Greece Continues Frantic Negotiations

By Rowan Williams
  • – Greece gives ground as deadline looms
  • – Fallon: UK aid should deter Mediterranean migrants
  • – Bank of China in Italian money laundering allegations


Frantic negotiations continue between Greece and its creditors, as the country strives to reach a bailout deal ahead of a looming debt deadline. Greece must repay €1.5 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by the end of June or face a debt default and potential exit from the eurozone. EU Finance Ministers and other government leaders are preparing for a key summit in Brussels on Monday which could decide whether or not Greece remains in the EU. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is understood to have made concessions on issues including pensions and VAT. Greece has been reluctant to accept conditions that would too harshly impact the lives of Greece’s citizens, one third of whom live below the poverty line. The chair of the National Bank of Greece has sought to reassure observers that Greece’s banks do not face the immediate threat of running out of money.

The UK aid budget should be used to help deter migration across the Mediterranean Sea, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said. Speaking on Sunday, Fallon said that aid could be used to prevent conflict in Africa “so that we don’t have to fish people out of the Mediterranean later on”. Fallon’s comments come after the deaths of 1,800 migrants in the Mediterranean in 2015 so far – a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014. The migrant crisis has caused debate across Europe over how best to deal with rescued migrants landing in Europe, with resettlement a key point of contention.

Italian authorities are seeking almost 300 people in connection with an alleged money laundering scheme at Milan’s Bank of China branch. According to prosecutors in Florence, £3.2 billion earned through prostitution, counterfeiting, tax evasion and labour exploitation was transferred from Italy to China. The money was transferred between 2007 and 2010 through Bank of China’s Milan branch. An Italian judge will now decide whether the bank and 297 individuals shall face trial. Chinese authorities have yet to respond to the allegations.

The Papers

A fair mix in the headlines today. The Sunday Telegraph leads with news of a “£20m bid for Britain to quit EU” launched by a group of UK entrepreneurs. “Sports stars and celebrities” will be used by the group as ambassadors for the campaign, the paper writes. The Sunday Times reports that according to the Conservative government, £12 billion worth of planned benefits cuts “will go ahead”, following a deal on reforms between Chancellor George Osborne and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. The Observer leads with news that charities are expecting the biggest rise in child poverty in a generation. According to the charities, the rise “halts progress made since 1990s” in reducing child poverty, with “bedroom tax and benefit cuts” to blame. The Independent on Sunday leads with news that the Liberal Democrats and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) are “in chaos” as crises hit the parties. Police have been notified that Lib Dem Norman Lamb’s team “‘breached data protection rules’ in leadership contest”, while UKIP struggles with funding problems.

British Media on China

On Hong Kong: UK media outlets have offered more in-depth analysis in the days after the vetoing of democratic reforms in Hong Kong. The BBC asks ‘what next?’ for Hong Kong following the result, speculating what the future holds for Hong Kong following the vote. The Guardian writes in an editorial that the failure of the reforms signifies “another chance for compromise missed”, and leaves the territory “in political limbo”. Beijing’s campaign to convince the pro-democracy side “offered no real concessions”, the paper writes, but has “sought to isolate the pro-democracy group and to paint it as anti-democratic”. “A little give” would have given the Beijing side much more credibility, the piece opines. The Daily Telegraph reports that the People’s Daily has condemned Hong Kong’s “selfish destroyers of democracy” following the vote.

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