Tags Posts tagged with "brussels"

brussels

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The man shot on Friday after attacking two soldiers with a knife in Brussels has died, Belgium’s federal prosecutors said, adding they were treating the event as an attempted terrorist murder.

A spokeswoman for federal prosecutors said the man had shouted “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is Great”) twice during the attack.

Belgian Federal Police spokesman, Jonathan Pfunde reported earlier that “a man armed with a knife attacked a group of soldiers. The soldiers fired at him and neutralized the individual.”

Associated Press television images from central Brussels showed that police sealed off a main street not far from the Belgian capital’s main Grand Place tourist attraction.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel tweeted: “All our support is with our soldiers. Our security services remain on alert. We are following the situation closely.”

The soldiers sustained light injuries.

Belgium has been on high alert since suicide bombers killed 32 people in attacks on March 22, 2016 on the Brussels main airport and subway system.

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A secretive Isis unit that trained the perpetrators of the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks has been teaching British fighters to attack targets in the UK, according to a fighter captured by Kurdish forces in Syria.

The Isis fighter described how European would-be suicide bombers were inducted into a group, which he said was known as the al-Kharsa brigade, on arrival in Isis’s “caliphate”.

They were subjected to a gruelling training programme at a secret camp in Syria before being sent home to carry out attacks. He said the programme was still under way in February this year.

“It takes seven months to be trained in al-Kharsa brigade,” said the fighter, in an interview that was conducted in front of his captors.

“It is very hard. Every European who crosses the border to Syria, they are offered [the opportunity] to join. If 20 start the training, only five finish it. Then after that they go back to Europe and attack.”

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(Survivors of the Bataclan concert hall terrorist attack in Paris in 2015 are reunited. The killers were trained by Isis in Syria before they returned to Europe)

During the 2½ years he lived in the ­caliphate, the fighter estimated that 50 Isis members — from countries including Germany, France, Belgium and Britain — had graduated from the programme.

The fighter’s account provides one of the most detailed descriptions of how attacks in Europe continue to be planned from Isis-controlled Syria, and reveals for the first time the name of the brigade where they are being trained.

The training programme for al-Kharsa includes bomb construction, harsh physical endurance tests and ideologic­al instruction. Above all, ­applicants must be willing to travel to Europe to kill, and possibly to die, in the name of Isis.

The fighter claimed the attacks were organised by an external operations wing of Isis — previously named as the Amn al-Kharji — under the umbrella of its security services, known as the Amniyat, which was run by the group’s chief ­strategist, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, until his death in 2016.

The group, the fighter claimed, still remained fully functional despite the ­territorial losses suffered by Isis, and had recently targeted Britain. “They are in contact with sleeper cells there,” said the fighter. The planned attack, which was unsuccessful, is indicative of Isis’s continued long reach.

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(A Kurdish fighter handcuffs the jihadist who spoke to The Sunday Times)

The Isis external operations unit, the fighter claimed, comprised both a program­me that trained European fighters in Syria and sent them to commit attacks at home, and a planning centre that encouraged and remotely instructed potential suicide attackers in Europe who were unable to travel to the caliphate.

“The attacks that happened in Paris and Brussels, the attackers were trained by them and left from Syria to Europe,” said the fighter. “Sometimes there are foreigners who come to Syria and have training for specific missions. Then they do the attacks alone.

“Others are sleeper cells in Europe who want to join Daesh [Isis] here, but can’t. They stay in their countries and contact [Isis]. Then they talk, and when they are ready they do the bombings.”

Anti-terrorism officials from America and Europe have previously confirme­d the existence of an Isis externa­l operations unit that is thought to have organised the Paris and Brussels attacks.

The fighter’s insights into the caliphate’s most closely guarded secrets came from members of his family. After leaving his home in Europe to fight for Isis in September 2014, he married a ­Syrian woman whose brother was a high-level Isis commander.

Over evening meals, his brother-in-law would divulge details of attacks that his group had planned in Europe. “He would tell me information about what they would do next,” the fighter said.

After members of al-Kharsa had finished their training and planned their attacks, they would be smuggled out of Isis territories and be taken from northwestern Syria across the border into ­Turkey at the Bab al-Hawa crossing. They would then be delivered to Isis cells in Konya, Gaziantep or Istanbul, be fur­nished with fake passports and sent on to Europe.

Successful attacks would be cause for public celebration in the caliphate. After the attacks on a stadium, restaurants and theatre in Paris in 2015, and an airport and metro station in Brussels last year — which killed a combined total of more than 160 people — Isis militants handed out sweets to children in the street. “They were very happy,” the fighter said.

The captive confirmed that the route funnelling fighters to Europe was still in operation in February this year, despite the caliphate ­having suffered heavy ­territorial losses under assault from Iraqi troops and the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

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(Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed in a raid following the Paris attacks)

His story raises the possibility that a Paris-style attack involving multiple gunmen — planned from the caliphate and executed by trained European returnees — could be planned for ­Britain.

“They will make more suicide attacks in Europe because the coalition is bombing them a lot,” he said. “They also want to carry out attacks in Lebanon.”

At least 21 Isis-trained operatives are thought to have sneaked back into Europe as of last year, according to research carried out by The New York Times.

One of them was Belgian-born Abdelhamid Abaaou­d, the ringleader of the Paris attacks, which included the storming of the Bataclan concert hall. He was a handler in the Isis external attack planning agency, according to interrogation transcrip­ts from European intelligence agencies.

The Paris attackers and Najim Laachra­oui — one of the Brussels ­bombers who blew himself up — appear to have received training from the same division in Syria.

After their deaths, Isis released similar propaganda pictures of them prior to their missions, standing in the desert, wearing fatigues. There could be many more pictures like those waiting to be published.

DEADLY CELL: TRAINED IN SYRIA, KILLING IN EUROPE
The Isis cell that carried out the Paris and Brussels attacks was trained in Syria and led by Abdelhamid Abaaoud

PARIS ATTACKS (November 13, 2015)
130 people killed by gunmen and suicide bombers at the Stade de France, Bataclan theatre and at bars and restaurants in the city centre
Abaaoud and another suspected gunman were killed five days later in a police raid in the St-Denis district
BRUSSELS ATTACKS (March 22, 2016)
32 people killed in co-ordinated suicide bombings at Zavantem airport and at Maalbeek metro station

Source: thetimes.co.uk

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The EU and its 28 member states have refused to recognise Venezuela’s new constituent assembly, saying its disputed election on Sunday has “durably worsened” the situation in the country.

But there was no move by the bloc to impose sanctions against Caracas even as Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, said Brussels and member states were ready to “gradually step up their response” if democratic principles are further undermined.

Spain has pressed for European sanctions against Venezuela, a move that would follow targeted US penalties against the country. But Greece has strongly resisted Spain’s demands, effectively ruling out the immediate prospect of European sanctions that cannot go ahead without unanimous support from member states.

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In a statement on Wednesday after diplomats in Brussels took stock of the escalating political crisis in Caracas, Ms Mogherini said the new body had given an excuse to drive conflict and use power unchecked to all Venezuelans opposed to serious talks.

“The EU and its member states therefore cannot recognise the constituent assembly as they have concerns over its effective representativeness and legitimacy and call on the government of president Nicolas Maduro to take urgent measures to rectify the course of events,” she said.

“In particular, the effective installation of the constituent assembly should be suspended and the attributions of all institutions foreseen by the constitution should be explicitly recognised.”

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During a second sitting around the negotiating table, the EU and the UK stuck to their guns on the financial obligations London should pay and what court would guarantee EU citizen rights in a post-Brexit world.

Following a first encounter last month, the negotiating teams led by Michel Barnier, on the EU side, and David Davis, on the British side, concluded on Thrusday (20 July) a four-day round of talks to set the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU.

But the negotiations barely managed to spot areas of disagreement that have already been identified.

As expected, the financial settlement London must cover and the European Court of Justice’s role in ensuring citizen rights were the most controversial issues.

But both sides could not even start sketching out the bare bones of a compromise as Britain came to Brussels empty handed.

“The third round must be about clarification,” Barnier stressed. The next round will take place next month.

The former French Commissioner expressed last week his impatience with Britain’s lack of clarity, in particular on the outstanding payments they have to meet.

Barnier expected the British team to come to this round of talks with its arguments so that they could discuss what should be in and out to estimate the Brexit bill.

Instead, the British negotiators just questioned every single budget line included by the EU, and did not clarify when they will put forward a proposal on the methodology to come up with a figure.

As the British government did last week, Davis admitted that the country has financial obligations. But given that these obligations are mutual, he said that “a solution would require flexibility on both sides”.

Britain argues that the other 27 member states also owe it money thanks to its participation in different EU assets. But the outstanding bill is much bigger with the EU. The net flow to Brussels could be between €60 billion and €100 billion.

Asked about whether there is room for compromise, Barnier said “we are not there yet”, as he insisted that first we need a “global picture”, namely the UK’s commitment to fully honour its payments.

It is “indispensable” to have the UK position on this in order to make “sufficient progress”, Barnier insisted.

If no progress is made on this front, Barnier would not recommend that EU leaders in October start negotiations on the future relationship between the two sides, which is a priority for London.

Both sides agreed that no incremental progress would be made when it comes to the financial settlement. “It will require a global approach,” explained a senior EU source.

Barnier also stood his ground on the ECJ’s involvement in ensuring that the rights of EU citizens are respected after Brexit takes effect in March 2019.

He described his differences with Davis on this point as a “fundamental split”, as London does not want foreign judges to rule on its soil. But the Frenchman argued that there is “no other way to guarantee” the rights of EU citizens than the ECJ.

“We owe them this certainty,” Barnier said.

No Gibraltar

In regards to the border with Northern Ireland, another difficult issue discussed during this second round, Barnier told reporters that more progress is needed on how to protect cooperation with Ireland and to maintain the common travel area after Brexit.

On other outstanding issues, such as police cooperation, Euratom and pending cases at the ECJ after the UK withdrawal, Barnier pointed out that more clarification is needed there too.

But the British negotiators did not raise the issue of Gibraltar during the talks, despite the second round’s goal of flagging areas of disagreement.

London protested after the EU gave veto powers to Spain in regards to the future of the Rock after Brexit, as any agreement would be subject to discussions between London and Madrid.

But this time around, nobody “put into question” the EU’s position on Gibraltar, a senior EU source revealed.

Source: www.euractiv.com

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Germany began on Sunday to pull its troops out of a Turkish air base where they have supported international operations against Islamic State following a row with Ankara over access, a German defense ministry spokesman said.

The withdrawal from the Incirlik base, approved by the German parliament last month, marks a further step in one of many bilateral disputes, ranging from a post-coup clampdown by Ankara to Turkish political campaigning in Germany.

German tornado jets were due to keep operating out of Incirlik at least until the end of July as part of a mission providing reconnaissance aircraft to support U.S.-led coalition operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

In the meantime the necessary material was to be moved to a new air base in Jordan, where the planes are scheduled to be deployed by October.

A German air tanker refueller left Incirlik for the Jordan base on Sunday, the ministry spokesman told Reuters.

A Turkish official confirmed that the withdrawal had started, saying Germany’s defense minister had informed her Turkish counterpart of the withdrawal date when they met during the NATO summit in Brussels.

Turkey had refused to allow German lawmakers to make what they saw as a routine visit to the base, saying that Berlin needed to improve its attitude towards Turkey first.

Germany had banned some Turkish politicians from campaigning on its soil for a referendum on giving Erdogan sweeping new powers

Ankara responded by accusing Berlin of “Nazi-like” tactics and reigniting the dispute over Incirlik.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday that a bilateral meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had revealed “deep differences” between the two NATO allies.

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A two-day cultural event called “Dijsselbloem Nights: Fighting Stereotypes” is organized by MEPs from different political groups on Tuesday 27 June and on Wednesday 28 June in Brussels.

This is an initiative that comes as a response to the statements by Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem that “the South waste their money to women and drinks” and will be a feast with music and flavors from Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Portugal.

(Click to enlarge)

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Theresa May made a “fair and serious offer” to European Union leaders over the contentious issue of the future rights of EU citizens, offering those who arrive lawfully before Brexit the chance to build up the same rights to work, healthcare and benefits as UK citizens.

Speaking at the end of a dinner at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, after formal Brexit talks kicked off on Monday, May set out the UK’s opening offer on the rights of EU citizens – an issue both sides have said they would like to be resolved early in the talks.

The prime minister told them the UK was willing to agree to a “cutoff point” between 29 March this year, when May formally triggered article 50, and the later date of March 2019 as preferred by the European commission.

EU citizens already in the UK – and those who arrive lawfully during a subsequent “grace period” – expected to be up to two years – will be given the opportunity to build up five years’ worth of residence. The grace period could start at any point up to the date of Brexit and would allow EU citizens time to regularise their status.

That will entitle them to a special category of “settled status”, conferring the same rights to work, pensions, NHS care and other public services as British citizens, which they will maintain for life.

source: theguardian.com

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Belgian troops shot a suspected “terrorist” bomber in Brussels Central Station on Tuesday but there were no other casualties and the situation was brought under control after people were evacuated, officials said.
The suspect in the attack is dead, Belgian prosecutors told AFP early Wednesday. “He is dead,” federal prosecutor’s office spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said, hours after the terror suspect was shot by soldiers after a small, but intense explosion in the Belgian capital’s Gare Centrale.
Van Der Sypt told reporters some three hours after the incident that a small blast was being treated as a “terrorist” attack. He declined to comment on witness accounts that he had shouted Islamist slogans, including “Allah hu Akbar” — God is greater, in Arabic — before detonating a device on a luggage trolley in an underground concourse of the rail station.
Police had quickly evacuated the station and surrounding areas of historic downtown Brussels after the incident around 1830 GMT. The streets had been busy with tourists and locals enjoying a hot evening but were soon largely deserted and calm. Rail traffic was largely suspended.
The Belgian capital, home to the headquarters of NATO and the European Union, has been on high alert since a Brussels-based Islamic State cell launched an attack that killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015. Associates of those attackers, four months later, killed 32 people in their home city, including with bombs loaded on trolleys at Brussels Airport.

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Reports are coming in of an explosion of some sort at Brussels Central Station in Belgium. Belgium has been under heightened security do to Islamic State threats. Federal police are reporting a “small explosion” in the train station. RTÉ News reports that train traffic has been stopped after a “small explosion was heard.”

As of now it is unclear if it is a terrorist attack, but ISIS has been highly active in Europe this spring and especially since the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

According to other reports the police shot a man with an explosive vest.

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Stay online!

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Greek PM Alexis Tsipras is attending the NATO Summit in Brussels, Thursday, where he is expected to hold crucial bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the gathering about the Greek debt problem. Mr. Tsipras hopes to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in the wings of the meeting to present the need for a complete solution to the Greek matter, including a package of medium term measures for a debt relief that would allow Greece to exit the markets and enter the European Central Bank’s (ECB) QE program. A brief meeting with US President Donald Trump can not be ruled out, according to sources. The same sources says that the only scheduled meeting is with Albanian PM Edi Rama. Greece will underline that the role of NATO is to reinforce collective security and aid in maintaining peace in the wider region based on international law. Greece will highlight the its role as pillar of stability in the Balkan and eastern Mediterranean region, while it recognises the significance of battling global terrorism, a goal that should be part of a more strategic plan for peace and stability in the area. The Greek PM is accompanied in Brussels by Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

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The Greek matter was on the agenda of talks between German Finance Minister Wolfgang Scuable and his newly-appointed French counterpart Bruno Le Maire before the start of Monday’s EuroGroup meeting in Brussels. Mr. Schuable was unwavering in German’s position on the prospect of a debt relief for Greece, ruling out any talks on the matter before the current program had been completed. The German Finance Minister acknowledged that Greece had made notable reforms, adding however, that the ultimate goal was to make the economy competitive. “The markets should trust Greece”, he added. Commenting on the difference of opinion between Germany and the IMF regarding the debt, Mr. Schauble stressed that the Fund had always been more conservative in its outlook, while he also responded to statements made by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel that Europe should cut the Greek debt, Mr. Schauble underlined that the German parliament had voted on the issue in 2015. On his part, Mr. Le Maire appeared certain that a solution on the Greek debt would be reached within the Eurozone, stating that it should satisfy both Greece and its creditors.

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A celebration for the 103rd anniversary of the signing of the Protocol of Corfu took place at the Monument of the “Exquisite Chief of Staff of the Epirus” Thymios Liolis, in the central square of the village of Krania, in Northern Epirus (Southern Albania) on Saturday, May 13, 2017. The celebration was vibrant, full of pulse and a message of struggle.

The event, took place at the initiative of the “National Association Northern Epirus 1914” and the significant support of the “Co-operative Student Union of Northern Epirus Struggle”.

Dozens of Northern Epirotes of all ages, defying the Albanian state’s terrorism and provocative boycotting of minority political parties, participated in the celebrations.

The presentation of the event was made by the student of the Mesopotamos High School, Grigoris Koutsis, who reminded to the Albanian government the “Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities”, which is also a law of the Albanian state, that is set to protect the national minorities’ rights to keep and preserve their ethnic, religious traditions and identity, as well as their basic democratic freedoms.

Father Haralambos proceeded with the memorial service in memory of the members of the “Autonomous Epirus” and the Greek Fighters of 1914, and the former Prefect of Mesopotamos Vasilis Kalivas read a brief chronicle of the Northern Epirus Struggle that led to the signing of the Protocol of Corfu.

“Today, 103 years after the Greeks of Northern Epirus we have to assert our rights and to base the our lawfull and legitimate struggle for survival in our own homeland on the Protocol of Corfu. By restoring it we are not asking anything more than for the Albanian state to honor its own signature”, added Mr. Kalivas.

The main speaker of the event was the veteran Greek scholar, writer and contemporary fighter of the Northern Epirus struggle, Mr. Evangelos Papachristos, describing the current situation in the area of ​​Northern Epirus, with the constant violation of the human rights of Hellenism in the region.

Mr. Papachristos referred to the right of North Epirus to have a status of Autonomy as is true for many other ethnic minorities across Europe.

Representing the “National Association Northern Epirus 1914″ Mr. Montis Kolilas, noted that the demand for Autonomy has been promoted by the Association both in the European Parliament in Brussels and in the OSCE conferences in Warsaw.

The heroic gathering ended with the Greek national anthem.

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(The Greeks are gathering before the celebration begins)

 

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(Mr. Evangelos Papachristos)

 

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The IMF has not changed its stance regarding its participation in the Greek program, an official with knowledge of talks between Greece and its creditors on the matter in Washington, Brussels and Berlin told protothema. The source said that there were signs of concession in an effort between the parties involved to reach a compromise that would solve the deadlock. The same sources told protothema that despite all parties coming closer, talks failed to move forward for an imminent deal on the Greek debt. The official added that much more needed to be done on the part of the Europeans, stressing that the issue could close as early as tomorrow if Germany made a step back. Deliberations on the Greek issue are intense both in the Washington Group, Friday and in the Italian city of Bari, where the G7 Summit is taking place. IMF Director Christine Lagarde reiterated the Funds position on Greece, expressing hope that the Europeans would specify the debt relief measures for Greece. Sources report that Mrs. Lagarde was optimistic from news in Bari, Italy, with officials taking part in talks commenting noting that Germany’s stance on the issue posed the greatest problem in reaching a deal and moving forward. If Germany showed a willingness to cooperate on the debt issue, IMF sources from Washington said.

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After the agreement reached between Greece and its creditors at a staff level, the IMF and the Europeans are trying to find common grounds in an effort to achieve a solution on restructuring the Greek debt, a necessary precondition for the IMF to continue to take part in the Greek program. According to Deutsche Welle (DW), which cites an EU source, the Europeans and the IMF will consult on the sidelines of the Ministerial G7 Summit meeting, scheduled to take place on May 11 and 13 in Bari, Italy. They are attempting to prepare a draft plan that will initially be discussed at a Eurozone staff level at the EuroWorkingGroup (EWG), before being passed on for approval at the May 22 EuroGroup.

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The outcome of the crucial EuroWorking Group in currently underway in Brussels will most likely determine whether a staff level agreement is possible between Greece and its creditors in order for talks to resume in Athens. Sources say the meeting restarted after a break under the highest degree of discreteness. The Greek government is conveying an optimistic sentiment that a staff level agreement will be reached as soon as Friday. If this achieved, talks on the debt relief is expected to be the next matter on the agenda, in light of the summer IMF Summit meeting on April 22 in Washington. The price for a staff level agreement is predicted to be heavy, with lower income earners and pensioners bearing the brunt. Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Labour Minister Efi Achtsioglou briefed the members of their coalition partners (ANEL) in the government that 900,000 pensioners will see their income slashed, while the tax free threshold will be cut to 5,900 euros, meaning tax payers with monthly income of 500 euros will have to pay taxes.

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According to reports, three Kurds have been stabbed by Erdogan supporters while going to cast their vote for the Turkish referendum in Brussels. According to sources, a 69-year-old Kurdish woman, who was among the victims, was rushed to hospital in serious condition. The attackers have reportedly sought refuge in the Turkish Embassy, as website KOMnews reports. The incident happened only 16 days before the April 16 referendum in Turkey which will decide whether more executive powers will be transferred to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Thousands of angry protestors took to the streets of FYROM after EU officials allegedly tried to meddle in the nation’s domestic politics.

Demonstrators took to the capital of Skopje chanting “Macedonia! Macedonia!”. What started this reaction was that the EU commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn reportedly rejected proposals to meet with nationalists.

According to the organisers of the protests, there were 42 rallies across the country expressing their discontent with the EU chief.

Following elections in December the two largest parties did not manage to form a government.

The two largest parties would need to form a government with one from the ethnic Albanian minority, which is demanding Albanian be made the country’s second language.

The long-ruling conservatives have rejected the minority demand but has refused to give the Social Democrats a mandate to try to form a government until they do the same.

There are more than 250,000 ethnic Albanians in FYROM, which is a quarter of the country’s population. Albanian is recognised as an official language, but only in minority-dominated areas, not nationally.

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Thousands of angry protestors took to the streets of FYROM after EU officials allegedly tried to meddle in the nation’s domestic politics.

Demonstrators took to the capital of Skopje chanting “Macedonia! Macedonia!”. What started this reaction was that the EU commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn reportedly rejected proposals to meet with nationalists.

According to the organisers of the protests, there were 42 rallies across the country expressing their discontent with the EU chief.

Following elections in December the two largest parties did not manage to form a government.

The two largest parties would need to form a government with one from the ethnic Albanian minority, which is demanding Albanian be made the country’s second language.

The long-ruling conservatives have rejected the minority demand but has refused to give the Social Democrats a mandate to try to form a government until they do the same.

There are more than 250,000 ethnic Albanians in FYROM, which is a quarter of the country’s population. Albanian is recognised as an official language, but only in minority-dominated areas, not nationally.

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Athens is feeling the pressure rising after the EuroGroup meeting failed to produce any results, with talks continuing in Brussels between Greece and its lenders. Speaking at the sidelines of the EcoFin, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said the successful conclusion of talks was totally dependent upon Athens implementing the measures, implying that the IMF had adopted the views of Berlin over the Greek debt relief. “Whether the review can be completed is up to the Greek government”, Mr. Schauble said, ruling out the possibility of of any cash being earmarked without the participation of the IMF. He continued by stressing that even the Washington partners had understood that alleviating Greek dent was contrary to EU regulations, referring to the IMF.

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The President of the EuroGroup Geroen Dijsselbloem said the Ministers would continue in Brussels, following the end of the EuroGroup meeting, Monday. The head of the organisation sterssed there had been progress regarding the second review of the Greek bailout program. He underlined that despite the target being the conclusion of talks as soon as possible, there was no guarantee that it would be achieved before April 7. He added that the institutions were closely following the execution of Greece’s budget. On his part, the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici made a general reference to progress during the presence of the creditors’ representatives in Athens. He added, however, that there still were “thorny” issues that had to be overcome. The executive director of the ESM, Klaus Regling echoed the sentiment of Mr. Moscovici stating that “good progress” had been achieved during talks in Athens.

 

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In an article under the title “Give the Greeks their freedom” the newspaper compares the German Minister of Finance with the Bavarian Catholic first king of the liberated Greek state, that was imposed on Greece by the Great Powers in 1832.
Greece back then was in debt to the Great Powers after the War of Independance in 1821. Since then, the country’s independence has arose many times. So now, the French newspaper wonders, the question comes back again: what does it take to lift the “Greek curse”? This country never was actually financially independent.

 
Life sentence
Klaus Regling, head of the ESM that has lent 175bn Euros to Greece, describes this slavery-like situation very well: “A cynical analysis of the facts indicates that we shouldn’t worry about the Greek debt” and that because, as he explained, the interest for this money is just 1%, something that allows Greece to save 8 bn Euros every year, which is 4,5% of the GDP. Also these loans are of long maturity, an average of 30 years, something that neutralizes the IMF’s argument that based on 10-year estimates, considers the Greek debt non viable.

For him, the Greek debt is viable as long as the Greeks remain under the control of the Europeans and adopt the reforms dictated to them from Brussels for the next 30 years…

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Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the size of Greece’s primary budget surplus, which excludes interest payments, would be one topic of discussion at a planned meeting in Brussels later on Friday. Apart from Mr. Dijsselbloem, the mini-EuroGroup will also be attended by ECB member Benoit Coeure, Poul Thomsen from the IMF, Thomas Wieser President of the EuroWorking Group, CEO of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Klaus Regling, Velia Velkulescu of the IMF, Marco Butti from the EC, Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos his Deputy Giorgos Chouliarakis. According to Greek sources, the Greek side will present its positions in the talks, with any hopes of a solution slim. However, the same sources believe the meeting of all sides is a positive sign. February 20 is considered by all sides as the deadline for reaching a final agreement. The Greek downplayed the significance of the meeting underway in Brussels.
Speaking in The Hague, Dijsselbloem confirmed that a meeting of key players in Greece’s bailout and reform programme would take place but he dismissed any suggestion that Athens’ bailout programme was in crisis.
Greek and European bond yields have risen in the past 24 hours amid fears that a split between European governments and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over Greece will prove difficult to resolve.

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European Commissioner for Economic and Financial affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici said all sides desired to achieve a “win-win” situation, during a joint press conference with Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos. The two men met in Brussels to discuss the progress of the second review of the Greek bailout program and briefed reporters after their meeting. The Commissioner admitted that the presence of IMF in the Greek program was a reassuring factor for many EU states. Mr. Moscovici underlined that many aspects had been agreed upon, adding that some details remained to be dealt with before the second review was completed. “We believe the completion of the 2nd review is feasible as soon as possible”, he stressed. Mr. Tsakalotos pointed out that both agreed that Greece was on a path of economic recovery. The Commissioner expressed the certainty that the program would be successful, adding that the current Commission desired a strong Greece in an equally strong Commission. On his part, the Greek Finance Minister underlined that it was a constructive meeting, adding that sharing his optimism that the outstanding problems could be overcome with good will by all sides. On the issue of when the EU institutions would return to Athens to resume talks, Mr. Moscovici said that was not an important issue, repeating that a little more effort was necessary to close some pending matters.

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The Belgium Polce arrested two more people during the investigation of the Paris attack in November 13th 2015.

 

According to the county’s authorities, the police arrested a man and a woman. The same sources stated that they are accused of providing Halid El Barkaoui with forged documents that he later used for the Paris attack.

 

Halid El Barkaoui is also involved in the Brussels Subway bomb attack that killed 32 people.

 

The terrorist had used these documents to rent two apartments, in Paris and in Brussels, where the attacks were organized.

 

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Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of Greece’s major opposition party New Democracy (ND) presented his plans for Greece to exit the current economic crisis during a series of contacts in Brussels with European officials on the sidelines of the EU Summit. Mr. Mitsotakis agreed to visit Berlin on February 13 in a brief encounter with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the European People’s Party (EPP) meeting in Brussels. The leader of ND stressed that a front-loaded program of reforms with lower primary surpluses could act as a springboard to drag the country of the current depression, while he was critical of the Greek government’s unilateral decisions. “The Greek government’s unilateral decisions strengthened the arguments of those who wanted to cause problems to the completion of the second review of the Greek program”, Mitsotakis stressed. Mr. Mitsotakis also met with the Vice-Presidents of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis and Frans Timmermans and Commissioner of Financial and Economic Affairs Pierre Moscovici and laid out his program of reforms. During his contacts, he claimed that the current government had neither the will nor the competence to implement the necessary reforms and lead the country to economic growth. On the pressing refugee crisis, the president of ND argued that although the tide of refugee and migrants flows had been contained, the problem had to be addressed in a more complete way. He also touched on the need to face the challenge of youth unemployment that was plaguing the EU.

ÓåéñÜ óõíáíôÞóåùí ìå Åõñùðáßïõò áîéùìáôïý÷ïõò åß÷å óôï ðåñéèþñéï ôçò Óõíüäïõ ÊïñõöÞò ôïõ Åõñùðáúêïý Ëáúêïý Êüììáôïò (Å.Ë.Ê.), ï Ðñüåäñïò ôçò ÍÝáò Äçìïêñáôßáò ÊõñéÜêïò ÌçôóïôÜêçò. ÓõãêåêñéìÝíá, óõíáíôÞèçêå ìå ôïí Ðñüåäñï ôçò ÊõðñéáêÞò Äçìïêñáôßáò, Íßêï ÁíáóôáóéÜäç, ôïí Ðñüåäñï ôçò ÅõñùðáúêÞò ÅðéôñïðÞò, Jean-Claude Juncker, ôïí ðñþôï Áíôéðñüåäñï ôçò ÅõñùðáúêÞò ÅðéôñïðÞò, Frans Timmermans, ìå ôïí Áíôéðñüåäñï ôçò ÅõñùðáúêÞò ÅðéôñïðÞò, Valdis Dombrovskis, ôïí Åõñùðáßï Åðßôñïðï áñìüäéï ãéá ÄçìïóéïíïìéêÝò êáé ÏéêïíïìéêÝò ÕðïèÝóåéò, Pierre Moscovici êáé ôïí Ðñüåäñï ôïõ National Coalition Party ôçò Öéëáíäßáò, Petteri Orpo. (EUROKINISSI/ÃÑÁÖÅÉÏ ÔÕÐÏÕ ÍÄ/ÄÇÌÇÔÑÇÓ ÐÁÐÁÌÇÔÓÏÓ)

ӥ鱜 � 쥠ŵ߯�존キﵲ 執堳�屩辱鯠�ӵ�ﵠʯ��ˡ�ʼ쬡�(Ůˮʮ), �͝Რħ쯪Რʵﲠ̧�ܪ粮 ӵ㪥걩읭ᬠ�觪堬場ﭠб��ʵꞲ ħ쯪Წ ͟ꯠm᳴ᳩܤ笠�б��ŵ�Ű鴱ﰞean-Claude Juncker, ��䱯 �ŵ�Ű鴱ﰞrans Timmermans, 쥠�m���ŵ�Ű鴱ﰞaldis Dombrovskis, �ŵ߯ Űߴ ᱬ�顠ħ쯳鯭﬩ꝲ ꡩ ϩ꯭﬩ꝲ հ精, Pierre Moscovici ꡩ �б��National Coalition Party �֩롭䟡etteri Orpo. (EUROKINISSI/ÑVʼnϠԕЏՠ̈́/ć̇ԑǓ ЁЁ̇ԓϓ)

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Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of Greece’s major opposition party New Democracy (ND) presented his plans for Greece to exit the current economic crisis during a series of contacts in Brussels with European officials on the sidelines of the EU Summit. Mr. Mitsotakis agreed to visit Berlin on February 13 in a brief encounter with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the European People’s Party (EPP) meeting in Brussels. The leader of ND stressed that a front-loaded program of reforms with lower primary surpluses could act as a springboard to drag the country of the current depression, while he was critical of the Greek government’s unilateral decisions. “The Greek government’s unilateral decisions strengthened the arguments of those who wanted to cause problems to the completion of the second review of the Greek program”, Mitsotakis stressed. Mr. Mitsotakis also met with the Vice-Presidents of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis and Frans Timmermans and Commissioner of Financial and Economic Affairs Pierre Moscovici and laid out his program of reforms. During his contacts, he claimed that the current government had neither the will nor the competence to implement the necessary reforms and lead the country to economic growth. On the pressing refugee crisis, the president of ND argued that although the tide of refugee and migrants flows had been contained, the problem had to be addressed in a more complete way. He also touched on the need to face the challenge of youth unemployment that was plaguing the EU.

ÓåéñÜ óõíáíôÞóåùí ìå Åõñùðáßïõò áîéùìáôïý÷ïõò åß÷å óôï ðåñéèþñéï ôçò Óõíüäïõ ÊïñõöÞò ôïõ Åõñùðáúêïý Ëáúêïý Êüììáôïò (Å.Ë.Ê.), ï Ðñüåäñïò ôçò ÍÝáò Äçìïêñáôßáò ÊõñéÜêïò ÌçôóïôÜêçò. ÓõãêåêñéìÝíá, óõíáíôÞèçêå ìå ôïí Ðñüåäñï ôçò ÊõðñéáêÞò Äçìïêñáôßáò, Íßêï ÁíáóôáóéÜäç, ôïí Ðñüåäñï ôçò ÅõñùðáúêÞò ÅðéôñïðÞò, Jean-Claude Juncker, ôïí ðñþôï Áíôéðñüåäñï ôçò ÅõñùðáúêÞò ÅðéôñïðÞò, Frans Timmermans, ìå ôïí Áíôéðñüåäñï ôçò ÅõñùðáúêÞò ÅðéôñïðÞò, Valdis Dombrovskis, ôïí Åõñùðáßï Åðßôñïðï áñìüäéï ãéá ÄçìïóéïíïìéêÝò êáé ÏéêïíïìéêÝò ÕðïèÝóåéò, Pierre Moscovici êáé ôïí Ðñüåäñï ôïõ National Coalition Party ôçò Öéëáíäßáò, Petteri Orpo. (EUROKINISSI/ÃÑÁÖÅÉÏ ÔÕÐÏÕ ÍÄ/ÄÇÌÇÔÑÇÓ ÐÁÐÁÌÇÔÓÏÓ)

ӥ鱜 � 쥠ŵ߯�존キﵲ 執堳�屩辱鯠�ӵ�ﵠʯ��ˡ�ʼ쬡�(Ůˮʮ), �͝Რħ쯪Რʵﲠ̧�ܪ粮 ӵ㪥걩읭ᬠ�觪堬場ﭠб��ʵꞲ ħ쯪Წ ͟ꯠm᳴ᳩܤ笠�б��ŵ�Ű鴱ﰞean-Claude Juncker, ��䱯 �ŵ�Ű鴱ﰞrans Timmermans, 쥠�m���ŵ�Ű鴱ﰞaldis Dombrovskis, �ŵ߯ Űߴ ᱬ�顠ħ쯳鯭﬩ꝲ ꡩ ϩ꯭﬩ꝲ հ精, Pierre Moscovici ꡩ �б��National Coalition Party �֩롭䟡etteri Orpo. (EUROKINISSI/ÑVʼnϠԕЏՠ̈́/ć̇ԑǓ ЁЁ̇ԓϓ)

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Greek PM Alexis Tsipras appeared optimistic that the financial benefit her promised to pensioners would not be withheld, in a press conference held after the EU Summit meeting in Brussels. The Greek PM focused on the insistence of the IMF for the adoption of more measures after the completion of the fiscal adjustment program, dubbing it “anti-democratic”. He claimed that no parliament could legislate measures to take effect 3 years later, while he urged the Fund to put more pressure on the European partners for lower surplus targets. Mr. Tsipras made detailed reference to the Summit schedule and pointed out the new action plan to deal with the refugee crisis would reinforce Greece, and by extension Europe in efforts to stem the migrant and refugee flow. He reiterated the Greece was shouldering a disproportionate share of the problem. The new plan focuses on the relocation procedures and the strengthening of infrastructures in Greece to deal with the large number of migrants and refugees. On the Cypriot matter he underlined that it was a European one, adding that the EU had to assume a more active role in its solution, especially at a crucial juncture given the escalation of Turkish provocations. The Greek PM expressed hope that the second review of the Greek program would soon be completed.

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French President Francois Hollande expressed his support to the Greek positions upon his arrival at the EU Summit meeting in Brussels, Thursday. “I am in favour of a decent deal with Greece, so that the country can remain in the Eurozone and we can achieve a solution for the debt”, he noted. Mr. Hollande said that there could be no more demands of Greece to do more or to block her from making some decisions, he stressed. “A solution must be found for then future of Greece in Europe”, he argued, adding that a solution to the Greek debt problem would lead both Greece and Europe back to stability.

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German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said that imposition of harsh measures by the Greek government was “an inescapable road from the moment Greece decided to remain in the Eurozone”, during a speech at the EcoFin meeting in Brussels. According to Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”, speaking before the EU council of Finance Ministers the German politician underlined that the mission was to bring Greece onto a sustainable, competitive path, admitting that such a task would be long and challenging within the common currency area. “As long as the Greeks desire to stay in the area, there is no third road”, he pointed out. Schauble shed some light on Monday’s EuroGroup meetings, revealing that his Greek counterpart, Euclid Tsakalotos had told him that Greece felt caught between two elephants. “He probably saw the IMF as an elephants, I do not know which the other one could be”, Schauble ironically said, while he escalated his criticism against Greek leaders scolding for constantly blaming others for their problems. He added that more time was necessary for the completion of the second review of the Greek program. The head of the German Finance Ministry expressed his disappointment over the resignation of Italian PM Mateo Renzi, adding that a period of uncertainty would follow in the country after the referendum result.

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“Greece has to become competitive to regain the trust of the markets and that is a long road”, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble stated during his arrival at the EuroGroup meeting in Brussels, Monday. The Eurozone county Finance Ministers are arriving at the building, with the head of the EuroGroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem expected to present his proposals at the European Council at midday (Greek time).

Today’s meeting is not expected to produce any substantive results besides simply acknowledging the progress recorded in the Greek program. The Ministers are also expected to present European Stability Mechanism’s (ESM) medium-term measures on the Greek debt, as well as examining the three major issues: labour reforms, the 2018 GDP surplus target and fiscal measures for the next 2 years.

According to EU sources, a deal could be reached on the matters related to the second review of the Greek program on a technical level, as the differences between the two sides appear to have largely been overcome, while an agreement is also possible concerning the measures presented by the ESM on the Greek debt relief. Arriving at the meeting,

European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, Pierre Moscovici told reporters outside the building that he was optimistic of making progress, especially regarding medium-term measures on the Greek debt. He stressed that demanding and reliable measures were necessary for the next two years, informing the press that talks would revolve around the fiscal measures the Greek government needs to implement to achieve a primary surplus for 2017 and 2018. On the thorny matter of whether the IMF would be on board the Greek program, the Commissioner expressed hope that a compromising solution would be found.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin expressed the view that a dealm would be struck on the medium-term measures on the Greek debt, adding that Greece had made huge progress and that it was the first government that had implemented reforms. He added, however, that more measures were needed besides the fiscal policies.

Following the results of Sunday’s Italian referendum, with the voters rejecting the proposed reforms by Italian PM Mateo Renzi, the country’s Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan will not attend the meeting.

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Greece’s partners have warned that no funds would be released for the purpose of recapitalising the Greek banking system if measures were not adopted to deal with the issue of the non-performing loans. According to newspaper “Kathimerini”, the institutions issued a stark warning that the Greek government would have to take immediate initiatives to address the pending problem of the non-performing loans in the country’s banking system in order to receive a new series of funds from its EU partners to support Greek banks. Sources from Brussels and Berlin sent a message to Athens that despite legislative moves by the Greek government, the matter had still not been resolved, which resulted in the real economy being starved of cash. The same sources in the event a new round of recapitalisation was necessary for Greek banks, this would be achieved in accordance to the new European directive in effect since the start of 2016, which means that banks would be supported through what is known as a “bail in”.

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The EuroWorking Group (EWG) has given the go-ahead for the disbursement of the 2.8 billion euro tranche, according to eurozone sources.
The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Board of Directors, which is scheduled to meet on Tuesday in Brussels, is expected to officially approve the release of the two sub-tranches (1.1 billion + 1.7 billion euros).
The disbursement of the 1.1 billion euro sub-trance was approved by the Eurogroup meeting on October 9, which concluded that Greece had fully met the 15 prior actions, while the decision for the 1.7 billion euros was pending until the September figures for the repayment of state arrears were sent to the institutions.
Last week Greek authorities dispatched the data and the representatives of the eurozone Finance ministries examined the final report of compliance of the institutions, giving the green light for the disbursement of the remaining 1.7 billion euros.

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After the failure to receive any kind of promises regarding a debt relief by his EU partners at the Brussels 2-day EU Summit, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras returns to Greece to weigh his options and plan the government’s next move. In a press conference, Tsipras lowered the expectations by setting the main goal for Greece to be included in the ECB quantitative easing program in the upcoming December EuroGroup meeting. The common theme coming out of the Greek PM’s meetings in Brussels with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, EP President Martin Schulz, EC President Jean Claude Juncker and UK PM Theresa May was that economic reforms in Greece had to be sped up. The Greek side argued it had kept its part of the deal and now expected talks on the Greek debt restructuring to start, as promised. This is the narrative the Tsipras administration is planning to adopt over the upcoming weeks in an effort leave all options open, in the event his government is forced to compromise anew with the creditors or chooses to call early elections if Greece fails to win a debt restructuring or quantitative easing by the end of 2017. The EU Summit mainly focuses its attention on the urgent matter of the refugee and migrant crisis. The majority of EU member-states echoed the main concerns raised by the Greek PM on the issue, who pointed out that solidarity was necessary not in words but in actions, accusing some member-states of implementing this principle in a “flexible” way that showed double standards.     

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Greek PM Alexis Tsipras met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of the Brussels EU Summit, Friday in an effort to push the Greek case for a deb relief. According to sources close to the PM’s office, even though there was an amicable atmosphere during the two meetings, both Merkel and Hollande avoided making any concrete statements or promises, as the former stressed the need for the climate of uncertainty to cease, while the latter reiterated the need for all sides to implement the agreements. Both Merkel and Tsipras agreed on the deployment of German technocrats on the relocation and asylum procedures. Tsipras briefed the two leaders on the Cypriot negotiations, expressing the need for the Turkish military to depart from the island, something he also brought up during his meeting with British PM Theresa May.

 

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Olympiakos was the only Greek team out of the three that managed to record a victory on Thursday night’s Europa League matches. The champions played attractive football in front of their home fans and cruised past Astana with a 4-1 victory. The outcome of the match had effectively been decided in the first half hour, as the reds had achieved an unassailable 3-goal lead (Figuerias 25’, Elyounoussi 33’, Seba 34’). Astana pull one back in the 54th minute, which Seba grabbing his brace on the 65th minute-mark. Panathinaikos feel unlucky they dropped two points at Liege in Belgium, after squandering a 2-goal lead, conceding the equaliser in the 82nd minute. Ibarbo (12’, 36’) scored twice of the greens, but Standard Liege managed to save a point with one goal at the end of each half (Edmilson Junior 46’ (p), Belfodil 82’). Finally, PAOK performed poorly in Azerbaijan and lost 2-0 to Qarabag.

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The Greek delegation’s hopes of raising the issue of a possible restructuring of the Greek debt at the EU Summit discussions were quickly dispelled on the first day, as EP President Martin Schulz denied he had taken any initiatives to bring the matter to the table of talks. The overall atmosphere among the EU leaders at the meeting was one of indifference, or even annoyance, on the Greek demands regarding debt relief, proving the Greek PM Alexis Tsipras’s high expectations on presenting the case at the current timing false.

Tsipras will attempt to push his case anew, Friday morning, when he is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Franocis Hollande and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.

Martin Schulz did not hide his discontent when  asked during a press conference, after a meeting with Tsipras, about whether he had undertaken any initiatives to bring the Greek debt relief to the table of talks at the Summit, by flatly denying it. “I heard that rumour and cannot respond. I was surprised to hear rumours that the European Parliament would assume any initiatives “, he said.

Earlier the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble was even tougher on the matter, stressing that any debt relief at this stage would diminish the will for reforms in Greece.

On his part, ECB President Mario Draghi underlined that as long as Greece did not implement reforms there was no chance of it being included in the quantitative easing plan.

Greece’s PM focused mainly on the refuge crisis during the first day of the Summit. He requested “effective solidarity” to Greece to deal with the refugee problem, stressing that the county was being shouldering the complete burden of the problem. Tsipras pointed out that out of the planned 66,000 relocations of refugees to other EU member states, only 5,200 had been realised so far. “We need effective solidarity and not ‘flexible’ solidarity”, he underscored. The Greek PM proposed Turkey be given a clear answer on the travel visa matter of Turkish nationals to the EU, in order eliminate any pretexts  President Erdogan could use to doubt the EU-Turkey refugee deal.

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The EU “28” leaders have arrived at the Summit meeting in Brussels to discuss a wide range of topics, with the refugee crisis expected to be at the top of the agenda, while UK PM Theresa May will inform the rest of the leaders on the progress of the country’s exit from the EU. The 27 have underlined that they will continue to support a relation between trade links and free movement of citizens. The leaders will focus on the management migrant and refugee flows and ways to stem control their passage into the EU through deals with countries of origin and transit in Africa to achieve a better and more effective return policy.

UK PM Theresa May arriving at the summit stressed that the Britain would continue to play an active part during the country’s transition out of the union and that it would continue to be a strong and reliable partner to the EU.

The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz stressed that if the UK desired full access to the EU market, it would have to accept the fundamental principles of the EU that included free movement.

Upon his arrival at the Summit, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk clarified that there would be no negotiations over the Brexit at the Summit, while he rejected the possibility that PM May would face a hostile climate at the meeting. On the matter of the stance the EU would take towards Russia over the Syrian war, Tusk underlined that the union would leave the option of imposing sanctions open.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that Brexit was a small part of the meeting, expressing hope that the leaders could bring the atrocities going on in the Syrian conflict, with the support of Russia, could be brought to light.

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The islamic terrorists responsible for the attacks in Paris and Brussels were using a support network in Athens, according to Brussels court files used to try the members of terrorist cell of the Verviers attacks in Belgium. According to the Sunday edition of newspaper “Kathimerini”, the documents showed that authorities had discovered instructions on the materials to use and how to build explosive devices, as well as an assault plan against the Zaventem airport in Brussels. The data was stored on cell phone SIM cards found in two hideouts in Athens. In one of the 10 SIM cards grieved in a hideout located at the Asteropis St, in the central area of Pangrati in Athens, Greek police came across photos in note book depicting handwritten instructions on making explosive material with the code name TATP, which was used in the two attacks against the capitals of France and Belgium in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The same card had photos of notes that resemble an attack plan against the Brussels airport. The members of the “Verviers cell”, as the terrorists came to be known, were using Greece as a transit point between Syria and Brussels, with trails of the terrorists movements traced in Athens, Thessaloniki and Trikala.

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