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This is not Sparta. Greece folds to EU pressure. Schaeuble relishes victory

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that a funding agreement made with euro zone ministers on Saturday cancelled the preceding conservative-led government’s austerity commitments to the country’s international creditors. In reality, the SYRIZA government capitulated and agreed to most of the items Brussels insisted on.

Alex Christoforou

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In the end Greece blinked, and folded to EU pressure like origami.

The last minute deal hashed out in Brussels kicks the can down the street for another 4 months, at which time Greece will come before its rulers, once again, to figure out how it could possibly survive within the nightmare that is the European Union.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, now smelling blood in the water, was relentless in his comments…

“Greeks Certainly Will Have A Difficult Time To Explain The Deal To Their Voters.”

“As long as the program for Greece isn’t successfully concluded, there will be no payout”

Meanwhile, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis tried to put a positive spin to a now, even bigger hole dug up by Greece, assuring his countrymen that…

“Greek ATMs will have adequate cash.”

Zerohedge has this to say about the results of the agreement…

So for all those waiting for the real punchline, here it is – it also is the reason why Greece got until Monday to reveal the list of “reforms” it would undertake:

“We’re in trouble next week if creditors don’t accept Greece’s reforms”, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis says. “If our list of reforms is not backed by the institutions, this agreement is dead and buried.”

Under the conditionality of the Troika’s approval, the Tsipras government now has to walk back essentially all the promises it made to the Greek people – promises which by some accounts amount to over €20 billion in additional spending – or the Troika, pardon Institutions, will yank the entire deal and the Grexit can then commence.

And that’s the bottom line.

It’s also the reason Schauble was gloating: because he gave the Greek government just enough rope with which to hang itself.

Then again, if and when the Tsirpas government is booted out next once the Greek euphoria turns to disgust and disillusionment, does Germany really want to negotiate with Golden Dawn instead?

Which brings is to what was agreed upon, how much did Europe win, and what did the Tsipras’ government actually get by signing the country’s death warrant.

The deal agreed to extends the current Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement by four months, giving Greece time to fund itself in the short term, and to allow time for negotiations with Brussels going forward…based on the conditions of the current arrangement with the European Commission, ECB and IMF – formerly known as ‘the Troika’.

In short…the agreement hammered out in Brussels extends the existing agreement and the tied-in conditionality of the current Memorandum of Understanding…A memorandum which is extremely unpopular in Greece.

Open Europe explains in more detail the points which Greece capitulated on…

Completion of the current review – Greece has basically agreed to conclude the current bailout. Any funding is conditional on such a process:

“Only approval of the conclusion of the review of the extended arrangement by the institutions in turn will allow for any disbursement of the outstanding tranche of the current EFSF programme and the transfer of the 2014 SMP profits. Both are again subject to approval by the Eurogroup.”

This is a clear capitulation for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who said the previous bailout was “dead” and the EU/IMF/ECB Troika is “over”.

Remaining bank recapitalisation funds – Greece wanted this money to be held by the Hellenic Financial Stabilisation Fund (HFSF) over the extension period, and possibly be open for use outside the banking sector. However, this has been denied and the bonds will return to the EFSF, although they will remain available for any bank recapitalisation needs.

Role of the IMF – The Eurogroup statement says, “We also agreed that the IMF would continue to play its role”. Again, Greece has given in on this point and the Troika continues to exist and be strongly involved in all but name.

No unilateral action – According to the statement,

“The Greek authorities commit to refrain from any rollback of measures and unilateral changes to the policies and structural reforms that would negatively impact fiscal targets, economic recovery or financial stability, as assessed by the institutions.”

In light of this, a large number of promises that SYRIZA made in its election campaign will now be hard to fulfil. In the press conference given by Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem and EU Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, it was suggested that this pledge also applied to the measures which were announced by Tsipras in his speech to the Greek parliament earlier this week – when he announced plans to roll back some labour market reforms passed by the previous Greek government.

Four months rather than six months – Greece requested a six-month extension, but the Eurogroup only agreed to four months. This is a crucial point: it means the extension expires at the end of June. As the graph below shows, Greece faces two crucial bond repayments to the ECB in July and August which total €6.7bn. This is a very tough hard deadline. There is limited time for the longer term negotiations which will take place – provided that a final agreement on the extension is reached. It is very likely we will be back in a similar situation at the end of June.

What exactly did Greece get? Open Europe explains…

Greece has received a couple of small fillips in the wording:

“The institutions will, for the 2015 primary surplus target, take the economic circumstances in 2015 into account.”

This suggests that Greece may, during this year and the extension in particular, get more fiscal leeway. As we predicted many times, this would manifest itself as a lower primary surplus target. A small victory which may provide a bit of temporary breathing space for the government. In practice, though, it was already looking difficult for Greece to meet its target this year given significant shortfalls in tax revenue.

Greece also managed to get the word “bridge” into the statement, and a specific promise to discuss a fresh programme and approach:

“This extension would also bridge the time for discussions on a possible follow-up arrangement between the Eurogroup, the institutions and Greece.”

What happens now?

As was stressed in the press conference, Greece will on Monday “present a first list of reform measures, based on the current arrangement”.  Moving forward from this agreement, which is still largely in principle, will be conditional on these measures being judged as sufficient by the EU/IMF/ECB as a step towards completing the current bailout.

Once that is confirmed work will begin on getting the “national procedures” in place, so that all the necessary parliaments (such as Germany and Finland) have approved the extension by the end of next week.

In the not too distant future, discussions will begin on the “possible follow-up arrangement”. As we outlined in extensive detail here, there are a huge amount of differences which need to be resolved. The crucial ones being labour market and pension reforms, as well as debt relief. Chances of an agreement remain unclear, but we would expect Greece to struggle once again to get what it wants.

Finally, the Greek government has to return to Greece and sell what is almost an entire capitulation to its own MPs (some of whom would have rather left the Eurozone than abandon their aims), its coalition partner, and the public (which has strongly supported the hard-line stance). We got a taste of this in the presser, when Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said:

“From the very first day, we refused to see these negotiations as a zero sum game.”

“We’re beginning to be co-authors of our destiny.”

“The Eurogroup statement is a good example of ‘constructive ambiguity’ on primary surplus targets.”

“I’m pleased to report that our commitments are commitments we wanted to make anyway.”

Focusing on the longer term and selling the openness of the negotiation as an escape from the current programme. This may or may not be true, it is in the end a negotiation.

As we said yesterday, Greece has folded this hand but the game of poker continues. Greece is now short stack and living hand to hand (day to day). It continues to be in a very tough position, and how the evaporation of the vision which SYRIZA sold at the election will go down at home is a crucial and potentially explosive unknown.

References:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-02-20/germany-gives-greece-just-enough-rope-varoufakis-says-if-troika-rejects-reforms-deal

http://openeurope.org.uk/blog/greece-bends-eurozone-will-find-short-term-agreement/

 

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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