Thursday, November 27, 2014

Greece Updates ( November 27 , 2014 ) - Major Greece Strike underway and Failure to reach deal with Troika lead items of the day


 Top news story

Bribes Alert! Opposition MP claims, she was offered €3mln to vote for Greece’s next President

’s general strike affects public transport, ferries, flights, Nov 27/2014

Troika talks to continue after failure to wrap up negotiations in Paris

By Marcus Bensasson & Nikos Chrysoloras

Representatives of the Greek government and its international creditors left Paris with little to show after failing to break a deadlock over Greece’s future financing in talks that ran deep into the night.

The annual ritual of haggling over budget numbers, a feature of Greece’s scrutiny since its 2010 bailout, took to the road this year with two rounds of negotiations in the French capital that broke up today.

While the backdrop may have changed from the concrete block of the Greek Finance Ministry ringed with Athens protesters to a leafy private street off the Avenue Foch, the bleary eyes after all-night deliberations that yielded few results remained very much the same.

“Huge consumption of coffee, occasionally sandwiches or souvlaki accompanied by a can of beer; exchange of arguments -- sometimes interesting, sometimes tedious and repetitive” are the order of the day, or rather night," Panos Tsakloglou, who has first-hand experience of the talks, said in an e-mail.
Tsakloglou was Greece’s representative in the working group of senior euro-area finance ministry officials until June and is now a professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business.

In this round, neither side was prepared to accept the arguments of the other, meaning that a deadlock over freeing up the last tranche of the country’s bailout remains in place.
Last review

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is pushing for an exit to the 240 billion-euro ($300 billion) bailout at the end of the year, a goal that would make this the final review of Greece’s compliance with the terms agreed with the troika of officials representing the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

For that ambition to be realized, the current review must be completed by year’s end, which realistically means by Dec. 8, when euro-area finance ministers meet in Brussels for the last time this year.
The major sticking point between the sides going into the talks was the troika’s insistence that Greece needs to find about 2.5 billion euros in additional budget cuts to meet its fiscal targets for next year. That issue remained unresolved at the end of the talks in Paris, which also didn’t settle on a date for the troika to return to Athens to complete the review, a Finance Ministry official said after the meeting.
OECD mission

“We will be continuing our dialogue intensively, and we’re now working to successfully complete the review,” Declan Costello, the commission’s mission chief for Greece, told reporters after the talks, held at Greece’s representation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Greece has consistently met its fiscal targets in the past years, and the government feels that it is being punished for this success, a senior Greek government official said after the failure to seal a deal in Paris. While Italy and France persistently ignore agreed-upon European Union budget-deficit rules, the troika is attempting to make an example out of Greece, according to the official, who asked for anonymity because talks between the government and the troika are private.

‘Implausible’ claim

The troika’s claim that there’s a 2.5 billion-euro-wide fiscal hole “seems implausible,” said Tsakloglou, who had to fight off identical demands to plug a non-existent gap a year ago. He said the creditors were probably extrapolating from current figures, and “disregarding the fact that by design several taxes are expected to be collected in the coming months.”

The government will not, under any circumstances, discuss an extension to the current bailout of six months or a year -- nor the strings attached, said the government official. Greece could only accept a technical extension of as much as one month to allow enough time for completion of the current review, the official said.

As delegations from Greece and the troika return to their respective homes in Athens, Brussels, Washington and Frankfurt, they can look forward to the next round of negotiations. Until then, they’ll always have Paris. [Bloomberg] , Thursday November 27, 2014 (06:42) 

Greece paralyzed by major strike, flights cancelled

By Angeliki Koutantou & Deepa Babington

Greek labor unions staged a 24-hour strike on Thursday that cancelled hundreds of flights, shut public offices and severely disrupted local transport, in the first major industrial action to cripple the austerity-weary country in months.

Private sector union GSEE and its public sector counterpart ADEDY called the walkout to protest against planned layoffs and pension reform demanded by European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders who have bailed out Greece twice.

All Greek domestic and international flights were cancelled after air traffic controllers joined the strike. Trains and ferries also halted services. Hospitals worked on emergency staff while tax and other local public offices remained shut.

"GSEE is resisting the dogmatic obsession of the government and the troika with austerity policies and tax hikes," the union said in a statement this week.

It accused the government of trying to take the labor market back to "medieval times" and of implementing policies that are causing a "humanitarian crisis."

Thousands of Greeks were preparing to march to parliament later on Thursday as part of rallies to mark the strike.

The two unions last held a general strike in April. Major protests have declined sharply since then as frustration and anger give way to a mood of despondency and resignation over a jobless rate exceeding 25 percent and a sharp fall in incomes.

Turnout at Thursday's rallies could provide a key measure of the opposition facing Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's conservative-led government, which is under pressure from EU/IMF lenders to impose more cutbacks to balance next year's budget.

Samaras has imposed repeated rounds of austerity to ensure Greece continues to receive aid payments but is now trying to abandon the unpopular bailout program in a bid to secure his government's survival through next year.

In a setback to those plans, Greek officials returned empty-handed from Paris on Wednesday after two days of talks with EU/IMF inspectors failed to clinch a deal on the country's final bailout review. [Reuters] , Thursday November 27, 2014 (09:46)