Saturday, July 4, 2015

US Ambassador in Albania, Donald Lu, met with a Delegation of Omonia in Himara.

Beleris met with US Ambassador in Himara

The President of Omonia`s branch for Himara region Fred Beleris, met yesterday, July 3, the US ambassador to Albania, Donald Lu.

Attending the meeting which took place in Himara, was the General President of Omonia, Leonidas Pappas and other members of our Community.

Dr. Lou found in our region following communications, showing active interest in matters that concerning the municipality of Himara and the Greek National Minority.

Of particular interest was the question of property in which, he seemed excellent knowledge and the question of education.

Mr. Lu said under an strong obbsservation about the properties that the US government will stand helper in fighting corruption and democratisation of the Albania's judicial system. For that matter, the delegation of Omonoia, handed the US Ambassador, a Memorandum.

Mr. Beleris briefed the ambassador on the issue of Greek education in Himara and presented the course of procedures for the Greek school function. Mr. Lou linked education with fundamental minority rights, respect for which is a precondition for establishing the rule of law in Albania.

The meeting ratified the communication channel has opened in the US embassy in efforts to promote the issues concerning our community.

Still the Memorandum is not made in public by Omonia of Himara.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Thousands Gather in Athens Ahead of Key Referendum

Demonstrators wave greek flags during an anti-austerity rally in front of the parliament building in Athens, Greece, July 3, 2015

NATO welcomes activation of new Air Command and Control System

On Friday (3 July 2015), NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment Patrick Auroy welcomed the activation of NATO’s new Air Command and Control System (ACCS). Italy recently decided to declare the first ACCS site operational, with other NATO and national sites to follow in 2015 and subsequent years.
Poggio Renatico in Italy is the first ACCS site in NATO to achieve operational status.  In addition to a static NATO air command and control centre, the site also hosts a deployable ACCS capability that SACEUR can use to conduct complex air operations anywhere in NATO or out of area. It is expected that this capability may also support NATO’s Readiness Action Plan, if required.
“This is a major step forward,” said the Assistant Secretary General; “I express my great appreciation to the Italian authorities and to NATO’s Air Command and Control community, the NATO Communication and Information Agency and industry who made this possible.  I look forward to the speedy activation of the next sites. This system is a good example of integrated national and NATO defence capabilities.”

First real-life scramble

On 17 June, the first ever ACCS real-life air policing event was controlled using NATO ACCS.  The order to take off was sent from the Combined Air Operation Centre located in Torrejon, Spain, and was executed by two Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft controlled by the ACCS site in Poggio Renatico.
“This event is an important milestone for the entire NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence community,” said Major General Bernhard Fürst, Vice Chairman of the NATO Air and Missile Defence Committee.
Once fully deployed, the system will cover 10 million square kilometres (3.8 million square miles) of airspace.  It will interconnect more than 20 military aircraft control centres, providing a wide spectrum of new and modern tools to all NATO air operators, and greatly increase the effectiveness of NATO air operations. 

EU Council head Tusk sees Greece inside euro irrespective of poll outcome

First entry: 3 July 2015 - 22:52 Athens, 19:52 GMT
Last update: 22:52 Athens, 19:52 GMTPolitics
EU Council head Tusk sees Greece inside euro irrespective of poll outcome
No matter how Greeks vote Sunday, the EU is looking for ways “to keep them inside” the single currency, though that may require “a completely new” approach to allow the eurozone to coexist with a bankrupt country, Donald Tusk told POLITICO.
Striking a notably conciliatory tone, the European Council president called on Athens and its creditors to stop the mutual “blame game,” work to “rebuild trust” and promptly resume negotiations after the July 5 referendum in Greece.
“The main aim for us is to keep the eurozone united,” he said.
In a rare, 90-minute interview in his Council office Thursday evening, Tusk covered a range of topics including last week’s EU summit dust-up over migration, his agenda for the negotiations on Britain’s future in the EU and his jogging routine in Brussels.
But the Greek crisis weighed most on the man who represents the 28 national governments in Brussels.
Tusk kept the door wide open to another financial rescue of Athens and downplayed the stakes in Sunday’s vote. Contradicting both European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Martin Schulz, Tusk said that “it’s very clear that the referendum is not … about being in the eurozone or not. No, in fact, nobody’s interested — I hope nobody’s interested — in this kind of choice.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ call for a snap referendum early last Saturday ended months of fruitless negotiations with creditors and took the EU into uncharted terrain.In the dramatic days since that decision, Greece has imposed capital controls and closed its banks, failed to pay an International Monetary Fund loan on time and allowed its second bailout program to expire.
As Tsipras and his ministers pointed the finger at Brussels and Berlin, European leaders early in the week reacted with a mix of pique and frustration — none more so than Juncker, who accused the Greek premier of “betrayal.”
Tusk struck a much different note than Juncker in the interview. The former Polish prime minister repeatedly sought to lower the volume on the rhetoric around Greece, refusing even to use the word “default” to describe the country’s status after it failed to make a €1.6 billion payment Tuesday to the IMF.
He added a prominent voice to calls this week, including from the U.S., for a return to the negotiating table. “For sure, it’s not a black and white story,” he said. “Maybe the biggest mistake, but I’m not talking only about Greece, was this blame game, the political game between creditors and Greece. Nobody here is an angel.”
“In time of crisis, and it’s not about Greece only but all crises, the biggest problem is lack of confidence and trust,” he added. “The first goal is to rebuild trust in Greece.”
Tusk said the EU will work with Athens regardless of Sunday’s outcome, though “if the Greeks vote Yes, I think it’s a chance to open a new chapter in negotiations, perhaps more promising than before.”
In that case, the EU would have to first see if Tsipras stays on, a new leader takes over or fresh elections are called.
In case of a No, according to Tusk, “the space for negotiation will be smaller, obviously. But I would like to warn, for sure we don’t need any dramatic messages after No voting.” The EU, he said, would have to wait to hear “the new proposal of the Greek government.”
European treaties provide no way for a country to leave or get expelled from the eurozone except in case of its withdrawal from the EU. But Tusk said he believes that if Greece chooses to exit the single currency, a way could be found for it stay in the Union. “If we need some legal treaty changes to save Europe, it’s also possible to discuss,” he said.
But he suggested the far more immediate priority in the days ahead is to find a financial and legal fudge to keep Greece in the eurozone. “Today’s a situation where we have to think about completely new circumstances,” Tusk said.
“Maybe we will have to get used to living with a country as a member of the eurozone in bankruptcy.” He added: “Maybe we have to prepare the whole organization — the eurozone and EU — to live with countries with such a problem as Greece today.”
Time is short: Greece’s banks are running out of money and the Athens government must pay pensions and salaries and a €3.5 billion to the ECB and national central banks on July 20. If Greece resorts to a scrip currency or IOUs to pay its bills and keeps capital controls in for a long time, it would be in effect out of the euro.
A possible solution is to put Greece in a euro “waiting room,” not formally out of the single currency but in a limbo until it can negotiate its way back in one day.
Tusk refused to get drawn out on what this alternative solution might look like. “If you imagine too much, you get self-fulfilling prophesies,” he said, adding that it was above all necessary to “avoid this dramatic scenario: the breakup of the eurozone.” He added that the stakes in Greece go well beyond the debt or future of the euro, and are at heart geopolitical: “Greece and the Balkans are the traditional soft underbelly of Europe,” and the EU needs to move “very, very cautiously.”
The sudden revival of the euro debt crisis doesn’t play to Tusk’s political strengths. He comes from a country outside the eurozone. Though he formally chairs EU summits and is personally close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Tusk isn’t a natural leader on the issue.Juncker, who as prime minister of Luxembourg headed the Eurogroup for eight years, has been far more prominent in the euro crisis talks.
Tusk, meanwhile, has sought to carve out his own space in the EU’s external relations. His first speech after taking office as Council president last December focused on the threat to the European order from the conflict in Ukraine — earning him a reputation as Brussels’ leading Russia hawk. EU doves hold that against him, saying his interest in Ukraine verges on obsession and prevents him from asserting himself on other issues.
“Of course I’ve heard that I am too focused on Ukraine,” he said with smile. Late last year, that crisis was “the biggest problem” in Europe, he said Thursday. But now the EU has equally urgent and, in his telling, more complicated problems on the docket: migration, Britain and Greece, all of which he called “his main concerns.”
Tusk is the just the second person to hold the Council presidency, a post created by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 whose precise job description is in the eyes of the holder. His predecessor, former Belgian prime minister Herman Van Rompuy, preferred to work in the shadows, herding the 28 independent-minded cats of the EU into various coalitions.
Tusk is more outspoken than van Rompuy, and says he is aware of another criticism of his term so far: “I too frequently present my own views.”
Thinking of his role, he said: “I know my treaty obligations and rights and prerogatives. I have no illusions. My friends in Poland, they are kidding from time to time that I am ‘the king of Europe.’ Of course that’s a joke.” But he added that he’s ready to fight for his “opinions and beliefs” and is “ready to take risks when it comes to this.”
For example? Tusk cited the other big blowup (after Greece) in Brussels last week. At their summit, EU leaders argued behind closed doors for more than five hours over migration policy. Juncker and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were incensed by the group’s unwillingness to support their proposed mandatory quotas for the relocation of asylum-seekers across the EU.
Commission and Italian officials blamed Tusk, who supported keeping in place a voluntary scheme proposed in April. At a press conference held in the early-morning hours last Friday, Juncker lashed out at Tusk over his handling of the meeting, saying “I protest against this working method.”
In the interview, Tusk called the Commission’s proposal “radically different” from what the EU states had agreed to in April. Though he said “‘annoyed’ is a bit too much” to describe his feelings toward Juncker, his co-equal in the EU power structures, Tusk added that “I think we need more respect among institutions,” referring to the Council and the Commission.
“For me, it’s absolutely natural that from time to time we will be in conflict,” he said. “It’s nothing personal.”
Tusk and Juncker have worked together since 2007, when both were prime ministers. The men are more comfortable speaking German, having grown up with the language. But they rarely meet one-on-one and for the benefit of their aides now speak together in English, according to Tusk.
The Pole’s weak command of English was a knock against him before he took office last year. He spent four months in between jobs intensively working on his English in Poland. He won’t say how he did it — “This is my secret, I have to patent it” — but the improvement is striking to those who know him. Still from time to time, he searches for his words, which is visibly frustrating for a politician who back home was known for his facility with language.
The interview was conducted in English, except for when he was asked a couple of questions in Polish about Polish politics. (See: “Tusk sees Poland from Brussels.“)
While Juncker will naturally be the bigger player on the euro crisis in Brussels, Tusk is asserting himself on migration. He said he wants to correct the imbalance in the current EU approach and called for “a new containment policy, a return policy.” He falls on the harder edge of views in the EU on the issue. “We have to stop this huge wave of illegal immigration,” he said. “Europe can’t be the only place, the only direction for displaced people.” Tusk said he would propose a plan that tries to stop migrants from coming to Europe in the first place before a summit of EU and African states in Malta scheduled in the autumn.
The future of the U.K. in the EU is another tricky issue Tusk has to manage. British Prime Minister David Cameron had hoped to use last week’s summit to launch the negotiations on EU reform ahead of his In/Out referendum on Britain’s membership. The Greece and migration arguments squeezed that discussion off the agenda, but it will return to prominence in the coming months. Tusk presented himself as a point person in Brussels on the so-called Brexit issue.
He has met with Cameron several times to discuss the proposed reforms, and said that he expects Cameron to “be very responsible and cautious because for sure he needs success” in the referendum. But Tusk opposed changing the EU treaty in any way, saying that it would “provoke a much wider and maybe radical discussion about treaty change.”
For example, he said, the migration crisis has “some politicians” questioning the principle of free movement of people in the EU, which he calls “non-negotiable.” British Euroskeptics want to stem the inflow of migrants from the EU’s eastern member countries.
His aversion to any opening of EU treaties also makes him “skeptical” about the “five-presidents’ report” released last week on the future of the European monetary union.
As it happens, Tusk was one of the co-authors. But he rolls his eyes at the mention of it. The proposals for closer integration in the study, including the creation of a eurozone finance minister in EU treaties, lack support among member states, he said. The report called for the EU to complete the banking union, an idea Tusk endorses. The more ambitious items on the monetary integration agenda are cited by supporters as necessary to reassure markets about the long-term viability of the eurozone. Tusk disagreed, noting that the markets aren’t panicking over Greece and don’t need reassurances about the euro.
At 58, Donald Tusk is fit and tan. His handshake feels as if he intended to lift a visitor off the ground. The crow’s feet around his eyes are the one hint of his age. He is dressed down in a checkered blue shirt and jeans, and looks relaxed, somewhat incongruously with the times in EU politics.
He said he was “physically … quite well prepared” for the marathon negotiation sessions last week in Brussels. After an injury took him off the soccer field, he’s back to his regular jogging routine: 10 kilometers, three times a week, usually at the park near his home in Brussels’ Ixelles neighborhood.
Back in Poland, he commuted most weekends from Warsaw to his hometown of Sopot, near Gdansk, many weekends and played on a club there. He said he hasn’t played with any football team in town.
“I will return to football,” he said, “although my wife laughs that when you’re 58 years old you don’t think about a return to that sort of sport.”
Asked for his reading of Tsipras, the man who in a few weeks has upended the EU’s economic and political order, Tusk said, “It’s a banal and typical story: As a leader, he promised something to his voters and now he’s delivering this program.” To the Pole in Brussels, the Greek suffers from a common illusion in Europe: “That we can spend more than we have.”

Varoufakis: 'a deal with creditors more or less done'

First entry: 3 July 2015 - 12:46 Athens, 09:46 GMT
Last update: 12:46 Athens, 09:46 GMTPolitics
Varoufakis: 'a deal with creditors more or less done'
Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said a deal on his country’s debt would be agreed regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s referendum.
Varoufakis said if people vote Yes to the proposed bailout terms the Greek government would sign up to the deal on the table.
However, if they vote No, as his government is urging, a deal would also be done, he said.
“During this week of impasse, we’ve had some very decent proposals coming from official Europe, confidentially, and a deal is more or less done,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland programme.
“The difference between a Yes and a No vote is that a Yes is going to lead to an unsustainable…a very bad agreement for both Greece and Europe,” Varoufakis said.
He said behind-the-scene negotiations were continuing despite public pronouncements from European leaders that no negotiations would take place until after Sunday’s vote.
Varoufakis denied the vote would determine whether Greece remained in the eurozone, insisting the country would stay in the single currency and that deposits in Greek banks were safe.
“The creditors have chosen this path of playing hardball, of blackmailing our government with bank closures but that’s going to end after the referendum, when we deliver a verdict one way or the other.”
Varoufakis admitted the IMF’s assessment was “music to his ears” as he and his government had been arguing all along that Greece’s debt was unsustainable.
Responding to Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s assertion that Greece should not be given debt relief, he said the Irish people had been “saddled with a preposterous debt” and that they should join forces with the Greeks and possibly the Portuguese to request “a very sensible” debt relief exercise.
Irish Times

TAP gas pipeline project starts in Albania

Associated Press
TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline project, or TAP, has started investing in Albania's infrastructure to prepare for starting construction of the pipeline next year.
TAP said Friday it started construction and rehabilitation of some 100 kilometers (62 miles) of access roads and bridges along the pipeline's route in Albania, but gave no figures on the total investment there.
The project, an 870 kilometers (540 miles) long pipeline from the Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan across Turkey, Greece and Albania and undersea to Italy, plans to "safely deliver Caspian gas to Europe in early 2020," according to managing director Ian Bradshaw.
Prime Minister Edi Rama called it "one of the biggest investments in Albania's history."

If EU shuns Albania radical Islam beckons

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (Getty)
His hair is receding, his beard is splashed with grey, and he speaks English with the grammatical precision of an independent-minded Balkan intellectual who grew up in the communist era – which is exactly what he is. But Edi Rama, Albania’s prime minister, is also so tall and muscular that, as a young man, he played for the national basketball team. Before he gave up art for politics in the post-communist era, his paintings were exhibited in Berlin, New York and beyond.
As he explained over dinner in Tirana on Thursday night, he is also old enough – he turns 51 on Saturday – to have searing memories of the cruel, isolated madhouse that was Albanian communism under Enver Hoxha, the dictator who ruled from the end of the second world war until his death in 1985. This is why Rama passionately wants Albania’s future to be in the EU, and why he foresees danger ahead if his and other Balkan countries are denied this prospect.

“Enlargement fatigue [in western European countries] is a kind of self-indulgence for those who have lost the point of why the EU was built in the first place. I am sure the founding fathers of the EU would be ashamed. My humble view is that Europe needs the Balkans today as much as the Balkans needs Europe. That is because enlargement into the Balkans is, first and foremost, an issue of security for Europe.”
When one dinner guest asked the premier if he felt “alone” because of the EU’s reluctance to embrace Albania with a timetable for membership, he reminded us that Albania under Hoxha was one of the world’s most paranoid, self-isolated regimes. It was a place where atheism was the state religion and private car ownership, beards and long hair were banned.
Small bunkers, built for partisans to shoot at mythical invaders, pitted towns, rural areas and the coast, in fact the whole country, like a form of demented concrete acne. Foreign travel was utterly inconceivable for ordinary Albanians. Contact with foreign ideas spelled trouble with the police, imprisonment or worse. Communism in eastern Europe was bad, but the nightmarish version in Albania was off the radar screen.
“I had the first part of my life so lonely under Enver Hoxha that I couldn’t possibly feel alone now. I’ve stopped telling my son about those times, because he looks at me as if I’m crazy. People in the 1970s were put in prison for having Picasso books,” Rama said.
In a warning about the potential risk of radical Islam spreading into the Balkans, he said: “A young person in Tunis or Tobruk feels he has no future. But in Albania the star in the sky is Europe. If the EU is not able to show up in the way that is expected, there will be a huge space for radical Islam.
“In our Balkan region, there are the most pro-American and pro-European Muslims in the world,” he said, referring to Muslim communities in Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. “But it’s changing, it’s not like it was even 10 years ago. Ten years ago, it would have been impossible for there to be foreign fighters from Albania [fighting in Iraq or Syria]. About 98 per cent of people believed in America, then in God, then in Europe. Today that’s not the case.”
Rama also speaks perceptively about the Greek crisis, and its impact on political mindsets in Athens and the wider Balkan region. “Before the crisis, the Greeks were the ‘first Europeans’ in the neighbourhood, the ‘big brother that knows the world’. They were the only Nato and EU member. But the crisis has forced them to abandon the area a bit. Antonis Samaras, the former premier, made a respectable effort to bring back Greece, but now [under the radical leftist-led government of Alexis Tsipras] things have changed again.”
As he knots his wine-red tie under his dark blue suit and prepares to leave the dining room, Rama tells a story about his grandmother, a Catholic like himself. “She said to me, ‘One day you will be a man. And a man can be brutal. A man can lie. A man can make wrong decisions. But what a man can never afford to be is boring.’”
Edi Rama, you sure listened to that advice.

Berlin: Merkel to visit Serbia on July 8

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania on July 8-9, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday.
Source: Tanjug
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
Main topics will include the three countries' bilateral relations with Germany, their relation with the European Union, economic and energy issues. The remaining topics will deal with regional issues, such as the Western Balkans conference and relations with neighbors, Seibert said.
Merkel will first visit Albania, after which she will come to Serbia, where she will be welcomed by Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic with full military honors.

According to announcements, Merkel and Vucic are due to have talks and dinner in the evening of July 8, while in the morning of July 9 Merkel will have breakfast with representatives of Serbia's civil society, after which she will meet with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is Merkel's third stop, Seibert said.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

EU Migrant Quotas Threaten Stability of Eastern Europe – Political Analyst

Migrants crowd and inflatable dinghy as rescue vassel  Denaro  (not in picture) of the Italian Coast Guard approaches them, off the Libyan coast, in the Mediterranean Sea

© AP Photo/ Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA
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Citing intensifying public protests and government resistance to Brussels' refugee quotas for Eastern Europe, Russian political expert Vladimir Bruter argues that the region is not prepared to admit large numbers of African refugees. Moreover, according to the expert, by forcing the issue, Brussels is creating a potentially explosive situation.
In the Czech Republic, intense public debate and protests surrounding the admission of African refugees are intensifying. Some of the protests are taking on a nationalistic tone, with a recent protest in the south eastern city of Brno held under the slogan 'Czechia is for Czechs'. On Tuesday, several hundred people, including several deputies of the country's parliament, gathered in Prague to protest a proposal to voluntarily accept several hundred immigrants. A recent survey conducted by polling agency Median found that while the Czech Republic already accepts less immigrants than any of its neighbors, the country remains the most fearful of the phenomenon.
Vladimir Bruter, an analyst at the Moscow-based International Institute of Humanitarian and Political Studies, argues that to varying degrees, Czechs' fears are in line with those of other Eastern European countries.
Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Bruter noted that "a feeling of constant anxiety is present. Everyone expects that something is on the horizon, for which society will not be prepared. In general, Eastern Europe is not prepared to accept African refugees. This is the state of public consciousness in the region. When Europe speaks about distributing refugees proportionally, it is simply creating a provocative situation."
The analyst stated that "neither the Czech Republic, nor Poland, nor Slovakia, nor Romania are ready for these changes. And if a number of cities in Western European countries have experience with co-existence with other religions and races, Eastern Europe does not. This requires several decades [to develop] at a minimum," the expert noted.
Bruter observed that there is a sense that Western Europe seeks to purposely spread the acute social problems it faces to those regions of the EU not yet experiencing them.
"The arrival of thousands of African refugees will create a difficult domestic situation, a complex system of relations between communities. This will be a constant social problem, which will begin to provoke, to create social clashes and lead to increased crime."
In this respect, according to Bruter, the negative feelings of the people of Eastern Europe are understandable. Their countries did not play a role in the creation of the present situation of war and chaos in the Eastern Mediterranean, but Brussels is attempting to force them to pay the price in equal measure with the countries of Western Europe.
"In principle, it is necessary to solve the problems of migrants in their home countries. It is necessary to help create jobs for them, and conditions for normal existence. But this is not happening. The West is not interested in doing this, even though it created the situation which has resulted in mass migration. As a result, [Europe] faces a situation of deadlock."
Bruter's commentary matches those of local politicians and commentators. Last week, veteran Czech politician and analyst Jiri Vyvadil noted that today's immigrant crisis wouldn't exist were it not for the US, French and British initiating wars in countries including Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan. He argued that it was extremely arrogant of the countries of Western Europe to demand that Eastern Europe should pay for their mistakes.

Albania braced for fallout from Greek crisis

Stimaga, GREECE: Albanian migrants pick olives in the village of Stimaga, some 120 kms south of Athens, 08 December 2006. The arrival of thousands of migrants to Greece in the last years, mainly from Albania, Bulgaria and Romania, has had a positive impact on the country's agricultural sector. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)©AFP
Albanian migrants pick olives in the village of Stimaga, south of Athens
Albania is bracing itself for the risk that turmoil in Greece, its southern neighbour, will force tens of thousands of migrant Albanian workers to return home, cutting off remittances to hard-pressed families in one of post-communist eastern Europe’s poorest states.
Government ministers in Tirana express confidence that Albania’s financial system can ride out the storm, even though three banks in Albania are Greek owned and control almost 16 per cent of all assets in the Albanian banking sector.
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But the concerns about the possible return of migrants underline that Albania and other Balkan states, rather than Greece’s eurozone partners, could be the first to feel the economic and social ripple effects of the crisis in Athens. About 12 per cent of Albania’s 3.2m people live below the World Bank-defined poverty line of $2 a day.
“Albanian migrant workers have been going to Greece since the early 1990s,” Ditmir Bushati, Albania’s foreign minister, told a visiting group of EU reporters in Tirana on Wednesday. “The contributions of Albanians abroad, in Greece and in Italy, too, have been quite instrumental in supporting the Albanian economy. Economically speaking, we’ve felt the effects of the Greek crisis.”
Remittances from Albanians working abroad fell from €952m in 2007 to €544m last year, but even the lower figure represents about 5 per cent of Albania’s gross domestic product. About 180,000 Albanian migrants have returned home over the past five years as Greece’s crisis intensified but several hundred thousand, mostly thought to be there illegally, are estimated to remain — mainly in the Greater Athens area and the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
The danger now is that large numbers of migrants, if they lose their jobs and savings in Greece, will return to Albania. This would push up unemployment — currently standing at 14 per cent of the workforce — in the short term, strain the stretched social security system and pose the challenge of how to integrate migrants’s children educated in Greek into Albanian schools and society.
These problems are considered potentially more serious for Albania than any risk of financial contagion from Greece. Albanian central bank officials say the three Greek-owned banks in the country have capital adequacy ratios of more than 17 per cent, comfortably above the minimum 14 per cent level set for them.
According to Mr Bushati, however, the Greek crisis may have the unfortunate consequence of setting back recent Albanian-Greek efforts to ease tensions in a relationship dogged by territorial, ethnic minority and other disputes, some of which go back to the second world war.
Albania map
“In times of deep economic and financial crisis, these problems are much more difficult to address. Nationalistic rhetoric comes into fashion, and this doesn’t create an environment conducive to dealing with bilateral issues.”
Nikos Kotzias, Greece’s foreign minister, is due to visit Tirana on July 15, but it remains to be seen if he will arrive with fresh ideas for overcoming a quarrel over how to delineate the continental shelf between the two countries in the Ionian Sea. In 2010, Albania’s constitutional court annulled a territorial agreement signed with Greece a year earlier.
Another point of dispute is that, in Tirana’s view, Albania and Greece, although both Nato members, are still technically at war because the Greek parliament has never repealed a war decree passed when Italian forces based in Albania attacked Greece in 1940. In Albania’s view, this prevents the ethnic Albanian Cham minority, expelled by Greece during the second world war for alleged collaboration with the Nazis, from reclaiming confiscated property

Obama, Renzi discuss Greece

First entry: 2 July 2015 - 11:10 Athens, 08:10 GMT
Last update: 11:10 Athens, 08:10 GMTPolitics
Obama, Renzi discuss Greece
US President Barack Obama and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi discussed the latest developments on Greece Wednesday. They agreed Greece should restart reform so that it can get financing and stay in the Eurozone.
The readout from the White House's Office of the Press Secretary says:
"The President spoke today with Prime Minster Matteo Renzi of Italy regarding developments in Greece.  They agreed on the importance of all sides working to put Greece back on a path of reforms and financing that leads to growth and debt sustainability within the Eurozone.  The leaders noted that their teams are in close contact and are monitoring economic developments in Greece as well as broader financial markets. They also discussed the importance of continued close coordination on counterterrorism."

Defence minister Kammenos: We are at war!

First entry: 2 July 2015 - 14:22 Athens, 11:22 GMT
Last update: 14:22 Athens, 11:22 GMTPolitics
Defence minister Kammenos: We are at war!
"We are at war" said Defence Minister Panos Kammenos who added that "whoever cannot contribute should leave the fight".
The leader of Independent Greeks was responding to questions on the status of at least three party MPs who differentiated their stance on Sunday’s referendum.

Alexis Tsipras: We need to respect the democratic procedures

First entry: 2 July 2015 - 17:06 Athens, 14:06 GMT
Last update: 17:06 Athens, 14:06 GMTPolitics
Alexis Tsipras: We need to respect the democratic procedures
Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, on Thursday reassured that the state will meet its obligations towards the Armed Forces after his meeting with Defence Minister and Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos.
"We will do everything in our power not to accept cuts that will create new inequalities in the society," the prime minister said and added: "We will decide where and how the cuts will be made."
At the same time, Tsipras reassured that there is no doubt over the country's geopolitical orientation and the government's acts aim to upgrade it.
He stressed the importance of respecting the democratic procedures, without dramatisation, in order to preserve national unity. "The next day we will be all together in the country's efforts to overcome the economic crisis" he said.
On his part, Kammenos thanked the prime minister for the reassurance that whatever proposals by the lenders will not foresee cuts to the Armed Forces.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tsipras: Referendum not about whether we stay or leave the euro

First entry: 1 July 2015 - 17:54 Athens, 14:54 GMT
Last update: 17:54 Athens, 14:54 GMTPolitics
Tsipras: Referendum not about whether we stay or leave the euro
Sunday's referendum is not about whether Greece will stay or leave the euro, Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a televised address to Greeks on Wednesday.
He stressed that the government still aims for an agreement with Greece's partners and remains at the negotiating table.
He called on Greek people to vote “no” saying it representing the people's clear choice on how they want to live on the day after, and a return to values in Europe, as well as strong pressure for a sustainable and fairer agreement.
The premier also said the government’s intention is to achieve an agreement with the country’s lenders, adding that after the announcement of a referendum for Sunday, better proposals were tabled from the ones the country had initially been offered and that if the Eurogroup has a “positive conclusion, we will respond immediately.”

New Democracy accuses government of leaving Greeks without money

First entry: 1 July 2015 - 19:44 Athens, 16:44 GMT
Last update: 19:44 Athens, 16:44 GMTPolitics
New Democracy accuses government of leaving Greeks without money
Main opposition New Democracy accused the government on Wednesday of leaving Greeks without money both inside the country and abroad.
"The scenes today with the deliberate torturing of pensioners resemble countries of sub-Saharan Africa,” party spokesman Costas Karagounis said. “We’ve reached the point where private individuals help them return home,” he added, while accusing “Tsipras’ state” of organizing new hirings.
Karagounis also said hospitals are “emitting a cry of distress”, while the country is being blasted abroad for its lack of credibility.
"They tell us they’re convening. I plead with them then: Stop convening because every time you do it, something bad happens. People are worried that a new announcement will be issued, maybe for a further cut of the minimum paid by the banks, maybe another monstrous thing,” he noted.

General Fragoulis the "Friend of Himariotes", calls for unity of all Greeks, during referendum for the next Sunday





«Αυτή την περίοδο πρέπει να είμαστε ψύχραιμοι και πάντα ενωμένοι. Αν γίνει το δημοψήφισμα πρέπει να σεβαστούμε την απόφαση. Εγώ εύχομαι μέχρι το βράδυ να λήξει το θέμα και να ανοίξει η κάνουλα και από ότι ακούω ο πρωθυπουργός είναι έτοιμος να ξεκινήσει για συζητήσεις. Πάνω από όλα πρέπει να ξέρουμε πως χρειάζεται ομοψυχία. Το πρώτο θέμα που πρέπει να αντιμετωπίσουμε είναι αυτό της λαθρομετανάστευσης και πρέπει να προστατέψουμε και τον άνεργο Έλληνα. 1.500.000 άνεργοι Έλληνες είναι πάρα πολύ μεγάλος αριθμός. Είναι επιεικώς απαράδεκτο να έχουμε κλειστές τράπεζες. Εμένα ως στρατηγός με ενδιέφερε να είναι ο άλλος καλός χαρακτήρας ανεξάρτητα από τι πιστεύει. Πρέπει να είμαστε όλοι ενωμένοι και με ομοψυχία».

Για το τι σκέφτεται ο κόσμος:

«Ο κόσμος σκέφτεται ότι θέλει να διασφαλίσει το μέλλον των παιδιών του, την διασφάλιση του και πως δεν θα χάσει αυτά που έχει ήδη αποκτήσει. Είμαι αισιόδοξος και πιστεύω πως ακόμα και την ύστατη στιγμή, ακόμα και να γίνει το δημοψήφισμα, θα επικρατήσει η λογική και θα μας δείξουν και την ανθρωπιά που αξίζει. Δεν υπάρχουν νικητές και ηττημένοι και δεν πρέπει να «γδαρθεί» ο Έλληνας. Σίγουρα θα πρέπει να γίνουν κάποιες μεταρρυθμίσεις και να αξιολογηθούν κάποιοι ώστε να μείνουν οι ικανοί».

Για το αν σκέφτεται να πάει στη πολιτική:

«Γιατί να κατέβω στη πολιτική και που να πάω; Σε μια καινούρια κατάσταση με άφθαρτους ανθρώπους που θα δράνε για το καλό της χώρας θα το συζητήσω. Πρώτα η πατρίδα και μετά το προσωπικό συμφέρον. Ενωμένοι σαν γροθιά και δεν πρέπει να έχουμε διχαστικά μηνύματα. Έχουμε γύρω μας χώρες που τους ανοίγει η όρεξη και δεν πρέπει να έχουμε άλλες Aλησμόνητες Πατρίδες».

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Italy issues terror-related travel warning on W. Balkans

Italy's Foreign Ministry has issued a travel advisory to its citizens intending to travel to Western Balkans countries, a Montenegrin daily is reporting.
Source: Vijesti
The reason, the Vijesti newspaper is reporting on its website, are possible terrorist attacks in the region.
An interactive map, originally published by the Corriere website, shows the Balkans marked as "yellow."

The map has the following categories: "travel with caution" (yellow), "don't travel unless necessary" (orange), "not recommended" (red), and "no special risk" (green).

Besides this , the Italian Interior Ministry said Montenegro was a potential point of entry for terrorists wanting to reach Italy.

Since September, 200, Italy has added about 13,000 locations to its list of potential terrorist targets, said the paper.

Italian ports of Ancona and Bari have been listed as potential targets of "terrorist attacks" and "entry of terrorists from Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro - that is, the hub of the route used by newly recruited terrorists headed for war zones in Syria and Iraq."

The article also quotes a Libyan government adviser who recently told the BBC that "Islamic State extremists are reaching Europe in boats used to smuggle migrants via the Mediterranean, since European police do not know who is a member of the IS, and who a refugee."

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has also warned that Islamic extremists "might reach Europe under the guise of migrants," the daily said.

Kosovo talks: No agreement after 17 hours of negotiations

A new round of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina ended without agreement after 17 hours of talks, a B92 reporter in Brussels has said.
Source: B92, Tanjug
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told journalists that the two delegations reached no agreement on any of the four issues they discussed.
Vucic said that the delegations were very close to reaching an agreement on the future Community Serb municipalities (ZSO).

"The Pristina delegation did not want to accept even those powers for the ZSO that municipalities have, which are powers in the field of urban planning, health and economic development", said he.

Vucic added that progress has been made in connection with telecommunications, but no agreement was finalized.

"We have managed to preserve the assets of Telekom (Srbija) and we agreed that calling codes toward central Serbia will not be billed as international," said Vucic.

There has been practically no progress on the remaining two topics - energy and Peace Park on the bridge in Kosovska Mitrovica - the prime minister noted.

"I fear that the Pristina side came here not to sign the agreement," he stressed, adding that the Belgrade delegation had negotiated "in good faith and was ready to reach agreements."

Vucic said he did not know when the next round of the EU-facilitated dialogue would take place.

Asked whether the failure to reach agreements on Monday would have repercussions on Serbia's EU integration, Vucic said he "could not answer" but was willing to "personally assume all the responsibility and all the consequences."

Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa told reporters that progress has been made in connection with the SZO and telecommunications, but that his delegation could not accept the demands of the Belgrade side.

"They were asking for executive powers for the ZSO, and it is against our law and constitution," explained Mustafa.

He confirmed that there had been progress on telecommunications and that agreement was reached on the international calling code for Kosovo, but that it was not signed because "the international community wants all four topics to be signed as one package."

Mustafa also said that the date for the next round of the dialogue depends on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

For Eastern Europe, Moscow is an existential threat

If the US and NATO pursue a policy of defence and deterrence, Russia's aggression will remained checked.

Soldiers stand next to their Marder light tanks during NATO military exercises [Getty]
Soldiers stand next to their Marder light tanks during NATO military exercises [Getty]

About the Author

Luke Coffey

Luke Coffey is a research fellow specialising in transatlantic and Eurasian security at a Washington DC based think tank. He previously served as a special adviser to the British defence secretary and was a commissioned officer in the United States army.
The United States' recent announcement that it will pre-position a brigade's worth of combat equipment in Eastern Europe is welcome news to members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) who have legitimate concerns about Russia's designs on the region.
Predictably, the Kremlin is complaining. A Russian defence ministry official said stationing tanks in NATO states on Russia's border would be "the most aggressive US act since the Cold War". 
This is nonsense for the obvious reason that NATO is a defensive alliance. As long as Russia does not plan to attack a NATO member, then Moscow should have nothing to fear from the alliance. 
Analysis: Will Russia see US' NATO move as provocative?
The decision to move US military hardware to Eastern Europe was announced by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter during a recent visit to Estonia - a front-line NATO member which experienced Soviet occupation after World War II until regaining its independence in 1991.
A defensive alliance
A mere 250 tanks and dozens of armoured vehicles and self-propelled artillery will be spread out across seven NATO countries: Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
It is important to note that the 5,000 or so soldiers that normally make up a brigade will not be based in Eastern Europe - only the equipment. How this can be considered a threat to Russia, one of the strongest military powers in the world, remains to be seen.
To understand why these seven countries in Eastern Europe have concerns about Russia today, one only has to look at their recent history. During the Cold War, all of these countries spent almost a half century under Soviet domination, either through outright occupation, in the case of the Baltic States, or under the thumb of the Warsaw Pact.
Many in central and Eastern Europe still factor Russia into their military planning and foreign policy formulation and consider Moscow to represent an existential threat.

The decision to move US equipment to the region was actually not the first preference for many eastern European NATO members. Instead, many NATO members that border Russia wanted the US to establish permanent bases in the region similar to US bases located in Germany or Italy. These bases would contain both the equipment and the soldiers required to use the equipment at a moment's notice. 
There is a strong argument for permanent bases. For example, due to their small geographical size, the only way to guarantee the security of the Baltic states from a conventional Russian military threat is by having robust troops and military capabilities on the ground. The Baltic states are too small to rely on a strategy of defensive depth that could buy NATO enough time to mobilise a sizable force.
Russia's myths
There is a common misconception that the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act prohibits the permanent basing of NATO soldiers in central and eastern European countries. Russia regularly perpetuates this myth. This is not true.
In regards to the question of permanent bases the Act states:
NATO reiterates that in the current and foreseeable security environment, the Alliance will carry out its collective defence and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces.
Since this agreement was signed in 1997, Russia has failed to remove troops from Moldova as promised and increased troops in Ukraine, Armenia, and Belarus - all of which border NATO.
During this same period, Russia has also conducted cyberattacks against NATO allies, invaded Georgia (and is still occupying 20 percent of that country), used energy resources as a weapon against its neighbours, and most recently, annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine.
Consequently, the "current and foreseeable security environment" has changed since 1997. Therefore, NATO is able to rightfully create permanent bases in its Eastern European member states.
In a way that is simply unimaginable in many Western European countries and North America, many in Central and Eastern Europe still factor Russia into their military planning and foreign policy formulation and consider Moscow to represent an existential threat.
Unchecked aggression
It makes no sense from a military and diplomatic point of view not to have robust capability in central and Eastern Europe.
One thing is for certain, it will be far easier deterring threats from Russia and defending Eastern Europe than it will be to liberate the region. If the US and NATO pursue a policy of defence and deterrence, Russia's aggression will remained checked. This is why establishing permanent bases - with both equipment and troops - in the region might have to be a reality if NATO is to take Russia's threats seriously.  
US actions in Eastern Europe have implications for its relations elsewhere - especially in the Arab Gulf region. If the US is not willing to live up to its commitments to defend its European partners from Russian aggression then what does this say to US security agreements in the Gulf vis-a-vis Iranian aggression?
The pre-positioning of US hardware in the region is a step in the right direction but more must be done.
The US' friends around the world are watching.
Luke Coffey is a research fellow specialising in transatlantic and Eurasian security at a Washington DC based think-tank. He previously served as a special adviser to the British defence secretary and was a commissioned officer in the United States army.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Tsipras telephoned Renzi, Italy government source

First entry: 30 June 2015
Tsipras telephoned Renzi, Italy government source
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras telephoned Italian premier Matteo Renzi on Tuesday, an Italian government source said, as EU authorities made a last-minute offer to salvage a bailout deal with Athens.
Eurozone finance ministers are due to speak later on Tuesday as the clock ticks toward a midnight deadline for the expiration of billions of euros in locked-up bailout funds.

Former PM Papandreou: Tsipras' Greek referendum is divisive

First entry: 30 June 2015 - 21:20 Athens, 18:20 GMT
Last update: 21:20 Athens, 18:20 GMTPolitics
Former PM Papandreou: Tsipras' Greek referendum is divisive – VIDEO
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras did not need to call a referendum on a deal with the country's creditors because there is already wide consensus for an agreement, former Prime Minister George Papandreou, said on Tuesday.
"He has proposed something which now is dividing the Greek people because there is a wider consensus for an agreement. But he is saying, as government, don't vote for this," he said during an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Alley."
Tsipras on Friday surprised the world with a call for a snap referendum scheduled for this Sunday on his country's bailout package and austerity measures. The announcement came as Greece sought to reach an agreement on a reform-for-aid deal that would allow Greece to make a 1.5 billion euro payment due to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the end of the day Tuesday.
Papandreou, who held Greece's highest office for two years, also sought to hold a national referendum in 2011. He said his plan was different, calling the current measure Greeks will vote on a "nonagreement" and saying it affords insufficient time for debate.
"I always wanted the Greek people to have an ownership of the program," he said. "Had we done that in 2011, I think we would have been out of the woods now. We would have had a wider consensus, a mandate to make the changes in Greece to move forward."
European Union leaders pressured Papandreou to scrap the referendum, and shortly after doing so, he resigned as part of an agreement that paved the way for a new unity government. That coalition was in turn replaced by one dominated by Tsipras' anti-austerity Syriza party earlier this year.
Papandreou said Greeks face a difficult choice because, on the one hand, five years of austerity and seven years of recession have resulted in 50 percent youth unemployment and a 25 percent contraction in Greece's economy. On the other hand, he said, it would be patriotic for Greeks to vote "yes" because it represents the best way to stay in the "strong core" of Europe, which is in the nation's best interest.
He said the EU bears some blame for the current situation. The emphasis on austerity rather than reforms and the European Central Bank's failure to launch quantitative easing measures until recently put Greece in a much more difficult situation, he said.

Beyond the Greek Impasse

By George Friedman

The Greek situation — having perhaps outlived the term "crisis," now that it has taken so long to unfold — appears to have finally reached its terminal point. This is, of course, an illusion: It has been at its terminal point for a long time.
The terminal point is the juncture where neither the Greeks nor the Germans can make any more concessions. In Greece itself, the terminal point is long past. Unemployment is at 26 percent, and more than 50 percent of youths under 25 are unemployed. Slashed wages, particularly in the state sector, affecting professions including physicians and engineers, have led to massive underemployment. Meanwhile, most new economic activity is occurring in the untaxable illegal markets. The Greeks owe money to EU institutions and the International Monetary Fund, all of which acquired bad Greek debts from banks that initially lent funds to Greece in order to stabilize its banking sector. No one ever really thought the Greeks could pay back these loans.
The European creditors — specifically, the Germans, who have really been the ones controlling European negotiations with the Greeks — reached their own terminal point more recently. The Germans are powerful but fragile. They export about a quarter of their gross domestic product to the European free trade zone, and anything that threatens this trade threatens Germany's economy and social stability. Their goal has been to keep intact not only the euro, but also the free trade zone and Brussels' power over the European economy.
Germany has so far avoided an extreme crisis point by coming to an endless series of agreements with Greece that the Greeks couldn't keep and that no one expected them to keep, but which allowed Berlin to claim that the Greeks were capitulating to German demands for austerity. This alleged capitulation helped Germany keep other indebted European countries in line, as financially vulnerable nations witnessed the apparent folly of contemplating default, demanding debt restructuring and confronting rather than accommodating the European Union.

Greece and the Cypriot Situation

For the Germans, Greece represented a dam. What was behind the dam was unknown, and the Germans couldn't tolerate the risk of it breaking. A Greek default would come with capital controls such as those seen in Cyprus, probably trade barriers designed to protect the Greek economy, and a radical reorientation of Greece in a new strategic direction. If that didn't lead to economic and social catastrophe, then other European countries might also choose to exercise the Greek option. Germany's first choice to avoid the default was to create the illusion of Greek compliance. Its second option was to demonstrate the painful consequences of Greece's refusal to keep playing the first game.
This was the point of the Cyprus affair. Cyprus had reached the point that it simply could not live up to the terms of its debt repayment agreements. The pro-EU government agreed under pressure to seize money in bank accounts holding more than 100,000 euros (around $112,000) and use that money to make good on at least some of the payments due. But assigning a minimum account balance hardly served to lessen the blow or insulate ordinary Cypriots. A retiree, after all, may easily have more than 100,000 euros in savings. And hotels or energy service companies (which are critical to the Cypriot economy) certainly have that much in their accounts. The Germans may have claimed the Cypriot banking system contained primarily Russian money, but — although it undoubtedly contained plenty of Russian funds — most of the money in the system actually represented wealth saved and used by Cypriots in the course of their lives and business. The result of raiding those accounts was chaos. Cypriot companies couldn't pay wages or rent, and the economy basically froze until the regulations were eventually eased — though they have never been fully repealed.
The Germans were walking a fine line in advocating this solution. Rather than play the pretend game they had played in Greece, they chose to show a European audience the consequences of genuine default. But those consequences rested on a dubious political foundation. Obviously the Cypriot public was devastated and appalled by their political leaders' decision to comply with Germany's demands. But even more significant, the message received by the rest of Europe was that the consequences of resistance would be catastrophic only if a country's political leadership capitulated to EU demands. Seizing a large portion of Cypriot private assets to pay public debts set an example, but not the example the Germans wanted. It showed that compliance with debt repayments could be disastrous in the short run, but only if the indebted country's politicians let it happen. And with that came another, unambiguous lesson: The punishment for non-compliance, however painful, was also survivable — and far preferable to the alternatives.

The Rise of Syriza

Enter the Coalition of the Radical Left party, known as Syriza, one of the numerous Euroskeptic parties that have emerged in recent years. Many forces combined to drive pro-EU factions out of power, but certainly one of them was the memory of the behavior of pro-EU politicians in Cyprus. The Greek public was well aware Athens would not be able to repay outstanding debt on anything even vaguely resembling the terms set by the pro-EU politicians. Cognizant of the Cypriot example, they voted their own EU-friendly leaders out, making room for a Euroskeptic administration.
Syriza ran on a platform basically committing to ease austerity in Greece, maintain critical social programs, and radically restructure the country's debt obligations, insisting that creditors share more of the debt burden. EU-friendly parties and individuals — and the Germans in particular — tended to dismiss Syriza. They were used to dealing with pro-EU parties in debtor countries that would adopt a resistant posture for their public audience while still accepting the basic premise put forth by Germany and the European Union — that in the end, the responsibility to repay debts was the borrower's. Regardless of their public platform, these parties therefore accepted austerity and the associated social costs.
Syriza, however, did not. A moral argument was underway, and the Germans were tone deaf to it. The German position on debt was that the borrower was morally responsible for it. Syriza countered that, in effect, the lender and the borrower actually shared moral responsibility. The borrower may be obligated to avoid incurring debts that he could not repay, but the lender, they argued, was also obligated to practice due diligence in not lending money to those who were unable to repay. Therefore, though the Greeks had been irresponsible for carelessly borrowing money, the European banks that originally funded Greece's borrowing spree had also been irresponsible in allowing their greed to overwhelm their due diligence. And if, as the Germans have quietly claimed, Greek borrowers misled them, the Germans still deserved what happened to them, because they did not practice more rigorous oversight — they saw only euro signs, just as the bankers did when they signed off on loans to Greece rather than restraining themselves.
The story of Greece is a tale of irresponsible borrowing and irresponsible lending. Bankruptcy law in European and American culture is a system of dualities, where expectations for prudent behavior are placed on both the debtor and creditor. The debtor is expected to pay everything he can under the law, and when that is ability is expended, the creditor is effectively held morally responsible for his decision to lend. In other words, when the debtor goes bankrupt, the creditor loses his bet on the debtor, and the loan is extinguished.
But there are no bankruptcy laws for nation-states, because there is no sovereign power to administer them. Thus, there is no disinterested third party to adjudicate national bankruptcy. There are no sovereign laws dictating the point where a nation is unable to repay its debt, no overarching power that can grant them the freedom to restructure debts according to law. Nor are there any circumstances where the creditor is simply deemed out of luck.
Without these factors, something like the Greek situation emerges. The creditors ruthlessly pursue the debtor, demanding repayment as a first priority. Any restructuring of the debt is at the agreement of creditor and debtor. In the case of Cyprus, the government was prepared to protect the creditors' interests. But in Greece's case, Syriza is not prepared to do so. Nor is it prepared, if we believe what the party says, to simply continue crafting interim lies with the country's creditors. Greece needs to move on from this situation, and another meaningless postponement only postpones the day of reckoning — and postpones recovery.

The Logic and Repercussions of a Grexit

A Greek withdrawal from the eurozone would make sense. It would create havoc in Greece for a while, but it would allow the Greeks to negotiate with Europe on equal terms. They would pay Europe back in drachmas priced at what the Greek Central Bank determines, and they could unilaterally determine the payments. The financial markets would be closed to them, but the Greeks would have the power to enact currency controls as well as trade regulations, turning their attention from selling to Europe, for example, to buying from and selling to Russia or the Middle East. This is not a promising future, but neither is the one Greece is heading toward now.
Many have made a claim that a Greek exit could lead the euro to collapse. This claim seems baffling at first. After all, Greece is a small country, and there is no reason why its actions would have such far-reaching effects on the shared currency. But then we remember Germany's primordial fear: that Greece could set a precedent for the rest of Europe. This would be impossible if the rest of Europe was doing well, but it is not. Spain, for example, has unemployment figures almost as terrible as Greece's. Some have pointed out that Spain is now one of the fastest-growing countries in Europe, which would be impressive if growth rates in the rest of Europe weren't paralyzed. Similarly, Spain's unemployment rate has fallen — to a mere 23 percent. Those who are still enthused about the European Union take such trivial improvements as proof of a radical shift. I see them as background noise in an ongoing train wreck.
The pain of a Greek default and a withdrawal from the eurozone would be severe. But if others see Greece as a forerunner of events, rather than an exception, they may calculate that the pain of unilateral debt restructuring makes sense and gives Greeks a currency that they can at last manage themselves. The fear is that Greece may depart from the euro, not because of any institutional collapse, but because of a keen awareness that sovereign currencies can benefit nations in pain — which many of Europe's countries are.
I do appreciate that the European Union was meant to be more than an arena for debtors and creditors. It was to be a moral arena in which the historical agony of European warfare was abolished. But while the idea that European peace depends on prosperity may be true, that prosperity has been lost. Economies rise and fall, and Europe's have done neither in tandem. Some are big winners, like Germany, and many are losers, to a greater or lesser degree. If the creation of a peaceful European civilization rests on prosperity, as the founding EU document claims, Europe is in trouble.
The problem is simple. The core institutions of the European Union have functioned not as adjudicators but as collection agents, and the Greeks have learned how ruthless those agents can be when aided by collaborative governments like Cyprus. The rest of the Europeans have also realized as much, which is why Euroskeptic parties are on the rise across the union. Germany, the country most threatened by growing anti-EU sentiment, wants to make clear that debtors face a high price for defiance. And if resistance is confined to Greece, the Germans will have succeeded. But if, as I think it will, resistance spreads to other countries, the revolt of the debtor states against the union will cause major problems for Germany, threatening the economic powerhouse's relationship with the rest of Europe.

Monday, June 29, 2015

UPDATE 1-Greece's neighbours feel ripples from bank crisis in Athens

Even among most lenient creditors, patience wearing thin - WSJ

* Balkan states risk contagion from Greek-owned banks* Bulgarian lender sees slight rise in depositor activity
* Serbia, Macedonia limit bank transactions with Athens
* Region's banks operating as usual, no queues at branches (Releads, adds Bulgarian bank, Macedonian comments)

By Tsvetelia Tsolova and Kole Casule

SOFIA/SKOPJE, June 29 (Reuters) - A Greek-owned bank in Bulgaria said on Monday it saw a slight increase in depositors moving money to other banks, a first rumbling of the debt crisis in Athens making itself felt in Greece's ex-Communist neighbours.
Millions of people in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Romania have deposits in banks owned by Greek lenders, putting this corner of south-eastern Europe in the frontline if the Greek crisis spreads.
Central banks in Macedonia and Serbia introduced extra restrictions on the movement of capital between local subsidiaries and their Greek parents, saying they were taking precautions against any spillover from Athens.
But on Monday Greek-owned banks in the region were open, paying out cash and issuing loans -- in contrast to Greece itself, where branches are shut and people can withdraw a maximum of 60 euros a day from ATMs.
The Greek-owned bank that an increase in customers ordering transfers to other banks, United Bulgarian Bank, said there was no cause for worry. The bank is a subsidiary of National Bank of Greece
"Business as usual," Chief Executive Stilian Vatev told Reuters. "The situation is calmer than expected following the news from Greece."
Regional central banks said they had, in effect, quarantined the subsidiaries of Greek banks, cordoning off their capital from their parents so they would not be rocked by the turbulence in Greece. For a factbox, click on
Still, Greek's ex-Communist neighbours were watching the drama in Athens anxiously. Greek banks own 20 percent of the banking sector in some countries, so the exposure is real, and the region's economies have historically been fragile. It would not take a lot to push them into crisis too.
Petar Bakhchevanov, a resident of Sofia, Bulgaria's capital, got some cash from an ATM on Monday, not because he needed the money but to test if his Greek-owned bank was still paying out.
"After watching the news on TV, I just wanted to check if everything is okay and I can withdraw money from my account," said Bakhchevanov, outside a branch of Piraeus Bank Bulgaria, a subsidiary of Greece's Piraeus bank.
Bakchevanov took out 100 Bulgarian levs, or around $50, from the ATM. Inside the branch, he said, bank staff had reassured him he did not need to worry about his deposit.
In neighbouring Macedonia, the central bank governor said restrictions on bank transactions with Athens, announced late on Sunday, had shut off any outflow of capital.
"We have not noticed today any serious withdrawal of deposits by citizens or companies," the governor, Dimitar Bogov, told a news conference.
In Serbia, a dealer who works for the Serbian subsidiary of a Greek bank said interbank operations with Greece had stopped because banks there were shut, but he said otherwise operations were carrying on as normal.
A trader at a Greek-owned bank in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, also said interbank operations with Greece were limited - but they had been for months.
"We don't like it, but we have survived it until now," the trader said. "It's not something we cannot handle."
The potential for Greek contagion left investors who hold the region's assets feeling jittery. The Romanian leu lost 0.8 percent to the euro and the Serbian dinar fell 0.4 percent.
Balkan eurobonds also sold off. Bulgaria's 2024 1.5 billion- euro issue fell almost 2 cents in price and Romania's 2024 1.2 billion-euro issue lost 0.8 cent. Serbia's 2020 dollar bond fell half a cent.
But for the ordinary clients of Greek-owned banks, there was no sign anything was different from usual.
"For us, this Monday is a normal working day," Piraeus Bank Bulgaria said in a statement sent to Reuters.
In Albania, there were no queues in front of branches of the four Greek-owned banks, and an official said there were no plans to further restrict banks moving capital around, as Macedonia had. "Why should we?" the official said.
In the centre of Macedonia's capital, Skopje, a branch of Stopanska bank -- owned by National Bank of Greece -- was functioning as normal, according to a female teller.
A 39-year-old customer who gave his name as Dimitar had just been in to sign a contract on a loan so he could renovate his apartment. "I don't think what's happening in Greece is coming here," he said. (Additional reporting by Angel Krasimirov in SOFIA, Luiza Ilie in BUCHAREST, Benet Koleka in TIRANA, Ivana Sekularac in BELGRADE and Sujata Rao in LONDON; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Larry King)

Merkel: 'No compromises' from Greece

First entry: 29 June 2015 - 16:39 Athens, 13:39 GMT
Last update: 16:39 Athens, 13:39 GMTPolitics
Merkel: 'No compromises' from Greece
Angela Merkel speaks on Greece and says Europe can react more robustly now than it could five years ago.
The German chancellor adds she is open to further talks with Greece after the current aid package expires if the Greek government wants them. "We are still prepared to help should this be required."
She adds Greece has been given a generous offer and that if the Greek government seeks more talks after Sunday's referendum then Germany would not object.
Merkel says EU leaders had made compromises in their offer to Athens to tackle the debt crisis, but it became clear that the Greek government was not willing to do the same. However, she promises that everything necessary will be done to protect the euro.
She also declined to speculate what will happen after Greek referendum on Sunday.