Grecia premuto per ripristinare il programma di austerità

The guarded optimism came after a meeting of European finance ministers at which Greece was told to come up with about 3 miliardi di euro ($3.75 miliardo) in new savings “in the coming weeks” before its creditors consider easing the terms of its bailout, the country’s new finance minister said Tuesday.

“They are asking that we implement the measures we have committed to for 2012,” the finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, told reporters in Brussels.

Sig.. Stournaras said the government could suggest alternatives to the measures it had agreed to, as long as the new proposals produced the same result.

“We are considering the measures and we will push to be able to impose them in installments,"Ha aggiunto.

The Eurogroup — the finance ministers of the 17 nations using l'euro — on Monday night heard a preliminary debriefing from representatives of the so-called troika, who returned to Athens last month after being away for several weeks after the inconclusive elections in May.

Il Commissione europea vice presidente, Olli Rehn, said the mission — which includes officials from the commission, il Banca centrale europea and the International Monetary Fund — would return in 10 days or so for further work.

“In that context we will assess the real financing needs of Greece now, in the short term,” as well as “various possibilities” for meeting them, he said at a news conference on Tuesday. “I’m sure they will find a solution to this problem, as we have in previous rounds.”

At an earlier news conference, the Eurogroup president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the ministers would discuss adjusting the terms of Greece’s bailout program in September.

Asked about a 3.2 billion euro Greek bond held by the European Central Bank that matures on Aug. 20, Sig.. Juncker said “appropriate solutions” would be found.

At the end of June, Greece received the final installment of 5.2 miliardi di euro di aiuti: 1 billion euros that had been withheld after the country’s inconclusive election in May. The timing and amount of the next delivery of aid from the 130 billion euro bailout agreed to early this year will be determined in the coming weeks, a euro zone official said.

Sig.. Juncker said that Mr. Stournaras described the country’s current situation during the meeting and gave “reassurances that the new Greek government will take the steps necessary to bring the Greek program back on track.”

Although Greece made no requests at the meeting, its government hopes to win an extension of the deadlines for meeting its deficit-reduction targets. Spain was granted an extension on Tuesday.

“When the time comes, the issue of an extension will be raised persistently because it is only fair,"Mr. Stournaras ha detto. He noted that an extension would require additional outside money for Greece — something the parliaments of some euro zone countries might be reluctant to approve.

And the formation of a coalition Greek government — albeit a fragile one — appears to have calmed the nerves of savers worried about political instability.

According to bank officials, cash has been flowing back into accounts at a steady pace since the June 17 elezioni, con 5 billion euros returning within the last two weeks. Circa 4 miliardi di 5 billion euros was withdrawn in the first two weeks of June.

“The banks lost deposits due to all the uncertainty, but fortunately after the elections we saw the deposits returning and at quite a satisfactory pace,” the central bank governor, Georgios A. Provopoulos, told President Karolos Papoulias in televised comments in Athens.

Paul Geitner reported from Brussels, and Niki Kitsantonis from Athens.

Che cosa da bere adesso: Nuovi Vini di Grecia ... Assyrtico da Santorini

Just when you think you know a little bit about wine you travel to Greece and you realize there is so much more to learn. I recently returned from Greece, attending the 3rd annual New Wines of Greece Symposium and traveling throughout the country and the Aegean Islands as a guest of New Wines of Greece, traveling with All About Greek Wines founder Sofia Perpera and her husband George Athanas. The duo started their wine and spirit consulting company almost 10 years ago to help promote the wines of Greece to the international market, partnering with some of the best wineries in the country, many of whom follow the classic traditions handed down for generations while embracing modern techniques and operations.

When you think about Greek wine the first thing that may come to mind is Retsina….the pine infused Assyrtico (A seer’ tee ko) quella, through the years, has given Greek wines a bad name in many wine drinkers opinion, and though we did try a few that will take the enamel off your teeth and make you stay away from purchasing a Christmas tree again, we did try one that was surprising from the winery Kechris with their To Dakri tou Pefkou or “Pine’s Tear” that utilizes oak aging, making it manageable and even interesting.

O, you may think of the mineral rich, steely and sometimes sulfuric Assyrtico varietal white wines of Santorini, filled with lots of acidity, fresh herbal and citrus notes that has done surprisingly well in the export market around the world, most likely due to the throngs of tourists that visit the island each year and want to taste the flavors of the island once they get home.

After traveling through the country, meeting winemakers and tasting their wines, it quickly became apparent that the wines of this country go far beyond the distinct Assyrtico, and are well above what the wines of the country have been known for in the past. My next few posts will dive into the flavors of some of these wines from throughout Greece, but first a look into the highlights of Santorini and why these wines have become the some of the most recognized from the country.

The island of Santorini dates its existence back to the time of the Bronze Age (around the 17th Century B.C,) but some think the shape of it could indicate it was at one time attached to the island of Crete, detaching from the island either during one of their destructive and ever-present earthquakes or volcanoes. Over the years archaeologists have found evidence to prove the first inhabitants of Santorini were quite civilized, engaging in trade activities with the Minoan culture in Crete, as well as Egypt, Asia and beyond and living peacefully and sustainably off products local to the area, capers, tomatoes and lots of wine.

Remnants of the city of Akrotiri

The pre-historic city of Akrotiri, or the “the Pompeii of the Aegean” was discovered by Greek archaeologists in 1967 proving the island had a vibrant and prosperous culture. The city had been covered in volcanic ash when a volcano eruption occurred on the island around 1650B.C., preserving the artifacts in pristine condition. It is believed that the volcano did not come unexpected, as evidence shows that there were no people in the city of Akrotiri when the volcano blew. Archaeologists don’t know where they went, but it is believed that this was the end of the Minoan civilization in Santorini and Crete.

What the volcanic eruption did leave was layers and layers of mineral rich, volcanic ash, lava and pumice stone that has become the foundation for the distinctive, intensely mineralic and highly acidic wines produced on the island. Breathtakingly beautiful, with white washed walled buildings and blue domed churches dot the countryside overlooking the sea where the colors of the water meld so closely to the colors of the sky you can’t see where one ends and the other begins, Santorini has built itself up in the cliffs above the Aegean Sea where powerful winds blow from morning through the night.

Basket vines of Assyrtico in Santorini

To battle these winds grape growers developed a system to train their vines in defense, wrapping vines in a basket type formation near the ground that allows grapes the ability to grow inside the vine blocked from the damaging winds. Inoltre, the vines grown in this soil are naturally resistant to disease, specifically phylloxera that destroyed most of the other vines in Greece as in the rest of Europe, creating an almost completely organic means of farming. It would seem that every home and church throughout the country also has a few of these basket vines growing in their front yard, making personal consumption of home-grown and made wine a normal part of the Santorini lifestyle.

Cooperatives, like the Union of Santorini Cooperatives who bottle their wine under the label SantoWines, give local farmers a place to process their wines after harvest each year, as well as a place for the jarring and canning of local agricultural products that thrive on the island, like capers, tomatoes and fava beans. Many of the wines they produce go straight back to the household for their personal use, however they do sell some of these wines for public consumption as well. One such is their award winning SantoWines Santorini Assyrtico. Subtle, in the grand scheme of Assyrtico, with aromas of white flowers, white grapefruit and herbs with pronounced minerality and balanced acidity. A delicious wine to pair with grilled white fish or octopus, and salad filled with briny capers and herbs.

Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, Co-Founder of Gaia Wines

After the first sip of their steely, mineral filled wines I became a fan. Though they follow a similar flavor profile of many of the wines from the island, these had a little something more, with distinct character and personality.

Flash fried prawns with Hatzidakis Nykteri and Hatzidakis Aidani-Assyrtico blend

Domaine Sigalas
produces one of the most well known Assyrtico wines from Santorini, simply labeled Sigalas Santorini. Stainless steel fermented, this crisp, fresco, acidic wine has a light tint of green to its straw yellowish color, helping understand the green, grassy notes of the wine, along with ripe grapefruit, green apple and mineral notes. A consistent award winner, Sigalas has become known for making wine representative of the island with character and tradition, and ideally paired with freshly caught, grilled fish served with fresh lemon.

Trouble in Paradise: Turismo blues di Grecia


Luglio 10, 2012 16:00:57

Isole greche - chapel bells


Across the sparkling Aegean, the forecast is gloomy. (Rachael Brown)

Greece is seeking to dilute the austerity measures that have condemned it to a fifth year of recession.

The opposition party, tuttavia, says the country is simply ‘chasing its tail’; that persisting with bailout conditions will push Greece to voluntarily withdraw from the eurozone.

Che cosa isn’t getting as much airtime is the effect this limbo is having on what were once some of Greece’s most valuable commoditiesits islands.

Away from the mainland, across the sparkling Aegean, the forecast is gloomy. The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises puts reservations for this summer’s tourist season down by 15 per cento rispetto allo scorso anno.

Workers are holding their breaths, counting on last-minute reservations. One in five Greeks work in the tourism sector, and work hard. Those I meet work seven days a week. I ask when their next break is and they reply, “winter”.

Normally I’d cringe empathetically, but this time I hope they’re right. Given the sector accounts for 20 per cent of the Greek economy – its single biggest industry – a tourism slump this summer will have major implications as the country tries to grow out of its worst financial crisis in modern history.

In Mykonos, the locals are putting on a brave face. There’s a colourful procession of cocktails from beach bars to deckchairs, and music pumps from clubs until dawn.

I’m miles from the mainland, and on the surface, you wouldn’t know there was a problem. I meet restaurateur Jim Gikas, a big personality with a laugh to match.

He roars when I ask him if he voted, like it’s the best joke he’s heard in ages. “Why bother,” he hoots, “governments make their decisions alone, they never ask us.For others, voting is too costly; citizens have to vote where they’re registered, and most won’t give up a day’s work to travel to Athens.

You Australians,” Jim laughs, “you are planners, you plan for five years. We Greeks, we don’t care about tomorrow, we don’t make plans, we live every day like it’s the last, we live like crazy, we eat the life, sai?”

Locals outside cafe in Mykonos


Locals outside cafe in Mykonos (Rachael Brown)

I silently wonder whether the Greeksaversion to planning is part of their problem. Allora, this man who lives for today tells me he wants to revert to yesterday’s valuta. The drachma.

It’s the great divider. The rhetoric from countless economists being paraded through Europe’s 24-hour news channels equates a return to this historical currency with suicide.

‘Drachmageddon’, it’s been dubbed. A vortex that would see a 65 per cent fall in the new currency’s nominal value. Food and gasoline would be near unaffordable. Yet many locals think the risk would be worth it, in the long run.

Many cling stubbornly to their old way of life. A mate I’m travelling with likens the Greek economy with the islandsantiquated sewerage system. To protect the pipes, visitors are asked not to flush paper; piuttosto, they are to put it in a bin.

It’s a lot of smelly stuffing around,” lei dice, “when it’d make more sense just to fix the infrastructure.But the Greeks press on, tinkering with weak systems.

If we went back to the drachma,” says Jim Gikas, “one dollar Australian would buy 300 Drachmas. It’s better for tourists, it’s better for us, because now we have 15-20 million tourists every summer; we could have 40 milioni di euro, 50 million people.

Santorini waiter Stavros Gikas agrees. He thinks Greece will go back to the drachma in the next two or three years anyway, così, he figures, why not just get it over and done with.

He left his career on the mainland to work on the islands. And for this former engineer, the math is simple. “Ora, è 450 the basic (monthly wage) and will go to 300 euro (circa $360), so you cannot live. Gasoline is two euros per litre, so how can you live?”

Boats moored in Oia port


Boats moored in Oia port (Rachael Brown)

At his restaurant in Oia, takings are down on last year by about 30-35 percento. Around the cliff-face, I hear delighted squeals as tourists jump into the clear water and swim towards a tiny rocky island, on which stands a little chapel with a bell.

Swimmers send chimes out over the sea. Stavros Gikas will have to say a little prayer. His summertime job, and the jobs of 100,000 altrui, will depend on last-minute bookings to salvage this tourist season. Greece’s political and economic limbo has prompted many tourists to instead choose the shores of Spain and Turkey for their holidays.

There’s also tourist fear, however irrational, of violence in the streets. Protests in Athens and other cities have hurt the country’s image. “Don’t believe what you hear from the news,” says Panos, a hotel receptionist in Mykonos, “guests expect to see rebels in the street burning down parliament – i mezzi di comunicazione continua a giocare ancora e ancora la stessa cosa.”

A differenza di alcuni degli altri operatori turistici Ho parlato con, Panos dice di tornare alla dracma sarà un disastro, a causa di stipendi. Ma poi aggiunge, “Non me ne importa circa la valuta. Voglio solo che i miei amici e la famiglia, gente semplice, per essere felici.”

Due anni fa, il suo albergo era al completo per l'estate europea. Ora, molte date sono vuote. “Questo è il terzo (deludente) stagione,” mi dice, “e il popolo greco non può permetterselo, per week-end lunghi o vacanze di Pasqua. Questa estate maggior parte degli alberghi offrono altre offerte e riduzioni dei prezzi, non solo per il popolo greco, anche per le persone all'estero.”

Panos mi dice che era depresso il giorno delle elezioni. Voleva cambiamento radicale. Ha ottenuto lo stesso vecchio compromesso. “Essi furono presi dal panico,” mi dice, “le stesse persone che erano fuori per le strade, and the same people voted again, for the same things. They were scared about things they heard on TV, about having to vote according to Europe’s guidelines.

Atlantis Books in Oia


Atlantis Books in Oia (Rachael Brown)

In Oia, up the hill from Chapel Rock, past the procession of donkeys (the death defying alternative to a cable-car), sits Atlantis Books. Imagine your favourite bookshop, then nestle it in the meandering lanes of an ancient town, and you’re close.

American Craig Walzer has run the store for the past eight years. On his first visit, he found Oia had no bookshop, so he and his friends built one. “We salvaged wood from beaches and junkyards, got some books in, and here we are.

Makeshift beds are tucked between, and behind, creaking bookshelves for friends passing though. Not a bad deal: a pillow in exchange for holding the fort. Names of the novel guardians are scrawled in a twirl on the store’s roof.

Mr Walzer isn’t surprised by the austere realities facing Greece. “The problems we’re finally beginning to confront were there in 2004,” dice. “It was easy money for everyone. There was no cappuccino too expensive, no sunset view too expensive. You could put anything out there on the streets and people were lapping it up.

We got lazy; now we have to work harder to earn patronage. Maybe get back to what the Greek experience should be. Think of new ways to encourage people to come in and pull stuff off shelves. Don’t believe anyone who says they didn’t see this coming. And now it’s time for comeuppance, and I hope everyone comes out better on the other side.

He also blames the slide in tourism revenue on the different razza of traveller coming through. A postcard traveller. Seeking instant gratification, however hollow.

The government is doing deals with boats in different ways,” he laments. “Fewer people are here for a week, staying in villas and taking their time. It’s a lot more cruise boats that are being scheduled to bring people in and drop them off and give them an hour to shuffle around in herds like sheep, and they don’t have time to really take a look even, let alone come downstairs into a little cave like we have. And they’re just looking at their watch, wanting to get a quick magnet for their refrigerator before they get back to the bus station.

Craig Walzer says it’s an era of quick, cheap money. “To see this town become a town of airbrushed T-shirts and photo-shopped postcards is kind of scary. Deep down it’s a beautiful place. The bits of decay and unkempt edges of it give it character. But far fewer people are coming for the character, and far more are coming to take the photo that looks like the postcard that they saw at home.

Along with the country’s more pressing problems, reversing this trend of ‘quick-fix tourismcould help stop the Greek Islands from becoming a tragedy destined for this bookshop’s history shelf.

Sun sets over the Aegean


Sun sets over the Aegean (Rachael Brown)

Rachael Brown is a journalist for the ABC based in London. View her full profile here.


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