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CRISIS WATCH
September 28, 2013  |  The Wall Street Journal Europe
The head of the euro zone's bailout fund has cast doubt on official assessments of how much Greece's debt is really weighing on its economy, in the latest signal that the currency bloc is stepping away from commitments to reduce the country's debt mountain. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Klaus Regling, managing director of the European Stability Mechanism, said that the targets for lowering Greece's debt that were central to its latest rescue deal were "meaningless." He said that to accurately evaluate the sustainability of Greece's debt, more heed had to be paid to the exceptionally low interest rates Athens was paying and to the long repayment schedules—conditions that set it apart from other high-debt countries. Mr. Regling's comments provide backing for Germany and other euro-zone countries that have conceded Athens will likely require a third bailout but have resisted demands from the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere that they forgo repayment on some of the money already lent.
REFORM AGENDA
May 27, 2013  |  The New York Times
Not long ago Leonidas Hamodrakas, a lawyer in Athens, decided to pay closer attention to his family’s land holdings — some fields, a scattering of buildings and a massive stone tower — in Mani, a rural region in southern Greece. But property ownership in Greece is often less than clear cut. So Mr. Hamodrakas put a padlock on his gate and waited to see what would happen. Soon enough, he heard from neighbors. Three of them claimed that they, too, had title to parts of the property. In this age of satellite imagery, digital records and the instantaneous exchange of information, most of Greece’s land transaction records are still handwritten in ledgers, logged in by last names. No lot numbers. No clarity on boundaries or zoning. No obvious way to tell whether two people, or 10, have registered ownership of the same property.
FINANCIAL & INVESTMENTS
May 28, 2013  |  The Guardian
The Chinese are interested in airports, harbours and railways. The Russians are determined to infiltrate the energy market. The Qataris have made clear they want to invest in property. Three years to the month after becoming the first eurozone country to be bailed out by the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF), Greece has finally got its long-delayed privatisation campaign off the ground, and the programme has turned the debt-choked country into a battleground for nations seeking access to the EU trading bloc. "We have to transmit the message that this is a different Greece," the development minister, Kostis Hadzidakis, said in an interview. "We have to surprise in a positive way. Privatisations will send the message that we are a business-friendly country." The prime minister, Antonis Samaras, took that message to Beijing this month, urging China to participate in what he described as Athens' success story. He was buoyed by a raft of unusually good news: international creditors had agreed to prop up the economy with another €8.8bn (£7.5bn) in rescue funds, Fitch had upgraded Greece's credit rating, while borrowing costs on 10-year bonds in May fell to their lowest level since the outbreak of the debt crisis.
ENERGY, CLIMATE & GREEN ECONOMY
October 5, 2012  |  The New York Times
China in recent years established global dominance in renewable energy, its solar panel and wind turbine factories forcing many foreign rivals out of business and its policy makers hailed by environmentalists around the world as visionaries.But now China’s strategy is in disarray. Though worldwide demand for solar panels and wind turbines has grown rapidly over the last five years, China’s manufacturing capacity has soared even faster, creating enormous oversupply and a ferocious price war. The result is a looming financial disaster, not only for manufacturers but for state-owned banks that financed factories with approximately $18 billion in low-rate loans and for municipal and provincial governments that provided loan guarantees and sold manufacturers valuable land at deeply discounted prices. China’s biggest solar panel makers are suffering losses of up to $1 for every $3 of sales this year, as panel prices have fallen by three-fourths since 2008.
MARITIME & TRANSPORTATION
October 11, 2012  |  The New York Times
PIRAEUS, Greece — The captain gazed from his elegant office overlooking this port on the Aegean Sea and smiled as towering cranes plucked container after container from a giant ship while robotic transport vehicles fanned out to transfer the cargo to smaller vessels bound for the Mediterranean. The cargo volume here is three times the level it was two years ago, before the captain, Fu Cheng Qiu, was put in charge by his employer, Cosco, a global shipping giant owned by the Chinese government. In a 2010 deal that put 500 million euros ($647 million) into the coffers of Greece’s cash-starved government, Cosco leased half of the port of Piraeus and quickly converted a business that had languished as a Greek state-run enterprise into a hotbed of productivity. The other half of the port is still run by Greece. And the fact that its business lags behind Cosco’s is emblematic of the entrenched labor rules and relatively high wages — for those lucky enough to still have jobs — that have stifled the country’s economic growth.
EUROZONE & GLOBAL ECONOMY
June 26, 2013  |  US Department of State
The United States and the European Union (EU) share fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and respect for law. We work together to advance energy security, address global climate change, and promote economic development. We cooperate on counterterrorism and security issues. A robust transatlantic economy undergirds our ability to address global challenges and to promote global development and prosperity. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama announced his intention for the United States to negotiate a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the EU. TTIP is a bold vision based on many potential areas of shared opportunity, and has the potential to become an historic agreement. It would be different from any trade agreement the United States has ever negotiated. TTIP will seek to break new ground by addressing bilateral non-tariff barriers and support high quality norms and practices in the global economic system. TTIP also is an opportunity to reaffirm and reinforce the strong economic, political, and social values the United States shares with Europe.
REGIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
November 15, 2012  |  www.state.gov
I’d like to begin with a point that Damon also stressed in his introduction which is putting this in some global context. I think it goes without saying that the United States at this moment is facing a world full of tremendous global challenges. The conflict in Syria, the transition in Afghanistan, the economic slowdown in Europe, the challenges in North Africa, and we’ve been obviously responding to those challenges on a day-to-day basis -- but the point I want to begin with, that again Damon you alluded to, is even as we face these tremendous challenges all over the world, we have never lost sight of the fact that we maintain a deep and historic interest in the Western Balkans, which is a part of the world where the United States has invested so much and where we have so many friends and interests, and I think the Secretary’s most recent visit to the region just a couple of weeks ago reaffirmed that abiding American commitment to supporting democracy and stability and prosperity in that region. Just as the United States and the European Union are working hand in hand on these global challenges, as some of you have heard me address our partnership and cooperation with Europe globally here and elsewhere, we’re doing so in the Balkans, and I can’t stress that point enough.....
OPINION & SOCIETY
May 16, 2013  |  The New York Times - op-ed
If suicides were an unavoidable consequence of economic downturns, this would just be another story about the human toll of the Great Recession. But it isn’t so. Countries that slashed health and social protection budgets, like Greece, Italy and Spain, have seen starkly worse health outcomes than nations like Germany, Iceland and Sweden, which maintained their social safety nets and opted for stimulus over austerity. (Germany preaches the virtues of austerity — for others.) As scholars of public health and political economy, we have watched aghast as politicians endlessly debate debts and deficits with little regard for the human costs of their decisions.
TOURISM
May 22, 2013  |  The New York Times
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