The following assignments, written for NYU, are intended for readers who are not familiar with the economic situation in Greece.

Please visit my Greek news blog written with a colleague for more reportage concerning Greece.

Measures to strengthen EU borders requires citizen passport checks, targets Greece

Nov. 15, 2015

NEW YORK— The European Commission announced new measures today to protect the external borders of the Schengen by implementing the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Mandatory passport checks at the Schengen borders will now be required for EU citizens. The European Border and Coast Guard agency is authorized to intervene with uncooperative states.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency is an extension of Frontex and member states’ authorities. The plan applies to the Schengen states and the borders of EU member states, “which have not yet acceded to the Schengen area, but are bound to do so,” according to a press release. The agency has fifteen hundred border guards, provided by unnamed EU states, which can be discharged in a matter of days.

Greece will be significantly affected by the proposals due to its geographical position. In an interview with ERT, Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Kotzias is concerned that “[the commission] is rushing a great deal on certain things.”

“The problems have to be resolved in a democratic manner, within the framework of the treaties,” Kotzias said. “We have said that the process and regulation for Frontex can certainly change, but any change must be in line with articles 72 and 79 of the Treaty on the European Union, which prioritizes each member state’s sovereign interests with regard to defending its security and the immigration issue.”

Additionally, mandatory passport checks could result in even longer waits at Greek borders. The commissioners address the issue of inefficiency, stating, “In principle, since controls on documents and persons can be carried out in parallel, authorities should be able to consult relevant databases without delaying border crossings.”

But it is evident that Greece is in need of border control and that the European Border and Coast Guard Agency is a potential solution. “The new border guard system will replace the EU’s largely toothless Frontex agency, which has failed to tackle the flows of people on routes including Turkey to Greece and through the Western Balkans,” according to Ekathimerini (via AFP).

In September, Greece called on the EU for migration aid, resulting in Frontex to deploy officers to the state.

The commission states that the plan is temporary. “These are the costs of a riskier world and we cannot avoid them,” said President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

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A brief history of the crisis

Focus: austerity

15 December 2015

What we refer to as the “crisis” today spans back decades, but the harbinger of economic calamity was in 2009 when the federal government discovered that the deficit was 15.7% of GDP (Eurostat). To stay in the Eurozone, Greece’s deficit had to be 3% or lower (Stability and Growth Pact of Europe).

The first bailout package was €110 billion in 2010. Today, Greece’s debt is even higher. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), Germany, France, and other European nations paid for the bailout package. To pay off the package, and in an attempt to spur the economy, austerity measures were implemented.

Austerity measures dramatically cut pensions, health care services, government salaries, and access to electricity, and raised VAT. From 2010 to 2012, seven more austerity packages were put in effect. Packages were implemented less frequently after 2012, but to this day and for decades to come, Greece will suffer from poverty and unemployment (currently at 25.9%). Austerity led to public demonstrations and riots.

In January and September 2015, momentous parliamentary elections were held. Alexis Tsipras was elected Prime Minister and led SYRIZA, both new to parliamentary leadership. The cabinet was reelected in September though most members remained in their positions. In less than one year, Greece largely rebuilt its politics.

Additionally, there were momentous events and referendums in 2015. Greeks voted “OXI” (“NO”) to more austerity measures and another bailout package (this one for €86 billion) in the July referendum. On July 30, Greece missed a payment to the troika (the three committees who organize loans to Greece: the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission). Four weeks ago, more austerity measures commenced despite promises to end the agony.

Today, the opposition to SYRIZA, New Democracy, increases. The country is changing in other ways: thousands of refugees are living and passing through Greece. The future of Greece is questionable and changing quickly.

This report has been translated to Greek. See below.

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Μία μικρή ιστορία για την κρίση

με μια συγκέντρωση στη λιτότητα

Δεκ. 15 2015

Η κρίση έχει μια μακρά ιστορία, αλλά άρχισε το 2009, όταν η κυβέρνηση έβρισκε πόσο κακό το έλλειμμα ήταν. Το έλλειμμα ήταν 15,7% του ακαθάριστου εγχώριου προϊόντος (ΑΕΠ). Να μείνει στην ευρωζώνη, χρειάστηκε 3%.

Λοιπόν, το πρώτο πακέτο διάσωσης συνέβηκε στο 2010. Ήταν €110 δισεκατομμύρια. Σημέρα, είναι περισσότερα. Το IMF, η Γερμανία, η Γαλλία, και η άλλα πληρώθηκαν για το πακέτο διάσωσης. Να πληρώνεται για το πακέτο διάσωσης, και να επιδιορφώνει την οικονομία, το IMF, το κοινοβούλιο, η Γερμανία, και η άλλα έκαναν τα μέτρα λιτότητας.

Τα μέτρα λιτότητας κόβονται τις συντάξεις, την ασφάλιση υγείας, το ηλεκτρισμό, τους μισθούς, και αύξηση τον ΦΠΑ και την βενζίνη, και άλλα. Υπάρχουν 7 πακέτα λιτότητας απο το 2010 μέχρι το 2012, και πίο πολλά τώρα. Πακέτα εφαρμόστηκαν λιγότερο συχνά μετά το 2012, αλλά σήμερα και για πολύ καιρό, η Ελλάδα θα υποφέρουν από τη φτώχεια και την ανεργία (σήμερα 25,9%). Αυτό οδηγεί σε διαμαρτυρία.

Τον Ιανουάριο και τον Σεπτεμβρίου στο 2015, υπήρξαν σημαντικές εκλογές. Ο Αλέξης Τσίπρας ήταν εκλέχθηκε τον Ιανούαριο, και μια νέα κόμματα υπάρχει στον κοινοβούλιο. Το ηγετικό κομμα είναι ΣΥΡΙΖΑ. Το νέο υπουργικό συμβούλιο εκλέχθηκε τον Σεπτέμβριο. Σε λιγότερο από ένα χρόνο, η Ελλάδα άλλαξε πολλές πολιτικές.

Υπήρξαν σημαντικά γεγονότα στο 2015. Οι Έλληνες ψήφισαν ΟΧΙ στο δημοψήφισμα, αυτό σημαίνει οτι άλλο πακέτο διάσωσης (για ογδόντα έξι δισεκατομμύρια ευρώ) και άλλη λιτότητα. Τον 30 Ιούλιου, έχασε την πληρωμή της τρόικας. Πριν από 4 εβδομάδες, περισσότερα μέτρα λιτότητας άρχισαν.

Σήμερα, η αντιπολίτευση να ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, η Νέα Δημοκρατία αυξάνεται. Η χώρα αλλάζει και με άλλους τρόπους: χιλιάδες πρόσφυγες μένουν και διέρχεται από την Ελλάδα. Το μέλλον της Ελλάδα είναι αμφισβητήσιμη καί αλλάζει γρήγορα.

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