July 28, 2015

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Supreme Court Takes Action Against Yianis (with one n) Varoufakis' Plan B - VIDEOS

After playing down the initiative as a contingency plan that had never been implemented, and after denying the report and claiming that the media was using it to discredit him, former Finance Minister Varoufakis finally admitted that he had made secret preparations to hack into Greek citizens' tax codes to create a parallel banking payment system. More exactly, Varoufakis admitted that he was developing a parallel banking system to turn the tax records of citizens from euro into drachmas with the touch of a button. In a conference call with the London-based OMFIF think-tank, which was recorded on July 16 but only released on Monday July 28th, Varoufakis outlines his secret plan to a bunch of hedge fund investors and says that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had given him the go ahead to devise this plan (named "Plan B") before gaining government on January 25th. (The scandal was exposed by the Kathimerini newspaper on Sunday.)

In the recording, which was released on Monday and which is causing a storm of reactions, we can actually hear Varoufakis clearly saying that he had assembled a five-person team led by U.S. economist James Galbraith to do just that.
     "We were planning to create, surreptitiously, reserve accounts attached to every tax file number, without telling anyone, just to have this system in a function under wraps," he said, adding that "of course this would be euro-denominated but at the drop of a hat it could be converted to a new drachma."
At some point in the recording, the moderator warns Varoufakis that other people were listening to the teleconference but would not repeat its contents and Varoufakis replied: "I know they are. And even if they do I will deny I said it."

(By far this is the worse statement of all, because it shows how politicians demonize the press at times for daring to expose the truth).

The plan, according to the recording, was to hack into his own ministry's software to copy tax systems code. In order to achieve this, Varoufakis said that he hired a childhood friend who was a software expert to help with the planning.

(Please note that his childhood friend was from Columbia University. This is an important factor as will be explained below.)

After denying the reports at first, and then playing the role of a media victim, Varoufakis was finally forced to admit the truth after the recording came to light. In a statement that was posted on his blog, Varoufakis defends the contingency planning and slams the domestic and foreign media for indulging in "far-fetched articles that damage the quality of public debate".
     "Greece's Ministry of Finance would have been remiss had it made no attempt to draw up contingency plans," the statement said, adding the unit worked within government policy and its recommendations were aimed at keeping the country in the euro zone.
Meanwhile, and in a separate statement posted on Varoufakis' blog, Galbraith notes that he had (unofficially) worked on the top secret plan on the basis that the government was committed to negotiating within the euro zone. Apart from coming into contact with SYRIZA MP (and drachma lobbiest) Costas Lapavitsas Galbraith said in his post that his secret group had no cooperation with the radical Left Platform of SYRIZA and concluded its work in May.

And if that wasn't enough, on Tuesday Varoufakis told the Financial Times in an interview that as he was handing over the reins of the finance ministry to SYRIZA MP Euclid Tsakalotos on July 6, he presented him with a full account of the ministry’s projects, priorities and achievements during his five months in office. According to him, the Plan B payments system was also apparently part of this presentation but luckily no member of the press took any notice.

(He actually says this to the Financial Times!!!)
     "But when a subsequent telephone discussion with a large number of international investors, organised by my friend Norman Lamont and David Marsh of the official monetary and financial institutions forum, was leaked despite the Chatham House rule that we agreed with listeners, the press had a field day. Committed to unlimited openness and full transparency, I granted OMFIF permission to release the tapes.
     "While I understand the press’s excitement emanating from elements of that exchange, such as having to consider unorthodox means of gaining access to my own ministry’s systems, there is only one matter of significance from a public interest perspective. There is a hideous restriction of national sovereignty imposed by the troika of lenders upon Greek ministers who are denied access to departments of their ministries pivotal in implementing innovative policies. When sovereignty loss, due to unsustainable official debt, yields suboptimal policies in already stressed nations, one knows that there is something rotten in the euro’s kingdom." Financial Times
The confession has provoked a storm of reactions. On Monday, at least 24 members of the main opposition New Democracy party sent a formal request to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to clarify whether he was aware of the plan to introduce Greece to a new national currency. if he had approved it and to also specify the actions he would take with regard to the political and criminal investigation of the case.

In a separate statement, the main opposition New Democracy party claims that specific elements within the ruling SYRIZA party had a hidden agenda for Grexit and used various “methods" that are dangerous to Greece's democracy and its national interests. At the same time ND called on the Greek Prime Minister and his younger coalition partner Panos Kammenos (leader of ANEL) to break their silence and finally come clean with “convincing and responsible explanations”.

On its part, the Potami party party called on Tsipras to confirm whether or not he was aware of Varoufakis’s plan since it was revealed on the recording that the plan was drawn up after consultations with the PM himself.

Without a doubt all this evidence has severely damaged the image of the SYRIZA party. Varoufakis' own admission that there were plans to “hack” into Greek taxpayers personal tax codes has sent Greece's political, financial and social world abuzz.

The news has also captured the attention of the the Greek justice system. A meeting that was convened by Chief Prosecutor of Greece Euterpe Koutzamani including leading senior magistrates and prosecutors, decided that the Supreme Court should turn to parliament to prosecute Yanis (with one "n"). As such the Supreme Court would turn to the Greek National Assembly for this very reason.

According to legal circles, Greek justice cannot automatically start formal proceedings against the former finance minister as this is not allowed under the provisions of the law on ministerial responsibility.

(In accordance with the law on the criminal responsibility of Greek MPs, parliament must first decide whether or not to conduct a preliminary investigation and withdraw the  immunity of the MP accused before the Supreme Court can begin prosecuting the case.)

Meanwhile, General Secretary for Public Revenues Katerina Savvaidou responded with an order for an urgent internal inquiry to be held under oath so as to investigate whether staff at the secretariat had committed illegal acts. According to an announcement, there will be an internal check of all IT systems to try and uncover whether any unauthorized accessing of data occurred.

And if that wasn't enough, there are also two lawsuits for treason which have already been filed against Yanis (with one "n") Varoufakis. The first by the non-parliamentary Telia party, former actor and mayor of Stilida Apostolos Gletsos and the second by Athenian lawyer Mr. Giannopoulos.

Regardless what decision parliament adopts, the Supreme Court will still go after all (non-political) persons involved in the drafting and implementation of this plan. As such expect to see action against Michalis Chatzitheodorou, Yanis Varoufakis’ childhood friend and information systems professor at the University of Colombia in the US, who was acting Chief Secretary for Information Services. As admitted by Varoufakis on the recording, Chatzitheodorou had developed the scheme to hack into the tax records of Greek citizens with the use of his own personal laptop.

Knowing very well that he will soon be faced with the law, Michalis Chatzitheodorou on Tuesday denied any “intervention in the information systems of the Treasury" claiming in a statement that all revelations regarding the hacking of the ministry systems are "absolutely untrue". Although Varoufakis did not outright name Chatzitheodorou during the infamous teleconference with the London-based Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, his identity was made known via the Greek media.

During the teleconference, the former Greek finance minister described in detail the attempt to create a parallel banking system which would resort to the drachma “at a touch of the button”, if negotiations with Greece’s creditors failed.

On the role of Chatzitheodorou he said that the general secretariat of information systems was controlled by him directly.
     "I appointed a good friend of mine, a childhood friend of mine, who had become a professor of IT at Columbia University in the States, and so on, I put him there because I trusted him to develop the system. At some point, a week or so after we moved into the ministry, he calls me up and says to me: You know what, I control the machines, I control the hardware. I don’t control the software. The software belongs to the troika-controlled general secretariat for public revenues.
    "What do we do? So we had a meeting, just the two of us, nobody else knew. He said: Listen, if I ask for permission from them to start implementing this program then the troika will immediately know we are designing a parallel system. Well, I said, That won’t do, we don’t want to reveal our hand at this stage. So I authorised him, and you can’t tell anyone that, this is totally between us, to hack…"
In his statement Chatzitheodorou says that  "The General Secretariat of Information Systems and Logistics and me personally, have designed, let alone attempted, any kind of intervention to its systems." He also notes that "the General Secretariat for Information Systems has established procedures and strict standards that guarantee the security of personal data“

OMFIF forum on July 16th

During the 4th minute of the recording, Varoufakis begins to analyze the main points of his plan B. Just before the 5th minute, he goes into detail on how they were going to create alternative accounts of all Greek taxpayers, including the use of smart phone applications. In order to achieve this they planned to issue new pin codes, which in turn would have formed a parallel payment system. At 6 minutes into the recording, Varoufakis begins talking about the parallel banking system that would have allowed the government to act when the European Central Bank would close Greek banks and at 7 minutes into the recording he begins talking about his childhood friend whom he had appointed to hack the software program of his own ministry.

Here is the recording

It should be noted that before the media began broadcasting the recording, Varoufakis was denying all the reports and charging the opposition and the media of propaganda against him and the SYRIZA party. A few hours after the media disseminated the recording, he made a statement on his personal blog admitting that it was all true.

(His statement leaves it to be understood that instead of negotiating with Greece's creditors in the first few months after SYRIZA was elected to power, he was more concentrated on materializing his plan to return Greece to the drachma. Another interesting factor is that the statement was written in the third person.)

Here is his statement.
     "During the Greek government’s negotiations and until the referendum, Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis oversaw a working group with a remit to prepare contingency plans against the creditors’ efforts to undermine the Greek government and in view of forces at work within the euro zone to have Greece expelled from the euro. The working group was convened by the Minister, at the behest of the Prime Minister, and was coordinated by Professor James K. Galbraith."
Then the saga begins. Speaking as an outsider, the statement on Varoufakis claims that he was/is a victim of strong criticism from the media and that the government had no contingency plan in the case of Grexit.
     "Ever since Varoufakis announced the existence of the working group, the media indulged in far-fetched articles that damage the quality of public debate, attempting to describe the group as a ‘conspiracy’ working on the return to the national currency. This is defamation. The Ministry of Finance’s working group worked exclusively within the framework of government policy and its recommendations were always aimed at serving the public interest, at respecting the laws of the land, and at keeping the country in the euro zone."
The full text of Yanis Varoufakis’ statement in English and Greek is available here:
http: // ...

In addition to his own statement, Varoufakis published a public statement by Professor Galbraith in which he admits that he was a coordinator of this secret working group.

Commenting on the fresh evidence First Deputy Speaker Alexis Mitropoulos on Tuesday blamed Varoufakis for the austerity of the measures.
    "With his lack of modesty, his naivety, his zeal to showcase his own ideas it seems that he has hurt the Greek issue."
Mitropoulos said and added:"German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and the creditors were likely aware of his intentions and as a result we should now accept these harsh measures and plan. Probably he had confided them or had expressed them as a threat, or as one of his plans," he said in statements to private MEGA TV.

HellasFappe's take on things

Frappers... A couple of years ago, a leap to death from the general secretary of the culture ministry almost brought down the entire government of Costas Karamanlis. For days the general secretariat's secret affair with one of his cabinet members made front page news in an attempt to discredit the government of Costas Karamanlis. While today a plan to return Greece to the drachma and take our economy back 2, or even 3 generations is described as being "propaganda" (and even an ingenious plan) by the same people who used the leap of death to crawl their way into power.

Obviously the severity of these two cases cannot be compared, yet there is no hysteria over Varoufakis' actions at all. One case involves a hot affair, and was a cause to bring down a government and the other involves the savings of Greek citizens and yet there is not a care in the world and the government and leadership of this country is not to blame Why? The answer is simple. The Left is in power and the Greek state is finally naked in the sense that it has always worked in favor of the progressive factions in Greece. No wonder all the unions are operated by the progressives.

Not even Spielberg could have come up with a better scenario. Think about it, a minister plans to devise a program to purposely exit Greece out of the Eurozone at the behest of the Prime Minister and admits this to hedge fund investors who we all know are waiting to prey on Greece like vultures. Yet not one nose is bleeding over the matter because hey... its not cool to be bothered with what the Left does because it is "progressive". It is insane!  Here is actual evidence of a planned coup by secret group, or as described by HF in previous articles as the 'drachma lobby" with hired foreign and domestic experts who are all somehow linked to Columbia University. The same university which George Papandreou also gave lectures at, and the same institution which is highly backed by none other than billionaire George Soros. Let us not forget that Soros brought down the Bank of England a few years ago, and we all know how much he wanted to bring down the Eurozone. Another interesting bit of information that was revealed on Tuesday involves an aide of the Clinton family who said that had Greece exited the Eurozone in 2010 (or under George Papandreou -as planned-) today Greece would have been a haven for business and an entirely different place. Should we also remind all of you that the Clintons are also highly backed by George Soros as well?

Imagine if all of this was happening under a conservative government. Greek cities would be thrown into complete chaos by swarms of anarchists (such as the December riots 2008), the public sector would have been staging protests all over the country, schools would have already shut down, half of Greece would have been ablaze and the West (US and UK) would have even called back their Ambassadors. But no... Now that a progressive government is in power, and a minister has admitted devising a plan to destroy everything Greeks have worked for for the past 20+ years -with the supposed green light of the prime minister himself- everything is peachy. The media is at fault for making a big deal out of the case, and no one should be concerned because according to progressives this move was not only right, it was also "ingenious".

Greek citizens may have once again been duped by the progressive left, but luckily they are now beginning to realize that they were also conned into voting "NO" at the recent referendum a few weeks ago because -as revealed over the past few days- the overall plan from day one was to return Greece to the drachma! It is going to be quite (sadly) entertaining to see the reaction of Greek tax payers when the Leftist Memorandum comes to pass (especially those who voted for the government). The previous governments were traitors, they were "germanotsoliades" they dared to vote YES to stay in the Euro, but no banks ever closed, our economy was beginning to show a surplus and the Greek state finally began to shrink.

No wonder no one takes this country seriously at times. There is no logic behind this kind of thinking, only madness. Whatever the Left does is acceptable and whatever the Right does is not. It just proves how divided we are as a society,. how the civil war never ended in Greece, and how a few wannabes play on this to not only widen the gap between us, but to also bank on it.

Greece may have given birth to democracy but it definitely suffers from Varoufakis bourgeois style rock stars who live for five minutes of fame at the expense of the masses. This country has actually been suffering from this for 40 years now and the Left has been very successful in gathering support because they present it as something cool, something progressive, something different.

Digest it, political parties are companies and sell ideologies. They do not care about me or you or any one of us, all they care about is their five minutes of fame and power (the money also helps). The repercussions of what happened in July will begin to surface once tourism dies down, and Greek citizens realize how much damage was made.

We need to rid ourselves once and for all from this type of thinking. We don't need foreign armies to destroy this country, we do a pretty good job of poking our own eyes all by ourselves. 

References: Kathimerini, YouTube, SkaiTv, MEGA Tv, Reuters, BBC, The TOC, ANA-MPA, Proto-Thema, Enikos

July 22, 2015

Gov't passes crucial bailout bill by 230 votes, 31 SYRIZA MPs vote "NO" - Varoufakis votes YES

The Greek government passed a crucial bailout bill by 230 votes early on Thursday morning in Parliament on a second package of prior actions linked to the third bailout memorandum agreed to with creditors last week, with only 31 SYRIZA MPs voting "NO" this time as opposed to the 39 who did not back the first round of reforms last week. The legislation was opposed by 63 lawmakers, while five abstained.

The new laws include the adoption of a European bank resolution scheme and the change of the civil procedure code. The laws will now protect Greek taxpayers from the cost of bank failures and stipulate that unsecured depositors (with more than 100,000 euros) will face losses before taxpayers. Also, shareholders, senior and junior creditors will be in line to take a hit before depositors. The law will is set to come into effect at the start of 2016.

Rebel "dissenters" include President of the Parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou and former minister Stratoulis and Lafazanis. The BIG SURPRISE came by none other than Yanis (with one 'n') Varoufakis, who decided to vote "YES", but released a statement noting that he was only doing so to help the government buy time since he is convinced that the agreement will fail. It needs to be reminded that a couple of days earlier the former finance minister voted "NO" to the initial one-article framework for the “Greekment”.

While addressing Parliament, and right before the vote, Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras said that the balance of power in Europe is one-sided, and dismissed criticism that the referendum he called for on July 5th generated the worse agreement with creditors. He noted that the current deal provides leeway to crush speculation over “Grexit” and opens a prospect for growth and investment to flow into Greece. He then said that his government will tackle corruption, vested interests and tax evasion, and then cited a draft law on broadcast licenses as proof of this.
     "Conservative forces within Europe still insist on their plans to kick Greece out of the euro. We chose a compromise that forces us to implement a program we don’t believe in and we will implement it, because the choices we have are tough. There will be no foreclosures of primary homes, the protection of primary residences, by this government, was, is and will be lasting."
On his part, and while addressing the Greek Parliament main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Vangelis Meimarakis touched on a looming clash between Tsipras and Zoi Konstantopoulou (as well as other leading SYRIZA MPs).

During the duration of the debate, the first sporadic violence was recorded when self-styled anarchist youths, began throwing firebombs at nearby riot police. Luckily, the riot abated quickly.

July 17, 2015

BREAKING - Major fire breaks out near Neapoli, Laconia - Local villages threatened

Greece is under attack. Once again we are witnessing an unprecedented and suspicious attack on our country just like we did eight years ago (or in 2007) with the fires in the Peloponnese. Currently there are 43 fires blazing across the country (or in Attiki, Laconia, Argolis, Evia and Malakasa).

(Please note: HellasFrappe will continue to post updates on the fire in the Peloponnese every time we get more information because we know that there are many people in the Diaspora with family here. Check back every so often for more. ^Also, we will post updates about all the other areas which are currently and suspiciously ablaze all over Greece.)

UPDATE 20:30 Local Time - The fire which began in the area of Malakasa, 30klm north of Athens was finally put under control, but a little before 20:30 local time SKAI Tv reported that the blaze was once again becoming a problem. Luckily three camps were evacuated in this area for precautionary reasons. In Athens - Firefighters are still battling the fire that broke out in the area of Kareas. In Laconia, it was reported that at least 17 homes have been burned as well as several businesses in the city center. The flames are still swiping through the city of Neapoli while all the nearby villages have been evacuated.

The social networks are ablaze with pictures of the smoke that is hovering over the Greek capital but certainly the photo below which was published by newsit is indeed the most characteristic.

Back in Athens Defence Panos Kammenos said that the army will begin routine patrols of all the areas affected and said that Greece was facing an unprecedented attack.

The pilots that are flying some of the helicopters used in the blaze in Laconia are some of the best in the world. Check out the video below. The pilot is attempting to release the water so as to put out the flame, but gets caught in a small whirlwind and is inches from crashing the helicopter. Check out how he handles the chopper and gets the job done. Incredible!

UPDATE 18:30 Local Time -In the area of Laconia: Houses were destroyed in the villages of Faraklo, Lahi, and Agios Nikolaos. The residents of the area were evacuated and transferred to other areas in the Peloponnese for their safety. Currently the 15-kilometer blaze is totally out of control and although there is a huge force battling the blaze the gale force winds which are hitting the area are making it difficult to put it under control. In Athens the fire that broke out at 12:30 pm local time in Kareas spread rapidly due to the strong winds in the area. Thick smoke has covered the entire region of Attika. A tavern was burned and a home was evacuated and the nuns of Agios Ioannis monastery were also transferred to safety. Due to a sudden change in wind direction the fire then began to move towards the area of Ano Glyfada (Aixoni) area and after 17:00 local time it began to move to the area of ​​Vari. And if that wasn't enough, another fire erupted in the area of Koropi, near the training center of the Panathinaikos soccer team. The fire that broke out in Argolida was reported to have started at a dump at Tolo near the city of Nafplio. The fire that erupted in the area of Malakasa, began near the church of Agia Marina, and is now moving near the Milesi area. The flames are very close to the highway. And finally the front that is raging on the island of Evia between the areas of Pissonas and Afrati is totally out of control.

UPDATE Local Time 17:30 - Update on the fire on the island of Evia: The flames have encircled the village of Afrati. As such, the village residents were immediately transferred to other nearby areas for their safety. The Mayor of Pisona (Mr. Psathas) told newsit that the fire is burning out of control and the fierce winds that are blowing in the area are not helping to put it under control. Fire fighters are attempting to create a safety zone around the village but the height of the flames are so great that their efforts are proving to be fruitless. There are a number of forces on scene from Central Greece, and together with volunteers and the Municipality of Messapion they are all trying to battle the fire.

UPDATE 17:00 Local Time -Two new fires have sparked up, one in the area of Argolida, with two fronts, (specifically in Drepano and Iria) and another in the area of Malakasa in Attiki. In Lakonia, many homes have been burning in villages like Faraklo and Lahi, while residents were said to be trapped at the seashore of Aghios Nikolaos awaiting to be rescued by boats. The death of a 58 year old Greek man (who was a permanent resident of Switzerland), was confirmed. Apparently the victim died of respiratory problems caused by the thick smoke. In Attiki, fire fighting forces and firefighting planes are also trying to combat the flames, despite the high winds. Despite their efforts, several homes have already been destroyed, a neighborhood playground was burned to the ground and flames have also surrounded a local church. Dozens of people, including elderly women covering their faces with headscarves, tried to put out the flames with buckets of water. Addressing reporters, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that citizens need to remain "calm."  He said that he has asked the air force and armed forces for help and had also appealed to other European countries for assistance with extra fire-fighting aircraft. And finally, while speaking to Greek TV from the scene of one of the fires, Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis was heckled by angry residents who accused him of doing "micro politics" and urged him to "take off" his jacket "and help" instead of just standing there and selling himself as a politician.

 In order to get a grasp of how intense the fires in Lakonia and Athens are, the satellite picture below was posted on enikos which shows the smoke from the fires as seen from space.

UPDATE 14:45 Local Time  - Another fire just broke out in the area of Pissona near Halkida. According to initial reports the fire is raging out of control in the areas of Pissona and Afrati. Local firefighters have rushed to the area and are soon to be joined by other firefighting forces from Lamia, Livadia, Amfissa and Karpenisi. Meanwhile Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras rushed to the Pentagon to be briefed by Minister of Public Order P.Panousis who called on our EU partners to send reinforcements (France and Italy).  Meanwhile, the Ministers of Transport and the General Secretariat of Health, Christos Spirtzis and Giannis Mboskozos are heading south to Lakonia. In Attika the fire has already caused damages to some of the homes that boarder forest land on Ymmitos Mountain and now the fire is heading towards the area of Argyroupoli. The smoke has covered the entire areas of Ilioupoli, Kareas and Vyronas.

 UPDATE 14:15 Local Time - (We are living another 2007) - Another fire suddenly broke out in the area of Koropi, Attica 16klm southeast of Athens near the training ground of Panathinakos football club. As soon as HellasFrappe has information about this front we will make a relevant update. Meanwhile the causes of the fire that broke out a couple of hours ago near Athens, or specifically in the Kareas region, (close to the municipal cemetery of Vironas on Ymittos Mountain) are still unknown. Strong gales are blowing over the area making it very difficult for fire-fighters to put the fire out. At present, a smoke cloud has covered the Ymittos mountain and the Katechaki highway. In Laconia, the fire has now taken on grand proportions because of extreme gale-force winds which are blowing in the area (said to be 8-9 Beaufort). As reported by ERT and SKAI Tv in Greece, the fire is now just 500 meters from the Neapoli Maritime Museum. At the same time, the Kastana village and mountainous area behind the village are also at risk. A major operation is also currently underway to remove tourists from the beaches of Agia Marina and Prophiti Elias.

UPDATE 13:30 Local Time - The fire has swept through the village of Mesochori and this front is now heading towards the city of Neapoli. There are unconfirmed reports that one man has died (55 years of age) from suffocation. As reported by ERT Tv, τhe fire has swept through the villages of Lahi, Faraklo, Agios Nicholas, Velanidia, and the Neapoli medical center is now being evacuated because the fire is less than a few meters away. The winds are estimated to be at 8-9 Beaufort. Local residents who spoke on ERT Tv claim that they are waiting for boats to collect people at the Neapoli port (so as to get them out of harms way) because they have no other way to escape the area.

UPDATE 13.15 Local time - According to ERT a CANADAIR fire fighting was forced to land after battling the blaze near Neapoli, both pilots are apparently out of danger. The reasons the plane was forced to land are still unknown. According to ERT, the fire has now encircled the area of Neapoli  (or right above the town's cemetery) and is slowly approaching residential homes. All forces are on alert. -At the same time a second fire began to blaze in the area of Karea, near Vyrona on the outskirts of Athens. 

UPDATE 11.15 Local time - Reinforcements from the entire Peloponnese have been rushed to the area of the Akrotirio Maleas because the blaze - 15 kilometer front according to ERT- is out of control. Reports said that two villages and a summer camp have already been evacuated. More than 120 firefighters have been dispatched to the area, supported by at least 50 fire engines, four aircraft and two helicopters, but their battle with the blaze is challenging because of mountainous terrain and near-gale winds.

Original story

A fire broke out in the forest area in Neapoli, Laconia (in the area of Faraklo and Laki) early on Friday morning and according to reports it has already swept through two villages and is threatening others in the area. Speaking on SKAI tv in Greece, the mayor of Monemvasia Heracles Tricheilis said that fire fighting authorities are battling the blaze but the strong winds in the area are making their work nearly impossible. A report on newsit claims that there are more than 50 firefighters and 20 vehicles in the area, along with many other forces who have joined in the effort as well. Fire firefighting planes were also dispatched to the area but could not reach the front of the fire due to the strong winds, and therefore a helicopter was sent to aid instead. The fire, which apparently broke out at 4:00 am on Friday morning from unknown causes, is being fueled from extremely strong winds. The damages from the fire are still unknown (burnt homes, or any victims). HellasFrappe will be updating this article as soon as more information and videos are available.

Reference - SKAI, Newsit

July 15, 2015


Tsipras' battles drachma lobby to avoid Grexit, and fights to achieve Greekment - Possible Scenarios

Today is one of the greatest moments in post-dictatorship modern history. Our government has to decide whether or not Greece will go bankrupt and avoid bankruptcy or fall off the cliff and die. As we witness the events unfold, we now finally know who the patriots are who support the will of the people -as well as Greek national interests-, and which groups have a plan to destroy everything we have come to know.

Here is where it really gets funny: All of those who for years suffered political and social criticism are now assisting the government from crumbling. The "German-tsoliades" (or German Greek traditional soldiers) are today giving Tsipras their vote, while his own deputies are playing it safe. These are the very same people who for years suffered brutal attacks on street corners, were insulted, mocked and at times even terrified to step out of their homes. All of this so that Greece does not wither and die; and yet Tsipras does not have the political courage to send all these wannabes to the Tartarus. This is indeed, another shameful page in the history of the Greek left. They are once again, placing the interests of their party over the will of the Greek nation.

At a time when this country’s finances are vulnerable, and the political climate is unstable, Tsipras has to pass legislation that he doesn’t even believe in to avert a Grexit and enter a new agreement with the Troika. His biggest challenge: Dealing with the Radical Left elements within his own party.

The first part of the deal involves passing several measures that are designed to help stabilize Greece and put an end to the prospect of a Grexit. Following this, a government reshuffle is sure to follow since a number of SYRIZA MPs have expressed their opposition to the last-ditch deal (namley Zoi Kostantopoulou, Yianis -with one 'n'- Varoufakis, Panagiotis Lafazanis, Dimitris Stratoulis and Kostas Isihos, etc.) Other SYRIZA MPs. Other MPs who expressed their disagreement have resigned include Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Choundis, Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani and the General Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Network Manos Manousakis.

In fact, dozens of MPs, including senior SYRIZA figures and the government's junior coalition partner, may partially or fully reject the bailout, forcing Tsipras to rely on the  opposition to carry the vote, which is expected a little after midnight on Wednesday.

With this in mind, Tsipras knows that he is quickly losing the 162 seat majority that he holds in the Greek Parliament so there are two scenarios at play at the moment: He will either return to the polls by creating a new government alliance, or he will step down and allow someone else from his party to take the reigns of Greece into their hands.

Protests have so far been relatively mild, but civil servants, pharmacists and protest marches by left wing anti-bailout groups (including extreme far left ANTARSYA and anarchist groups) which are planned for Wednesday night could turn violent.

And if that wasn't enough, 107 members of SYRIZA’s Central Committee, out of a total of 201, have signed a declaration expressing strong opposition to the bailout deal.

Those who will be voting for these measures have already denounced the agreement in advance, even Tsipras himself.

If this climate prevails, then our country will quickly reach another impasse and then, the Grexit will not just be a plan or the desires of some drachma or hard German circles, but a visible reality.

On Tuesday evening, and during a live interview to state broadcaster ERT, Tsipras said that he has the historic responsibility of safely leading Greece out of this current impasse, and an obligation to take all the necessary initiatives to implement this promise. We hope he makes good on his pledge, because the captain of a ship is not just a captain to his inner circle of friends, but of all the passengers on the ship.


SPECIAL FORCES ON ALERT - Merkel "Orders" Arrest of Well-Known Greek Businessman

Greek special security forces are waiting for the green light to arrest a Greek tycoon with multifarious activities, who despite being prosecuted for a series of criminal acts,  always succeeds to weasel out of being convicted - even buying out politicians at times to wipe his slate clean. The mega-tycoon's name fell the on table on Sunday night in Brussels, by German Chancellor Angela Merkel herself, and he is one of two well known businessmen that are now targeted by Germany.
     "Mr. Tsipras, you tell us that you are determined to stamp out corruption in your country while Mr. ........... (and Mr. .........), who have committed specific criminal acts -such as fraud and tax evasion-, walk about freely, and in many cases come and go undisturbed at the Prime Minister's Mansion under all governments. The restoration of justice in your country is a major issue for us. Please take action in this direction ..."
A report in says that once Tsipras returned to Athens, he held a secret meeting with Greece's Minister of Public Order, where an in-depth debate was held on the cases that are lingering at Mr. Nikoloudis' office. As such, special security forces -even the use of helicopters- have been placed on alert and are waiting for the green light to arrest one of the two tycoons.

As soon as there are any developments on this story, HellasFrappe will make an update. Please check back later for more.

Reference -

July 14, 2015

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The Drachma Lobby Has Its Man: Yianis (with one "n") Varoufakis

credit kourdistoportocali
For UPDATE please check end of present article

Beginning in 2001 and up until 2009 more than 300 billion euros were removed from Greek banks and transferred to foreign accounts while a further 200 billion was transferred over the last FIVE years. When one takes this into account then one can understand that the drachma lobby -which is rallying for Greece to remove itself from the Eurozone- is very powerful. Most of this money, as most of us already know, has been stolen from the Greek people either through the black market, kickbacks, blackmail, trafficking and other types of corruption. Now the owners of this huge sum of money are seeking a political leader that will allow them to increase these funds by 10-fold by forcing Greece to return to the drachma.

The idea that everything in Greece will be up for sale -at a top notch price- under the drachma is very attractive to the drachma lobby and they have been rubbing their hands with glee and anticipation in order to take advantage of all the state property that will be up for sale once Greece adopts its national currency once more, and a few devaluations have been made.

Most of the holders of these accounts -who are obviously some of the wealthiest families in Greece- had bet on the rise of SYRIZA, and its current leader to materialize their plan. They were actually convinced that with Tsipras at the Maximos Mansion, Greece would once again welcome the drachma in no time. Luckily it did not take long for Tsipras to realize what was at play and he turned his back on them and decided to keep Greece in the eurozone.

According to kourdistoportocali, these people are now focusing on Yianis (with one "n") Varoufakis who we all know loves to be in the spotlight, as well as is a primary example of their bourgeois lifestyle. From what we can see, Yianis (with one 'n') seems to be enjoying this role.

Keep this long intro in mind when reading the latest interview from our Yianis (with one 'n') Varoufakis which was published by the British New Statesman magazine on Monday. In an exclusive report, regarding his short five-month term as finance minister and the negotiations over the Greek debt in Europe, Varoufakis said that the Eurogroup is completely dominated by Germany. According to him, the Greek government was “set up” and he charged the defenders of European "democracy" of lacking from “democratic scruples".

In the interview, he obviously blames Greece's partners for "refusing to negotiate” while he stresses that the insistence on a "comprehensive agreement" was an indication of this unwillingness. In his opinion, Greece’s creditors delayed the negotiations and ultimately forced the government of Alexis Tsipras into a accepting “absolutely impossible, totally non-viable and toxic” proposals.

And here is where it gets juicy.

He confesses that he had a three-pronged plan for the negotiations, which included issuing IOUs, carrying out a haircut of the Greek bonds of 2012 held by the ECB (or announce the intention to do so) and taking control of the Bank of Greece. Varoufakis clarified that the IOUs would act as a transition to a NEW CURRENCY and then admitted that the idea of the IOU was restricted to a small number of government officials but was eventually shot down.

In the interview Varoufakis said that on July 5th, while crowds were celebrating the victory of the "NO" vote, six members of the government were invited to vote on a new project (parallel currency). According to him, only two voted in favor while four voted against, and because he was not able to convince Tsipras... his departure from the government was "inevitable". Before ending the interview, he left it to be understood that he had mapped out his plan to the government but did not find any support.
      "As the crowds were celebrating on Sunday night in Syntagma Square, Syriza’s six-strong inner cabinet held a critical vote. By four votes to two, Varoufakis failed to win support for his plan, and couldn’t convince Tsipras. He had wanted to enact his “triptych” of measures earlier in the week, when the ECB first forced Greek banks to shut. Sunday night was his final attempt. When he lost his departure was inevitable. That very night the government decided that the will of the people, this resounding ‘No’, should not be what energised the energetic approach [Varoufakis' plan]. Instead it should lead to major concessions to the other side: the meeting of the council of political leaders, with our Prime Minister accepting the premise that whatever happens, whatever the other side does, we will never respond in any way that challenges them. And essentially that means folding. … You cease to negotiate.”
     "Varoufakis’s resignation brought an end to a four-and-a-half year partnership with Tsipras, a man he met for the first time in late 2010. An aide to Tsipras had sought him out after his criticisms of George Papandreou’s government, which accepted the first Troika bailout in 2010.
     "He [Tsipras] wasn’t clear back then what his views were, on the drachma versus the euro, on the causes of the crises, and I had very, well shall I say, ‘set views’ on what was going on. A dialogue begun … I believe that I helped shape his views of what should be done.”
     "And yet Tsipras diverged from him at the last. He understands why. Varoufakis could not guarantee that a Grexit would work. After SYRIZA took power in January, a small team had, “in theory, on paper,” been thinking through how it might. But he said that, “I’m not sure we would manage it, because managing the collapse of a monetary union takes a great deal of expertise, and I’m not sure we have it here in Greece without the help of outsiders.”
Connection to Soros?

A post by the birdflu666 blog claims that Varoufakis has continually praised billionaire George Soros' proposals for solving the euro crisis in many of the interviews he had given abroad. According to the author, Varoufakis seems to completely ignore the fact that the billionaire hedge funder has a clear conflict of interest in solving the euro crisis in as far as Soros has had so many opportunities for becoming so very rich from it.


UPDATE - George Soros, Jeff Sachs, Tsipras and Varoufakis


It took the sharp eye of the team, and a talented photographer, to snap this photo (early June 2015) with Yanis (with one 'n') Varoufakis writing a note to a recipient named Robert Johnson with a message that involves billionaire George Soros, Jeff Sachs, Alexis Tsipras and himself.

Clearly Rob. Let's have this conversation.
The next day, George Soros asked to see Jeff Sachs to ask him to contact my Prime Minister and urge him to pull me away from the government since I am the obstacle to an agreement. Jeff also wanted to tell Alexis that it is his duty to accept any agreement, and to forget the (issue of) debt relief because Europe can not afford to have two open fronts, one in Greece and one in ... Ukraine.

This is what Yanis (with one "n") Varoufakis wrote, as seen in the picture above.

The author of this shocking article on kourdistoportocali notes that he wanted to expose this news because it is clear that Greece is in the center of a global conflict of interests (and at the center of an obvious attack on the Euro).

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Tsipras pushes ahead with measures - SYRIZA MPs revolt - Kammenos to remain in coalition gov't (VIDEOS)

The agreement reached at the marathon Summit on Monday kept our country in the Eurozone and finally put an end to the uncertainty that has plagued us for weeks now. This painful compromise now puts a grand X to the word "Grexit", and gives way to a new word "Greekment". Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who faces many heaps and challenges this week on the domestic front, made the right decision because any other choice would have set back Greece at least 50 years.

While speaking to reporters after the agreement was reached, Tsipras said that the although the decision was difficult, his team managed to avert the transfer of assets to a foreign-based fund, and the credit asphyxiation that was being implemented in Greece.  The Greek Premier also noted that now the burden will be distributed according to social justice and stressed that despite the tough measures, the ‘Grexit’ is a thing of the past. He said that the agreement is going to finally allow Greece to stand up on its two feet and continue fighting for its sovereignty, while he underlined that the Greek crisis "left a significant legacy regarding the necessary changes throughout Europe”.

While the PM conceded that the measures are going to create recessionary tendencies and are certainly going to be difficult to implement, he expressed the optimism that with financial stability, there will be a prospect of recovery. Over the next few days, Tsipras has to take a number of initiatives in order to secure the 85-billion euro loan.

It should be reminded that a number of laws must be passed through Greek Parliament by Wednesday so that the bailout deal can be sealed. This might sound simple, but given the present political situation Tsipras is going to have a tough time passing these laws because there are far too many SYRIZA and ANEL MPs who openly opposed the measures.

One of the key figures expected to jeopardize the procedures is none other than President of Parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou. Her stance over the last few days and opposition allowed rumors to circulate in the press about a possible motion of no confidence from 151 MPs. Even if this motion was held in order to remove her from her post, Konstantopoulou made it clear on Monday that she will not step down. (Marxism at its best!)

Tsipras' greatest headache, however, will come from SYRIZA’s Left Platform which openly refuses to vote on the policies.  Knowing that he is up for a tough challenge,  Tsipras held a series of meetings with a selection of SYRIZA MPs on Monday night to come up with a plan to sway his party's Left Platform to accept the measures.

SYRIZA MPs Numb, Leftist Platform send warning to Tsipras

Reports claim that at least 32 SYRIZA MPs, mostly from SYRIZA's extreme leftist wing, are viewed as negative towards the final agreement. (The MPs include four ministers, that have, one way or another, distanced themselves from the government's actions.) As such, SYRIZA's parliamentary group would meet on Tuesday morning to discuss the bailout deal as well as analyze what will happen with these rebel MPs. There have been calls for them to resign.

On Monday, SYRIZA's Leftist Platform denounced the bailout agreement. More exactly, the agreement has caused major uproar in SYRIZA, with the head of the Left Platform and Minister of Productive Reconstruction Panagiotis Lafazanis urging the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to withdraw the agreement. In a statement, Lafazanis argued that the agreement is unacceptable and underlined that Greece’s partners, particularly the German leadership, treated Greece as if it were a colony. The Productive Reconstruction Minister called Greece’s partners “brutal blackmailers and financial assassins”. He concluded his statement by saying that Greece had and still has an alternative to the agreement and claimed that the dilemma posed by the creditors – agree or face catastrophe – was false, terroristic and against the people’s will, as expressed in the recent referendum, which was an overwhelming no to further austerity. Although he appears unwilling to resign voluntarily, sources suggest he will step down if the is asked to do so by the Prime Minister.

Lafazanis however is not the only SYRIZA MP or Minister to express objections to the agreement. During last Friday’s vote in Parliament, Alternate Minister of Social Insurance Dimitris Stratoulis also voted "present".

On the other hand, Alternate Minister of European Affairs Nikos Hountis resigned from his cabinet position and as a Member of Parliament. Hountis was amongst those who said that they would not support the agreement if it includes further austerity measures.

On his part, SYRIZA parliamentary group spokesman Nikos Filis sent a warning to MPs who want to vote against the deal reached with the country's creditors claiming that they are, in effect, aligning themselves with the "coup plotters" from abroad who do not want a left-wing government to last.
     "Wasn't what happened in Brussels a coup? What happened? Didn't they say, either this deal or we take Greeks' deposits and the banks go bankrupt? The government came under threat from economic and political forces that do not forgive the Greek people for making a different choice. I think that, often, we facilitate these plans. We cannot end with a left interregnum with the complicity of people of the left," Filis told reporters in front of the Greek Parliament.
Whereas Minister of Interior Nikos Voutsis told journalists that the “pressure verged on a coup”. Nonetheless he made it clear that everyone in his party is going to be permitted to express their opinion and their final decision will determine the future of the present government.

Speaking on ERT channel, Minister of Labor Panos Skourletis estimated that there will either be early general elections within 2015, or a special purpose government may be formed. The Minister underlined that the government’s majority in Parliament was at stake and as such, either general elections would be called later on this year, or a unity government would be formed, with the support of opposition parties, so that the agreement is implemented.
     “Europe is punishing us. We are not trying to make the deal look better, we are clearly saying it: this agreement does not represent us. I cannot easily accuse anyone who cannot agree to this agreement” he noted, before calling all government MPs who voted against Friday’s measures in parliament to resign.
When asked about the consequences of a possible "Grexit"’, he said that although Greek citizens are being forced into a violent impoverization, geopolitical issues could arise.

And if that wasn't enough, Minister of Health Panagiotis Kouroumplis expressed his frustration on Monday at four pharmaceutical companies for indirectly contributing towards a medicine shortage in Greece. The reports that there were shortages in medicines -and which some said were fear-mongering tactics prior to the referendum- are not only true, they are endangering the lives of countless people in Greece who are in need of these products. Kouroumplis said that the four companies in question supplied small quantities of specific medications in the Greek market during the crisis, and sent out a warning that he will impose harsh measures, should this practice continue.

From what we learn, Tsipras is not concentrated at the moment on making any changes within his party (such as the expulsion of those opposed the deal with creditors) and it is believed that he is not going to hold a cabinet reshuffle for the time being. This of course will change after the deal is sealed.

What will Kammenos do?

On his part, coalition partner and Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos, said that he was opposed to the deal but that his party will remain in the coalition. He stressed that he will continue to support the government and said that Europe aims to overthrow the government. Kammenos said that Tsipras was a victim of blackmail and that his party will "not allow the overthrow of the government”. He also underlined that ANEL is only going to vote on the measures that were agreed during the meeting of the political leaders last Friday.


The measures which will take away many privileges that civil servants have, as well as tax them for their astronomical wages was not received well by Greece's unions who over the past four decades have manipulated all governments to protect their interests.

As such, the trade union representing all public servants, ADEDY, called for a 24 hour strike on Wednesday when the bailout bills are going to be debated and voted in the Greek parliament. According to an announcement, workers in local authorities and pharmacists will also join the strike. In a statement that was released on Tuesday, ADEDY blasts the new bailout agreement, calls for the unilateral cancellation of debt and vows to continue the struggle every day on the streets.

On Monday night, The first “post-Greekment” protest was held outside of the Greek Parliament by some 400 participants from the extreme left and out-of-Parliament ANTARSYA party. Other groups that participated, included public workers’ groups, student unions and even members of ruling SYRIZA’s youth wing.

So what are the measures?

There has been a lot of talk about the prerequisites that have to be voted on by Wednesday night. So we have made it as simple as possible for you. The government is going to table a bill titled “Emergency Measures for the Negotiation and Agreement With the European Stability Mechanism  (ESM)”. This has two distinct chapters.

Chapter A (Article 1) contains the text of the Euro Summit Statement on Greece, which the Greek Parliament is called upon to approve.

Chapter B (Articles 2-3) deals with taxation and the Hellenic Statistics Authority (ELSTAT).

Article 2
  • - enumerates in detail the goods which are exempted from the 23% Value Added Tax (VAT) rate. (There are two lower rates, 13% and 6%. Electricity bills, hotel stays and many foodstuffs are taxed at 13% and medicines and books at 6%, among other goods.)
  • - Company tax has two bands, 29% for companies with profits up to €50,000 and 33% for those with higher profits.
  • - On islands with a resident (non-transient) population of OVER 4,100 inhabitants, cash transactions are limited to €70.
There are also clauses concerning:
  • - tax avoidance
  • - taxation of “luxury items” such as big cars, planes, helicopters, boats and pools
  • - and there is a “special solidarity contribution” that concerns annual incomes exceeding 30,000 euros.

Article 3
  • - details changes in the governance of the Hellenic Statistics Authority (ELSTAT) to enhance its independence from the government, as the creditors have demanded.
Chapter C (Articles 4-6) deals with pensions and social security.

Article 4
  • - abolishes, in stages from July 1, 2015, to the end of 2022, all early retirement , with the exception of “heavy and arduous professions” and mothers with incapacitated children. All others will be able to retire either at 67 or 62, if they have 40 years of employment by then.
Article 5
  • - merges all supplementary pension funds into one, retroactively from January 1, 2015
  • - freezes state funding of pension funds at 2015 levels until 2021
  • - and increases pensioners’ contribution to their medical expenses from 4% of the pension to 6%, from July 1, 2015.
Article 6
  • - is a technical provision giving the Labor Ministry the means to regulate the provisions in this law concerning him.

Editor's Note - The tragic mistakes that were made by the SYRIZA party over the last few months, and the catastrophic contribution of Yianis (with one 'n') Varoufakis, dramatically exacerbated Greece’s economy. All this made it all the more difficult to reach the necessary agreement and whoever denies this fact is lying through their teeth. Thankfully Alexis Tsipras finally realized that his responsibility is to Greece and all the Greek people first and then to his party and its supporters, because he is not a prime minister to his party, but the leader of all the Greek people. If all the reforms are implemented quickly then the consequences will be restricted and stability will once again finally be restored. We already know that this country needs major reforms and its citizens deserve to finally be told the truth without any sugarcoating, populist and petty political jargon. Costas Karamanlis attempted to do this in 2009 during his speech at a rally in Thessaloniki, but he was outweighed by the "Money Exists" George Papandreou who promised the moon and the stars to a population of people who for the past four decades do not want to hear the truth. What everyone needs to realize is that many sacrifices have been wasted since 2009 because every leader since Karamanlis has not dared to tell it like it is in fear of losing voter support. Power is a drug after all. The bottom line is, that we need to make radically make changes to the operation of this country so that we are not placed in this position again. We need to alter things because we do not want to have a Memorandum looming over our heads for survival. The does not build our levels of pride Frappers... it crumbles it. Our pride will only be restored again when we implement the reforms so that we rid our country of the cancers that caused it to be ill to begin with! If we just ignore the problems, not implement the changes and go on with business as usual we will be in the same state in no time again. This is what needs to be noted by all. Tsipras may have this country's reigns in his hands, as do our political forces, but we the people also need to face up to our responsibilities in its restoration.

References - SKAI Tv, ERT Tv, YouTube, Reuters, MEGA Tv, ANT1 tv, Kathimerini, Enikos, ProtoThema, The Guardian, Politico

July 13, 2015

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Greece Reaches Agreement Following Marathon Eurozone Summit - Gov't has to rush to push prerequisites by Wednesday

The marathon Summit on Greece, which began at 17:00 on Sunday, and ended Monday morning, finally concluded with a unanimous agreement. Announcing the news, President of the European Council Donald Tusk said in a tweet that a unanimous agreement was reached over an ESM program for Greece, in exchange for serious reforms. Cyprus' Nikos Christoulides, on the other hand tweeted that it "seems we have a deal", adding that "Europe deserves some good news".

A little after the Summit began on Sunday afternoon, a break was called at 19:00 for a fourth meeting between Greek Prime Miniser Alexis Tsipras, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and European Council President Donald Tusk. As announced, the IMF’s involvement in the new program is also locked, and the idea of the 50-billion-euro fund based is not going to be based in Luxembourg as first announced on Sunday, and will instead be based in Athens.

Tsipras has to now accept a series of prerequisites and enact them by Wednesday, in order to resume negotiations for the third bailout program. When the Greek parliament passes the measures, then there will be no need for a new European Summit on Wednesday, since the Eurogroup will authorize the resumption of negotiations.

Following the announcement of the agreement, Eurogroup chief Dijsselbloem underlined that the privatisation fund that is going to manage 50 bln in assets, is going to be based in Greece and headed by experts.
     "Trust was a very key issue, we looked at reforms, debts, financials needs. We were able to agree on all these issues to get Greece back on track. The Greek parliament will legislate very quickly on a number issues, which will help bring back trust to member states. There is agreement that Greek reforms need to be strengthened sooner. Assets will be transferred to a fund to be set up. The fund will monetise them by privatisation or running them. It will be used to help recapitalise banks. Once the 25 billion Euros needed for recapitalisation is repaid, the remaining funds will be used to bring down debt by 50% and the other 50% for the Greek government to reinvest into Greece."
The good news is that the state news agency in Greece (ANA-MPA) said that the prospect of a "Grexit" has finally appeared to be off the table and that the conditions for the financial support of Greece in the short and mid term were gradually maturing.

Here are the measures that have to be enacted by Wednesday by the Greek government in order to "rebuild trust" with Europe. Reuters published part of these measures, noting that changes should be expected.

Greek authorities must introduce the following measures:
  • streamline the VAT system and broaden the tax base to increase revenue;
  • introduce upfront measures to improve long-term sustainability of the pension system as part of a comprehensive pension reform program;
  • adopt a Code of Civil Procedure, which is a major overhaul of procedures and arrangements for the civil justice system and can significantly accelerate the judicial process and reduce costs;
  • safeguard the full legal independence of ELSTAT;
  • fully implement the relevant provisions of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, in particular by making the Fiscal Council operational before finalizing the MoU and introducing quasi-automatic spending cuts in case of deviations from ambitious primary surplus targets after seeking advice from the Fiscal Council and subject to prior approval of the institutions;
  • transposition the BRRD at the latest within a week with support from the European Commission.
Additionally, the Eurogroup noted that Greek authorities need to “to formally commit to strengthening their proposals in a number of areas identified by the institutions, with a satisfactory clear timetable for legislation and implementation, including structural benchmarks, milestones and quantitative benchmarks, to have clarity on the direction of policies over the medium-run”.

As such, Greece must
  • carry out ambitious pension reforms and specify policies to fully compensate for the fiscal impact of the Constitutional Court ruling on the 2012 pension reform and to implement the zero deficit clause or mutually agreeable alternative measures by October 2015;
  • adopt more ambitious product market reforms with a clear timetable for implementation of all OECD toolkit I recommendations, including Sunday trade, sales periods, pharmacy ownership, milk, bakeries, [over-the-counter pharmaceutical products in a next step], as well as for the opening of macro-critical closed professions (e.g. ferry transportation). On the follow-up of the OECD toolkit-II, manufacturing needs to be included in the prior action;
  • on energy markets, proceed with the privatisation of the electricity transmission network operator (ADMIE)[, unless replacement measures can be found that have equivalent effect on competition, as agreed by the institutions];
  • on labour markets, undertake rigorous reviews of collective bargaining, industrial action and collective dismissals in line with the timetable and the approach agreed with the institutions. [In addition, the Greek authorities shall modernize the legislative framework for collective dismissals, in line with best practice]. On the basis of these reviews, labour market policies should be aligned with international and European best practices, and should not involve a return to past policy settings which are not compatible with the goals of promoting sustainable and inclusive growth;
  • adopt the necessary steps to strengthen the financial sector, including decisive action on non-performing loans and measures to strengthen governance of the HFSF and the banks, in particular by eliminating any possibility for political interference especially in appointment processes.
On top of that, Greek authorities are called to develop a significantly scaled up privatization program with improved governance. This controversially means that Greek authorities called to invite an independent body to assess the price of assets sold and investigate the best way to further increase the independence of TAIPED with the involvement of the European Commission. Alternatively, valuable Greek assets to the tune of 50 billion euros will be transferred to an existing external and independent fund, to be privatized over time and decrease debt. Such fund would be managed by the Greek authorities under the supervision of the relevant European institutions.

According to the Eurogroup draft Greece’s financing needs are estimated to be between 82 and 86 billion euros.

Under this proposal Greece will receive 7 billion by 20th of July and further 5 billon euros by mid August. Greek banks would gain a 10-to-25 billion euro buffer, “in order to address potential bank recapitalization needs and resolution costs, of which EUR 10bn would be made available immediately in a segregated account at the ESM”.

While there is a possibility of debt re profiling, the Eurogroup draft explicitly stresses that “[nominal] haircuts on the debt cannot be undertaken”. Finally, the draft notes that should no agreement be reached, then “Greece should be offered swift negotiations on a time-out from the euro area, with possible debt restructuring”.

References: To Vima, Reuters, SKAI TV Greece, ERT Tv Greece, BBC, ANA-MPA, Kathimerini, Enikos, ProtoThema

July 12, 2015

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Eurogroup meeting continues - Renzi to slam Germany over Greece - Will Tsipras get rid of Lafazanis?

The news is not good... Greece could be nearing an exit from Euro, because reports focused on bailout talks claim that they are not encouraging. According to Greek press reports, Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos left from the marathon meeting without making a statement. Some say that this could be because things are still bleak.

The Eurogroup negotiations are going to continue on Sunday after breaking up Saturday night without a joint communique. The meeting will be held ahead of a European council meeting which is scheduled Sunday afternoon and expected to be attended by European leaders.

Late on Saturday night, Eurogroup Chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem was quoted by the press as saying that there would be an adjournment and that the main issue at the discussion was the issue of trust. He said that although the negotiations are “extremely difficult” there was some progress made.

Here is his complete statement:
    "We have adjourned our meeting and will continue tomorrow at 11.00 am. We had an in-depth discussion on Greek proposals. The issue of credibility and trust was discussed and also, of course, the financial issues involved. But we have not concluded our discussion and we will continue at 11.00 am. It is still very difficult, but work is still in progress."
Expressing a little bit of optimism, EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said that there is a chance that there is still hope for Greece.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said that he is "always" optimistic.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, on the other hand, said that he has had enough of watching Greece being bullied by its lenders and called for an end to the humiliation of Greece. He also said Germany should end the crisis. Reports said that on Sunday Tenzi is going to tell German Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop making it harder for Greece and end the crisis at the European Council on Sunday for the good of the EU.
     "Now common sense must prevail and an agreement must be reached. Italy does not want Greece to exit the euro and to Germany I say: enough is enough," Renzi was quoted as saying by Rome-based daily Il Messaggero.
     "Now that Tsipras has made proposals in line with the European demands, we must absolutely sign a deal. Humiliating a European partner after Greece has given up on just about everything is unthinkable," he added.
Meanwhile, a report from The Guardian said that Timo Soini, the nationalist True Finns leader, even threatened to bring down the government in Helsinki if Alex Stubb, his finance minister, agreed to a new bailout for Greece. The article claims that Stubb apparently came to the crunch meeting on a new bailout without a mandate to agree to one. Stubb was backed by Malta and Slovakia. Nonetheless, when Stubb left the meeting, he said that it was making "good progress".

Meanwhile it was reported that in a position paper, that was obtained by the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS), German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble proposed that Athens either improve its bailout plan or take a five-year "time-out" from the eurozone.

According to the article which was published on Sunday, the position paper, which the German Finance Minister sent to the other eurozone countries on Saturday, apparently slams the latest round of reform proposals offered by the Alexis Tsipras government and says that they fail to address "vitally important reform areas to modernize Greece, as well as boost economic growth and sustainable development in the long term.

In Greece, government sources denied that Schaeuble has set a Grexit issue at the Eurogroup meeting.

Taking a swipe at leftist opponents as his party gets set for a tough campaign, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that:
     "What's happening (in Greece) today? They're back in recession. Hopefully this weekend the Greek government will finally reach an agreement with European institutions... (but) it won't repair the damage that was caused."
In Athens, reports are saying that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is going to make some changes in his cabinet early this coming week if an agreement is reached with EU lenders and measures are approved by parliament.

In a statement issued after the vote in parliament last Friday, which the government won with the help of pro-European opposition parties by 251 votes, the Greek PM said he had a "strong mandate to complete the negotiations to reach an economically viable and socially fair agreement".
     "The priority now is to have a positive outcome to the negotiations. Everything else in its own time," he said.
In the announcement Tsipras also spoke out to the 17 dissenters in his party, who failed to vote "YES", as well as to a further 15 MPs who issued a statement after the vote saying they voted "YES" to the negotiations but are planning to vote "NO" to the measures.

Meanwhile, reports speculate that Tsipras is going to replace at least two ministers (Panagiotis Lafazanis, leader of the Left Platform faction within Syriza, and Dimitris Stratoulis who is Minister of Labor), because they voted "present" in the vote and may even ask for their resignations. The same reports also say that Tsipras is not happy with President of Parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou either, especially after her manifesto speech at Greek Parliament last Friday night.

At the same time, former Minister of Finance Yianis Varoufakis is coming under a lot of criticism from both within Greece and abroad for wasting five months in worthless negotiations.

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Costas Karagounis on Saturday stated that "The only discussion that concerns ND at the moment, as well as all the other citizens, is an agreement to be reached in order the country to remain in the eurozone". Karagounis also noted that "this is and the message of the parliament with the strong mandate to the prime minister to close the deal".

References - SKAI tv (Greece), ERT Tv, Reuters, The Guardian, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, enikos, Rome-based daily Il Messaggero, Protothema, Kathimerini

July 10, 2015

251 Greek MPs Vote YES On Agreement With Creditors - But SYRIZA Suffers Serious Losses - BREAKING (VIDEOS)

The Greek Parliament on Saturday morning authorized the SYRIZA government to sign an agreement with creditors and avert a meltdown of Greece’s eurozone membership, with an unprecedented vote drawing cross-party support for a deal. Several ruling party MPs defied the party line and voted “present”, including outspoken Parliament President Zoe Konstantopoulou and two ministers.

In all, 251 MPs voted YES, eight voted “present” and 32 voted NO. A total of EIGHT SYRIZA MPs voted “present”, TWO voted against. Along with those absent.

Former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis was absent from the vote, as was Rachel Makri, an outspoken deputy who switched from the Independent Greeks’ party to radical left SYRIZA during the last election.

It was a nail biting vote that began on Friday afternoon and ended early Saturday morning a little after 3:30am. Throughout the live coverage (on quite a few television networks) attention was placed on the number of "defections" from coalition MPs.

Addressing the crucial debate before the vote, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that there may be a "chance" for an agreement, but that nothing is certain and admitted that many mistakes were made by his government during its five months of negotiations.
     ""We want to prevent a political Grexit under an economic pretense. For six months I have done all that is humanely possible under difficult conditions, even under blackmail; I did not consider the political cost, I did not reconcile myself in order to ensure an easier hold on power,” Tsipras said.

Reference - SKAI Tv, ERT Tv, YouTube
, ,

SYRIZA hard Leftists Issue letter to return to drachma - While reform proposal goes to Parliament (Photos & Complete Reform Proposal)

The Greek government submitted its reform proposals to the President of the Eurogroup late on Thursday night in order to receive a new loan from the European Stability Mechanism. In order to move to the final phase of negotiations, as well as land the new loan agreement, the government has to now have this proposal approved by the Greek Parliament. As such Friday's parliamentary session is crucial to move on to the next phase.

During a teleconference with the Troika on Thursday night, the government detailed its proposals, and according to reports they were welcomed by our partners (even though some foreign reports claim that our creditors might require some changes). The document (that was drafted up by SYRIZA, and that we repeat are SYRIZA's and not the Troika's), was then submitted to the Greek Parliament, accompanied by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ request for a new bailout loan.

Addressing his parliamentary group, Tsipras referred to the referendum noting that the government received a mandate to bring a better agreement and not to get Greece out of the eurozone. The prime minister underlined that "we are before crucial decisions" and what matters "is SYRIZA parliamentary group to remain concrete and united" adding that "we came here (as government) all together and we will continue together or we will leave together".

It should be noted that the proposal does not include the signature of Minister of Productive Reconstruction Panagiotis Lafazanis as well as that of Minister of National Defense Panos Kammenos. As most of you already know, Lafazanis leads SYRIZA’s Leftist Platform, and has expressed his opposition to the terms of the agreement many times. On Thursday he made this clear and it came as no surprise that his signature did not accompany the proposal. His reluctance to approve the reform proposal, as well as Kammenos', may cause tension within the government, particularly when most of the opposition parties - New Democracy, the Potami party and PASOK - are prepared to approve the measures.

In fact SYRIZA's hardliners have called on Alexis Tsipras to reject the blackmail of the creditors and adopt a program that would eventually lead to the adoption of the drachma. The 4-page declaration prepared by six lawmakers of the Left Platform and distributed in SYRIZA's parliamentary group, slams Tsipras for failing to prepare the party and Greece for a move away from the Eurozone.
more on document at
 (The declaration -as seen above- is also signed by Stathis Leoutsakos,  Antonis Ntavanelos, Sophie Papadogiannis,  Costas Lapavitsas and Thanasis Petrakos)

Referring to the referendum, the lawmakers say:
     "The referendum demonstrated the will of the people for the final rejection of austerity regardless of the dilemmas raised by the foreign and the domestic establishment."
Despite the hard line adopted by the hard left within the governing party, many analysts believe that these deputies will eventually support the government because they do not want to be blamed for SYRIZA's collapse.

Aside from the countless hours of debate on how Greece arrived at this point, and the never ending blame game on previous governments, what matters now is that an end must come to all the uncertainty and insecurity that has been plaguing our country, our economy and our people.

In fact, it is time for our leaders, and especially the ruling party to assume their responsibilities. Partisan interests cannot prevail, everyone has to focus on what is in the best interest of Greece and its people and they should rise up to the challenge and do their duty by securing this agreement.

Indeed it is painful, and obviously our people will be set back for another three years, but this is much better than returning to the drachma and becoming Argentina (or Ukraine) number two and enduring never ending chaos and uncertainty.

Some who are in favor of Greece returning to the drachma, do not fully understand how their brothers and sisters in Greece have been living in agony with “euro or drachma” dilemma for the past five years. What they need to comprehend is that if an agreement is not reached on Sunday, and following the closure of banks and the imposition of capital controls, our country’s transition to a state of default will be initiated automatically and this will set an already ailing country back at least 20 years (economically, and socially).

The debate on the Greek government's proposals to the institutions will start on Friday at 19:00 local time at the parliament plenum, at the same time the "OXI" rally will gather outside of Parliament. Let us hope that this time the "OXI" is not to exit Europe.

Here is the full proposal:

Greece: Prior Actions
Policy Commitments and Actions to be taken in consultation with EC/ECB/IMF staff:

1. 2015 supplementary budget and 2016-19 MTFS
Adopt effective as of July 1, 2015 a supplementary 2015 budget and a 2016–19 medium-term fiscal strategy, supported by a sizable and credible package of measures. The new fiscal path is premised on a primary surplus target of (1, 2, 3), and 3.5 percent of GDP in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. The package includes VAT reforms (¶2), other tax policy measures (¶3), pension reforms (¶4), public administration reforms (¶5), reforms addressing shortfalls in tax collection enforcement (¶6), and other parametric measures as specified below.

2. VAT reform
Adopt legislation to reform the VAT system that will be effective as of July 1, 2015. The reform will target a net revenue gain of 1 percent of GDP on an annual basis from parametric changes. The new VAT system will: (i) unify the rates at a standard 23 percent rate, which will include restaurants and catering, and a reduced 13 percent rate for basic food, energy, hotels, and water (excluding sewage), and a super-reduced rate of 6 percent for pharmaceuticals, books, and theater; (ii) streamline exemptions to broaden the base and raise the tax on insurance; and (iii) Eliminate discounts on islands, starting with the islands with higher incomes and which are the most popular tourist destinations, except the most remote ones. This will be completed by end-2016, as appropriate and targeted fiscally neutral measures to compensate those inhabitants that are most in need are determined. The new VAT rates on hotels and islands will be implemented from October 2015.
The increase of the VAT rate described above may be reviewed at the end of 2016, provided that equivalent additional revenues are collected through measures taken against tax evasion and to improve collectability of VAT. Any decision to review and revise shall take place in consultation with the institutions.

3. Fiscal structural measures
Adopt legislation to:
  • - close possibilities for income tax avoidance (e.g., tighten the definition of farmers), take measures to increase the corporate income tax in 2015 and require 100 percent advance payments for corporate income and gradually for individual business income tax by 2017; phase out the preferential tax treatment of farmers in the income tax code by 2017; raise the solidarity surcharge;
  • - abolish  subsidies for excise on diesel oil for farmers and better target eligibility to halve heating oil subsidies expenditure in the budget 2016;
  • - in view of any revision of the zonal property values, adjust the property tax rates if necessary to safeguard the 2015 and 2016 property tax revenues at €2.65 billion and adjust the alternative minimum personal income taxation.
  • - eliminate the cross-border withholding tax introduced by the installments act (law XXXX/2015) and reverse the recent amendments to the ITC in the public administration act (law XXXX/2015), including the special treatment of agricultural income.
  • - adopt outstanding reforms on the codes on income tax, and tax procedures: introduce a new Criminal Law on Tax Evasion and Fraud to amend the Special Penal Law 2523/1997 and any other relevant legislation, and replace Article 55, ¶s 1 and 2, of the TPC, with a view, inter alia, to modernize and broaden the definition of tax fraud and evasion to all taxes; abolish all Code of Book and Records fines, including those levied under law 2523/1997 develop the tax framework for collective investment vehicles and their participants consistently with the ITC and in line with best practices in the EU.
  • - adopt legislation to upgrade the organic budget law to: (i) introduce a framework for independent agencies; (ii) phase out ex-ante audits of the Hellenic Court of Auditors and account officers (ypologos); (iii) give GDFSs exclusive financial service capacity and GAO powers to oversee public sector finances; and (iv) phase out fiscal audit offices by January 2017.
  • - increase the rate of the tonnage tax and phase out special tax treatments of the shipping industry.
  • PERSONAL INCOME TAX - By September 2015, (i) simplify the personal income tax credit schedule; (ii) re-design and integrate into the ITC the solidarity surcharge for income of 2016 to more effectively achieve progressivity in the income tax system; (iii) issue a circular on fines to ensure the comprehensive and consistent application of the TPC; (iv) and other remaining reforms as specified in ¶9 of the IMF Country Report No. 14/151.
HEALTH CARE - On health care, effective as of July 1, 2015, (i) re-establish full INN prescription, without exceptions, (ii) reduce as a first step the price of all off-patent drugs to 50 percent and all generics to 32.5 percent of the patent price, by repealing the grandfathering clause for medicines already in the market in 2012, and (iii)) review and limit the prices of diagnostic tests to bring structural spending in line with claw back targets; and (iv) collect in the full the 2014 clawback for private clinics, diagnostics and pharmaceuticals, and extend their 2015 clawback ceilings to 2016.
SOCIAL WELFARE - Launch the Social Welfare Review under the agreed terms of reference with the technical assistance of the World Bank to target savings of ½ percent of GDP which can help finance a fiscally neutral gradual roll-out of the GMI in January 2016.

Adopt legislation to:
  • - reduce the expenditure ceiling for military spending by €100 million in 2015 and by €200 million in 2016 with a targeted set of actions, including a reduction in headcount and procurement;   
  • - introduce reform of the income tax code, [inter alia covering capital taxation], investment vehicles, farmers and the self- employed, etc.;
  • - raise the corporate tax rate from 26% to 28%;
  • - introduce tax on television advertisements;
  • - announce international public tender for the acquisition of television licenses and usage related fees of relevant frequencies; and
  • - extend implementation of luxury tax on recreational vessels in excess of 5 meters and increase the rate from 10% to 13%, coming into effect from the collection of 2014 income taxes and beyond;
  • - extend Gross Gaming Revenues (GGR) taxation of 30% on VLT games expected to be installed at second half of 2015 and 2016;
  • - generate revenues through the issuance of 4G and 5G licenses.
We will consider some compensating measures, in case of fiscal shortfalls: (i) Increase the tax rate to income for rents, for annual incomes below €12,000 to 15% (from 11%) with an additional revenue of €160 million and for annual incomes above €12,000 to 35% (from 33%) with an additional revenue of €40 million; (ii)  the corporate income tax will increase by an additional percentage point (i.e. from 28% to 29%) that will result in additional revenues of €130 million.

4. Pension reform
The Authorities recognise that the pension system is unsustainable and needs fundamental reforms. This is why they will implement in full the 2010 pension reform law (3863/2010), and implement in full or replace/adjust the sustainability factors for supplementary and lump-sum pensions from the 2012 reform as a part of the new pension reform in October 2015 to achieve equivalent savings and take further steps to improve the pension system.
Effective from July 1, 2015 the authorities will phase-in reforms that would deliver estimated permanent savings of ¼-½ percent of GDP in 2015 and 1 percent of GDP on a full year basis in 2016 and thereafter by adopting legislation to:
  • - create strong disincentives to early retirement, including the adjustment of early retirement penalties, and through a gradual elimination of grandfathering to statutory retirement age and early retirement pathways progressively adapting to the limit of statutory retirement age of 67 years, or 62 and 40 years of contributions by 2022, applicable for all those retiring (except arduous professions, and mothers with children with disability) with immediate application;
  • - adopt legislation so that withdrawals from the Social Insurance Fund will incur an annual penalty, for those affected by the extension of the retirement age period, equivalent to 10 percent on top of the current penalty of 6 percent;
  • - integrate into ETEA all supplementary pension funds and ensure that, starting January 1, 2015, all supplementary pension funds are only financed by own contributions;
  • - better target social pensions by increasing OGA uninsured pension;
  • - Gradually phase out the solidarity grant (EKAS) for all pensioners by end-December 2019. This shall be legislated immediately and shall start as regards the top 20% of beneficiaries in March 2016 with the modalities of the phase out to be agreed with the institutions;
  • - freeze monthly guaranteed contributory pension limits in nominal terms until 2021;
  • - provide to people retiring after 30 June 2015 the basic, guaranteed contributory, and means tested pensions only at the attainment of the statutory normal retirement age of currently 67 years;
  • - increase the health contributions for pensioners from 4% to 6% on average and extend it to supplementary pensions;
  • - phase out all state-financed exemptions and harmonize contribution rules for all pension funds with the structure of contributions to IKA from 1 July 2015;
Moreover, in order to restore the sustainability of the pension system, the authorities will by 31 October 2015, legislate further reforms to take effect from 1 January  2016; (i) specific design and parametric improvements to establish a closer link between contributions and benefits; (ii) broaden and modernize the contribution and pension base for all self-employed, including by switching from notional to actual income, subject to minimum required contribution rules; (iii) revise and rationalize all different systems of basic, guaranteed contributory and means tested pension components, taking into account incentives to work and contribute; (iv) the main elements of a comprehensive SSFs consolidation, including any remaining harmonization of contribution and benefit payment rules and procedures across all funds; (v) abolish all nuisance charges financing pensions and offset by reducing benefits or increasing contributions in specific funds to take effect from 31 October 2015; and (vi) harmonize pension benefit rules of the agricultural fund (OGA) with the rest of the pension system in a pro rata manner, unless OGA is merged into other funds. The consolidation of social insurance funds will take place by end 2017. In 2015, the process will be activated through legislation to consolidate the social insurance funds under a single entity and the operational consolidation will have been completed by 31 December 2016. Further reductions in the operating costs and a more effective management of fund resources including improved balancing of needs between better-off and poorer-off funds will be actively encouraged.
The authorities will adopt legislation to fully offset the fiscal effects of the implementation of court rulings on the 2012 pension reform.
In parallel to the reform of the pension system, a Social Welfare Review will be carried out to ensure fairness of the various reforms.
The institutions are prepared to take into account other parametric measures within the pension system of equivalent effect to replace some of the measures mentioned above, taking into account their impact on growth, and provided that such measures are presented to the institutions during the design phase and are sufficiently concrete and quantifiable, and in the absence of this the default option is what is specified above.

5. Public Administration, Justice and Anti Corruption
 Adopt legislation to:
  • - reform the unified wage grid, effective 1 January, 2016, setting the key parameters in a fiscally neutral manner and consistent with the agreed wage bill targets and with comprehensive application across the public sector, including decompressing the wage distribution across the wage spectrumin connection with the skill, performance and responsibility of staff. (The authorities will also adopt legislation to rationalise the specialised wage grids, by end-November 2015);
  • - align non-wage benefits such as leave arrangements, per diems, travel allowances and perks, with best practices in the EU, effective 1 January 2016;
  • - establish within the new MTFS ceilings for the wage bill and the level of public employment consistent with achieving the fiscal targets and ensuring a declining path of the wage bill relative to GDP until 2019;
  • - hire managers and assess performance of all employees (with the aim to complete the hiring of new managers by 31 December 2015 subsequent to a review process)
  • - introduce a new permanent mobility scheme applied by Q4 2015. The scheme will promote the use of job description and will be linked with an online database that will include all current vacancies. Final decision on employee mobility will be taken by each service concerned. This will rationalize the allocation of resources as well as the staffing across the General Government.
  • - reform the Civil Procedure Code, in line with previous agreements;  introduce measures to reduce the backlog of cases in administrative courts; work closely with European institutions and technical assistance on e-justice, mediation and judicial statistics
  • - strengthen the governance of ELSTAT. It shall cover (i) the role and structure of the Advisory bodies of the Hellenic Statistical System, including the recasting of the Council of ELSS to an advisory Committee of the ELSS, and the role of the Good Practice Advisory Committee (GPAC); (ii) the recruitment procedure for the President of ELSTAT, to ensure that a President of the highest professional calibre is recruited, following transparent procedures and selection criteria; (iii) the involvement of ELSTAT as appropriate in any legislative or other legal proposal pertaining to any statistical matter; (iv) other issues that impact the independence of ELSTAT, including financial autonomy, the empowerment of ELSTAT to reallocate existing permanent posts and to hire staff where it is needed and to hire specialised scientific personnel, and the classification of the institution as a fiscal policy body in the recent law 4270/2014; role and powers of Bank of Greece in statistics in line with European legislation.
  • - Publish a revised Strategic Plan against Corruption by 31 July 2015. Amend and implement the legal framework for the declaration of assets and financing of the political parties and adopt legislation insulating financial crime and anti-corruption investigations from political intervention in individual cases.
  • Moreover, in collaboration with the OECD, the Authorities will:
  • - Strengthen controls in public entities and especially SOEs. Empower the Line Ministries to perform robust audit and control inspections to supervised entities including SOEs.
  • - Strengthen controls and internal audit processes in high spending Local Government Institutions and their supervised legal entities.
  • - Strengthen controls in public and private investment cases funded either by national or co-funded by other sources, public works and public procurement (e.g. in health sector, SDIT).
  • - Strengthen transparency and control processes and skills in tax and customs authorities.
  • - Assess major risks in the public procurement cycle, taking in consideration the recent developments (Central Purchasing and e-Procurement: KHMDHS and ESHDHS) and the need to have a clear governance framework. Develop strategy according to the assessment(Q4 2015)
  • - Implement strategy to mitigate public procurement risks.(Q1 2016)
  • - Assess 2 specific sectors, Health and Public Works in order to understand the existing constrains related to corruption and waste risks and propose measures to address them. Develop and implement strategy. (Q4 2015)

6. Tax administration
Take the following actions to:
  • - Adopt legislation to establish an autonomous revenue agency, that specifies: (i) the agency’s legal form, organization, status, and scope; (ii) the powers and functions of the CEO and the independent Board of Governors; (iii) the relationship to the Minister of Finance and other government entities; (iv) the agency’s human resource flexibility and relationship to the civil service; (v) budget autonomy, with own GDFS and a new funding formula to align incentives with revenue collection and guarantee budget predictability and flexibility; (vi) reporting to the government and parliament; and (vii) the immediate transfer of all tax- and customs-related capacities and duties and all tax- and customs-related staff in SDOE and other entities to the agency.
  • - on garnishments, adopt legislation to eliminate the 25 percent ceiling on wages and pensions and lower all thresholds of €1,500 while ensuring in all cases reasonable living conditions; accelerate procurement of IT infrastructure to automatize e-garnishment; improve tax debt write-off rules; remove tax officers’ personal liabilities for not pursuing old debt; remove restrictions on conducting audits of tax returns from 2012 subject to the external tax certificate scheme; and enforce if legally possible upfront payment collection in tax disputes.
  • - amend (i) the 2014–15 tax and SSC debt instalment schemes to exclude those who fail to pay current obligations and introduce a requirement for the tax and social security administrations to shorten the duration for those with the capacity to pay earlier and introduce market-based interest rates; the LDU and KEAO will assess by September 2015 the large debtors with tax and SSC debt exceeding €1 million (e.g. verify their capacity to pay and take corrective action) and (ii) the basic instalment scheme/TPC to adjust the market-based interest rates and suspend until end-2017 third-party verification and bank guarantee requirements.
  • - adopt legislation to accelerate de-registration procedures and limit VAT re-registration to protect VAT revenues and accelerate procurement of network analysis software; and provide the Presidential Decree needed for the significantly strengthening the reorganisation of the VAT enforcement section in order to strengthen VAT enforcement and combat VAT carousel fraud. The authorities will submit an application to the EU VAT Committee and prepare an assessment of the implication of an increase in the VAT threshold to €25.000.
  • - combat fuel smuggling, via legislative measures for locating storage tanks (fixed or mobile);
  • - Produce a comprehensive plan with technical assistance for combating tax evasion which includes (i) identification of undeclared deposits by checking bank transactions in banking institutions in Greece or abroad, (ii) introduction of  a voluntary disclosure program with appropriate sanctions, incentives and verification procedures, consistent with international best practice, and without any amnesty provisions (iii) request from EU member states to provide data on asset ownership and acquisition by Greek citizens, (iv) renew the request for technical assistance in tax administration and make full use of the resource in capacity building, (v) establish a wealth registry to improve monitoring.
  • - develop a costed plan for the promotion of the use of electronic payments, making use of the EU Structural and Investment Fund;
  • - Create a time series database to monitor the balance sheets of parent-subsisdiary companies to improve risk analysis criteria for transfer pricing

7. Financial sector
Adopt: (i) amendments to the corporate and household insolvency laws including to cover all debtors and bring the corporate insolvency law in line with the OCW law; (ii) amendments to the household insolvency law to introduce a mechanism to separate strategic defaulters from good faith debtors as well as simplify and strengthen the procedures and introduce measures to address the large backlog of cases; (iii) amendments to improve immediately the judicial framework for corporate and household insolvency matters; (iv) legislation to establish a regulated profession of insolvency administrators, not restricted to any specific profession and in line with good cross-country experience; (v) a comprehensive strategy for the financial system: this strategy will build on the strategy document from 2013, taking into account the new environment and conditions of the financial system and with a view of returning the banks in private ownership by attracting international strategic investors and to achieve a sustainable funding model over the medium term; and (vi) a holistic NPL resolution strategy, prepared with the help of a strategic consultant.

8. Labour market
Launch a consultation process to review the whole range of existing labour market arrangements, taking into account best practices elsewhere in Europe. Further input to the consultation process described above will be provided by international organisations, including the ILO. The organization and timelines shall be drawn up in consultation with the institutions. In this context, legislation on a new system of collective bargaining should be ready by Q4 2015. The authorities will take actions to fight undeclared work in order to strengthen the competitiveness of legal companies and protect workers as well as tax and social security revenues.

9. Product market
Adopt legislation to:
  • - implement  all pending recommendations of the OECD competition toolkit I, except OTC pharmaceutical products,  starting with: tourist buses, truck licenses, code of conduct for traditional foodstuff, eurocodes on building materials, and all the OECD toolkit II recommendations on beverages and petroleum products;
  • - In order to foster competition and increase consumer welfare immediately launch a new competition assessment, in collaboration and with the technical support of the OECD, on wholesale trade, construction, e-commerce and media. The assessment will be concluded by Q1 2016.The recommendations will be adopted by Q2 2016.
  • - open the restricted professions of engineers, notaries, actuaries, and bailiffs and liberalize the market for tourist rentals ;
  • - eliminate non-reciprocal nuisance charges and align the reciprocal nuisance charges to the services provided;
  • - reduce red tape, including on horizontal licensing requirements of investments and on low-risk activities as recommended by the World Bank, and administrative burden of companies based on the OECD recommendations, and (ii) establish a committee for the inter-ministerial preparation of legislation. Technical assistance of the World Bank will be sought to implement the easing of licensing requirements.
  • - design electronic one-stop shops for businesses through analysing information obligations businesses have to comply with, structuring them accordingly and helping to design a project on developing the necessary ICT tools and infrastructure (Q3 2015). Setting up the institutional & co-ordination structure, identification of the business life events to be included, identification and mapping of information obligations & administrative procedures and training of officials (Q4 2015). Launch (Q1 2016)
  • - adopt the reform of the gas market and its specific roadmap, and implementation should follow suit.
  • - take irreversible steps (including announcement of date for submission of binding offers) to privatize the electricity transmission company, ADMIE, or provide by October 2015 an alternative scheme, with equivalent results in terms of competition, in line with the best European practices to provide full ownership unbundling from PPC, while ensuring independence. 
On electricity markets, the authorities will reform the capacity payments system and other electricity market rules to avoid that some plants are forced to operate below their variable cost, and to prevent the netting of the arrears between PPC and market operator; set PPC tariffs based on costs, including replacement of the 20% discount for HV users with cost based tariffs; and notify NOME products to the European Commission. The authorities will also continue the implementation of the roadmap to the EU target model prepare a new framework for the support of renewable energies and for the implementation of energy efficiency and review energy taxation; the authorities will strengthen the electricity regulator’s financial and operational independence;

10. Privatization
  • - The Board of Directors of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund will approve its Asset Development Plan which will include for privatisation all the assets under HRDAF as of 31/12/2014; and the Cabinet will endorse the plan.
  • - To facilitate the completion of the tenders, the authorities will complete all government pending actions including those needed for the regional airports, TRAINOSE, Egnatia, the ports of Pireaus and Thessaloniki and Hellinikon (precise list in Technical Memorandum). This list of actions is updated regularly and the Government will ensure that all pending actions are timely implemented.
  • - The government and HRADF will announce binding bid dates for Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports of no later than end-October 2015, and for TRAINOSE ROSCO, with no material changes in the terms of the tenders.
  • - The government will transfer the state's shares in OTE to the HRADF.
  • - Take irreversible steps for the sale of the regional airports at the current terms with the winning bidder already selected.
References -  enikos, ANA-MPA, To Vima, ProtoThema, Kathimerini, Reuters, Bloomberg

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