May 27, 2013 |
ATHENS - Four years ago the emir of Qatar was sailing his yacht through the Ionian Sea when he spotted a patch of tiny islands. Spellbound by what he saw - six specks of sun-soaked lush greenery jutting from translucent, turquoise Greek waters - the oil-rich monarch decided to buy them. The purchase proved a royal headache. Although the ownership deeds were clear and the government had waived its right to reclaim the pine-covered atolls, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani was put at the maddening mercy of Greek bureaucracy.
May 25, 2013 |
ATHENS - Costas Papanicolaou is stuffing his souvenir shop with extra merchandise and stringing his store entrance with welcome flags from umpteen countries. He's also slashing his prices by as much as 50%, and in a scheme that bears a whiff of desperation, he's even thinking of throwing a Greek toga on a Chinese employee to help lure Asian tourists. A painful but relatively peaceful year after Greece was beset by grim headlines of political pandemonium and violent protests, tourism experts and the government are expecting a surge in vacationers, and with it a boost to Greece's struggling economy.
May 21, 2013 |
Ideally, governmental bodies would refrain from including prayers - even ecumenical, "lowest-common-denominator" ones - in their public proceedings. But if prayers are to be offered, they certainly shouldn't be monopolized by a single religious tradition. That is how the Supreme Court should rule in a case involving a town in New York state. On Monday, the justices agreed to hear a case involving the town of Greece, N.Y., which since 1999 has begun its official meetings with a prayer.
April 15, 2013 |
ATHENS - International debt inspectors gave conditional approval Monday to an additional $13 billion in rescue aid for the beleaguered Greek government, but insisted that it cut thousands of civil service jobs as part of an effort to slash spending on the country's costly public sector. Lenders from Europe and the International Monetary Fund have pressed successive Greek governments to carry out mass layoffs since Athens signed up for its first bailout, worth $150 billion, three years ago. Despite widespread opposition, Greece's three-party coalition agreed to the plan over the weekend, acceding to the tough terms of a new multibillion-dollar bailout hammered out in December.
April 15, 2013 |
ATHENS - With a critical monitoring mission completed, international debt inspectors gave Greece the nod Monday for an additional $13 billion in rescue aid but insisted that it had to ax thousands of civil servants as part of efforts to slash the country's bloated - and costly - public sector. Lenders from Europe and the International Monetary Fund have pressed successive Greek governments to implement mass layoffs since Athens signed up for its first bailout, worth $150 billion, three years ago. Despite widespread opposition, Greece's three-party coalition agreed to the plan over the weekend, bowing to the tough new terms contained in a new multibillion-dollar bailout hammered out in December.
April 8, 2013 |
ATHENS - Fears concerning Greece's efforts to fix its faltering economy flared anew Monday as bank shares sank 30% -- the maximum allowed in a day -- after plans to merge the country's two biggest lenders were suddenly frozen. Investors dumped shares of the National Bank of Greece and Eurobank during the early hours of trading after both institutions confirmed late Sunday that their merger was off because of fears that the new combined entity would be too big to handle. The surprise freeze came amid testy talks between the government and international lenders from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which together are keeping Greece afloat with a multibillion-dollar rescue package in exchange for strict fiscal reforms.
March 12, 2013 |
ATHENS - Last month, as millions of Greeks walked off their jobs to protest prolonged fiscal austerity measures, red-alert telephones jangled in the windowless inner sanctums of the country's navy headquarters in Athens. Green and orange blobs blinked boldly on radar screens; officers scrambled to the situation room, unsure how to respond. A 1,325-ton Turkish warship had strayed twice into Greek territorial waters, according to naval officials in Athens. In the past, officials said, it would have been met by an equal if not larger response.
February 6, 2013 |
ATHENS - Greece's embattled ruling coalition Wednesday forced striking seamen to return to work and restore suspended ferry services to dozens of Greek islands that have been cut off from the mainland, leading to food and medical shortages. The decision to issue an emergency "civil mobilization order" -- the second in two weeks -- signaled the government's resolve to soldier on with drastic austerity cuts and face down swelling labor unrest sparked by Greece's worst economic recession since World War II. On strike for six days, seamen are demanding payment of wages up to six months in arrears and collective contracts instead of the flat, uniform payment rates the government introduced recently as part of sweeping overhauls in labor regulations.
January 27, 2013 |
ISTANBUL, Turkey - As we sat on the Breeza, the open aft deck of the Azamara Quest, we watched the shadow line of the sunset climb the sheer, volcanic cliff above Skala, the tender landing area on the island of Santorini in the southern Aegean. It wasn't this iconic Greek island with dazzling white villas and churches that had lured my wife, Laurel, and me aboard this 10-night cruise from Istanbul to Athens. Rather, it was the chance to visit Black Sea ports in countries that were terrae incognitae to us, thus adding pages to our personal atlas.