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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 28 October 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 28 OCTOBER 2017 25 Greece’s creditors green light payment of €800 million The final instalment pending from the second evaluation of Greece's bailout program was approved last week, and now the country expects the disbursement of €800 million (AUD$1.2 billion). According to a note distributed to members of the EuroWorking Group, "the European institutions' assessment of the progress of the Greek authorities in clearing net arrears (...) confirms that the data provided show that the clearance of net arrears complies with the ESM programme requirements, as a basis for the ESM BoD to release the remaining €0.8 billion of programme financing dedicated for arrears clearance that remains from the decision of 7 July 2017". The €800 million subtranche was linked to the repayment of overdue debts of €1.2 billion. The creditors' note stated that Greece exceeded the target, repaying €1.524 billion. Tourism generates more than €14bn revenue in 2017 Greece expects the tourist industry to generate revenue between €14 and €14.3 billion (AU$21.5-22 billion), according to Bank of Greece estimates, which recorded an increase of revenue by 9.1 per cent - or €881 million - compared to 2016. August, in particular, which traditionally marks the peak of the tourist season, saw an increase of 16.4 per cent (€497 million) with 729,000 more visitors arriving in Greece, compared to August 2016. Overall, 1.7 million more tourists visited Greece in 2017, marking a rise of 9.9 per cent compared with the same period of six months from January to August 2016. According to industry experts, this should mean that by the end of the year, tourism will have generated revenues close to €14 billion. However, if the last four months of the year see an increase in tourist visits - which is the goal of the industry - this revenue will rise to €14.3 billion, closer to the sector’s target of €14.5 billion. GREECE OPINION So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night, Her Schäuble NIKOS FOTAKIS Few people have been more outrightly despised in Greece than Wolfgang Schäuble. The outgoing German Finance Minister has been considered as the person responsible for the harsh austerity measures that have suffocated the Greek economy and led thousands of people to unemployment and despair. "Obviously in Greece I was a bogeyman, or at least for some media", he said, in an interview to SKAI television. He got that right. It is unclear if Dr. Schäuble reads Greek political cartoons, but if he did, he would find that he's regularly depicted as a Nazi general. In one of his most controversial cartoons, the late great Yannis Kalaitzis depicted him spewing commands in German, while holding a giant dildo. Another cartoonist, Tassos Anastasiou, had shown him saying, in regards with the (now infamously failed) negociations: "We insist on making soap out of your fat, we can discuss about the fertilizer made from your ashes". Now that he's getting out of the picture, as he's about to undertake the role of the Speaker of the German Parliament, one cannot but feel that there is an 'end of an era' sentiment in the air, with undertones of what CP Kavafy had described in his poem Waiting for the Barbarians: "Now what's going to happen to us without barbarians? Those people were a kind of solution." What is going to happen to Greece, without the current narrative's 'bogeyman'? But was he an enemy of Greece, as his critics insist, painting him as a criminal, someone who destroyed a country, making it lose 25 per cent of its GDP, creating hordes of unemployed and poor, only to save his own country's failed banks? Not really. To say that his actions were hostile to Greece would be an exaggeration. Wolfgang Schäuble was not anti-Greek. He was pro-German. He acted to protect the interests of his country (and his country's banking system), while insisting that he worked for the good of the European Union. If he's to be blamed about something, it is for perpetuating the myth of the 'lazy Greeks', who live beyond their means at the expense of German taxpayers. Also, for steering the EU ship, without holding an official role in it. Many people still believe that the German finance minister was leading the Eurogroup, informal meetings of the finance ministers of the Eurozone. He did not. He was one of the many finance ministers taking part in it, his voice and vote technically being equal to the others. In effect, he was leading it, as the person responsible for the eurozone's most powerful economy. The actual Eurogroup head, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, recently stepped in to clarify misunderstandings, regarding the most powerful FinMin in the group: "Wolfgang Schäuble is not for or against Greece. He believes in Europe," he recently said in an interview with the Athens newspaper Kathimerini. "That's why he always sets such great store in implementing agreements." Schäuble himself, in his way out from the finance ministry, is also trying to clarify things, giving one interview after another, in an attempt to defend his legacy, and mainly, his stance against Greece, insisting he was right. In his interview with SKAI, he once again used an admonishing tone towards the debtwracked country, suggesting Greece should stop blaming others for its financial woes and stick to a reform agenda instead of relying on debt relief. "When you ask others for loans, you cannot insult them for granting the loans. It doesn't make sense. Greece's problems are Greece's problems," he said. In another interview, to the Sunday edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he had some praise to offer, saying the country is on a "good path" and that it will soon re-acquire the ability to seek credit from capital markets. "That's why any discussion over whether or not Grexit would be better doesn't help at all in the present," he added. Asked if the eurozone crisis is over, he laconically said "I hope so". If it is, it will not be thanks to him. Wolfgang Schäuble was representing EU’s largest economy during the GFC and the Eurozone crisis and he was the strongest advocate of austerity as a means to tackle the crisis. In his tenure, his actions may have benefited his country, but it is doubtful that Europe is better off now, as a whole. The whole system's submission to his will, in a way, is the proof of the problematic nature of the EU. For many years, pro-Europe advocates have been campaigning for the EU to become a political union, a kind of federal state, with leaders elected by the people and an executive branch accountable to the people. It now has a president and a foreign minister, but the most important part is lacking: the financial one; a common European Finance Ministry, that would set a common EU policy, so that Germany would not have to believe that it is 'bailing out Greece', but that they are both part of the same european economy. The irony, of course is that, had a position of European Finance Minster been created, who would hold it, but Wolfgang Shäuble? That man was a kind of solution. One Greek thing you can rely on: the passport Greek passport globally considered one of the strongest Greece may have been hit hard these past few years and have its image of a developed country shaken, but it still has one of the strongest passports in the world. According to the annual index issued by global advisory firm Arton Capital, the Greek passport ranks seventh, alongside those of Australia and New Zealand. On the top of the list stands Singapore, which can claim to having having the strongest pass- port in the world, allowing its holders to enter 159 countries (more than any other coun- try) either without a need for a visa or with a visa on arrival. Singapore passport holders can enter countries like China, Cuba and Brazil visa-free, something that US passport holders cannot do. Second in the Arton Capital index is Germany with 158 countries, followed by Sweden and North Korea, which share the third place (157 countries). The fourth place is crowded with Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain and the UK, which all have passports that can allow holders to enter 156 countries. Equally crowded in fifth place are Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland passports, which allow for entry to 155 countries. Canada, Ireland, Malaysia and the US rank sixth (154 countries). Greece, Australia and New Zealand rank seventh (153 countries), Iceland, Malta and the Czech Republic share the eighth place (152 countries), while Hungary stands alone in the ninth place (150 countries). The top-10 list is completed with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, which all allow passport holders to enter 149 countries. Overall 35 countries appear on the top 10 stronger passport list, the majority of which (i.e. 26) are European countries, continuing the historical tradition. However, this is the first time that an Asian country has made the top spot.
21 October 2017
04 November 2017