Celtic travel sickness continues as Atletico cruise

Celtic’s dismal European away record continued with a tame defeat to Atletico Madrid in their Group I opener in the Vicente Calderon stadium.

The Hoops were still warming to their task when Colombian striker Radamel Falcao met a Diego corner in the third minute to head past Hoops ‘keeper Fraser Forster.

Diego added the second in the 67th minute to leave the Parkhead men with just one away win in Europe in 31 games ahead of Sunday’s Old Firm clash at Ibrox.

An inexperienced Spurs side came through a nailbiting finish to leave the cauldron of the Toumba Stadium with a hard-fought point in their Group A stalemate against PAOK Salonika.

Carlo Cudicini was called upon to make three fine saves at the death and Vladimir Ivic rattled the Italian’s bar in stoppage-time amid a white-hot atmosphere in Greece.

Shamrock Rovers will have been taking notes of their group rivals and the Greeks looked dangerous.

Lino missed a retaken first-half penalty for the hosts while debutant Yago Falque twice went close for Spurs and Harry Kane might have been awarded an earlier spot-kick after being brought down in the box.

Stoke were denied a winning start to their Group E campaign by Dynamo Kiev’s late equaliser at the Valeriy Lobanovskiy Stadium.

The Potters took the lead 10 minutes into the second half when Cameron Jerome finished from Ryan Shotton‘s cross, but after Oleksandr Aliev had hit the bar for Dynamo, Ognjen Vukojevic levelled in stoppage-time.

Mark Schwarzer‘s own goal meant Fulham and Twente shared the spoils 1-1 in their Group K clash at Craven Cottage.

The west Londoners dominated the game and broke the deadlock after Andrew Johnson flicked home with aplomb on 18 minutes.

However, the Dutch outfit levelled six minutes before the break as Luuk de Jong’s header bounced off the post and in off Schwarzer. A Helder Barbosa brace and Rodrigo Lima strike edged Braga past a spirited Birmingham in their Group H tussle, the Portuguese side earning a 3-1 win.

Birmingham missed a golden chance with the game scoreless. Adam Rooney planted a fourth-minute sitter into the side-netting and Barbosa lashed home a stunning 20-yard volley just 90 seconds later.

Lima doubled the visitors’ advantage from close range a minute before the hour, with Marlon King halving the deficit 20 minutes from the end. But Barbosa struck again at the death to kill off the Championship side.

– Europa League wrap

Irish Independent

This Festival Is Greek to Everyone

Anyone who has gone to a Greek restaurant, a Greek party, a Greek wedding or just seen the 2002 movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding has gotten a glimpse of the Greek culture.

Essentially, everyone is required to have a good time. Greeks even have words for it.

One word is filoxenia. Its official translation is hospitality. But it also means love of strangers, and Greeks take pride in their what’s-mine-is-yours attitude.

Another word is kefi, which means doing something with passion, living with passion.

My family would drive all the way from Arcadia to San Pedro at least once a year on special occasions just to experience filoxenia and kefi at Papadakis Traverna, one of Southern California’s great Greek restaurants which unfortunately closed earlier this year.

Also, I played in a Greek charity golf tournament at Brookside in Pasadena a couple of years ago and had a great time–and lots of food, drink and laughs. The event is such a hit it almost always sells out–filling both of Brookside’s two 18-hole courses.

The point I’m trying to make is, if an event involves the Greek culture, it’s almost guaranteed to be a good time.

That’s why you should block out time to attend the 53rd annual Pasadena Greek Fest, to be held this Friday through Sunday at Santa Anita Park just west of the paddock area.

The Greek Fest is fundraiser for the St. Anthony Greek Orthodox Church in Pasadena. The same church also puts on the charity golf tournament I played in at Brookside.

This marks the second consecutive year that the Greek Fest has been back at Santa Anita. It was always there until moving to the church lot on Rosemead Boulevard for a few years. But because of the large crowds for that the Greek Fest attracts, Santa Anita is a more desirable site.

And Jim Christos of St. Anthony’s GreekFest promotional committee promises this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever. The hope is that it will attract more than 15,000 people over the three days. The net proceeds go to a variety of charities.

The event features Greek food, live Greek music and Greek folk dancing. Also, this year there will be an expanded kids’ fun zone.

“This event has always been a draw for residents and visitors seeking a culturally diverse fun event with a myriad of activities for the entire family,” said event co-chairman Charlie Christodulelis. “Come visit us and we will wine, dine and spoil you the Greek way.”

The hours are 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday, noon to 1 a.m. on Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is only $5 (children 12 and under are free). Parking is $4 a car. Entry to the event will be at Santa Anita’s main entrance at Holly and Huntington Drive.

Although Santa Anita will not have live racing until Sept. 30, adults 18 and over attending the Greek Fest who would like to wager on simulcast races from tracks across North American will be able to do so.

Christos said the GreekFest will be highlighted by a variety of music. There will be a tribute to Greek Blues the first night, Bouzouki music will be featured the next day–a Bouzouki is sort of a Greek guitar–and clarinet music will fill the air on the third day.

Featured entertainers set to perform include the “Olympians,” Bouzouki specialist Milton Kranias from Greece, clarinetist Kostas Skrepetos from New York City and vocalist Elizabeth Proios.

Other highlights include visual Greek artists, authentic Greek cuisine and pastries, live cooking demonstrations, and a chat with wine expert Yiannis Skakianakis of Pavlidis Winery in the Drama region of Greece.

Christos said there also will be a sports bar and cigar lounge, appropriately named the Olympic Taverna. Remember, the Olympics started in Athens in 776 BC.

There will also be lectures about Greek history, culture and religion and of course tons of food.

“All people have to do is bring their appetite and dancing shoes,” Christos said.

Also, there will also be nightly raffles, featuring such prizes as Santa Anita Mall gift cards, Apple iPads, large-screen 3D HD TVs and a grand prize of a travel certificate worth $2,500.

For further information, call 626 600-1672 or visit www.pasadenagreekfest.org.

EU proposes rules for curbs on passport-free travel

Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:44am EDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union states could see border checks with their neighbours restored in the future if they persistently fail to protect the EU’s external frontier, legislative proposals by the EU executive showed on Friday.

The plans unveiled by the European Commission propose new rules on conducting border controls in the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone to address mounting concern in parts of Europe over illegal immigration, notably from North Africa

Several EU governments have lobbied to make it easier to curb unrestricted travel in Europe and reinstate internal frontiers abandoned in most of the bloc in the last two decades.

But the Commission’s plan is likely to meet heavy resistance from many capitals, given national sovereignty issues, and fuel heated debate over the limits of free movement of people, one of the cornerstones of European integration.

The plan proposes taking away decision-making from national governments and giving more say over travel curbs to the executive and EU states as a group, an idea already rejected by France, Germany and Spain.

The Commission has argued its plan, which would have to be approved by EU states and the European parliament, will protect the right of Europeans to travel freely by preventing governments from making unilateral decisions.

“With these proposals, we are safeguarding the future of Schengen,” the EU commissioner in charge of home affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, said in a statement.

“Our proposals will introduce a European decision-making system which will reinforce trust among member states and will make the Schengen area better equipped to cope with future challenges.”

Citizens of all of the 27 EU states are generally allowed to travel freely throughout the bloc. Twenty-two EU states and three other countries have gone further, eliminating controls between then entirely under the Schengen agreement, named after a village in Luxembourg where the pact was signed in 1985.

However, France and Denmark sparked controversy this year by setting up border points, although Copenhagen, unlike Paris, said its checks were meant to stop crime, not illegal migration.


Debates across Europe over immigration and border controls intensified this year when popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt and a civil war in Libya fanned concerns hundreds of thousands of illegal workers could seek refuge and jobs in Europe.

No more than 30,000 ended up reaching European shores, mostly Italy’s, but concerns that borderless travel facilitates illegal immigration remained.

Critics point to Greece in particular, largely because of persistent surveillance problems on its border with Turkey.

The Commission said that under its proposals, EU states could temporarily reintroduce border checks as a last resort, if a country repeatedly failed to improve controls despite EU assistance.

“The new mechanism would play a more decisive role, ensuring that this ‘ultimate sanction’ will encourage member states to fully comply with their obligation under the Schengen rules,” the Commission said.

Other proposals allow a state to reintroduce border controls for several days in unforeseen circumstances, such as terrorist attacks. After that, a government would need approval from the Commission and other governments to continue controls.

Countries that want to tighten border controls ahead of expected events such as the soccer World Cup would have to seek prior permission.

The $200 million Greek island that Bill Gates and Qatari prince want

Qatar is listed as one of the largest parties involved in the rescue of the Greek economy from its debt crisis as it has big investments in the country. Greece is also a popular destination for Qataris for tourism and business opportunities.

According to a recent report in The Greek Reporter, the Prince of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, along with his Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, who are currently visiting Greece, are in talks to purchase one of the islands in the Ionian Sea.

According to the newspaper, the Prince of Qatar was accompanied by his closest colleagues, family, escorts and personal guard when he arrived on Monday in Corfu before boarding a luxurious yacht to travel to the island.

The newspaper added that the royal family is a frequent visitor to Greek islands and have recently shown greater interest in acquiring two islands off the Ionian Sea, one of which is Scorpios Island which was once owned by Greek billionaire Aristotle Onassis who bought it in 1963 from the Greek authorities. The other alleged island lies three miles south from the aforementioned.

Two years ago, the granddaughter of the well-known Greek shipping magnate, Athena Onassis, revealed plans to sell the family owned Scorpios Island, which once hosted the wedding of Onassis and Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of the late US President John F. Kennedy.

The 80-hectares island is estimated to be worth $200 million, according to British news reports.

The Qatari royal however may have another contender vying to buy it: Bill Gates.

The Microsoft founder visited the island in July 2009 reportedly with the intention of buying it. Then, Greek authorities were not willing to sell it as they viewed Onassis’ island as national heritage.

Theodoros Varikos, the mayor of the region where the island is located, said “Athena cannot sell the island because Onassis has specified in his will that it cannot be sold.”

(This story was translated from Arabic by Sarah Sfeir)

Consumer Foodservice By Location in Greece – Market Report – new market research report

Consumer Foodservice By Location in Greece – Market Report – new market research report

London 9/15/2011 04:24 PM GMT (TransWorldNews)


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Popularity and traffic in shopping centres in Greece remained steady in 2010 and units continued to expand despite the recession. In 2010, Athens saw the opening of three more shopping centres: Athens Metro Mall, the first shopping centre in the suburbs south of the city, Athenian Capitol in the city centre and Psychiko High Street in the Neo Psychiko area. In 2009, development expanded to the west with West Plaza in Aspropyrgos. A major retail park is also scheduled to open in Spata in Athens…

The Consumer Foodservice by Location in Greece report offers a comprehensive guide to the size and shape of the market at a national level. It provides foodservice sales, the number of outlets and the number of transactions by sector, allowing you to identify the foodservice sectors driving growth. It identifies the leading companies, the leading brands and offers strategic analysis of key factors influencing the market – be they eating habits, lifestyle changes, tourism spending or legislative issues. Forecasts to 2015 illustrate how the market is set to change.

Product coverage: Consumer Foodservice Through Leisure, Consumer Foodservice Through Lodging, Consumer Foodservice Through Retail, Consumer Foodservice Through Standalone, Consumer Foodservice Through Travel.

Data coverage: market sizes (historic and forecasts), company shares, brand shares and distribution data.

Why buy this report?
* Get a detailed picture of the Consumer Foodservice by Location market;
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Click for report details: Consumer Foodservice By Location in Greece – Market Report

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What Will Happen If Greece Defaults

You can be excused for thinking that Greece has already defaulted on its debts, causing panic in financial markets and mayhem in the streets of Europe. That might explain why European stocks are in a meltdown this year, with a lesser rout spreading to U.S. shares.

But the market turmoil of the last few weeks is merely a prelude to a Greek default. In reality, if Greece defaults, it probably won’t be for a couple of months, at least. But markets now seem to think that a Greek default is inevitable, and the ramifications will be ugly. “Europe is going to go through a disastrous financial crisis on par with what occurred during 2008 in the United States,” David Zervos of investing firm Jefferies wrote to clients recently. “It will be every man for himself in Europe as the problem degenerates.” With that kind of outlook, it’s no surprise that investors in European stocks–especially banks–are fleeing.

[See how to escape the middle-class squeeze.]

The European debt crisis is undeniably complex and confusing–even to Europeans. The 17 nations that operate on the euro set up a bailout fund well over a year ago that was supposed to handle the financial crises in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and other troubled states. Obviously it hasn’t. Here’s a simplified explanation for why: Greece needs more money than first expected, and may not be able to produce the deep spending cuts, tax hikes, and sales of public assets necessary to qualify for bailout money. Economic growth that’s worse than forecast is making targets even harder to meet. With Greek citizens irate, the internal pressure to escape from brutal austerity measures may become overwhelming. If Greece caves, then the bailout payments would stop and Greece would run out of money, forcing it to default on billions in debt. Many taxpayers in Germany and other European nations would welcome that, since they’re sick of sending money to spendthrift neighbors. But a Greek default would punish many of Europe’s biggest banks, since they’re the ones holding the debt. If Greece defaults, investors would fear the same thing from Ireland and Portugal and perhaps even from Italy and Spain. That’s the meltdown scenario investors fear, and nobody’s sure how bad it would get.

Europe’s woes are similar to the U.S. subprime crisis that percolated for a couple of years, then erupted in 2008. Greece and other overindebted nations are like huge subprime borrowers who spent more than they could afford by racking up debt they now can’t pay back. Like big U.S. banks during the housing boom, many European banks had shoddy underwriting standards and bought debt that was far riskier than they realized. A Greek default could be the European equivalent of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008, which started a run on the whole U.S. financial system.

But there’s a key difference between the United States in 2008 and Europe in 2011: American officials promptly came up with TARP, the Troubled Assets Relief Program, which allowed them to inject capital into banks that would have imploded without it. In Europe, it’s far harder to devise a systemwide financial bailout, since there’s no centralized fiscal authority comparable to the U.S. Congress or the Treasury Dept. So every bailout maneuver requires negotiations among 17 sets of politicians, each answerable to restive taxpayers and rival political parties in their home nations.

[See what to expect from the stagnant economy.]

In the summer of 2008, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson famously quipped that he wanted a “bazooka” to help battle the looming financial meltdown. TARP, though unpopular, became Paulson’s bazooka, while shock troops from the Federal Reserve marched right behind him and guarded the flanks with a their own extraordinary rescue measures. The European bailouts are now faltering because politicians there can’t muster a bazooka. Instead of a huge, open-ended commitment to do whatever’s necessary to save Greece and preserve the Eurozone, Europe has come up with piecemeal solutions meant to buy time and delay the day of reckoning. That’s why edgy markets react wildly to small-bore pronouncements that might signal more or less political resolve, while grinding weekly declines signal that the markets are pricing in the steep costs that a worst-case scenario would impose on the European economy.

European politicians won’t say so, but they’re basically stalling for time as they wait for the enactment of a stronger, TARP-like bailout fund that would be able to cope with the ramifications of a Greek default. “An eventual Greek default seems certain,” writes Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, “but European policymakers must provide enough financial aid to ensure that it happens after it is no longer a macroeconomic threat.” Instead of the roughly $605 billion that’s been pledged so far, he thinks it could take about $1.4 trillion. Meanwhile, investors are scrambling to protect themselves and gauge the impact of a European financial crisis. Here’s a broad outline of that would happen if Greece defaults:

Government takeovers of European banks. French banks have the most exposure to Greece, and severe losses could basically force the French government to nationalize the banking sector, which has happened before. Shareholders would be wiped out by nationalization, which is why shares of big French banks like BNP Paribas and Societe General are down by more than 40 percent this year. If France did it, other nations probably would, too. “There would have to be a big bang approach,” says Jacob Funk Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It needs to be comprehensive, otherwise market uncertainty will shift from one country to another.” Italy and Spain would almost certainly do the same as France, while Germany, with Europe’s strongest economy, might be able to sustain its banking sector without government intervention.

[See what Bernanke wants Congress to do.]

EuroTARP. Investors worry about a “chaotic” default scenario, but Kirkegaard says the whole thing would be scripted and most likely entail several steps. First, there would be a newer, more flexible bailout fund that European parliaments are likely to approve by the end of October. That would be the TARP equivalent, and it could be used to inject money into banks as well as to bail out specific countries. If bank bailouts happen, the European Central Bank might also go on a bond-buying spree similar to the Federal Reserve’s “quantitative easing” programs that ran from 2009 through mid-2011. If it worked, that would stabilize the market for European sovereign debt and boost the value of stocks and other risky assets, just as the Fed’s QE programs did for awhile in the United States. If Europe really got its act together, it would also announce a plan to create a unified fiscal authority able to issue “eurobonds” that would help all member nations raise funds, make tax policy, and exercise real fiscal authority over member nations. It would take years, maybe decades, to enact such a bureaucracy, but a credible plan to do so might reassure markets.

A smaller Eurozone. If Greece defaults, that would probably mean the end of its membership in the Eurozone. The drachma would return as Greece’s currency, and Greece would set its own fiscal and monetary policy without having to answer to bailout masters in northern capitals. Of course, Greece would be out of money and unable to borrow, so its economy would get hammered. The drachma’s value would be very low against other currencies, which would make Greek exports cheap and help reduce unemployment. But imported goods would become vastly more expensive. Martin Hutchinson of Reuters Breakingviews estimates that Greek living standards would decline by 30 percent or more. Great Depression-style bank holidays may be necessary, to prevent people from withdrawing all their money. Other debt-laden nations could follow Greece out of the Eurozone and take a chance on default, but the economic pain in Greece might also produce popular support for more thorough austerity measures meant to remain part of the club. Foreign tourists, it’s worth noting, would benefit from default, since travel to Greece or any other nation kicked out of the Eurozone would suddenly become one of the world’s great bargains.

[See how the U.S. debt fiasco damaged the economy.]

A fresh European recession. Measures needed to stabilize Europe’s financial system would most likely curtail lending and other economic activity, as banks beefed up their capital reserves and dealt with writedowns. Several countries would also need to hike taxes and cut government spending, to cover losses caused by defaults. Many companies and even some countries would see their credit ratings downgraded, which would force them to pay more to borrow money. Europe is already on the verge of recession, and wider austerity measures would probably clinch another downturn.

A ripple in America. “Europe’s problems pose a serious threat to the U.S. economy, but not necessarily a mortal one,” says Zandi. Unlike their French and German counterparts, U.S. banks own only a tiny portion of the debt issued by the most troubled European nations. American banks are also in much better shape generally than those in Europe, thanks to the aggressive action in 2008 and to the 2009 “stress tests” that forced many of them to raise more capital and strengthen their balance sheets. Big U.S. companies are also healthy, with strong profits, and few if any are dependent upon European banks. Still, a recession and financial crisis in Europe would weaken demand for American goods and services in one of the world’s biggest markets, at a time when the U.S. economy is struggling, too.

[See 11 countries with worse problems than America.]

A stronger Europe, someday. Traders focused on the short term have a lot to worry about, but Kirkegaard argues that the mounting crisis in Europe may be the only way to create the stronger fiscal union needed to forestall or address the kinds of problems that are tearing Europe apart. “Reform is only politically feasible in the midst of a crisis,” he says. “It’s going to take quite a long time, but the odds are good that this crisis will not be wasted, and will in fact be used to solve long-term institutional problems in Europe.” So if your investment horizon happens to be a decade out, Europe might just turn out to be a good bet.

Twitter: @rickjnewman

See photos of the Obamas abroad.

See what to expect from the stagnant economy.

Check out editorial cartoons about the economy.

Right Cause suffers raider attack – Mikhail Prokhorov

Right Cause suffers raider attack – Mikhail Prokhorov

The first day of the Right Cause pre-election conference ended in a showdown between its leader Mikhail Prokhorov and other party members. Prokhorov announced a raider attack was being launched against his party and expelled several key members from the party.
Prokhorov accused Rady Khabirov, the Kremlin’s deputy chief of staff for domestic policy, of leading the attack. The presidential executive office described Prokhorov’s statements as hysterical. Well-wishers who had previously suffered the same fate recommended the Right Cause leader to “cut their losses” and quit the project. On Wednesday night, Prokhorov did not rule out such an outcome.

The first day of the party’s conference was to be devoted to discussion of a party manifesto. Prokhorov’s presence was not scheduled. But, as he told a hastily convened news conference, the head of the party’s executive committee, Andrei Dunayev, decided to open the conference in his absence and form a credentials committee. The result was a “raider takeover” of the party, Prokhorov said. “Unknown people showed up from somewhere” and registered as delegates on Khabirov’s instructions.

In front of reporters, Prokhorov signed a decision to end the powers of the party’s executive committee and its chairman Andrei Dunayev, and expel Andrei Bogdanov and Sergei and Alexander Ryavkin from the party “for inflicting political damage.”
Bogdanov had been elected chairman of the credentials commission on Wednesday, Sergei Ryavkin was made a member of that commission and Alexander Ryavkin was elected to the audit commission.

Bogdanov told Kommersant before the conference that he would criticize Prokhorov at the meeting and seek his replacement.
Konstantin Merzlikin, an adviser to former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, said that as a good businessman Prokhorov should “cut his losses, withdraw from the game and have no part in that circus.”

However, Prokhorov said on Wednesday night that he would fight at the conference “employing every possible legitimate method.” But he did not rule out that if things did not go his way he would step down from his post as party leader.

“Prokhorov’s latest statements resemble hysterics,” a source in the presidential executive office told Interfax agency on Wednesday night. Kommersant sources close to the Kremlin executive office said the search for a new leader was due to the fact that Prokhorov “has started shaping a wrong kind of party, not the one he had been advised to create” and “behaving too independently.” Sources in the Russian Popular Front told Kommersant that Prokhorov, for example, refused to include candidates suggested by the presidential executive office on the party list.

Kommersant reported that Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff, met this week with candidates to replace Prokhorov. Boris Titov, head of Delovaya Rossiya (Business Russia) and former co-chairman of Right Cause, was offered the post but declined. Surkov also interviewed Kirov Region Governor Nikita Belykh, but he also turned down the offer.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta
Greece faces banishment from Schengen area
When it rains it pours. While Greece is grappling with a looming default and banishment from the eurozone, it may also be shut out of the Schengen area for being unable to curb illegal immigration.

On Friday, EU countries’ envoys to Brussels will discuss the planned amendments to the Schengen Agreement introducing some restrictions on travel within the border-free area. The new order is likely to backfire on Greece. Some European Commission sources informally named Greece as the most likely candidate for testing the new regulations, which include the possibility of suspension from the Schengen area. The new rules, allowing for a restoration of border and customs controls within the 25-member area, are unofficially dubbed “the Greek Amendment.”
According to EC spokesman Michele Cercone, the idea is to make the free travel system in the Schengen area, which is one of the European Union’s greatest achievements, more effective, transparent and reliable.

In fact, the new regulations are largely aimed against those Schengen members that fail to control illegal immigration. According to the Financial Times, 88,000 of the 104,000 illegal immigrants entered Europe via Greece last year.

The Greek interior ministry said in an indignant statement that the Financial Times was distorting facts, reminding Europe that Greece was making titanic efforts to protect its borders and even planned to build a wall along its 150-km border with Turkey.
Officials in Athens believe it is essential to build a wire fence along the River Evros (Maritsa) similar to the one between the United States and Mexico. Last year, 33,000 illegal immigrants were detained there, while, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees, 44 people drowned trying to cross the Maritsa.

Those who did cross into Greece, mainly Afghanistan nationals, went on a hunger strike in a camp in the center of Athens demanding political asylum.
The European Commission believes walls and fences alone cannot resolve the immigration problem, and political steps should be taken as well.
However, even with the support of Frontex border security specialists, some 26,000 immigrants illegally crossed from Turkey into Greece this year. On the other hand, Frontex officially recognized Italy rather than Greece as the main gateway for illegal immigration.
Amnesty International has harshly criticized the European Union for sanctioning fences on the Greek borders, thus condoning violation of its own human rights principles, as most of the refugees are fleeing violence and repressions.

Turkey took Greece’s plans to reinforce its border calmly. “This structure is not a wall, it’s a fence,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
The European Union will incur no financial costs from shutting Greece out of the Schengen area because Greece has no land borders that would have to be restored.

“If Greece loses Schengen membership, it will start issuing national visas, or agree with Russia on visa-free travel,” said Irina Tyurina, spokesperson for the Russian travel industry union. “Greece is interested in streamlining the process to boost tourist inflow from Russia.”

French banks downgraded over Greek exposure

After reviewing two French banks’ exposure to the Greek debt, an international credit rating agency has decided to downgrade them. The French central bank remains calm, while the parliament is in turmoil.

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded its long-term ratings on Societe Generale from Aa2 to Aa3 and on Credit Agricole from Aa1 to Aa2 with negative outlook and put BNP Paribas on review for a possible downgrade. The rating agency said its Wednesday decision was driven by concern about their exposure to the Greek debt: both Societe Generale and Credit Agricole are large holders of Greek government bonds.

The downgrade of Credit Agricole and SocGen is “relatively good news,” said Christian Noyer, governor of France’s central bank. “French banks have an excellent rating, the same level as other major European banks – HSBC, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse. There’s no really bad news on the way, and Moody’s says the level of capital of French banks allows them to absorb any potential losses on sovereign debt,” he told RTL radio as quoted by the Financial Times.

Moody’s has not downgraded BNP Paribas but said it would extend its review for a possible downgrade of BNP’s long-term debt and deposit ratings. “Surely it can only be a matter of time before BNP Paribas follows in their wake as the bank announces a restructuring plan to increase capital, probably in order to head off a downgrade at the pass,” CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said.

BNP Paribas said on Wednesday that it would sell 70 billion euros ($96 billion) of assets, or 10% of the bank’s entire balance sheet, to cut risks.
The market value of major French banks has dropped nearly 50% this year and politicians fear they may become easy prey to foreign rivals. “We’re headed for a takeover attempt on Societe Generale by a foreign bank at a good price,” Jean-Pierre Balligand, a Socialist lawmaker who sits on the finance committee of the National Assembly, told Bloomberg. “It would be taking advantage of the euro crisis and that’s not good for France.”
RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.

School ski trips saved following operator collapse

Yesterday Sussex-based schools specialist tour operator, Pinnacle Travel, went into administration leaving hundreds of school children questioning whether their planned school ski trips would go ahead this winter.

The company’s schools division has been bought out by neighbouring operator, Visions Holiday Group, a specialist in bespoke holidays to Africa, Turkey and Greece. The operator said it will run the trips as planned with the accommodation and travel plans that were put in place by Pinnacle travel at the time of booking. It has been informing the affected schools of the changes and working with them to ensure their trips run smoothly.

A spokesperson for Visions Holiday Group said that the operator was experienced in running bespoke, tailor-made holidays with individual requirements and they would treat their school clients in the same way.

Meanwhile rival specialist schools tour operator, SkiClass, a member of TUI Travel PLC, which also includes ski operators Crystal and Thomson, has issued an announcement that it is also offering provisions for affected schools should they wish to travel with a different operator.

SkiClass’ director, Andy Burns, said that the operator will work closely with ABTA to help resolve the issues created by the collapse of Pinnacle Travel to ensure that teachers, parents and pupils do not suffer any financial losses and are still able to enjoy their skiing trips this winter.

SkiClass claims it has the expertise and experience in both the ski and schools travel markets to ensure a smooth transition for schools wanting to move their booking over to the operator and successful trips for all concerned.

The operator offers winter holidays to all the destinations covered by Pinnacle Travel and Burns claims that they can guarantee that all schools and pupils will still be able to travel to the resorts of their choice.

Burns also claims SkiClass will aim to make the transition as seamless as possible to avoid any additional administrative burden on the schools concerned.

A dedicated emergency helpline will be set up for the affected schools can call with any queries. Prior to this, anyone concerned can contact SkiClass immediately on 01273 647200.

Photo credit: SkiClass

Turkey warns Cyprus against offshore gas drilling

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey warned Cyprus against proceeding with offshore oil and gas drilling activities, saying Thursday it would finalize an agreement with Turkish Cypriots to mark out undersea borders to facilitate future oil and gas exploration.

The undersea boundary has been among the most contentious issues in Greek-Turkish relations, with each country trying to mark out where on the continental shelf it can exploit seabed oil and mineral deposits in the Aegean Sea.

A move by Turkey to declare such a border would aggravate relations with Greece and Cyprus, which is divided into an EU-member Greek south and a breakaway Turkish north.

The announcement by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry came a day after Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias announced that U.S. firm Noble Energy will soon begin exploratory drilling to confirm deposits beneath the sea bed off Cyprus’ southern coast despite Turkey’s attempts to prevent such a move.

Cypriot authorities did not immediately issue a statement reacting to Turkey’s announcement.

Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a sovereign country and strongly objects to the Greek Cypriot search for mineral deposits inside the island’s exclusive economic zone. That area covers 51,000 square kilometers (17,000 square miles) of seabed off the island’s southern coast.

Turkey insists that Cyprus has no right to go ahead with the search before a settlement to reunify the divided island can be reached. It has warned Cyprus against pursuing “adventurist policies,” and said Turkish Cypriots should also have a say in how the island’s oil-and-gas rights are used.

Turkey’s warning also coincides with expected deployment of Turkish warships in the east Mediterranean over Israel’s refusal to apologize for the killing of nine Turkish activists on an aid ship that attempted to break the blockade of Gaza last year.

Christofias didn’t specify a date for the start of drilling, which officials have said will begin early next month.

The involvement of the Noble Energy could further complicate matters for Turkey, a U.S. ally. Cyprus has licensed Noble to search for fossil fuels near two significant gas discoveries in its Israeli offshore blocks.

U.S. authorities have said the involvement of U.S. firms in such investment is a business decision, not a political one.

Cyprus has also signed agreements with Lebanon and Egypt to mark out undersea borders to facilitate future oil and gas exploration, prompting Turkey to urge those two countries to scrap the deals. Turkey separately called a deal between Cyprus and Israel demarcating their maritime borders “null and void,” saying it ignores the rights and jurisdiction of breakaway Turkish Cypriots.

Turkish and Turkish Cypriot officials met in Ankara Thursday and agreed to conclude “a continental shelf delimitation agreement” between them if Cyprus does not stop plans to start drilling activities. Turkish diplomats and energy officials will travel to the island on Friday for further talks, the ministry added.

Turkey believes the Greek Cypriot search would damage long-running talks aimed at reunification. The Greek Cypriot government says the search is its sovereign right and Turkish Cypriots could share the potential bounty once a peace accord is signed.

However, Turkey’s stakes in the dispute are higher as Cyprus has threatened to further impede Turkey’s EU accession negotiations. It had accused Turkish warships of interfering with an offshore fossil fuel survey in 2008.

Turkey’s EU membership bid is already hobbled with negotiations on some policy have been frozen over Turkey’s refusal to allow ships and planes from Cyprus to enter its ports and airspace, and the EU says Ankara must open its airspace to the EU member if it wants to get closer to membership itself.

In return, Turkey insists on the lifting of what it says is the unofficial trade embargo on the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island, which was divided into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north following Turkey’s 1974 invasion. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the south enjoys the membership’s benefits.

The island’s northern part declared its independence in 1983 but it is recognized only by Turkey, which maintains 35,000 troops there.


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Greece is heading toward default – but what kind?

London (CNN) – Greece is almost certain to default on its debts, but the type of default – and its impact on the markets, Europe and the world – is yet to play out.

A default can come in three different forms:

A “selective default�. Under the terms of the second bail-out, some creditors can roll over their debt and take a “hair-cut�, or losses on the money they are owed. This is done to protect against the possibility of greater losses in the future. It is limited, controlled and understood. Crucially, it is expected.

The greater fear is that Greece defaults on a much greater scale. An “orderly defaultâ€� would be one that is planned for, so creditors – and the markets – are prepared and have a plan to deal with losses in the value of their investments. While markets will be volatile, there will be soothing statements from eurozone leaders and it will be controlled.

The worst case scenario is that Greece defaults outright and without warning. This is what people are referring to as a “disorderly default,â€� and that is the big fear. This would be hugely significant because it will almost certainly lead to contagion. It will not necessarily lead to Greece being kicked out of the euro, nor the collapse thereof. It will however pose fundamental questions about the foundations of the euro project. Market reaction could be as bad as when Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008.

This all comes against a backdrop of serious financial problems in other major eurozone economies – particularly Italy, which is one country regarded as too big to bail out.

Greece was given a second bailout on July 21. The centrepiece of that agreement was the expansion of the bailout fund – known as the European Financial Stability Facility, or EFSF.

All the countries in the euro must agree on this change – and that is where the difficulty currently lies. Some, like Finland, want collateral in return for participating. Others, like some German politicians, are philosophically opposed. Germany’s vote, which is key, comes on September 29.

Monitoring all this is the troika – European Central Bank, European Union and International Monetary Fund – delegation to Greece. It must approve the measures Greece has taken in terms of cutting its deficit. The delegation abruptly cut short their first monitor visit and still haven’t returned despite Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou passing the necessary measures.

A Eurogroup and EcoFin meeting starts in Poland tomorrow. In a surprise move, U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is attending. Action, rather than talk, can be expected at this meeting.

The troika return to Greece on September 19. This return has been delayed multiple times. Their report is due at the end of September, although no date has been set.

Another date for the diary is the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meeting in Washington DC on September 23 and 24, followed by the G20 Finance Ministers meeting in Paris on October 15. The detail of the discussions could well be dictated by the type of default which Greece ends up tripping on.