Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Man arrested for Papademos parcel bomb faces terrorism charges

by Kerin Hope

Financial Times

October 31, 2017

A 29-year-old man allegedly involved in a letter-bomb attack in May that wounded former Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos appeared on Tuesday before an Athens district attorney on terrorism charges, a judicial official said.

Constantine Giagtzoglou, who was arrested at the weekend at an apartment in central Athens, is also accused of sending a booby-trapped package in March to the Berlin chancellery addressed to finance minister Wolfgang Schauble, report Kerin Hope and Pavlos Papadopoulos.

The package was defused by German security experts before it reached the minister’s office.

Greek anti-terrorist police found a “small” explosive device under construction in the apartment Mr Giagtzoglou rented under a false name, along with explosives, detonators and a handgun, a security official said.


Greece finally growing, but taxes crushing new businesses

by Derek Gatopoulos

Associated Press

October 31, 2017

If Greek business needed a role model, Stathis Stasinopoulos would make an ideal candidate.

An athlete, engineer, and entrepreneur, he invented an easy-folding bicycle design and began building them himself and created a small company. The project was shortlisted for a national start-up award in 2014 and, the following year, he peddled onto the stage to applause to give a motivational speech.

Today, he has some advice for young Greeks with a good idea: "Get your passport and leave."

In July, Stasinopoulos took his family and dream of a self-made business and moved them from Athens to bicycle-friendly Bremen, a city in northwest Germany. Years of effort had been crushed by high taxes and outdated bureaucracy.

"There are a number of reasons why I made the move. Many of them have to do with taxes," Stasinopoulos said, speaking at the small workshop of his newly-registered German firm, Velo Lab GmbH.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Greek police make Papademos parcel bomb arrest

by Kerin Hope

Financial Times

October 28, 2017

Greek anti-terrorist police have arrested a man believed to be involved in a parcel bomb attack in May that wounded the former Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos.

The 29-year-old, who was not identified, was arrested early on Saturday at an apartment in central Athens that he rented using a false name, a police official said.

He is suspected of being a member of Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, a radical anarchist group that claimed responsibility for sending a booby-trapped package in March to the Berlin chancellery addressed to finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Members of the group took part in numerous anti-bailout protests during the Greek crisis.


Why Greece's Fate Helps Make Sense of Catalonia's Gamble: The lessons of economic pain

by Stathis Kalyvas


October 27, 2017

Anticipating the Spanish government’s decision to suspend Catalan autonomy, the Catalan government proceeded today to unilaterally proclaim independence. At about the same time, the Spanish Senate voted to suspend Catalan autonomy, following which Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy deposed Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont and other Catalan high officials, and called for elections in Catalonia to be held in December. Jointly, these actions are escalating the Catalan crisis. How are things likely to develop from now on?

Every political crisis is unique, yet sometimes analogies are useful—especially when crises are unfolding and the flow of information can be extremely confusing. Seen from this perspective, the Greek crisis of 2015 offers some useful analogies.

In 2010 Greece found itself unable to refinance its debt. Faced with the prospect of default, it accepted a massive bailout from its eurozone partners along with the IMF, in exchange for which it agreed to implement a large set of fiscally restrictive policies (“austerity”) and structural reforms. In turn, these policies led to an acute economic recession and a parallel political crisis which went through various phases and resulted in a massive political realignment. This process culminated in the January 2015 elections, which produced a victory of an anti-austerity party, Syriza.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Greek PM to defend $2.4bn spend on US-made fighter jets

by Kerin Hope

Financial Times

October 27, 2017

Alexis Tsipras will defend a controversial decision by his leftwing government to spend up to $2.4bn on upgrading Greece’s elderly fleet of US-made F-16 fighter aircraft.

The Greek prime minister will insist in parliament on Friday that the agreement, while costly for a country struggling to emerge from recession, is critical to enhancing its strategic role in the unstable east Mediterranean, according to one government official.

Greece’s strategic importance for Nato is likely to increase as Turkey’s relationship with the alliance becomes increasingly strained over Ankara growing ties with Russia and other points of tension with its western allies.

The ruling Syriza party has set aside its former anti-American rhetoric since coming to power in 2015 in favour of building what party officials term a “pragmatic” working relationship with Washington based on “mutual interests”.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Greek lessons for Brexiters

by Tony Barber

Financial Times

October 24, 2017

The Greek word kolotoumba, meaning “somersault”, is enjoying a return to favour — this time, in the context of Brexit.

Kolotoumba became a fashionable term in 2015 in response to the tactics of Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s once radical leftist prime minister. After insisting for months that he would not yield to Greece’s international creditors, Mr Tsipras “somersaulted” and accepted an emergency financial rescue, whose terms were more stringent than those he was offered to begin with.

At a Greek-British symposium held over the weekend at Nafplio, the Peloponnese seaport town that was modern Greece’s first capital, participants found themselves debating whether a kolotoumba might be in the offing with regard to Brexit. Was it plausible that the UK, despite the June 2016 referendum result, might not leave the EU?

Many participants favoured such an outcome, but few thought it probable. One opponent of the UK’s EU membership put the chances of a kolotoumba at zero to 0.1 per cent. By contrast, one supporter suggested a range from 10 to 30 per cent.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Greek January-September government budget surplus slightly below target on lower revenues

October 16, 2017

Greece’s central government attained a primary budget surplus of 4.5 billion euros (£4 billion) in the first nine months of the year, slightly below target due to lower tax revenues, finance ministry data showed on Monday.

The government’s target was for a primary budget surplus - which excludes debt-servicing costs - of 4.556 billion euros for the January-to-September period, meaning the surplus missed the target by 54 million euros.

The central government surplus excludes the budgets of social security organizations and local administration. It is different from the figure monitored by Greece’s EU/IMF lenders but indicates the state of the country’s finances.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Greek transgender community hopes new law will improve lives

by Elena Becatoros

Associated Press

October 10, 2017

Before she had even reached puberty, Anna Kouroupou knew she wasn’t what her birth certificate said she was: a boy. But having herself officially declared female was a painful process, and one that could only legally be done if it included gender reassignment surgery.

Stigmatized, often abused and rejected, Greece’s transgender community is now hoping a controversial new law passed by parliament Tuesday will improve their daily lives and foster greater acceptance in what is often a deeply conservative society.

The law, passed with 171 votes in favor in the 300-member parliament, allows Greeks over the age of 15 to change the gender listed on their identity cards and other official documents at will, following a simplified procedure in court. Until now, those wanting to change how their gender is officially defined had to prove they had undergone sex-change surgery and psychiatric assessment.

“The legal recognition of gender identity is a huge positive step,” said 53-year-old Kouroupou, who began hormone therapy at the age of 17 and underwent gender reassignment surgery abroad at the age of 24. “The world of a trans person won’t change that easily,” but it will improve the daily problems and humiliations suffered by her community, she said.


Greece Faces a Rerun of Its Refugee Winter of Discontent

by Daniel Howden & Apostolis Fotiadis

News Deeply

October 10, 2017

The shelter offered to Amira since she got to Europe amounts to a plastic sheet she has slept under for the past ten days. The Syrian mother of three was taken to Vathy, a camp on the Greek island of Samos where nearly 3,000 people are spilling out of a facility built for 700. She struggles to explain to her children, who lost their father in the war, why they must sleep rough being bitten by insects.

“I had protected them until now from the war, but I can no longer protect them here,” said the 32-year-old, who has no diapers for her five-month-old daughter. “It makes me want to scream, but I can’t, not in front of the children.”

October downpours have signaled the coming of winter on Greece’s Aegean Islands and with it the very real prospect of another fiasco to match the frozen misery of last year when six people died. While conditions have improved for asylum seekers on the mainland, the deal between the European Union and Turkey that staunched the flow of refugees and migrants in March 2016 aimed to deter future arrivals by confining them to “hot spot” camps on five Greek islands.