Greece’s prime minister promises that new $14.4 billion austerity measures …

“This is the last such package of spending cuts,” Samaras told a meeting of his conservative party’s officials. “The Greek economy can take no more.”

Samaras’ promise will sound familiar to Greeks, as previous governments have offered — and broken — similar pledges during more than two and a half years of harsh austerity measures designed to curtail huge budget deficits.

“Many of these cutbacks are difficult, painful,” Samaras said. “But they are also inevitable. For without them the country would return to zero credibility and effectively leave the euro. Which would … destroy the country.”

Athens has pledged to implement the spending cuts in 2013 and 2014 under its commitments to international creditors who are keeping Greece afloat with rescue loans. Otherwise, the next €31 billion bailout payment will be suspended, forcing the country to default on its mountain of debt while struggling to pay pensions and public sector salaries. Many analysts believe Greece would then have to leave the 17-member eurozone.

After weeks of deliberations with its two center-left junior coalition partners, PASOK and the Democratic Left, Samaras’ conservative-led government says it is close to finalizing how exactly it will make the cuts. The program will be discussed with debt inspectors who are due in Athens next week and will meet with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Sept. 9.

Before that, Stournaras, who is trying to fine-tune the list of cutbacks with officials from the two junior partners, will hold talks in Berlin with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Tuesday, the finance ministry said.

The two-month-old government has issued no official details on the €11.5-billion package, which is expected to rely heavily on further pension and public sector pay cuts.

A meeting of the three coalition party leaders on Wednesday produced conflicting statements on the measures. Stournaras said that the “basic scenario” has been settled, and “minor, technical” details remain to be thrashed out.

But Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis insisted that he strongly opposes across-the-board income cuts. His party also disagrees with reductions in local authority funding and in farmers’ pensions, as well as with proposals to suspend thousands of civil servants — who are guaranteed jobs for life — on reduced pay ahead of retirement.

The party chiefs will meet again before next week’s visit by the debt inspectors from the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, collectively known as the troika.

Once the troika signs off, the new cutbacks must be approved by Parliament, where the three coalition parties enjoy a strong majority, controlling 178 of the 300 seats.

The vote is expected to trigger protests, as labor unions and anti-austerity parties virulently oppose further austerity. Previous demonstrations descended into riots that saw extensive vandalism and destruction of property in central Athens.

Workers at Greece’s Hellenic Postbank went on strike Thursday, a day after Stournaras told Parliament that the bank is no longer viable. The country’s main GSEE union accused the government of trying to undermine the bank’s value with a view to selling it cheap to private investors.

Company shares tumbled nearly 30 percent Thursday, before the stock exchange indefinitely suspended trading, after bank officials said they could not make a deadline to release company results for 2011.

Greece was due to sell its 34 percent stake in Hellenic Postbank last year, under a badly delayed privatization program intended to raise €19 billion ($23.8 billion) by 2015.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Robert Sebbage death: Family travel to Greece for trial

Robert SebbageRobert Sebbage had been on holiday with friends in Zante, also known as Zakynthos

The family and friends of a Hampshire teenager stabbed on the Greek island of Zante are travelling there for the trial of a man accused of his murder.

Robert Sebbage, 18, from Tadley, was killed and four of his friends were hurt during a night out at the Laganas holiday resort in July 2011.

It is alleged they were attacked after a row broke out between them and a group of taxi drivers.

The trial starts on Monday and is expected to take up to a week.

Shortly after the stabbing, two men in their 20s were charged, one with murder and the other as an accomplice.

Stabbed friends return

The Sebbage family have hired an English-speaking Greek solicitor who has told them what to expect from the Greek law courts and will guide them through the hearing.

However, Robert’s mother, Rhian Sebbage, said she was apprehensive.

“It’s a Greek system, it’s all going to be in Greek, half of it we won’t know what’s going on,” she said.

“I don’t think you can prepare yourself mentally.

England mascot Robert Sebbage (R) watches Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2nd L) greet England's David BeckhamRobert Sebbage was a mascot for the England team in a friendly against Brazil at Wembley in 2007

“I have carried on working right up until last Friday, so I’ve been quite busy which has probably helped me cope.”

Travelling with Mrs Sebbage, her husband Andy and their other son, will be six of Robert’s friends, who were on holiday with him when he died, and their families – a total of 23 people.

“The more you hear it [how Robert and his friends were stabbed], the harder it becomes,” Mrs Sebbage said.

“And it’s really hard because we know the boys and we end up seeing all the boys together as a group and that’s really, really tough because Robert is not with them.

“They try and protect us as much as they can and don’t want to talk about in front of us, because it’s hard for them as well.”


Nice place, shame about the economy

The Irish Times – Wednesday, August 29, 2012Reality check: Half-empty bars and cafes are the norm in Crete, where the economic crisis has taken its toll.Photograph: Getty Images

If Greece loses tourism, it loses everything, writes
BRIAN BLAKE , who arrived on holidays in Crete to be greeted by half-empty bars and eerily quiet restaurants

IT WILL BE the end of the summer before Greece knows exactly how much the turmoil surrounding the euro has cost the country in terms of lost tourism revenue. But early indications are that visitors numbers are down substantially, which is hardly surprising, given the gloomy predictions early in the year about the imminent collapse of the economy there.

It was amid this uncertainty and with some trepidation that my family and I took a gamble and booked our holiday in Crete. Reaction ranged from, “Are you mad? There are riots on the streets there,” to, “Better book your drachmas now; they’ll be leaving the euro.”

And for a long time, it appeared the naysayers were right. Headlines predicted the imminent departure of Greece from the euro zone, with the inevitable consequences for the economy – and for anyone planning a visit to the country.

Then came the first election which, we optimistically reasoned, would clear up matters once and for all – either Greece would be staying in the euro or there would be a hasty exit followed by a swift return to the drachma and all that it entailed.

But the uncertainty continued when it turned out a second election would be needed, this one billed as a referendum on whether the Greek people were willing to stomach the grim austerity measures needed to continue with the euro.

This time they said yes, but the naysayers weren’t going to be silenced, billing it as a temporary measure.

Still, it was the best news we’d heard so far – our holiday could go ahead without currency-exchange worries, but there were still nagging doubts. Would the hotel we had booked online still be open when we arrived, or would the car-hire company have a vehicle for us?

Travel websites offered some comfort, assuring us that Greece was open for business, with the caveat that it would be best to bring cash in small denominations in the event that the ATMs ran out of money or there was a reluctance to accept credit cards.

But, as anyone who has visited Greece knows, cash has always been the most welcome way of doing business there – and therein lies the origin of much of the country’s economic decline, given the difficulty of keeping track of it for taxation purposes.

Arriving at Heraklion airport in Crete, there didn’t seem to be as many tourists as we expected in holiday season. Our luggage arrived without delay, there was no queue at the car-hire desk and there was little traffic on the road to our apartment complex.

Our initial impression that tourist numbers were down was confirmed during the first week by the half-empty bars and restaurants everywhere we went, with proprietors ready to pounce on passers-by in an effort to entice them inside.

This has always been the custom in Greece, but although the good humour remained, there was a desperation in their urgings this year that had been absent the previous times we visited the country.

However, many restaurants didn’t seem to be doing much to help themselves when it came to prices, with the cost of meals on a par with what you’d pay at home. You expect better value on holiday, particularly when you know it can be found in the likes of Portugal and Spain.

The minority of restaurants that had adapted to fewer visitor numbers and lowered their prices were easy to spot – they were doing a steady trade, in stark contrast with the eerily quiet establishments around them.

Value was difficult to find in the shops, too. In one shop, a pair of shoes priced at €30 had been increased to €45 when we went back to buy them the next day.

Another shopkeeper was dismayed that the Greek tourist authorities hadn’t done more to assure visitors that the country was open for business. “Even if the euro had gone, it would have taken a year to reintroduce the drachma and euros would have been taken in the shops and restaurants,” she said.

It was as if the Greeks still hadn’t accepted the new reality and were carrying on as if little had changed, perhaps hoping to ride out the storm in the expectation that the tourists would return in their throngs next year now that the country is staying in the euro.

This is a huge assumption to make, given that the euro is not out of the woods yet and there are sure to be many twists and turns before any semblance of stability returns to international markets.

Last month, Greek tourism industry groups said they expected revenues to be down by about 15 per cent this year, while the central bank announced a record 24.2 per cent year-on-year drop in travel spending by nonresidents.

Greece is a beautiful country and has in abundance what we would give our eye-teeth for – guaranteed sunshine. Revenue from tourism, which accounts for one in five jobs and nearly a fifth of GDP, could go a long way towards helping to solve its economic ills.

But the country has to be careful not to price itself out of the market. This is a high-stakes game – if it loses tourism, it loses everything.

  • |

Wen Tells Merkel Spain, Italy, Greece Need More Reforms

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told
visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Spain, Italy and
Greece must take “comprehensive measures” to prevent a
worsening of the euro zone’s sovereign debt crisis.

“The main worries are two-fold: first is whether Greece
will leave the euro zone,” Wen said in remarks at Beijing’s
Great Hall of the People. “The second is whether Italy and
Spain will take comprehensive rescue measures: resolving these
two problems rests with whether Greece, Spain, Italy and other
countries have the determination for reform.”

Europe’s slump is deepening as governments struggle to
restore investor confidence and companies eliminate jobs.
Economies are stalling or contracting amid concern about a
possible Greek exit from the euro and the ability of Spain and
Italy to service their debts.

Wen said he was more confident about the euro zone after
meeting today with Merkel. Their meeting coincided with the
signing of a $3.5 billion agreement for China to buy 50 Airbus
SAS A320 aircraft, one of more than 10 agreements signed today,
the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

In addition to winning contracts for German companies,
Merkel is aiming to convince Wen and other Chinese leaders that
the euro zone is a good place to invest. Gross domestic product
in the 17-nation currency bloc fell 0.2 percent from the first
quarter, when it stagnated, the European Union’s statistics
office in Luxembourg said August 14.

“Recently, the European debt crisis has continued to
worsen giving rise to serious concerns in the international
community,” Wen said. “Frankly speaking, I am also worried.”

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story:
Michael Forsythe in Beijing at
[email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Peter Hirschberg at
[email protected]


Enlarge image
Wen Tells Merkel Spain, Italy, Greece Need to Step Up Overhaul

Wen Tells Merkel Spain, Italy, Greece Need to Step Up Overhaul

Wen Tells Merkel Spain, Italy, Greece Need to Step Up Overhaul

Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, center right, tours the Nanluoguxiang hutong in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. Merkel is on a two-day official visit.

Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, center right, tours the Nanluoguxiang hutong in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. Merkel is on a two-day official visit. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg


Merkel Looks to Reassure China on the Euro

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Spain, Italy and Greece must take “comprehensive measures” to prevent a worsening of the euro zone’s sovereign debt crisis.


Enlarge image
Wen Tells Merkel Spain, Italy, Greece Need to Step Up Overhaul

Wen Tells Merkel Spain, Italy, Greece Need to Step Up Overhaul

Wen Tells Merkel Spain, Italy, Greece Need to Step Up Overhaul

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Wen Jiabao, China’s premier, right, and Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor attend the welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Wen Jiabao, China’s premier, right, and Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor attend the welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photographer: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images


Greece Fighting to Ensure Its Future in Euro Zone -PM Samaras

By Nektaria Stamouli, Alkman Granitsas and Philip Pangalos

ATHENS–Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said Tuesday that the country is doing its utmost to ensure that it remains in the euro zone and to speed up a return to economic recovery.

“We are giving a battle to put off the danger of the country exiting the euro; we are giving a battle to strengthen the country’s negotiating …


Sovereign Luxury Travel Launch Exclusive Sale

LONDON, August 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ —

Customers can save up to 45% and enjoy complimentary upgrades and treats on luxury holidays

Summer may be nearing its end in the UK but there are plenty of popular holiday destinations set to enjoy many more weeks of warm, sunny weather, perfect for those who’ve postponed booking their summer holiday thus far. Furthermore, there are some exceptional discounts to be snapped up by Sovereign Luxury Travel customers who can get up to 45% off a luxury holiday as well as taking advantage of complementary extras like room and board upgrades and early booking discounts for bookings made in the sale before 3rd September 2012.

All these offers are exclusive to Sovereign, meaning they can’t be found anywhere else. All the below offers are on luxury holidays in Europe, but Sovereign are also offering discounts on any holiday booked within the sale period, so whether customers are looking for a luxurious escape in Europe, or further afield, Sovereign have offers on luxury end-of-summer or 2013 breaks to suit anyone.

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For more information on these holidays, as well as all the other luxury resorts and hotels offered by Sovereign, including the Porto Sani Village in Greece, visit http://www.sovereign.com or call +44(0)844-415-1936.


Greece mulls T-bills to bridge extension funding gap-officials


Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:16am IST

By Lefteris Papadimas

ATHENS Aug 27 (Reuters) – Greece estimates that a two-year extension on its bailout would create a financing gap of less than 18 billion euros ($22.5 billion), which it could cover by issuing short-term debt rather than pleading for more money from lenders, government officials have told Reuters.

The argument is part of Greece’s efforts to persuade irate European partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that being granted more time to hit budget targets does not automatically mean forking out more money to save the country from bankruptcy.

“The government does not want the funding gap that will be created if we are given a two-year extension for implementing the measures to be a burden on our lenders,” a government official who declined to be named said.

“This is our strategy on this issue. This is why (Prime Minister Antonis) Samaras said in his recent meetings that we need time, not more money.”

Greece believes the funding gap could be bridged by issuing T-bills, the official said, which Athens relied on to get past a funding crunch in August as it awaited its next tranche of aid.

“The government has a number of proposals on how it could cover the funding gap,” the official said.

“One of them is to be allowed to issue more T-bills in 2013, when the economic environment will have improved and we will be able to do it at a lower cost.”

Samaras travelled last week to Paris and Berlin as part of a charm offensive to persuade his counterparts that Greece would not renege on its commitments outlined in the bailout and deserves more time to implement painful austerity cuts.

The proposal for a two-year extension has so far met a frosty reception in Europe – where anger at Athens’ history of failed promises is riding high – but Samaras has argued that recession Greece desperately needs “air to breathe”.

Greek officials maintain that the country could get its 130-billion-euro bailout program back on track quicker if it is given a two-year extension on targets, which they say will let the economy rebound a year earlier than it would otherwise.

“An extension will give us room to achieve higher rates of growth and employment,” Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told parliament during question time late on Monday.

“We are seeking an extension in a way that will not take us off track with our goals.”

Athens has calculated that its economy would shrink by 1.5 percent in 2013 and grow by 2 percent in 2014 if it was granted two more years to push through the cuts, Greek officials say.

Without an extension, the economy would contract by up to 4.5 percent next year and see no recovery until 2015, officials said, citing the calculations.

“We expect the economy would return to growth in 2014 rather than 2015 and that will work in favour of the fiscal position in the long term,” a second government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Some EU officials, however, feel that Greece is so far off-track from the terms of its bailout that it would need about 20-40 billion euros in additional financing to put it back on course – a cost that would have to be borne by the European Central Bank or euro zone governments.

Under the terms of the bailout, Greece needs to push through nearly 12 billion euros of cuts for the next two years to bring its budget deficit to below 3 percent of GDP by the end of 2014 from 9.3 pct in 2011.

Mired in its fifth year of recession, Greece’s economy is set to shrink by over 7 percent this year according to Samaras, who has likened the crisis to America’s Great Depression.

Nearly one in four Greeks is jobless, while citizens have taken to the streets to protest repeated rounds of wage and pension cuts that have depressed living standards and pushed up suicides.


Aside from illness, ODU’s Europe trip a big success – The Virginian

NORFOLK

Blaine Taylor joked that his substitution patterns were never better.

Old Dominion had only five players for the third game on the team’s European tour last week. A stomach bug knocked more than half the team out of commission. There were no substitutions to be made.

ODU won that game in Greece, then dropped its final one the next day with six players. The Monarchs went 3-1 on a privately-funded trip to Greece and Italy that was as much about culture and team-building as backdoor cuts and zone defenses.

“You think of it as a fairy-tale trip, which it was, but there were also a lot of lessons learned,” Taylor said.

One of them was that 10 days of foreign food and drink, the Mediterranean heat, and travel-induced fatigue can lay a team of young athletes low. Not to mention coaches and support staff.

After a weekend of rest and recovery, the team reconvened Monday afternoon to discuss the trip and compare highlights.

For senior Nick Wright, it was the Sistine Chapel. For junior Donte Hill, the Acropolis.

ODU landed in Milan, took a boat tour of Lake Como, thrashed a local club team 92-40, then caught a high-speed train to Rome.

After sight-seeing in the Italian capital, the Monarchs easily prevailed in their second game, played outdoors in the village of Ovieto.

The competition was tougher in Greece, particularly with most of the team ailing. Hill and Wright were part of an Iron Man squad that routed a Greek club team. The next night, against the most talented team they faced, the Monarchs ran out of gas. All but Hill, who somehow managed to avoid the bug.

“I’m still trying to figure that out,” he said.

Like many players, Hill had never traveled overseas. He said he can’t wait to return, particularly to Greece.

“Everyone else had a bad time there, but I enjoyed myself,” he said.

About 30 boosters paid to accompany the team. The tour was financed through proceeds from sales of the courtside seats at the Constant Center.

The Monarchs started classes Monday. Taylor said when he played, more than 30 years ago, the first day of school was for introductions.

Not for ODU, which began conditioning in late June and had 10 practices prior to the tour.

“I think it gives us a head start,” Taylor said.

Note: Forward Richard Ross, who fractured his right wrist in practice before the trip, is scheduled to have surgery today. The 6-foot-7 redshirt sophomore, who averaged 4.5 points and 3.9 rebounds last season, is expected to be out two to three months.

Ed Miller, (757) 446-2372 or [email protected]

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Merkel Cautions on Criticism of Greece

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TUI Travel profit dented by early Easter holiday

LONDON (Reuters) – TUI Travel , the world’s biggest tour operator, posted a 16 percent fall in third-quarter profit as the impact of an early Easter holiday period knocked sales and its French business continued to struggle.

The group, which owns Thomson and First Choice, on Thursday reported an underlying operating profit of 74 million pounds ($115.9 million) in the three months to the end of June, primarily because the Easter holidays fell in its second quarter this year as opposed to the third quarter in 2011.

Group revenues fell 2 percent to 3.69 billion pounds, while the operating margin dropped to 0.3 points to 2 percent.

The FTSE 100 company said trading for this year’s summer high season had started well, with fewer holidays left to sell compared to the same time last year.

“Summer 2012 volumes have improved in most key markets since our last update. We are seeing strong demand and lates margins for the peak Summer period,” TUI Travel chief executive Peter Long said in a statement.

“Our winter 2012/2013 programme has had an encouraging start.”

The company said the UK, the Nordic region and Germany had all delivered solid growth during the period but that its French business continues to underperform its expectations.

Travel firms and airlines across Europe have seen bookings fall in recent months, hit by the eurozone crisis and uncertainty in Greece, one of the continent’s main holiday destinations.

Shares in TUI Travel, which have risen 13 percent in the last month, closed at 195 pence on Wednesday, valuing the business at around 2.17 billion pounds. ($1 = 0.6386 British pounds)

(Reporting by Rhys Jones; Editing by Paul Sandle)