, the current CIA leadership, and other documents that are being released in conjunction with the publication of the Majority's deeply flawed report. 

These documents show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the detention and interrogation program operated by the CIA in the aftermath of 9/11 was directed by the President, with the oversight of the National Security Council, and the legal authorization of the Attorney General and Department of Justice. These approvals were given not just once but on multiple occasions. The documents also show that the Congressional leadership was regularly and accurately briefed on the program. 

The documents will demonstrate that at a time of grave threat to the United States the program was effective in saving American and allied lives and in preventing another mass casualty attack on American soil. 

It is regrettable that the Committee consciously chose to denigrate the integrity and performance of men and women who gave their all to protect the country without interviewing any of them, or holding a single congressional hearing. Rather, they chose to indict them in absentia solely on the basis of a selective and faulty interpretation of documents. This is not the way dedicated public servants should be treated. Our nation would have been better served if the committee had asked or listened to them. It is indeed a dark day for Congressional oversight.

The Committee leadership say the report will ensure this never happens again. My hope is that a report like this—biased, inaccurate, and destructive will never happen again.
Greece can't afford another crisis: Former PM


Despite fears that Greece is lurching back into crisis after its prime minister called a snap presidential election, the country's former premier told CNBC the decision was a "wise move."

"There is no other way to stability, we must have elections," Costas Simitis, who was Greek Prime Minister from 1996 to 2004 leading the left-wing PASOK party, told CNBC.

Simitis' comments come after Samaras, surprised investors by announcing a snap presidential vote late on Monday. The decision caused turmoil in Greece's financial markets Tuesday, with the country's main stock market plunging nearly 13 percent during the day—the worst loss since 1987—while the yield on Greek 10-year government debt rose to 8.15 percent.
OSCE: No senior official convicted of corruption 
Ambassador Raunig says that more efforts are needed to fight corruption and the strategies are futile if done without the proper tools.

Speaking at the National Anti-Corruption Forum, the head of the OSCE Presence in Tirana, said that there is still no senior official convicted of corruption.

He further said that the strategy against corruption is very important, but strategies are futile if done without the proper tools. Raunig noted that more vigorous action is needed to combat corruption.

"Although the number of corruption cases registered in the first half of 2014 is considerable, 468 cases according to the Ministry of Justice, none of them includes a high-level official.

According to the data, there are no cases of identification and punishment of high level officials and the perception of corruption remains high. Albania needs more consistent action in the fight against corruption.

OSCE has supported the government in drafting the strategy against corruption. The strategy is a guide that prevents corruption in all areas of governance, "he said.
Golden Dawn and Next Greek Election
December 10 2014
The current government wasn't supposed to vote for a President until February and if they couldn't decide, election would be in March.

However, the PM of Greece was informed last week by justice officials that the trial of Golden Dawn couldn't commence before Feb 10/15 and that after that some Golden Dawn members, including the leader and deputy would have to be released after serving the maximum 18 months in pre trial custody.

Samaras was scared to have Golden Dawn campaign, so he called for an early presidential vote because this way the national elections will be Feb 8 or Feb 15. If Mihaloliako was let out before the election campaign he'd take a lot of votes from ND.

These ND/PASOK people are just so devious and dirty. I don't vote for GD, but to work elections around a supposed "organized criminal organization" just shows that everything is just about politics.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

ABC News

Torture Report: Former CIA Directors Say Interrogation Program 'Saved Thousands of Lives'

Dec 9, 2014, 11:44 AM ET
JONATHAN KARL More From Jonathan »

LUIS MARTINEZ More From Luis »

George J. Tenet, center, the director of the C.I.A., in March 2003 with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney

PHOTO: The CIA symbol is shown on the floor of CIA Headquarters at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, July 9, 2014.
The CIA symbol is shown on the floor of CIA Headquarters at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, July 9, 2014. Getty Images

Six former Directors and Deputy Directors of the CIA fired back at the Senate Intelligence Committee with a vehemence almost never seen in the intelligence world.

The former CIA leaders -- including George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden -- blasted the Senate report as “one-sided and marred with errors” and called it “a poorly done and partisan attack on the agency that has done the most to protect America after the 9/11 attacks.”

Their 2,500-word rebuttal was posted as an op-ed on the Wall Street Journal website once the report was released. The former intel chiefs are also launching their own website to respond to the attacks on CIA’s post-9/11 activities.

The former directors argue that the CIA interrogation program “saved thousands of lives” by helping lead to the capture of top al qaeda operatives and disrupting their plotting.

"A powerful example of the interrogation program’s importance is the information obtained from Abu Zubaydah, a senior al Qaeda operative, and from Khalid Sheik Muhammed, known as KSM, the 9/11 mastermind,” the former directors write. "We are convinced that both would not have talked absent the interrogation program.”

As for Osama Bin Laden, the former directors outline the steps that led the Navy SEALs to the Bin Laden’s compound in abbottabad, Pakistan.

"The CIA never would have focused on the individual who turned out to be bin Laden’s personal courier without the detention and interrogation program,” they write. “So the bottom line is this: The interrogation program formed an essential part of the foundation from which the CIA and the U.S. military mounted the bin Laden operation."

This is the first opportunity for these former intelligence chiefs to respond to the allegations made in the report: None of them — in fact no current or former CIA officials — were interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee for their report.

They argue that the reports release will do long-standing damage to the United States because it will make foreign intelligence agencies less willing to cooperate with the CIA, give terrorist a new reciting tool and make current CIA operatives fearful of future political attacks.

'Aggressive' Tactics 'Responsible' Success

“Many CIA officers will be concerned that being involved in legally approved sensitive actions can open them to politically driven scrutiny and censure from a future administration.”

The CIA, they insist, should instead be praised for protecting the United States.

"The al Qaeda leadership has not managed another attack on the homeland in the 13 years since, despite a strong desire to do so,” they write. "The CIA’s aggressive counter-terrorism policies and programs are responsible for that success."

Brennan: Committee 'Provided An Incomplete' Picture

In a statement current CIA Director John Brennan agrees with his predecessors that the enhanced interrogation techniques on some of its detainees “did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives. The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qa’ida and continues to inform our counter-terrorism efforts to this day.” The Agency also plans to release the approximately 120 page response to the report it provided the committee in June, 2013.

He acknowledges that mistakes were made early on in the program’s existence and says that was because it was ill-prepared to carry out a worldwide detention program. The CIA Director also disagrees with the Committee’s “inference that the Agency systematically and intentionally misled each of these audiences on the effectiveness of the program.”

Brennan argues that the committee’s investigation “provided an incomplete and selective picture of what occurred” because the committee did not interview officers involved in the program who could have provided what it says is the necessary context. In releasing the report on the Senate floor committee chairperson Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) explained that no interviews were conducted because of a concurrent Justice Department investigation that might have limited potential comments from CIA officers involved .

“In carrying out that program, we did not always live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves and that the American people expect of us,” said Brennan. “As an Agency, we have learned from these mistakes, which is why my predecessors and I have implemented various remedial measures over the years to address institutional deficiencies.”

Brennan also agrees with his predecessors that the enhanced interrogation techniques led to the courier who began the trail that led located Osame bin Laden. It points out that after undergoing some of the enhanced interrogation techniques, Ammar al-Baluch was the first detainee to reveal that Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti served as a courier for Bin Laden.

That information led the CIA to re-question other detainees about the courier’s role. “CIA then combined this information with reporting from other streams to build a profile of Abu Ahmad’s experiences, family, and characteristics that allowed us to eventually determine his true name and location,” said Brennan.

Serbia receives "11 almost impossible conditions"

BELGRADE -- Germany has sent 11 "almost impossible conditions" to Serbia that the country must fulfill in order to open the first chapter in its EU membership negotiations.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
This is according to a report in the Belgrade-based daily Vecernje Novosti, which specifies that these conditions concern the status of Kosovo and "effectively support the province's independence."
The daily writes that Germany wants the statute of the future community of Serb municipalities to be produced in line with Pristina's laws, to allow the latter participation in all regional forums, as well as acceptance of Kosovo-issued passports "on the border with Serbia" and "building of brick facilities on the crossings."

The article adds that "for this reason Belgrade has launched a comprehensive diplomatic campaign in many addresses to, as soon as possible, reformulate the Brussels recommendations and open the first chapter as soon as possible."

"If Serbia were to fulfill all that is demanded, the chances for which are small, European leaders could as soon as during the December summit schedule the next intergovernmental conference for the end of January when chapters 32 (financial control) and 35 (Kosovo) would be opened simultaneously," writes the newspaper.

Greece Lurches Back Into Crisis Mode

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- BlackRock Investment Institute Senior Director Peter Fisher discusses the global economy and central banks monetary policies on “Market Makers.” (Source: Bloomberg)
Greek stocks fell more than at any point during Europe’s debt crisis today after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras gambled his political future on bringing forward a parliamentary vote on a new head of state.
Greek stocks tumbled the most since 1987 and three-year yields surged in response to the prime minister’s move. Unless he can persuade 25 opposition lawmakers to support his choice, Samaras will be forced to call a parliamentary election that anti-austerity party Syriza would be favorite to win.
“Investors have taken a second look at Syriza and understood that at this point in time it’s more radical than the traditional left in Greece,” said Nicholas Veron, a fellow at the Bruegel research institute in Brussels. “If Syriza takes over it won’t be a smooth ride.”
Less than a month before Samaras had hoped to lead Greece out of the bailout program that has ravaged the country for the past four years, the resistance to his policies is fueling doubts about whether he can stay the course. While Syriza has pledged to stick with the euro, its plans to roll-back Samaras’s budget cuts evoke memories of the financial chaos that threatened to bust apart the currency union in 2012.
Greece’s benchmark stock index dropped 13 percent and the bond market signaled investors are concerned about short-term disruptions, as the yield on 3-year debt jumped 176 basis points to 8.23 percent, surpassing 10-year rates.
Photographer: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images
The Athens stock exchange on Dec. 8, 2014.
“It’s possibly a good decision, but in the end it’s in the hands of the decision makers in parliament and the population,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters in Brussels. Greece’s reform program is “not yet over the hill,” he added.

180 Votes

Samaras nominated Stavros Dimas, a 73-year-old former European Union commissioner, for the largely ceremonial post of president. Voting will begin next week, on Dec. 17, with two further rounds possible.
Under Greece’s constitution, a supermajority of at least 180 lawmakers in the 300-seat chamber is needed to elect a successor to the incumbent, President Karolos Papoulias. The government has the support of just 155 lawmakers. Failure to install a candidate after three attempts would force Samaras to dissolve parliament.
“Political uncertainty must end now,” government spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi said late yesterday in an e-mailed statement announcing the vote. The coming months are “crucial” for an agreement on a credit line to replace Greece’s bailout program and negotiations over the country’s debt, she said.
Photographer: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP via Getty Images
Greek protesters outside the parliament in Athens ahead of a budget vote by lawmakers on Dec. 7, 2014.

Difficult Math

Only some of the 24 lawmakers not currently caucusing with any of the country’s political parties have said they may support the government’s candidate for the presidency. All opposition party leaders have said they’ll block any pick made by Samaras, meaning the government will have to count on a revolt from opposition lawmakers against their official party lines to secure the election of a new president.
“The math is very difficult for the government,” said Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens.
Anti-bailout group Syriza, which currently leads the government in opinion polls, welcomed the announcement, saying that Samaras’s coalition didn’t have the votes to secure its choice of president. Greece’s next general election isn’t due until 2016.
Samaras has vowed to exit the unpopular rescue program at the end of 2014. It envisages regular emergency loan disbursements being replaced with precautionary credit lines from the International Monetary Fund and the European Stability Mechanism that would come with fewer strings, and would only be used if Greek borrowing costs spike.
Photographer: Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg
Antonis Samaras, Greece's Prime Minister.

EU Meeting

“A positive outcome will renew Samaras’s lease on power and put in him a better position to strike and agreement with the troika,” said Thanassis Drogossis, head of equities at Athens-based brokerage Pantelakis Securities.
Samaras’s plan was announced as euro-area finance ministers meeting in Brussels yesterday said that agreement on Greece’s final bailout review, a condition for the extension of a credit line, is not possible by the end of this year. As a result, the current bailout will be extended by two months.
“Syriza may find itself winning an election, with less than a month before the program expires and Greece is left without a financial backstop,” said George Pagoulatos, a professor of European politics and economy in Athens. “This could steepen the learning curve in order to avert the worst.”
Staff teams from the troika of officials representing the country’s lenders -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF -- are due to return to Athens today. There, they will resume talks on the measures required to complete the review, paving the way for the disbursement of about 7 billion euros ($8.6 billion) in aid outstanding.

‘Calculated Risk’

The review, which started in September, remains stalled, as the country’s creditors raise doubts about the projections of next year’s budget and ask Greece to adopt more budget savings to ensure that it meets its targets.
Samaras “knows he has to establish political clarity,” Michael Fuchs, the deputy chairman of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, said in an interview in Cologne.
It’s “a calculated risk taken by Samaras that’s actually a smart move,” said Fuchs, who said he spoke with Samaras yesterday by phone. “Its chances of paying off are more than fair. He knows what he’s doing.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Nikos Chrysoloras in Athens at; Antonis Galanopoulos in Athens at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at; Vidya Root at Ben Sills, Andrew Atkinson