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Greece’s last chance for a deal with creditors awaits in Riga, Latvia

EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday in Latvia where PM Alexis Tsipras will try to secure a deal with creditors.

Alex Christoforou

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Post originally appeared on Zerohedge.

As we said over the weekend, it’s all about Riga again for Greece. EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday in Latvia where PM Alexis Tsipras will try to secure a more favorable outcome than did FinMin Yanis Varoufakis who, last month in Riga, reportedly did more chiding and lecturing than negotiating, a performance that may ultimately cost him his job once all is said and done. The situation is far more urgent this time around, with Greece having tapped its IMF SDR account to make a payment to the Fund and with the banking sector running dangerously low on collateral that can be pledged for emergency liquidity.

A bit more color from Deutsche Bank:

One thing that is starting to come to a head is Greece. With an EU leaders summit in Riga scheduled for Thursday and Friday, we should have a good idea of where current negotiations stand by the end of the week. Talks may well pick up in pace over the next few days with a spokesman for the Syriza party saying on Greek TV (Mega) that ‘we’re striving for a mutually beneficial agreement by Friday’ while pushing the party line that ‘our mandate from the Greek people is to reach an agreement where we stay in the euro area without harsh austerity measures’…

One other factor that will likely add pressure to accelerate negotiations this week is the news over the weekend that Greece came close to being unable to pay the May 12th IMF repayment. According to Greek press Ekathimerini, PM Tsipras sent a letter on May 8th to the IMF’s Lagarde saying that the Greek government would not be able to repay the €750m unless the ECB allowed for Greece to issue more T-Bills. In the end, the government decided that it would only be able to repay after it emerged that Greece could use €650m of Special Drawing Rights issued by the IMF (and in turn exhaust their reserves). Since this, another memo sent by the IMF and reported by the UK’s Channel 4 on Saturday has suggested that Greece will be unable to make the IMF payment due June 5th unless a release of funds is achieved (this marks the next significant payment date).

More details have indeed emerged about Tsipras’ recent dealings with the IMF. As it turns out, Tsipras sent a letter to Christine Legarde early this month warning her that no payment would be forthcoming on May 12 without some manner of lifeline from EU creditors. Here’s more via FT:

Greece came so close to defaulting on last week’s €750m International Monetary Fund repayment that the prime minister warned IMF chief Christine Lagarde he could not pay it without EU aid.

Athens ultimately made the payment without financial assistance from the bloc but only by tapping a rarely used emergency account Greece holds at the fund — an unorthodox transaction that amounted to borrowing IMF funds to pay the IMF.

Alexis Tsipras wrote to Ms Lagarde, warning that the IMF repayment would be missed unless the European Central Bank immediately raised its curbs on Greece’s ability to issue short-term debt.

The letter, first reported by the Greek daily Kathimerini but independently confirmed by the Financial Times, raises questions about how close Athens is to bankruptcy. In addition to payments due to the IMF next month totalling €1.5bn, the Greek government has struggled to meet its wage and pension bills, which must be paid at the end of the month…

Varoufakis, Bloomberg reports, was tipped about the SDR option on a trip to Washington last month:

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis had been told about possibility of using IMF SDR holding account on visit to Washington in April, govt still needed permission from IMF before could use it to make May 12 IMF payment, Greek govt spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis tells reporters.

As far as pensions are concerned, Greece says it will pay government employees in May.

  • GREECE WILL PAY SALARIES, PENSIONS AT END OF MONTH: SPOKESMAN

Assuming the government makes good on that promise, it will quickly run up against another IMF payment on June 5 and as noted above, Athens will default if no deal has been struck by then. The following graphs show government revenues, government spending, and the payment schedule and demonstrate quite clearly why the situation is so urgent:

GreeceRevsVsSpend

 

GreecePayments_0

Here’s Bloomberg’s assessment of the fiscal situation:

How long can Greece carry on? With revenues just about covering the pay and pensions bill, there’s not much left over to make even the small(ish) payments due to the IMF in June. If Greece and its banking sector can limp a little further, the state should get a boost from income tax receipts that usually flow in July. Unfortunately, that might come too late to pay the ECB 3.5 billion euros due on July 20, and the repayment that follows in August looks like an impossible challenge without a disbursement of Eurogroup funds…

Should Greece’s citizens begin to lose faith in a positive outcome to negotiations, it’s quite possible that receipts could falter as more of the usual tax payments are held back and taxable activity is curtailed. Still, some boost to the Treasury’s bank balance is likely in July. General government revenues could be lifted by about 3.8 billion euros compared with the average for the other months of the year. That would get some way towards the figure needed to pay the ECB, though it might not come soon enough to avoid a missed payment…

Of course, making it as far as July depends on how long the Greek banking sector can survive. Absent a change to the haircut imposed by the ECB on Greek banks’ collateral, limitations on emergency liquidity assistance are unlikely to pose serious constraints before mid-July. Greek banks have enough collateral to access 93 billion euros in liquidity. That’s 13 billion euros above the current cap. The four-week average of increases by the ECB stands at 1.5 billion. At the current pace of increase, Greek banks could keep borrowing more for about eight weeks to offset deposit flight.

But the idea that the ECB will continue to prop up the Greek banking sector is becoming more tenuous as Mario Draghi recently came under fire from Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann who openly accused the central bank of breaking the monetary financing taboo. Rumors that the ECB will soon begin to tighten the screws by raising the haircut on collateral pledged for cash have been making the rounds for weeks and as Bloomberg warns, the move could come at anytime:

A crunch will come if the ECB increases the haircut on Greek collateral to levels not seen since last year. That could be prompted by anything from a complete breakdown in talks to a missed debt payment, the official said. A continuation of the current impasse could even be all that’s needed, the official said.

While talks are centering on whether to give Greece more money, the ECB could raise the stakes if it increases the discount on the collateral Greek banks pledge in exchange for cash under its Emergency Liquidity Assistance program. That could happen as soon as this week, after the Governing Council next meets in Frankfurt on May 20.

GreekLiquidityMay_0

Meanwhile, Commerzbank doesn’t seem to buy the idea that the equivalent of a DIP loan would be sufficient to keep Greece from collapsing in the event Grexit becomes a reality:

Greece probably has no choice but to leave the euro if it defaults as it would likely be unable to source the funds needed to recapitalize its banks, Commerzbank chief economist Joerg Kraemer writes in client note.

If the country were to default, the banks’ claims on the state would be essentially worthless and they wouldn’t be allowed access to new money through the ELA.

Only a fraction of the equity capital needed could be gained from Greek bank bond creditors.

A recourse to bank deposits may also yield little as most accounts are probably under the threshold of EU100k per person which would be spared in any restructuring.

As you can see, the bail-in hints are starting to be dropped, suggesting that in the final analysis, some Greeks may be Cyprus’d. Indeed, the IMF has already discussed this possibility behind closed doors. Here’s FT again:

According to two officials briefed on the talks, at least one board member raised the possibility of presenting a “take it or leave it proposal” to Greece…

The idea of a “Cyprus-like” presentation to Greek authorities has gained traction among some eurozone finance ministers, according to one official involved in the talks.

As for Greek officials, they’ve become quite adept at wholesale denials:

There should be a solution in May so we can resolve our liquidity issues,” Gabriel Sakellaridis told a news conference.

He ruled out a levy on bank deposits to raise cash and said the government would not sign a third bailout program.

Touch Capital Markets’ Andreas Koutras summed up the situation nicely when he gave Bloomberg his best Schaeuble impression:

“There were too many people crying wolf before. But as Hemingway wrote: How did you go bankrupt? Two ways: Gradually, then suddenly.”

References:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-05-18/shape-greek-endgame-emerges-imf-discussed-cyprus-plan-after-tsipras-warned-looming-d

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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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