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Tsipras marks year in office with vow to implement pension reform

Greek premier Alexis Tsipras has marked one year in office by telling supporters that his pension reform bill must go ahead. Rural waverers among his leftists are threatening to erode his coalition's three-seat majority. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told 4,000 supporters in Athens on Sunday that he was determined to make a pitch for pension reform, despite opposition from farmers, the self-employed and small firm proprietor who will be hit by higher contributions. The reform "must go ahead, it's necessary," said Tsipras, who intends to put the bill to parliament early next month. Tspiras' remarks came on the eve of Monday's one-year anniversary of the election victory of his leftist Syriza party, a year marked by dramatic negotiations with Brussels over Greece's future in the eurozone and unprecedented arrivals of refugees, mainly from war-torn Syria, headed for Western Europe. Pension reform sought by bailout lenders The pension bill is designed to save 1.8 billion euros ($1.7 billion) this year, and is crucial for the first review of Greece's EU-led bailout by international lenders, who have also pressed for tax overhauls. Tsipras has vowed, however, not to trim pensions from current levels, saying they had "already been cut by 40 percent" by previous Greek governments under pressure from key lenders such as the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Farmers, who three years ago hailed Tsipras as an opposition politician, are now widely critical because their payments into Greece's insurance scheme could triple. "He lied, he imposed more taxes than all the others put together," Yiorgos Kostakiopoulos, a wheat and cotton grower, told Reuters on Saturday. "He was here with us, told us that he would fight with us for a dignified income for us and our children," said the father of three. Greece's Labor Ministry recently claimed that many farmers were under-declaring their incomes, leaving the state to top up their pensions by up to 90 percent. Already, as part of broader reforms, fuel subsidies have been slashed and taxes on fertilizer and animal feed increased. Political analyst George Sefertzis told AFP that Tsipras was now facing an uncertain negotiating outcome - exactly what happened to his conservative predecessor Antonis Samaras in his final six months of power in 2014. Dramatic year Tspiras's emerged as Syriza's stalwart in January 2015, vowing a debt revolution. Months of dramatic negotiations with Brussels were followed by re-election in September, again as head of a coalition with the nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, but minus radical Syriza dissenters. In those months, Greece was nearly evicted from the eurozone. The latest surveys show Greece's right-wing opposition resurging in voter support. Tsipras has 153 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament, but Syriza waverers have threatened to erode that three-seat lead to press the views of small-scale farmers. Europe transformed: Tspiras On Sunday, Tspiras claimed that his government's struggle with Brussels had brought long-lasting change to the EU. "Europe is no longer the same," he said, referring to recent anti-austerity swings in electoral sentiment in Spain, Italy and Portugal. At the height of last year's highly public Greece-EU row, Tspiras argued that debt-swamped Greece would never recover if bailout lenders forced it to just make spending cuts and hike taxes, without investments. In July, Tsipras ousted his outspoken Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and signed another rescue package worth 86 billion euros coupled with spending cuts. On Friday, Standard and Poor's raised its credit rating for Greek debt by one notch - up to B- from CCC+, removing Greece from default vulnerability.

Greek premier Alexis Tsipras has marked one year in office by telling supporters that his pension reform bill must go ahead. Rural waverers among his leftists are threatening to erode his coalition’s three-seat majority. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told 4,000 supporters in Athens on Sunday that he was determined to make a pitch for pension reform, despite opposition from ... Read More »

Rebelo de Sousa wins Portuguese presidency

Law professor and TV pundit Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has won the Portuguese presidency with 52 percent of the vote. The ballot has been closely watched by Brussels over concerns about Lisbon's handling of bailout rules. Speaking after his win on Sunday evening, Social Democrat Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa vowed to "heal the wounds" left since Portugal's last parliamentary election in October. The narrow result allowed the left to oust a center-right administration that had imposed tough austerity rules under international bailout rules established in 2011. According to updated results late Sunday, based on 98 percent of constituencies, Rebelo de Sousa had cleared the 50-percent threshold to avoid a runoff by winning 52.4 percent of the votes. Doubt had been cast by an earlier exit poll from public broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa which suggested he had fallen short of that threshold. Following the news of the result, Rebelo de Sousa's opponents have both conceded defeat. Independent leftist Antonio Sampaio da Novoa finished with 22 percent of the vote, while Left Bloc candidate Marisa Matias took 10 percent. Voter turnout was put at a low 52 percent after two weeks of campaigning. Influential role in crises Rebelo de Sousa looks set to become Portugal's mostly ceremonial head of state on March 9, replacing Aníbal Cavaco Silva, who has served the maximum of two five-year terms. In a crisis, Portugal's president can dissolve parliament, giving the new president make-or-break powers over the nation's shaky Socialist-minority government. The minority government runs Portugal with the backing of the Communist Party and the radical Left Bloc, and has tried to end austerity measures while exercising financial prudence. Many political analysts, however, do not expect the Socialist-led government to serve a full four-year term. Outgoing President Cavaco Silva swore in the Socialists late last year, saying he did so only because he was barred by the constitution from calling a new parliamentary election in his last six months in office. That option will again become possible from April 4, six months after the last parliamentary election. On Sunday, Prime Minister Antonio Costa vowed his "full cooperation" with the new president. Under EU scrutiny Brussels has watched closely to see whether Lisbon will abide by stringent economic measures that unlocked the 78-billion-euro ($85-billion) bailout in 2011. Rebelo de Sousa previously served as a newspaper editor, a popular media pundit, has been a junior member of government since the 1970s, and is a former member of the European Parliament.

Law professor and TV pundit Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has won the Portuguese presidency with 52 percent of the vote. The ballot has been closely watched by Brussels over concerns about Lisbon’s handling of bailout rules. Speaking after his win on Sunday evening, Social Democrat Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa vowed to “heal the wounds” left since Portugal’s last parliamentary election ... Read More »

Portugal set to increase minimum wage despite concerns

Portuguese left-wing government announced it would decree a minimum wage boost, after employers and union groups failed to reach a deal. The increase could jeopardize the country's productivity, businesses warn. The monthly minimum wage is to rise from the current 505 euros ($544) to 530 euros on January 1, Labor Minister Jose Vieira da Silva said on Tuesday. The decision comes after bargaining between the unions and business representatives ended in failure. The government is willing to discuss ways to help companies absorb the increase, according to the minister. Portuguese businesses have pushed for a cut in their social security contributions. However, the authorities say that no immediate reduction is in the works. "Workers have to earn more, but companies cannot be overloaded with charges of this magnitude, which they cannot absorb overnight," said Antonio Saraiva, head of Portugal's main business lobby group. Reaching for 600 euro Portugal requested a 78-billion-euro bailout in 2011 and only left the scheme in May 2014, with the previous conservative government pushing through harsh budget cuts. The minimum wage was frozen at 485 euros until late 2014, before the center-right coalition raised it to its current level. Last month, Saraiva's Portuguese Business Confederation warned the newly formed Socialist government that the further increase could undermine productivity gains made during the bailout period. The Socialists, supported by the Communist Party and the radical Left Bloc, have campaigned on rolling back tax and pay cuts. They have also pledged to undo reductions on pensions and public services. At the same time, the current Prime Minister Antonio Costa pledged to stick with European budget guidelines, and many companies fear that the policies might translate into higher taxes. The government plans to gradually raise the minimum wage until it reaches 600 euros per month by 2019.

Portuguese left-wing government announced it would decree a minimum wage boost, after employers and union groups failed to reach a deal. The increase could jeopardize the country’s productivity, businesses warn. The monthly minimum wage is to rise from the current 505 euros ($544) to 530 euros on January 1, Labor Minister Jose Vieira da Silva said on Tuesday. The decision ... Read More »

Polls closing as Greeks look ahead to election results

یونان میں عام انتخابات کا انعقاد آج اتوار کے روز کیا جا رہا ہے۔ یہ اِس سال میں ہونے والے دوسرے الیکشن ہیں۔ بائیں بازو کی سیریزا اور قدامت پسند نیو ڈیموکریسی پارٹیوں کے درمیان سخت مقابلے کی توقع کی جا رہی ہے۔ مالی مشکلات کے شکار یورپی ملک یونان میں عوام ایک مرتبہ پھر پولنگ اسٹیشنوں کا رخ کر رہے ہیں۔ اتوار کی علی الصبح سے پولنگ بوتھ ووٹرز کا انتظار کر رہے ہیں۔ اِس مرتبہ ٹرن آؤٹ کم رہنے کا اندازہ لگایا گیا ہے۔ مبصرین کا خیال ہے کہ معاشی مشکلات کے حل کی خاطر بار بار الیکشن کروائے جا رہے ہیں اور ہر مرتبہ عوام کو مہنگائی کے علاوہ کچھ بھی حاصل نہیں ہو رہا۔ سابق یونانی وزیراعظم الیکسِس سِپراس کے ساتھی اور سابق وزیر خزانہ یوکلید ٹسلکالوٹوس کا کہنا ہے کہ انتخابات کا کاروباری پہلو یونان کے لیے نقصان دہ ہو سکتا ہے۔ یونانی الیکشن میں نو پارٹیاں عوامی تائید حاصل کرنے کی خواہش رکھتی ہیں۔ تین فیصد کے مطلوبہ ووٹ حاصل کرنے کے بعد ہی کوئی پارٹی پارلیمنٹ میں نشستیں حاصل کرنے کی پوزیشن میں ہوتی ہے۔ اتوار کی پولنگ یونان کے مقامی وقت کے مطابق صبح چھ بجے شروع ہوئی اور ٹھیک بارہ گھنٹے کے بعد شام چھ بجے بند ہو گی۔ پولنگ اسٹیشنز بغیر کسی وقفے کے ووٹرز کے لیے کھلے رہیں گے۔ یونان میں رجسٹرڈ ووٹرز کی تعداد اٹھانوے لاکھ ہے۔ ان میں ایک لاکھ دس ہزار نوجوان ووٹرز بھی شامل ہیں۔ یہ طے ہے کہ پہلی اور دوسری پوزیشن سیریزا اور نیو ڈیموکریسی پارٹیوں کو حاصل ہو گی۔ تیسری پوزیشن پر ماضی کی مشہور جماعت سوشلسٹ پاسوک پارٹی اور انتہائی دائیں بازو کی ایک نئی جماعت گولڈن ڈان کے درمیان سخت مقابلہ ہے۔ بائیں بازو کی سیریزا پارٹی کو رواں برس کے اوائل میں عوام کی حمایت سے بھرپور کامیابی ملی لیکن اِس پارٹی کے جھنڈے تلے بننے والی حکومت بھی بیل آؤٹ پیکج کے سامنے جھک گئی۔ حالیہ ایام میں کئی انٹرویوز میں سیریزا پارٹی کے لیڈر سِپراس نے بیل آؤٹ پیکج کو قبول کرنے کے فیصلے کی حمایت کی ہے۔ سپراس کا کہنا ہے کہ انہوں نے ملک کے مستقبل کو اپنی سیاسی پارٹی پر فوقیت دیتے ہوئے فیصلے کیے ہیں۔ یہ امر اہم ہے کہ الیکسِس سِپراس نے انتخابات میں بیل آؤٹ پیکج اور بچتی پالیسیوں کی مخالفت کے عزم کے ساتھ عوامی ووٹ حاصل کیے تھے۔ نیو ڈیموکریسی پارٹی کے سربراہ وینجیلِس میمارکِیس نے بائیں بازو کی سیریزا پارٹی پر الزام لگایا ہے کہ وہ ملکی معیشت کو مفلوج کرنے میں کامیاب رہی ہے۔ میمارکِیس نے بائیں بازو کی سات ماہ تک چلنے والی حکومت کو ایک تجرباتی حکومت قرار دیتے ہوئے کہا کہ یہ ملک کے لیے انتہائی مشکلات کا باعث بنی۔ دائیں بازو کے قدامت پسند رہنما نے یونانی عوام کو خبر دار کیا ہے کہ وہ اگر دوبارہ تجرباتی حکومت قائم کرنے والے لیڈر کو منتخب کریں گے تو یہ ایک بھاری غلطی ہو گی اور ملک کو کئی اقتصادی پیچیدگیوں کا سامنا ہو سکتا ہے۔

A month after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned, voters in Greece cast their ballots for the new government. Opinion polls indicate a close run contest for the fifth election in six years. Former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is looking for a fresh mandate to push through the reforms agreed under the terms of the new 86-billion-euro ($97-billion) international rescue deal ... Read More »

Greece: Far-left lawmakers defect from Tsipras’ Syriza party ahead of possible polls

A group of 25 members of Greece's governing Syriza party have broken off to form their own group in parliament. The lawmakers had defied a call by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to back Greece's third financial bailout. With its 25 seats, the new parliamentary group, to be called "Popular Unity," is the third largest in the Greek parliament, after Syriza with 124 seats and the conservative New Democracy party, with 76 in the 300-seat legislature. The new parliamentary group, made up of far-left former members of the already far-left Syriza party, is to be led by the former energy minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis (pictured above). The 25 lawmakers announced the move in a letter to parliament on Friday, a day after Alexis Tsipras used a televised address to announce that he was stepping down as prime minister. "I wish to be fully frank with you. We did not achieve the agreement that we were hoping for before the January elections," Tsipras said, referring to Greece's third international bailout worth 86 billlion euros ($96 billion). "But ... (the agreement we have) was the best anyone could have achieved. We are obliged to observe this agreement, but at the same time we will do our utmost to minimize its negative consequences," he said. Tsipras' resignation, coupled with the defection of a large chunk of his parliamentary group, meant that Greece appeared set to head into its fifth general election in the space of six years. However, in a bid to avoid early polls, the country's president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, on Friday asked the leader of the second party, Evangelos Meimarakis to try to put together a coalition government. Recent opinion polls indicate that if the president does wind up calling a fresh election, Tsipras and Syriza are likely to win again, although not with the majority that they took in the January polls, when they ran on a platform of rejecting the sort of austerity measures that they wound up agreeing to in Greece's third bailout.

A group of 25 members of Greece’s governing Syriza party have broken off to form their own group in parliament. The lawmakers had defied a call by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to back Greece’s third financial bailout. With its 25 seats, the new parliamentary group, to be called “Popular Unity,” is the third largest in the Greek parliament, after Syriza ... Read More »

Eurozone approves first round of Greece bailout

The decision from eurozone finance ministers has come after pro-bailout votes in the German and Dutch parliaments. Dutch Prime Minister Rutte survived pushback from his own party to secure support for the bailout. The finance ministers from the 19 eurozone countries gave the green light on Wednesday for the latest round of bailout funds to Greece, according the EU commissioner for the common euro currency, Valdis Dombrovskis. The decision from the Eurogroup clears the final hurdle for Athens to receive its 85 billion euro ($95 billion) in rescue funds. The finance ministers approved the first tranche of 13 billion euros just in time for Greece to meet Thursday's deadline for repaying about 3.4 billion euros to the European Central Bank. The Hague, Berlin say 'yes' to bailout The Eurogroup's move came right after the Dutch parliament supported the third bailout package to Greece, voting down a motion against it by a margin of 81-52. Prime Minister Mark Rutte also survived a no confidence vote called by far-right politician Geert Wilders. Wilders accused Rutte, of the center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), of "betraying his electorate" by reneging on a promise not to send any more money to cash-strapped Greece. Although his cabinet, which includes Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, stood behind the prime minister on the bailout, some other members of the VVD were quite skeptical, saying they would only support the rescue fund with the backing of the International Monetary Fund. It was only after a lengthy closed-door meeting on Tuesday that the VVD bloc in parliament grudgingly agreed to support the bailout. In Wednesday's vote, only one VVD member of parliament voted to reject it. The IMF, for its part, said through chief Christine Lagarde that it would wait until October to decide whether or not to participate, though she called it "an important step forward." Rutte emphasized that an approval from the Netherlands' parliament was not necessary for the bailout to go forward, but that politically it was better to be sure the majority of lawmakers were behind the loan before he signed off on it. Earlier on Wednesday, the German parliament approved the funds by an overwhelming majority, despite skepticism amongst some voters over pouring more money into Greece.

The decision from eurozone finance ministers has come after pro-bailout votes in the German and Dutch parliaments. Dutch Prime Minister Rutte survived pushback from his own party to secure support for the bailout. The finance ministers from the 19 eurozone countries gave the green light on Wednesday for the latest round of bailout funds to Greece, according the EU commissioner ... Read More »

Merkel faces rebellion within ranks for third Greek bailout vote

Germany's lower house, the Bundestag, is expected to vote overwhelmingly in favor of a third bailout for Greece. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel has been facing a rebellion from within her own party ahead of the vote. Although a significant number of Merkel's conservative lawmakers appeared likely to vote against the 86-billion-euro ($94.84-billlion) bailout for Greece on Wednesday, a clear majority appeared to be in favor. The bailout was also expected to attract support from other parties in the chamber, including Merkel's junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, and the opposition Greens. In a mock vote on Tuesday to test the mood among Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party the CSU, 56 of the 311 conservative lawmakers voted against the bailout, while four of them abstained. While few expect the measures to be rejected in the Bundestag vote - for which parliamentarians were recalled - the antipathy of a considerable portion of CSU and CDU members of parliament has been seen as a warning. Ahead of the Tuesday evening test vote, Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble (pictured with Merkel above, at right), urged party parliamentarians to vote "yes." Final chance for success? Schäuble told parliamentarians he wholeheartedly supported the third bailout and that he was sure the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would take part, despite apparent differences with the EU. Many conservatives view the IMF's participation as necessary in ensuring that reforms promised by Greece are carried out. Merkel was expected to leave a speech to parliament ahead of the vote to the finance minister, rather than addressing lawmakers herself. Schäuble, who at one point had favored a Greek "timeout" from the eurozone, last month told parliament that the third bailout was a "last attempt" to solve to Greek sovereign debt problem. On Wednesday, he also said that the Greek government now appeared to be ready for reform. Lawmakers in Spain, Estonia and Austria voted to ratify the deal a day earlier. Late Tuesday, the ratings agency Fitch raised Greece's dire credit status by one notch to CCC. The rating is still deep within junk-bond status territory, reflecting an overall lack of confidence in the chances of success of the rescue package without the need for official debt relief. "The risks to the program's success remain high," Fitch said in a statement.

Germany’s lower house, the Bundestag, is expected to vote overwhelmingly in favor of a third bailout for Greece. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel has been facing a rebellion from within her own party ahead of the vote. Although a significant number of Merkel’s conservative lawmakers appeared likely to vote against the 86-billion-euro ($94.84-billlion) bailout for Greece on Wednesday, a clear majority ... Read More »

Greece poised to ratify accord with creditors

The Greek parliament is expected to take up a draft agreement with creditors. A vote has been scheduled for Thursday over country's third bailout deal. Greece's government and its creditors found common ground on a third bailout agreement late Tuesday ahead of a scheduled Thursday vote by parliament. The deal was the product of 23 hours of marathon talks and must be also ratified by some eurozone countries. Greece and its creditors - the EU, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund - are under pressure to finalize the deal by Aug. 20 when a 3.4 billion euro ($3.76 billion) payment to the ECB is due. Syriza to face backlash The deal has caused a rebellion within Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's left-wing Syriza party, forcing him to rely on opposition votes. A Greek Finance Ministry official said the pact would be worth up to 85 billion euros in fresh loans over three years with Greek banks receiving 10 billion euros immediately. But doubts remain about whether the leftist Syriza government, elected on a pledge to reverse austerity, can implement the punishing terms of this latest deal that critics say compromises the party's principles and platform. That's because the proposed bailout would be in exchange for imposing fiscal and other policy measures including a gas market overhaul, the removal of most early retirement schemes, the elimination of fuel price benefits for farmers and an increase in some taxes, none of which will be popular with voters. The government insists it has also gained concessions including greater control over labor reforms, avoiding a mass sell-off state assets and softer deficit targets. "It is a very tough deal. The left had to either escape or take huge responsibilities and prove it can help society," Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis told local radio, saying it will be up to Greek voters to weigh in. "After this deal the prime minister should call for elections, so that the Greek people can vote on whether they approve the program or want something else." Austerity drives unemployment The austerity programs imposed by previous governments to satisfy creditors have reigned in public spending. But the measures also compounded a deep recession and pushed unemployment to a record high. Figures next week are expected to confirm that Greece's recession deepened in the second quarter. Though the Syriza government was elected on a staunchly anti-austerity platform in January, it was forced to retreat from this stance after bailout talks came close to collapse last month. Greece has relied on bailouts worth a total 240 billion euros from eurozone members states and the International Monetary Fund since concern over its high debts locked it out of bond markets in 2010. To secure the loans, successive governments have had to implement austerity measures through spending cuts, tax hikes and other neoliberal reforms.

The Greek parliament is expected to take up a draft agreement with creditors. A vote has been scheduled for Thursday over country’s third bailout deal. Greece’s government and its creditors found common ground on a third bailout agreement late Tuesday ahead of a scheduled Thursday vote by parliament. The deal was the product of 23 hours of marathon talks and ... Read More »

Greece ‘reaches deal’ with creditors for third bailout

An official from Greece's Finance Ministry has said that a deal has been reached with its international creditors for a third bailout. Initial reports say that talks are still in progress over a few "small issues." The announcement on Tuesday followed marathon talks between Greece and its international creditors, which witnessed rifts between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the EU. "An agreement has been reached. Some minor details are being discussed right now," an official from the Greek Finance Ministry told reporters in Athens, according to Reuters news agency. According to reports on Monday, the deal would witness the dispersal of 86 billion euros ($94 billion) once the Greek parliament passed a set of reforms, including the formation of a controversial privatization fund that nearly froze talks in July. The three-year rescue program is expected to pass through the Greek parliament in a bill split into two articles, one on the loan agreement and the other on the necessary reforms to unlock the loan's first disbursement. The agreement stipulates that Greece is expected to have a budget surplus of 0.5 percent in 2016, followed by 1.75 percent in 2017, and 3.5 percent in 2018, though the balance would not include debt servicing, according to a government source. For 2015, Greece is expected to have a primary deficit of 0.25 percent of the year's output. After the bill passes through the Greek parliament, the deal must be sent to eurozone finance ministers, some of whom - such as Germany - would then have to proceed with having it approved by their respective countries. The deal was expected to be reached ahead of a looming ECB repayment in the amount of 3.4 billion euros ($3.7 billion) scheduled for August 20. Without a deal, debt-stricken Greece would have defaulted on another one of its loans, after becoming the first industrialized nation to fall in arrears with the IMF for failing to meet a June 30 repayment deadline.

An official from Greece’s Finance Ministry has said that a deal has been reached with its international creditors for a third bailout. Initial reports say that talks are still in progress over a few “small issues.” The announcement on Tuesday followed marathon talks between Greece and its international creditors, which witnessed rifts between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the ... Read More »

Greece bailout deal expected in days with elections “likely” in fall

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras has indicated a deal with the country's creditors should be made before the next payment on its current debt is due. The head of the EC was equally sanguine. Greece and its creditors are negotiating a complex, three-year deal worth up to 86 billion euros ($93.6 billion) by August 20 when Athens has to repay 3.5 billion euros from existing debts to the European Central Bank (ECB). Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said an agreement on the bailout could also end uncertainty over Greece's place in the eurozone. "We are in the final stretch. Despite the difficulties we are facing, we hope this agreement can end uncertainty on the future of Greece," Tsipras said on Wednesday. Head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, echoed Tsipras' comments saying "All the reports I am getting suggest an accord this month, preferably before the 20th." Talks on the third bailout for Greece began at the end of July. Greece has to agree conditions for the loan with the EC, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Those conditions include controversial topics in Greece such as pension reform and a sweeping privatization program. The European Union estimates that the Greek banking sector could need between 10 billion and 25 billion euros to recapitalize. The sector has been weakened by bad loans and five weeks of capital controls. Bank shares fell on the Athens stock market which reopened on Monday. Down 50 percent in the first two days of trading, bank stocks fell a further 27 percent on Wednesday. The ECB is to carry out a comprehensive assessment of Greek banks, it said in a letter sent to the European Parliament and released on Wednesday. It said bailout funds could be used to cover any capital shortfall it found. The government in Athens has been under pressure from its own party members over the terms of the bailout. In two votes on the bailout, Tsipras lost the support of up to 39 of his party members with several ministers resigning in protest at austerity measures. Speaking on the radio on Wednesday, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili repeated the prime minister's warning of early elections in the autumn if Syriza party members continue to resist the proposed measures. The party holds a conference in September. "Elections are likely in the autumn," Gerovasili told Vima radio. "It mainly depends on how steady this government can be in the coming period." Tsipras will again rely on pro-European opposition parties in the vote for the bailout deal, which is expected to be put before the Greek parliament shortly before August 20. On Wednesday, Tsipras suggested the European Parliament should be involved in the bailout process: "It should at some point be under the control and monitoring of the European Parliament, a democratic institution which has accountability," he said.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras has indicated a deal with the country’s creditors should be made before the next payment on its current debt is due. The head of the EC was equally sanguine. Greece and its creditors are negotiating a complex, three-year deal worth up to 86 billion euros ($93.6 billion) by August 20 when Athens has to repay 3.5 ... Read More »

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