Greece Reaches Deal With EU

After months of wrangling, Greece finally worked out a bailout agreement with its European creditors on Monday that will, if implemented, secure the country’s place in the euro and avoid financial collapse, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The terms of the deal, however, will be difficult both for Greeks and their radical left-led government, which since its election in January had vowed to stand up to the creditors and reject the budget cuts they have been demanding.

Before it can get 85 billion euros ($95.07 billion) in bailout cash and support for its banks to reopen, the Greek government will have to pass a raft of “austerity” measures (budget cuts / tax increases). These include sales tax increases, reforms to pensions, and labor market reforms.

Under the deal struck with creditors during an all-night meeting in Brussels, the Greek parliament must approve by Wednesday key reforms,” writes the Associated Press.

They include VAT tax increases and pension cuts, and protecting the independence of Greece’s statistics service, which at the start of the crisis in 2009 was found to have greatly miscalculated the country’s finances for years.

The Greek leader – Alexis Tsipras – and his left-wing government were elected in January to stand up to budget demands.

For them, the payoff of the negotiations in Brussels was clear: about 85 billion euros ($95.07 billion) in loans and financial support over three years, preserving Greek membership in the euro, and helping their country stave off financial collapse.

“We managed to avoid the most extreme measures,” Tsipras said after the summit, and he said he successfully got creditors to drop a demand that Greek assets be transferred abroad as a form of collateral, according to U.S. News and World Report.

http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2015/07/13/greece-talks-drag-beyond-deadline-amid-warnings-of-euro-exit

Greek Police, Military On High Alert Due To ‘Austerity’ Talks, Referendum

Riot police stand guard during a bailout protest in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Police leave has been cancelled and the army put on standby as the Greek authorities take steps to preserve order, writes The Times of London.

Security was increased at key locations including foreign embassies, utilities, and warehouses stocking goods that are in danger of running out, notably pharmaceuticals, Yiannis Panousis, the public order minister, said.

The country is approaching one of the most important votes in its modern history on Sunday — one that could redefine its place in Europe — yet many people acknowledge they barely have a clue as to what, exactly, they are voting on.

Erika Papamichalopoulou, 27, a resident of Athens, said “No one is saying what will happen to us if we say yes, or what will happen to us if we say no,” writes The New York Times.

Greece missed a debt payment to the International Monetary Fund, and without new financial aid it is likely to default on other debts this month. Most European nations are in no rush to help, and in fact seem content to watch the Greeks dangle for a bit.  Greek banks have shut down, according to The New York Times.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who called for the referendum, has vacillated from bitter confrontation with the country’s creditors and conciliatory outreach. Even as he signaled on Wednesday that he would accept many of the demands made by the creditors, he pressed ahead with the referendum urging Greeks to reject the proposal containing those demands.

The proposal that Greeks are voting on is no longer on the table, writes The New York Times, and was made around the framework of a bailout package that expired at midnight on Tuesday.

Mr. Tsipras’s unexpected decision to call the referendum was the equivalent of a frustrated chess player trying to break open a stalemated match with a daring last-minute move that his opponent considered to be against the rules.

The Greeks and their creditors — the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the other 18 eurozone countries — had spent months making moves and countermoves in largely fruitless negotiations over a deal that would unlock frozen funds for Greece in exchange for pension cuts, fiscal reforms and other measures demanded by creditors.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Tsipras then appeared on television early Saturday morning and announced that he would hold a national referendum five days after the Tuesday deadline for the debt payment to the I.M.F. and the extension of its existing bailout.

He said creditors were demanding more of the same austerity policies he and his party blame for wrecking the Greek economy since 2010. He said that his government had no mandate to approve such a deal but that he would let voters decide.

Analysts agree that a “yes” vote would mean the end for Mr. Tsipras. His government would likely step down next week, and the Greek president – a largely ceremonial figure, though not in moments of collapsing government – would need to assemble a “unity” government from different parties.

According to The Times of London, there is currently a movement towards a “yes” vote in Greece.

(Updated photo)

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/europe/article4484196.ece

Kyle Kulinski On The Rise Of Neo-Fascism In Europe

Kyle Kulinski discusses an article by Alter Net that discusses the rise of Neo-Fascism in Europe.
A Secular Talk video.


Video from 2013.
http://www.alternet.org/economy/tea-party-and-europe

Welfare Freeze Proposed In Britain?

GeorgeOsbourne1In the UK, George Osborne – a British Conservative Party politician – proposed a freeze on working-age welfare benefits if the Conservatives are elected in 2015.  But its effect may cause some to reflect.

The Chancellor calculates that it will save £3.2 billion over two years, 2016/17 and 2017/18. Treasury figures suggest the total welfare bill across those two years will be roughly £356 billion – so the saving would amount to about 0.9% of the total.

To put it another way, the freeze would not affect 99.1% of welfare spending. Nevertheless, £3 billion is not an insignificant sum and some will argue it would be an important contribution to cutting the deficit.

The question, however, is whether the real-terms cut targets the right people. Around two-thirds of those affected by the freeze are in working households.

Government figures show that some 67% of those receiving child or working tax credits are designated to be “in-work families”. Most of those in receipt of child benefit will also be working.

It will also hit some of the poorest families in Britain. Income Support, which is included in the freeze, is a benefit specifically targeted at the poor. Child benefit can be the difference between just getting by and going without the basics for some low-income families.