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Piraeus Bank will write off credit cards and retail loans up to 20,000 euros for Greeks who qualify

Piraeus Bank will write off credit cards and retail loans up to 20,000 euros ($21,484) for Greeks who qualify for help under a law the leftist government passed to provide relief to poverty-stricken borrowers, it said on Thursday.

Alex Christoforou

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Post originally appeared on Zerohedge.

Over the past several months, as a result of their lockout from capital markets, Greek banks’ reliance on the ECB’s Emergency Liquidity Assistance has soared, and at last check was somewhere in the mid-€70 billion range.

The conventional wisdom was that the ECB was merely plugging the hole created weekly (and often, daily) as a result of the chronic Greek bank run which has seen tens of billions in deposits withdrawn from Greek banks since Syriza officially took power earlier this year.

However instead of merely plugging the hole left from declining liabilities (deposits), what the ECB’s ELA funding appears to also be doing is compensating for a rapid write down in bank assets (loans) as well, in the form of charged off Non-Performing Loans.

According to Reuters, one of the leading Greek financial institutions, Piraeus Bank will write off credit cards and retail loans up to 20,000 euros ($21,484) for Greeks who qualify for help under a law the leftist government passed to provide relief to poverty-stricken borrowers, it said on Thursday.

As a reminder, the tension over the Syriza’s treatment of “austerity” is precisely the reason why the government, which is now insolvent and demanding another European bailout without calling it a bailout, is being generous with one hand – such as writing off unrepayable debts – while confiscating pension funds and municipal cash reserves with the other.

Greece has also been engaging in other, less savory check kiting schemes. Several days ago the NYT reported that “Greek banks have even begun to issue bonds to themselves and, after securing a government guarantee, have used the securities to secure short-term financing — a practice that was excoriated by Yanis Varoufakis before he became the Greek finance minister.”

On April 8, for example, the National Bank of Greece self-issued €4.1 billion of six-month bonds that carried state backing. But with Greece on the verge of default — Mr. Varoufakis has frequently said his country is bankrupt — those guarantees are no longer worth much.

Subsequently the ECB, which had previously encouraged precisely this scheme to keep insolvent Italian and Spanish banks operating in 2012 and 2013, made it quite clear that it frowns upon such a circular creation of money out of thin air, especially when the only “guarantee” is that of a bankrupt state.

In any event, the big question now is: how will Greece, which every day is engaged in constant negotiations with the Troika, come up with an extension to the unpopular bailout/austerity program that is the hated legacy of the previous regime without calling it precisely that, while on the other hand, how will Europe cover up the fact that Greeks are now openly receiving a gift in the form of a debt charge, and how will Germans react when the German press covers the front pages with more news of German-funded bailouts of Greeks (even though the underlying motive, of course, is to keep the Euro and avoid a return to the hated Deutsche Mark).

And just to hammer that point in once again, earlier today Greek FinMin Yanis Varoufakis told a French magazine that the risk that Greece would have to leave the euro if it has to accept more austerity is no bluff, saying that no one could predict what the consequences of such an exit would be.

Or, back to square one, which as we explained in February, is a battle of leverage: is the threat to Europe from a Grexit higher than the threat to Greece from ending up without funds.

 

In a conversation with philosopher Jon Elster conducted at the end of March and published in France’s Philosophie Magazine, Varoufakis, a specialist in game theory, said this was not the time to bluff over Greece’s debt talks.

 

“We cannot bluff anymore. When I say that we’ll end up leaving the euro, if we have to accept more unsustainable austerity, this is no bluff,” Varoufakis is quoted as saying.

 

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for a speeding up of work to conclude a reform-for-cash deal with euro zone creditors to keep his country afloat after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.

 

The leftist Greek premier met the conservative German leader a day before euro zone finance ministers meet in Riga to review progress – or the lack of it – in slow-moving negotiations between Athens and its international lenders.

Unfortunately for Greece, in contrast to the height of the debt crisis in 2012, when Grexit fears spurred panic selling of other weak euro zone sovereigns, investors now seem relaxed about the fate of Greece, which accounts for just 2 percent of the region’s economy. “Asked what would happen if Greece was to leave the euro, Varoufakis mentioned comments made by European policymakers who say any contagion effect could be avoided and added that, on the contrary, he believed the consequences would be unpredictable. ‎ “Anyone who pretends they know what would happen the day we’ll be pushed over the cliff is talking nonsense and is working against Europe,” he said.

Still with the Eurostoxx rising to record highs with every passing day even as the Greek financial situation deteriorates, the market has effectively called the Greek bluff. As a result, Greece has been forced to pull its last remaining trump card. Russia.

The increasing pivot by Greece toward the Kremlin has also been extensively covered here, most recently in the form of a near-agreement between Athens and Gazprom to launch the Turkish Stream pipeline, a deal that would also see Russia giving Greece a €5 billion loan. It is precisely the threat that Russia will bypass Ukraine entirely and provide all of Europe’s gas via the Turkish Stream, that has finally gotten Europe’s, and America’s, attention.

According to the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, “the US is scrambling to head off a Greek pipeline deal with Russia, fearing a disastrous change in the strategic balance of the Eastern Mediterranean as Greece’s radical-Left government drifts into the Kremlin’s orbit.

 Ernest Moniz, the US Energy Secretary, said his country is pushing for an alternative gas pipeline from Azerbaijan that would help break the stranglehold that Russian state-controlled firm Gazprom has on European markets.

“Diversified supplies are important and we strongly support the ‘Southern Corridor’ to bring Caspian gas to Europe,” he told a group of reporters on the margins of CERAWeek oil and gas forum in Houston. He insisted that it was vital to uphold “collective energy security” in Europe.

The concern is that Syriza’s flirtation with Moscow goes beyond normal diplomacy and may evolve over time into a strategic shift, causing Nato’s Eastern flank to unravel, and dooming any chance of maintaining a united EU stance against Mr Putin.

The Greeks know this. They seem determined to extract the maximum political leverage from the new Cold War.

The concern is that Syriza’s flirtation with Moscow goes beyond normal diplomacy and may evolve over time into a strategic shift, causing Nato’s Eastern flank to unravel, and dooming any chance of maintaining a united EU stance against Mr Putin.

The Greeks know this. They seem determined to extract the maximum political leverage from the new Cold War.

How this all plays out is still unclear with constantly moving pieces and negotiations in flux, although with Greece having run out of money and forced to impose soft capital controls, two things are certain: a conclusion will have to be reached soon and ii) should Greece complete its pivot toward Russia, everything in Europe will change, and in this case we wholeheartedly agree with the Greek finmin’s assessment that “anyone who pretends they know what would happen the day we’ll be pushed over the cliff is talking nonsense.”

References:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-04-23/greek-bank-will-write-%E2%82%AC20000-debt-poverty-stricken-borrowers-greece-uses-russian-piv

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Peace on Korean Peninsula within reach, if only Trump can remove Pompeo & Bolton (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the results of the Putin-Kim summit in Vladivostok, Russia, aimed at boosting bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, as well as working to contribute to a final peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.

Putin’s meeting with Kim may prove to be a pivotal diplomatic moment, as North Korea continues to work towards normalizing ties with the U.S. amidst ongoing denuclearization talks with the Trump White House.

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Via the BBC…

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un needs international security guarantees if he is to end his nuclear programme.

Such guarantees would need to be offered within a multinational framework, he added, following talks near Vladivostok in Russia’s far east.

Mr Kim praised the summit as a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange”.

Mr Putin said North Korea’s leader was “fairly open” and had “talked freely on all issues that were on the agenda”.

The meeting followed the breakdown of talks between the US and North Korea in February, when Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Those talks reportedly stalled over North Korea’s demand for full economic sanctions relief in return for some denuclearisation commitments – a deal the US was not willing to make.

Speaking after the talks on Thursday, Mr Putin said he wanted to see full denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

But he said this could only be achieved through respect for international law.

“We need to restore the power of international law, to return to a state where international law, not the law of the strongest, determines the situation in the world,” he said.

Mr Kim greeted Russian officials warmly when he arrived in Russia on Wednesday.

The North Korean leader was entertained by a brass band in Vladivostok before he got inside a car flanked by bodyguards, who – in now familiar scenes – jogged alongside the vehicle as it departed.

What do we know about the summit?

According to the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

Those talks, which began in 2003, involve the two Koreas as well as China, Japan, Russia and the US.

“There are no other efficient international mechanisms at the moment,” Mr Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

“But, on the other hand, efforts are being made by other countries. Here all efforts merit support as long as they really aim at de-nuclearisation and resolving the problem of the two Koreas.”

What do both sides want?

This visit is being widely viewed as an opportunity for North Korea to show it has powerful allies following the breakdown of the talks with the US in February.

The country has blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Earlier this month North Korea demanded that Mr Pompeo be removed from nuclear talks, accusing him of “talking nonsense” and asking for someone “more careful” to replace him.

The summit is also an opportunity for Pyongyang to show that its economic future does not depend solely on the US. Mr Kim may try to put pressure on Moscow to ease sanctions.

Analysts say the summit is an opportunity for Russia to show that it is an important player on the Korean peninsula.

President Putin has been eager to meet the North Korean leader for quite some time. Yet amid the two Trump-Kim summits, the Kremlin has been somewhat sidelined.

Russia, like the US and China, is uncomfortable with North Korea being a nuclear state.

How close are Russia and North Korea?

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (of which Russia is the main successor state) maintained close military and trade links with its communist ally, North Korea, for ideological and strategic reasons.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, trade links with post-communist Russia shrank and North Korea leaned towards China as its main ally.

Under President Putin, Russia recovered economically and in 2014 he wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt in a major goodwill gesture.

While it is arguable how much leverage Russia has with the North today, the communist state still regards it as one of the least hostile foreign powers.

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Putin meets Kim for the first time (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at the historic meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.

The meeting marks the first ever summit between the two leaders.

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Via RT…

Leaders of Russia and North Korea sat down for a historic summit in Vladivostok, expressing hope it will revive the peace process in the Korean Peninsula and talks on normalizing relations with the US.

The summit on Russky Island, just off Vladivostok, started a little late because President Vladimir Putin’s flight was delayed. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made the trip by train, arriving on Wednesday.

In brief public remarks before the talks, the two leaders expressed hope the summit will help move forward the reconciliation process in the Korean Peninsula. Putin welcomed Kim’s contributions to “normalizing relations” with the US and opening a dialogue with South Korea.

Kim said he hoped the Vladivostok summit would be a “milestone” in the talks about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but also build upon “traditionally friendly ties” between Russia and North Korea.

The North Korean leader also made a point of thanking Putin for flying all the way to Vladivostok for the meeting. The Far East Russian city is only 129 kilometers from the border with North Korea.

The historic summit takes place less than two months after Kim’s second summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi fell apart without a breakthrough on denuclearization. The US rejected North Korea’s request for partial sanctions relief in return for moves to dismantle nuclear and missile programs; Washington insists on full disarmament before any sanctions are removed.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the main subject of the Kim-Putin summit, but there will also be talks about bilateral relations, trade, and humanitarian aid. The first one-on-one meeting is scheduled to last about an hour, followed by further consultations involving other government officials.

Following the summit, Putin is scheduled to visit China.

 

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Kim And Putin: Changing The State Of The Board In Korea

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


Today is a big day for Korea. The first face-to-face summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un takes place.

At the same time the 2nd annual Belt and Road Forum kicks off in Beijing.

This meeting between Putin and Kim has been in the works for a while but rumors of it only surfaced last week. But don’t let the idea that this was put together at the last minute fool you.

It wasn’t.

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

I know that sounds bold. But hear me out.

And while no one seems to think this meeting is important or that anything of substance will come from it I do. It is exactly the kind of surprise that Putin loves to spring on the world without notice and by doing so change the board state of geopolitics.

  • Russia’s entrance into Syria in 2015, two days after Putin’s historic speech at the U.N. General Assembly
  • 2018’s State of the Union address where he announced hypersonic missiles, embarrassing the U.S. Militiary-Industrial Complex which accelerated the Bolton Doctrine of subjugating the world
  • Flying 2 TU-160 nuclear-armed bombers to Venezuela, creating panic in D.C. leading to the ham-fisted regime change operations there.
  • Nationalization of Yukos.
  • The operation to secure Crimea from U.S. invasion by marines aboard the U.S.S Donald Cook during the Ukrainian uprising against Viktor Yanukovich.

Both Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are angry at the breakdown of the talks in Hanoi back in February. It was clear that everyone expected that meeting to be a rubber stamp on a deal already agreed to by all parties involved.

In fact the two meetings between Kim and Trump were only possible because Trump convinced them of his sincerity to resolve the ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea which would clear a path to rapid reunification.

It’s why they went along with the U.S.’s increased sanctions on North Korea as administered through the U.N. in 2017.

That John Bolton and Mike Pompeo destroyed those talks and Trump was unwilling or unable (who cares at this point, frankly, useless piece of crap that he is) to stop them embarrassed and betrayed them.

They are now done with Trump.

He’ll get nothing from either of them or Kim until Trump can prove he’s in charge of his administration, which he, clearly, is not.

And they will be moving forward with their own agenda for security and Asian economic integration. So I don’t think the timing of this meeting with that of the Belt and Road Forum is an accident.

And that means moving forward on solving the Korea problem without Trump.

It is clear from the rhetoric of Putin’s top diplomat, the irreplaceable Sergei Lavrov, that Russia’s patience is over. They are no longer interested in what Trump wants and they will now treat the U.S. as a threat, having upped their military stance towards the U.S. to that of “Threat.”

If Bolton wants anything from Russia at this point he best be prepared to start a war or piss off.

This is also why Russia took the gloves off with Ukraine in the run up to the Presidential elections, cutting off energy and machinery exports with Ukraine.

To put paid Putin’s growing impatience with U.S. policies, he just issued the order to allow residents of Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics to apply for Russian passports.

This will send Bolton into apoplexy. Angela Merkel of Germany will be none too pleased either. Putin is now playing hardball after years of unfailing politeness.

It’s also why Lavrov finalized arms and port deals all over the Middle East in recent weeks, including those with Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and India.

Bolton, Pompeo and Pence are ideologues. Trump is a typical Baby Boomer, who lives in a bubble of his own design and believes in an America that never existed.

None of them truly understand the fires they are stoking and simply believe in the Manifest Destiny of the U.S. to rule the world over a dim and barbaric world.

Putin, Xi, Rouhani in Iran and Kim in North Korea are pragmatic men. They understand the realities they live in. This is why I see Putin willing tomorrow to sit down with Kim and flaunt the U.N. sanctions and begin the investment process into North Korea that should have begun last year.

Putin would not be making these moves if he didn’t feel that Bolton was all bark and no bite when it came to actual war with Russia. He also knows that Germany needs him more than he needs Germany so despite the feet-dragging and rhetoric Nordstream 2 will go forward.

Trade is expanding between them despite the continued sanctions.

Putin may be willing to cut a deal with President-elect Zelensky on gas transit later in the year but only if the shelling of the LPR and DPR stops and he guarantees no more incidents in the Sea of Azov. This would also mollify Merkel a bit and make it easier for her politically to get Nordstream 2 over the finish line.

There are moments in history when people go too far. Bolton and Pompeo went too far in Hanoi. He will pay the price now. Putin and Kim will likely agree to something in Vladivostok that no one is expecting and won’t look like much at first.

But the reality is this summit itself marks a turning point in this story that will end with the U.S. being, in Trump’s transactional parlance, a “price taker” since it has so thoroughly failed at being a “price maker.”

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