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Merkel, Hollande discuss economic crisis with Greece’s Tsipras

Germany's Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have spoken to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to discuss the debt crisis. The deadline to reach a deal runs out at the end of this month. Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande spoke by telephone with Greece's prime minister on Saturday, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told news agency dpa. The call, which took place on the eve of the G7 summit, seemed to suggest that the Athens debt crisis could dominate the meeting of the seven nations. Tsipras himself is not attending the meeting. Sources close to the government in Greece said that the three politicians agreed to meet on the sidelines of an EU summit with Latin American and Caribbean countries on Wednesday. G7 countries had meanwhile made up their minds to display a united front when it came to Athens. Frustration with Athens Tsipras on Friday urged his creditors, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank, to withdraw "absurd" demands and unlock 7.2 billion euros ($8 billion) worth of funds for his country. EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker however showed his displeasure with Greek leaders' reluctance to implement reforms. There were also rumors that Juncker refused to speak with Tsipras when the latter called him, saying there were no new developments to talk about. Tsipras' office said it was waiting for "comments from EU institutions" on its financial suggestions. Time is running out Athens has very little time to resolve its debt issues. Pressure has also increased after Greece opted to postpone a key payment to the IMF on Friday and decided to pay all its due loans, totaling 1.6 billion euros, by June 30. Juncker met with Tsipras and Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem earlier this week to renegotiate terms, but to no avail. Tsipras and his left-wing Syriza party is unwilling to implement cuts on pensions and salaries, but the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB) are unwilling to release the last tranche of a 240-billion-euro bailout package to the economically stricken country.

Germany’s Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have spoken to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to discuss the debt crisis. The deadline to reach a deal runs out at the end of this month. Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande spoke by telephone with Greece’s prime minister on Saturday, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told news agency dpa. The call, which ... Read More »

Egyptian activist barred from traveling to Germany ahead of el-Sissi’s Berlin visit

A prominent Egyptian activist has been refused permission to fly to Germany for a human rights roundtable. The incident came ahead of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's visit to Berlin to boost bilateral ties. An Egyptian human rights activist was barred from leaving for Germany on Tuesday, the same day his country's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (pictured above) was due to arrive in Berlin for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mohammed Lotfy, executive director of the non-profit organization Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), said he had his passport taken away from a security officer who told him "you're not going to travel, you're going back home." Lotfy said the officer refused to elaborate on why he wasn't permitted to fly, and when pressed simply answered; "security reasons." The former Amnesty International researcher had been scheduled to address a roundtable at the German parliament, the Bundestag, on the subject of the human rights situation in Egypt, which according to monitors has reached abysmal depths under el-Sissi's rule. In a statement on their website, ECRF said it "deplores such repressive measures taken by the Egyptian state, attempts to close the Egyptian public sphere and isolating Egyptians from the international community." Bundestag president disappointed in lack of Egyptian democracy Norbert Lammert, the head of the Bundestag, last month backed out of a meeting with el-Sissi while he was in Berlin, citing the lack of democratic participation in Egypt's political process. "I had hoped that cooperation would be possible between the parliaments of our two countries," Lammert, a member of Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), told the dpa news agency on Tuesday. "Such was the plan between us and the then-democratically parliament. In the meantime, however, there is neither a parliament in Egypt nor an appropriate plan to elect one." El-Sissi is set to meet with Merkel and President Joachim Gauck on Wednesday in a first state visit that has long been desired by the Egyptian leader. The former military chief hopes to boost economic, security and military cooperation with Germany. His visit will wrap up on Thursday following meetings with business leaders as he seeks to top last year's 4.4 billion euros ($4.8 billion) in bilateral trade.

A prominent Egyptian activist has been refused permission to fly to Germany for a human rights roundtable. The incident came ahead of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s visit to Berlin to boost bilateral ties. An Egyptian human rights activist was barred from leaving for Germany on Tuesday, the same day his country’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (pictured above) was due to arrive ... Read More »

Ahead of Berlin meeting with Chancellor Merkel, EC president warns on Grexit

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned of the consequences of Greece leaving the euro. His comments come ahead of a meeting with the German and French leaders in Berlin on Monday. In an article published in Monday's edition of the "Süddeutsche Zeitung," European Commission President Juncker said a Greek exit from the eurozone could damage trust in the single currency. "I don't share the idea that we will have fewer worries and restraints if Greece gives up the euro," Juncker said. If a country were to withdraw from the euro, "it would fix the idea in heads that the euro is not irreversible," he added. Juncker is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Berlin on Monday. He told the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" that Greece would be on the agenda, although it was not the official reason for the talks. On Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke by telephone with the leaders of France and Germany in their second conference call in three days to discuss progress in the talks between Athens and its lenders, Greek officials said. Greece needs to complete negotiations on a 7.2-billion-euro ($7.8 billion) payment from the bailout plan that has kept its finances afloat for the last five years. Otherwise, the country could default within weeks and crash out of the euro currency union. Tspiras in 'Le Monde' On Sunday, in an article on the website of French daily newspaper "Le Monde," Tsipras blamed "absurd proposals" of creditors for the failure to reach a deal that could release emergency aid to avert default. He cited the uncompromising approach of the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for five months of fruitless negotiations. "The lack of an agreement so far is not due to the supposed intransigent, uncompromising and incomprehensible Greek stance," he wrote. "It is due to the insistence of certain institutional actors on submitting absurd proposals and displaying a total indifference to the recent democratic choice of the Greek people." For his part, Juncker warned an exit of Greece from the euro, a "Grexit," could prompt international investors to pull out of Europe. The EC head said Japan's prime minister had told him that Japan's investment in Europe depended on having confidence in the European currency. Juncker also called on the IMF to continue to support Greece. "It won't work without the IMF," Juncker said, adding that the German government had made the IMF's participation in the 2010 bailout program a particular condition for aid to Greece.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned of the consequences of Greece leaving the euro. His comments come ahead of a meeting with the German and French leaders in Berlin on Monday. In an article published in Monday’s edition of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung,” European Commission President Juncker said a Greek exit from the eurozone could damage trust in the single ... Read More »

BND boss Schindler defends cooperation with NSA

The head of the BND has said that it needs to cooperate with the NSA to safeguard the country. He was testifying before an inquiry into allegations that the BND helped the NSA spy on European firms and officials. BND President Gerhard Schindler told a parliamentary committee looking into the allegations that although errors had been made, Germany security depended on his agency's cooperation with the US National Security Agency. "The NSA is our partner, not our opponent," Schindler told the members of the Bundestag committee on Thursday. He also said that any attempt to end cooperation between the two organizations would hamper the BND's efforts to protect Germany from terrorist attacks. "We are dependent on the NSA, not the other way around," Schindler said, adding that the Americans had provided the BND with significant information and warnings about terrorist activities, technology and know-how in recent years. Spot-checks on 'selectors' Where the German agency erred he said, was in failing to properly vet the list of "selectors" or search criteria that the NSA had asked it to use in surveillance activities conducted from the BND's facility at Bad Aibling in the south of the country. Selectors can include things such as names, telephone numbers or Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. The Bad Aibling facility was meant to gather data coming out of places like Somalia and Afghanistan, but in recent weeks it came to light that some of these selectors provided by the NSA helped it spy on European companies and officials. Schindler said the problem was that the BND had initially only conducted spot-checks on the selectors and that the first comprehensive check didn't take place until August 2013. He said that while some spot-checks had indicated that there may be a problem in 2010 and 2011, the information had not been passed on the top levels of the BND's management. Schindler didn't join the BND until 2012. He also said that he had only learned of the problematic selectors discovered in 2013 many months after the fact. Snowden revelations The NSA has been widely criticized in Germany since revelations leaked by its former contractor, Edward Snowden in 2013 showed some of the extend of the US agency's activities, including tapping into Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone. However, Schindler warned that the scrutiny that the BND was coming under, particularly since the most recent revelations was having a negative impact on its ability to gather intelligence, and that several allied agencies were already reviewing their cooperation deals with the BND. "These developments cause me great worry, as they will ultimately call into question the ability of this service to function in the future," he told lawmakers. "We cannot do our job without international cooperation."

The head of the BND has said that it needs to cooperate with the NSA to safeguard the country. He was testifying before an inquiry into allegations that the BND helped the NSA spy on European firms and officials. BND President Gerhard Schindler told a parliamentary committee looking into the allegations that although errors had been made, Germany security depended ... Read More »

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