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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 30 January 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 30 JANUARY 2016 27 GREECE Greece’s corruption index improves Despite falling on hard times with the financial crisis, Greece's ranking in Transparency International's (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index has seen a marked improvement. Although the country admittedly had a low starting point, according to recent figures, Greece's standing has bettered by 27.7 per cent over four years. In 2012, TI's index showed the corruption ranking at 36 per cent, and has steadily improved over the years to 46 per cent. An analysis of the data notes Spain to have fallen the heaviest in the region, with a 10 per cent plunge from 65 to 58 per cent, the drop unsurprisingly linked to the financial crisis and implementation of austerity measures. On the other end of the spectrum, Scandinavian countries performed the best, despite a number of high-profile corruption scandals over the years, as reported by Euronews. TI's index ranks countries out of 100 through a combination of surveys and assessments of corruption collected by reputable institutions, with low scores often indicating a higher percentage of public sector corruption. Israeli, Greek and Cypriot leaders to build a joint gas pipeline The trilateral energy axis could become a peace catalyst in the eastern Mediterranean Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have all hailed their summit in Nicosia, Cyprus as "historic". "The last time Greeks, Cypriots and Jews sat around a table and talked on a common framework was 2,000 years ago," the Israeli PM said while at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia. The three leaders adopted a "strategic alliance" in the eastern Mediterranean, and signed a declaration spelling out the areas and affairs the countries pledge to cooperate. "Cooperation with Israel and Cyprus was a strategic choice for Athens," Alexis Tsipras stressed, clarifying that "this alliance is not against anyone else". His statement was later seconded by Anastasiades and Netanyahu, in an apparent nod to Turkey, adding that further financial support and economic development would help alleviate the migration crisis. In the tripartite declaration it is stressed that this new axis is not exclusive, inviting other states with similar goals into the alliance with an aim to aid the plagued by conflict area. "Our partnership is not exclu- sive in design or nature, and we are ready to welcome other like-minded actors to join our efforts to promote coordina- tion and cooperation, as well as regional peace and stability. Our states share the same values as well as the conviction that in order to effectively counter multiple challenges confronting us on a local, regional and international level, we must work collectively," the three leaders concurred in a joint statement. As reported by the AP, the countries pledged to work together to seize opportunities emerging from newly-found offshore gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. While the cooperation has formed over gas reserves in Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Cypriot president Nicos Anastasides and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. PHOTO/PETROS KARADJIAS. the wider region, water resources and tourism were also discusses and will be high on the agenda, according to Cypriot government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides. A trilateral committee will study and supervise the building of the pipeline between Israel and Cyprus and on to Greece for gas exports to Europe and the possibility of an underwater cable which will connect the electricity grids of the three countries. The next summit will take place in the second half of this year. EU threatens Greece with expulsion from Schengen Greek passport holders living and working throughout the EU could lose their privileges if the country does not comply within three months Greece has been part of Europe's Schengen treaty since 2000, sharing no land border with other members of the passport-free travel zone. The migration crisis has spurred several talks about suspending Greece from Schengen over the last three months. Last week, ministers from both Austria and Sweden raised the possibility anew, with Austria's interior minister being the most explicit, suggesting Schengen's external border "move towards central Europe". "We have never discussed a suspension from Schengen or the exclusion of a member state from Schengen," said a European Commission spokeswoman after the meeting in Amsterdam. "Neither of these options exist under current rules," the statement concluded. Technically, however, the Schengen code does allow the commission to draw up plans for the reimposition of border controls in any part of the zone "where exceptional circumstances put the overall functioning of the area without internal border control at risk". According to the never- before-applied Article 26, a series of reports must be prepared by the commission to find if there are deficiencies justifying Greece's expulsion from Schengen. The country will then be given three months to fix them by implementing reforms in security checks. If those points continue to be a cause for concern this part of the Schengen code allows carte blanche border controls and the revalua- tion of a country's status in Schengen. The measures under Article 26 can be brought in for up to six months and renewed up to three times. EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis stated Greece "seriously neglected its obligations under the Schengen agreement", adding that there were "serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border controls that must be overcome and dealt with by the Greek authorities". "This report notably finds that there is no effective identification and registration of illegal or irregular migrants. "Fingerprints are not being entered into the system and travel documents are not being systematically checked for identity purposes or against crucial security databases like the Schengen Information System, Interpol and national databases." The official report acknowledges that Greece has im- proved its system of border controls since November, yet it demands Athens tightens its procedures. Austria and Hungary have already reintroduced temporary checks at frontiers as they try to control the unprecedented migrant flow. "We have made some commitments. We have made progress on these commitments. We will be completely ready with regard to these commitments in a month. What remains to be seen is whether Europe will meet its commitments toward Greece and toward an international problem. The refugee crisis isn't a Greek crisis. It's a European crisis and we must find European solutions for European problems," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told reporters. In an interview, Ioannis Mouzalas, the Greek migration minister warned such a policy would only "worsen the trauma" rather than solve it. "It's not easy to trap [asylum seekers] and we do not intend to become a cemetery of souls." Greek officials gave assurances on Wednesday that the country will live up to its commitments on the refugee crisis after the European Commission warned that authorities are not abiding by Schengen zone rules and this could lead to border controls being reimposed by neighbouring countries in three months. Alternate Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas also promised that the hot spots would be ready in February and "operational in March", as Kathimerini reports. Work is currently under way at each of the three sites in question. Prefabricated huts have already been delivered to two of the hot spots, on Leros and Chios. Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, gave his full support to keeping FYROM/Macedonia borders shut. "I welcome your suggestion," Mr Juncker wrote to Miro Cerar, the Slovenian prime minister who has been driving the concept. Although legally, Brussels itself cannot currently send such aid to a non-EU member, Mr Juncker said individual member states should "support controls on the border with Greece through the secondment of police/law enforcement officers, and the provision of equipment". Suspending Greece from Schengen and keeping refugees 'trapped' there in order to be processed by a crisisplagued nation would probably have no direct effect on the unrelenting influx of refugees from Turkey's shores into Germany and points north. Greece's potential suspension would impact only travellers flying from Athens into the rest of Europe and Greek passport holders living and working in other EU countries.
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