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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 28 February 2015
GREECE 24 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 28 FEBRUARY 2015 Greece bailout saga tests German patience The German parliament is expected to agree to extend the eurozone's bailout of Greece, capping a tumultuous first four weeks in office for the anti-austerity government in Athens. The next four months will be crueller yet. Patience with Greece is running out in Berlin. It is also turning to exasperation because of what is seen as the intemperate tone of Tsipras and his team. "There can be no reward for cheek," said the bestselling Bildzeitung tabloid on Thursday under a one-word banner headline of ‘Nein: No more billions for greedy Greeks’. Wolfgang Schäuble, the finance minister, told Merkel's backbenchers that the new Greek government was manipulating eurozone largesse to "trample all over European solidarity", Der Spiegel reported. At his first EU summit, Tsipras declared to the Brussels press corps that the troika and the bailout were dead, pre- cisely the opposite of what the same journalists were being told by the other participants. Two completely opposed narratives - the one being aired in the Bundestag on Friday, the other being peddled daily in Athens - are in circulation thanks to the wordcraft of the drafters of last Friday's deal extending the bailout. Toxic terms such as ‘troika’ and ‘bailout’ have been banished, replaced by ‘the European institutions’ and the ‘current arrangements’. This enables Tsipras to claim at home he has won a famous victory. And it allows Schäuble to argue that only the form has changed, but not the substance. The change in wording matters, but probably not as much as Tsipras and Varoufakis claim. The biggest concession Tsipras won was the power to draw up his own economic reform agenda over the weekend, where Papandreou and Samaras were presented with detailed troika diktats. But un- der whatever name, the troika retains the authority to approve or reject the Greek proposals or demand changes. And in return for that concession, Tsipras has had to row back on many of his election pledges, a process likely to intensify in the months ahead. In seeking a loan extension, the Tsipras government has said that a planned rise in minimum wages would be delayed, there would be a clampdown on early retirement and completed privatisations would not be reversed. There is much emphasis from the new government on battling corruption, tax evasion, and soaking the rich. But Varoufakis pointed to the difficulty of targeting Greece's voracious oligarchs. The country's shipping magnates, for example, were "very mobile", Varoufakis told Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. "It's likely that their money will leave the country if they should be taxed." ‘Brain Drain’: The real tragedy for Greece A report by American news network CNBC claims that the unprecedented ‘brain drain’ that is taking place, while ignored by most economists, hurts Greece the most Lois Labrianidis, an economic geographer who researches migration at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, told CNBC that off the estimated 160,000 to 180,000 university graduates who have emigrated in the past few years, about half have doctorate degree. He also claims that 46 per cent of Greeks plan moving abroad. According to Labrianidis, "the brain drain has huge implications for Greece". He explains that young scientists are emigrating because "the economy keeps sinking and there is no-one left to create high-value-added products or services", thus creating a vicious cycle. The managing director of Endeavor Greece, Haris Makryniotis, underlined that the uncertainty in Greece has gotten worse since the recent elections, which further pushes people from all walks of life to emigrate. The recent loan agreement extension has also increased uncertainty, as everyone waits to see what will happen in four months. Tax Office to scrutinise bank accounts The Tax Office of Greece will reportedly step up scrutiny of bank accounts in order to find hidden assets of wealthy depositors, an initiative that now appears as a pressing goal for the new Greek government, given its pledge towards eurozone creditors to crack down on tax evasion and amid decreasing state revenues. At the same time, a new tax unit dealing with taxpayers with major asset holdings is preparing to introduce new statements of means and assets, which will allow the state to calculate tax based on actual wealth rather that the previous objective tax criteria, Proto Thema reports. Furthermore, a register of off-shore companies will be activated by the end of the year, while automated alert systems (via email or telephone) informing citizens of tax obligations will also be activated. Finally, monthly targets against tax evasion and on increasing revenue will be instituted. In a lengthy interview on a Greek radio station on Wednesday, Varoufakis bragged of serial victories over the Germans and eurozone finance ministers and of how the Tsipras tactics had split the Europeans. "Discussion over debt restructuring will have to begin very swiftly," he announced. "You know, they [eurozone] have asked me to stop talking about cancellation of the debt, but talk instead of its restructuring. Restructuring of the debt is exactly that - a debt reduction. I am not talking about prolongation. I am talking about swaps of the debt that will effectively decrease it to a very big extent. "The fact that we no longer have this unified group against Greece, where the discussion about the debt was prohibited, and we now have a side that has broken down in many different sides - some of which are very open to our proposals - this by itself is a great success." DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM ATHENS’ DAILIES AT A GLANCE ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Triple suffocation bomb to the economy AVGHI: Restart with protection of the weaker. EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: And now the government is running. ETHNOS: The criteria for primary residence foreclosure protection. IMERISIA: Regulation-shield for the bad loans. KATHIMERINI: Rifts in SYRIZA's parliamentary group. Ex-minister may be acquitted The charges he faced ‘have expired’, legal expert says As the trial of former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who is accused of tampering with the so-called Lagarde list of wealthy Greek savers, continues, a prominent professor of constitutional law claimed that the charges have expired under the statute of limitations. The statute dictates that of- fenses attributed to ex-ministers expire if two parliaments have sat since the alleged misdeeds occurred. As parliament convened in May 2012, albeit for just one day following the first of two successive general elections, the offenses have expired, Nikos Alivizatos told the special court. He was referring to the charges of doctoring a document and attempted breach of faith faced by Papaconstantinou. ESTIA: Neoliberal marxism! LOGOS: Race to cover the fiscal gap. NAFTEMPORIKI: 5-7 billion euro hole. RIZOSPASTIS: Communist Party (KKE) tables draft law proposal for abolition of memorandums. TA NEA: Solution for liquidity is a top priority. TO PONTIKI: Oligarchs caught on the hook. Greek bank deposits at lowest point since 2005 Greek bank deposits plunged the most since the country joined the euro area as renewed political instability led savers to pull their money. According to a Bloomberg report, deposits held by households and businesses fell 7.7 per cent in January to 148 billion euros, their lowest level since August 2005, according to Bank of Greece data. Combined, there was a drop of more than 16 billion euros in December and January. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was elected late last month on a pledge to write down a large part of the country's bailout debt and roll back austerity measures linked to its bailout. He's since backed down to reach a deal with creditors this week, and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said some deposits have returned since that accord. Ex-minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou (C) during his appearance at the court. While the deposit outflow continued into February, Varoufakis said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Wednesday that more than 700 million euros of that has returned since the agreement.
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