Monitors check-in: The Athens Hilton
During Greece’s first and second bailouts they were known as the “troika”: three bureaucrats in suits endlessly following each other into a Greek government ministry in local television news clips.
Then they began slipping into buildings by a side door, protected by security guards to avoid anti – austerity protesters blocking the main entrance
Then they vanished altogether, banned from visiting Athens by the leftwing Syriza-led government.
Even their name was officially deleted: the troika became the “institutions” after their employers – the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
Now, after six months of being non – persons in Greece, the bailout monitors are back. Read more
Turkey steps up its battle on terror
Nato allies have welcomed Turkey’s decision to step up its fight against Isis. But its decision to include Kurdish opponents as the target of its attacks is causing some to question Ankara’s true motives. Siona Jenkins discusses Turkey’s strategy with Daniel Dombey and Alex Barker.
Once again, it was an agonisingly long piece of Greek parliamentary theatre. But once again, in the early hours of Thursday morning, Alexis Tsipras came out on top.
For the second time in a week, the prime minister survived a mini-rebellion in his radical leftist Syriza party and, with the help of opposition parties, passed a set of reforms required to secure a new, €86bn financial rescue from Greece’s international creditors. Read more
Iran nuclear deal: historic breakthrough or mistake?
Years of painstaking negotiations between Iran and the world powers have finally led to a deal. Was it the biggest international diplomatic breakthrough in decades or a historic mistake? Roula Khalaf, FT foreign editor, and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Tehran correspondent, debate the pros and cons.
Alexis Tsipras and Vladimir Putin at a meeting in the Kremlin in April
We learned on Monday that Yuri Milner, the billionaire Russian entrepreneur, is to spend $100m of his own money over the next 10 years to fund a project searching for alien civilisations beyond our solar system.
According to my calculations, that is $100m more than the Russian government has offered in financial aid to Greece since the radical leftist Syriza party, often presumed to be close to Moscow, came to power in January.
During Syriza’s chaotic six months in office, the notion has cropped up time and again that Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister and party leader, would like to play a ‘Russian card’ to ward off pressure from Greece’s eurozone creditors.
There is something to this, but the picture is more subtly textured than first impressions might suggest. Let’s look below the surface and find out what’s going on. Read more
The day after Vienna won’t look different. More blood will be spilled in the Middle East; more pain will be inflicted. In Iran beleaguered hardliners who never wanted the nuclear agreement may plot new mischief in the region; in Israel, the Gulf states and Congress, opponents of the deal will continue to protest. Some of Iran’s neighbours may resolve to pursue their own nuclear ambitions.
The details of the accord reached in Vienna after weeks of tortuous negotiations will be ripped apart according to political attitudes – those who favour Iran’s rehabilitation will highlight Iran’s concessions; those against it will play up American compromises. A glass half full to some, half empty to others. Read more
It is not just the Greeks who are lamenting a humiliating defeat in Brussels.
The Spanish government, too, has suffered a stinging setback. The headlines on Tuesday morning told the story: “Spain left without influence in the EU,” declared El Mundo. The El País daily, meanwhile, bemoaned the “diplomatic incompetence” that produced this latest Spanish “failure”.
Despite furious lobbying from Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, and despite the support of Germany, Madrid failed to get what it so badly wanted: the appointment of Luis de Guindos as the next president of the eurogroup. “De Guindos loses and plunges Spain into political irrelevance,” remarked el diario, the Spanish news website. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Europe woke up on Monday to a lot of headlines about the humiliation of Greece, the triumph of an all-powerful Germany and the subversion of democracy in Europe.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses the European Parliament (Reuters)
Two thoughts come to mind when one looks at the last-minute reform proposals which Greece’s radical leftist-led government has sent to its creditors as a way of saving the nation’s eurozone membership.
1) Why should the creditors, financial markets or anyone else have faith that the Syriza-dominated government will actually implement any of these reforms?
After all, even Greek governments that were more politically mainstream, more pro-EU and, in theory, more business-friendly found it impossible to execute comprehensive reform programmes between May 2010, the month of Greece’s first bail-out, and last January, when Syriza came to power.
But much of the Syriza leadership is wedded to Marxist or quasi-Marxist dogmas that run completely counter to the spirit governing the reforms to which the government, all of a sudden, is promising to put its signature.
In other words, there seem few reasons to believe that Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, and his colleagues would want to carry out these reforms, even if the party and the Greek state possessed the capacity to carry them out – which they don’t.
2) The latest proposals appear to be deafeningly silent on some important matters raised with Greece by the creditors since January. In the letter sent by Euclid Tsakalotos, Greece’s new finance minister, to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch head of the eurogroup, I see no mention at all of labour market reform or privatisation of state assets. Read more
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (Getty)
His hair is receding, his beard is splashed with grey, and he speaks English with the grammatical precision of an independent-minded Balkan intellectual who grew up in the communist era – which is exactly what he is. But Edi Rama, Albania’s prime minister, is also so tall and muscular that, as a young man, he played for the national basketball team. Before he gave up art for politics in the post-communist era, his paintings were exhibited in Berlin, New York and beyond.
As he explained over dinner in Tirana on Thursday night, he is also old enough – he turns 51 on Saturday – to have searing memories of the cruel, isolated madhouse that was Albanian communism under Enver Hoxha, the dictator who ruled from the end of the second world war until his death in 1985. This is why Rama passionately wants Albania’s future to be in the EU, and why he foresees danger ahead if his and other Balkan countries are denied this prospect. Read more
I contributed to the Weekend FT’s “Summer Books” round-up last week. But there are lots of other interesting titles that have come my way, over the past six months, and that might interest readers. Here is a selection:
Greece, the EEC and the Cold War 1974-1979 (Palgrave Macmillan) by Eirini Karamouzi -A scholarly and readable history of how Greece joined the EU provides a fascinating and valuable context to today’s events. Read more
Another chapter will be written this weekend in Greece’s proud, painful history of national suffering, defiance and martyrdom, real as well as imagined, at the hands of foreign oppressors.
Whether Greece’s radical leftist-led government capitulates to the demands of its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund, or whether it rejects them, the essentials of this narrative will not vary much.
Here is the reason: thanks to the way that Greece and its creditors have mishandled the debt crisis since it erupted in October 2009, the only available choice now, from the perspective of ordinary Greeks, is between extremely bad and worse. Read more
Nato renews its commitment to collective defence
Defence ministers from the Atlantic Alliance’s 28 members are meeting in Brussels to discuss the reinvigoration of the alliance in the face of Russian aggression. The US is to make the biggest reinforcement of its forces in eastern Europe since the fall of the Soviet Union. Ben Hall discusses the development with Geoff Dyer and Sam Jones.
David Cameron says that Britain’s relationship with the rest of the European Union is deeply unsatisfactory and must change. He is pressing ahead with his plans to demand reforms in Europe and to put the results to an “in-out” referendum in Britain – probably next year. But if you look at current events in Europe, Britain’s deal does not look at all bad – in fact, it is strikingly good. There are two major crises currently underway – involving Greece’s debts and refugees arriving in Italy. And yet because of opt-outs negotiated by previous British governments, the UK has been able largely to avoid the painful choices facing the other Europeans. Read more
A man pushes a trolley with recyclable materials past graffiti in central Athens
Spectators of the debt drama starring Greece and its eurozone creditors are shuffling uncomfortably in their seats. They do not know the ending, but every twist in the plot suggests that it is extremely unlikely to be happy.
The Greek state is slipping closer to official default on its loans, and even exit from the eurozone. This creates an impression that the drama, which began in 2001 with the fatal decision to admit Greece into Europe’s monetary union, is approaching a sort of Act V dénouement. But real life is not a play, when the curtains come down after a fixed period of action.
Some high-level eurozone politicians – by which I mean prime ministers and finance ministers – have made it clear for at least five weeks that they are ready to let Greece default and, if necessary, drop out of the 19-nation currency area. Yet not all have thought hard enough about what might follow. To say “good riddance to the Greeks, they’ve been unreliable and irresponsible, we’ll be better off without them” does not amount to a serious policy. Read more
Greek bailout negotiators have come up with a set of revenue-raising projections for 2015 and 2016 that troubles even the most optimistic Athens economist.
The leaked eight-page proposal published by Kathimerini includes administrative measures aimed at raising €1.6bn in the second half of this year and €2.3bn next year and include the following measures: Read more
The president of the World Bank has warned that a pandemic could kill tens of millions people and wipe out between 5 to 10 per cent of GDP of the global economy. Jim Yong Kim said in Frankfurt on Tuesday the world was “complete unprepared” for an outbreak on the scale of the Spanish Flu outbreak witnessed in 1918, which killed between 3 to 5 per cent of the world’s population at that time.
Quoting research commissioned by Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, Dr Kim said a Spanish flu-like pandemic in the modern era would kill 33m people in 250 days. The recent Ebola outbreak had, the former physician, who has headed the World Bank since 2012, said, “revealed the shortcomings of international and national systems to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.”
It was also, according to Dr Kim, by far the biggest risk to the global economy. Read more
It is possible, of course, that the Greek crisis will once again derail their plans. But as things stand, one subject under discussion at a Brussels summit of European leaders on June 25-26 will be how to improve economic governance in the 19-nation eurozone.
The most succinct explanation for why Europe’s leaders must get their act together on economic governance appeared in a speech last November at the University of Helsinki by Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank president. He said: “Doubts over the viability of EMU [European monetary union] will only be fully removed when we have completed it in all relevant areas. This means banking and capital markets union; it means economic and fiscal union. In a monetary union, no policy area can be seen in isolation.”
What a shame that these fine words, and various thoughtful proposals for enhanced eurozone integration that are circulating in EU capitals, appear likely to produce next to nothing in terms of concrete progress at the Brussels summit. It will be a wasted opportunity – or, to put it more strongly, yet another wasted opportunity. Read more