Italy Beat Greece To Seal Spot At Euro 2020

Italy’s players celebrate after winning the UEFA Euro 2020 Group J qualifier football match against Greece at the Stadio Olimpico stadium in Rome, on October 12, 2019. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

 

Italy became the second team to qualify for Euro 2020 after a 2-0 win over Greece on Saturday, while three-time champions Spain edged closer to the finals despite conceding a stoppage-time equaliser away to Norway.

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho dispatched a second-half penalty as Italy, wearing green kits for just the second time in history, registered a seventh straight win in Group J.

The Azzurri, who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, added a second in Rome on 78 minutes through a deflected strike from Juventus forward Federico Bernardeschi.

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Roberto Mancini’s side joined Belgium in the draw for next year’s finals, where Italy will play their first two group games at the Stadio Olimpico.

“We managed to create a team in a short period of time. It wasn’t easy but you have to thank the players, who have quickly developed an understanding between themselves,” said Mancini, who took over as Italy coach 18 months ago.

“It’s a team with character that fights and plays with the ball but one that must also improve. Now we have a year to try and get better.

“We have a lot of work but we’re not very far from the best European teams. I’m happy and proud to have helped the national team come through a tough patch.”

Spain dropped their first points in Group F as Joshua King converted a 94th-minute spot-kick to rescue a 1-1 draw for Norway following a foul by goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga on Omar Elabdellaoui.

Sergio Ramos broke the Spanish international appearances record as he won his 168th cap in Oslo to overtake Iker Casillas.

The visitors led when Saul Niguez slammed home from 20 yards moments after half-time but Spain were denied a seventh win in a row as King’s equaliser kept Norway in the running.

“It’s a real pain to lose points in the final seconds. It’s complicated to play against a team who knew that if they lost they were pretty much out,” said Spain captain Ramos.

Norway last qualified for a major tournament at the 2000 European Championship and are fourth in the group, four points adrift of neighbours Sweden with three games to play.

Sebastian Larsson netted two spot-kicks as Sweden cruised to a 4-0 rout of Malta to reclaim second place behind Spain. Marcus Danielson broke the deadlock on 11 minutes in Ta’ Qali and home skipper Andrei Agius also scored an own goal.

Romania remain a point behind Sweden following a 3-0 win in the Faroe Islands secured by second-half goals from George Puscas, Ionut Mitrita and Claudiu Keseru.

– Schmeichel denies Switzerland –

Kasper Schmeichel produced a series of excellent saves as Denmark defeated Switzerland 1-0 to climb level with the Republic of Ireland in Group D.

Leicester City goalkeeper Schmeichel pulled off superb stops to deny Granit Xhaka, Admir Mehmedi and Ricardo Rodriguez before Yussuf Poulsen grabbed an 84th-minute winner for Denmark in Copenhagen.

The Danes moved up to 12 points alongside group leaders Ireland, who drew 0-0 away to Georgia, while Switzerland are four points off the pace but with a game in hand.

“We battled for the whole game, there was a tremendous atmosphere. I think that was one of my best performances for Denmark,” said Schmeichel.

Mick McCarthy’s Ireland couldn’t establish any momentum earlier in the day in Tbilisi and were left frustrated by wayward finishing from their few opportunities to break the deadlock.

Bosnia and Herzegovina reignited their qualification hopes in Italy’s group with a 4-1 win over second-placed Finland.

A brace from Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic and goals from Izet Hajrovic and Armin Hodzic pushed Bosnia to within two points of Finland.

Armenia blew the chance to move level with the Finns as Liechtenstein substitute Yanik Frick cancelled out Tigran Barseghyan’s effort in a 1-1 draw in Vaduz.

AFP

Ecological Disaster On Greek Island As Fire Burns On

Firefighting vehicle drives through smouldering forest near the village of Stavros, on the Greek Evia island on August 14, 2019. LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP

 

Firefighters on the Greek island of Evia were still battling Wednesday to contain a fire that has caused massive damage to a pristine mountain wildlife habitat after threatening four communities.

“Things are going better, but we must not relax our vigilance,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters aboard a fire department bus.

The blaze burned for a second day in a ravine at the 550-hectare wildlife habitat of Agrilitsa, causing major damage to pine forests.

“It’s a huge ecological disaster in a unique, untouched pine forest,” said acting regional governor Costas Bakoyannis.

The fire that broke out in the early hours of Tuesday on Greece’s second-largest island prompted the evacuation of three villages and threatened the town of Psachna during the night, officials said.

“From Psachna to Kontodespoti and Makrymalli everything has been burned down. It’s fortunate that we do not have human victims,” Thanassis Karakatzas, a deputy regional civil protection officer, told state agency ANA.

Over 200 firefighters were in action backed by 75 fire trucks, nine water-bombing helicopters and seven planes along a 12-kilometre (seven-mile) front, managing to avert damage to inhabited areas.

Power outages and water cuts

“We succeeded in protecting human lives and saving properties,” said citizen’s protection minister Michalis Chrisohoidis.

A firefighter suffered burns on Tuesday after trying to cross the fire on a motorbike, and three cars belonging to campers were burned, a local mayor said.

“We should be able to tackle the fire by the end of the day,” Yiannis Razos, a local official, told Athens municipal radio.

The area faced power outages and water cuts on Wednesday, residents said.

Two Italian water bombers arrived after Greece requested EU assistance, and were on standby, the fire department said. A third plane from Spain was due to arrive by evening.

EU Humanitarian Commissioner Christos Stylianides called the mobilisation of Greek forces “exemplary”.

“I think we will be able to limit the ecological losses…European solidarity is tangible,” Stylianides told reporters.

No injuries or respiratory problems that required hospitalisation were reported at the height of the emergency on Tuesday, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said in a tweet.

But three ambulances were stationed close to the area as a precaution.

Greece has been hit by a spate of wildfires since the weekend, fanned by gale-force winds and temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

The PM, who cancelled his summer vacation and returned to Athens on Tuesday, called for the EU to take action.

“Climate change is taking its toll on southern Europe and that is why it is imperative at European level to strengthen the EU rescue mechanism,” Mitsotakis said.

He paid tribute to the fire crews coping with some 50 forest blazes daily on average.

“I am aware that our firefighters, particularly over the last five days, have given their all, they are without sleep and often without food,” Mitsotakis said.

Other fires on Tuesday were contained on the island of Thassos, the central region of Viotia, and in the Peloponnese region.

On Monday, a major forest fire threatening homes in Peania, an eastern suburb of Athens, was brought under control. At least two houses were burned and radio broadcast equipment was damaged on nearby Mount Ymittos but there were no reports of injuries.

On Sunday, a fire on the small island of Elafonissos, in the Peloponnese, was brought under control after a two-day battle.

Two more fires were doused on Saturday in Marathon, close to Mati, the coastal resort where 102 people died last year in Greece’s worst fire disaster.

AFP

French Tourists Held In Greece After Deadly Boat Accident

Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org

 

A group of French tourists were held in Greece for questioning Saturday after a boat accident left two dead and another person seriously injured, the coastguard said.

But they were likely to be released after a French man who identified himself as the boat driver turned himself in later in the day, accompanied by a lawyer, officials said.

The group including five minors under 15, were on a 10-metre speedboat that allegedly rammed a smaller wooden vessel on Friday evening near the Peloponnese resort of Porto Heli, 170 kilometres (105 miles) southeast of Athens, a coastguard spokeswoman told AFP.

The collision killed two elderly Greek men on board the wooden vessel — reportedly a fishing boat. A 60-year-old Greek woman was seriously injured and taken to Athens for treatment.

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Officials could not immediately clarify whether the 44-year-old Frenchman who said he was driving the boat, and evaded arrest for several hours after the accident, would appear before a prosecutor later Saturday or on Monday.

The other French nationals — two men, three women and five children aged three to 14 — were initially taken to Porto Heli for questioning after helping to bring the injured woman and one of the bodies to shore, the coastguard officer said.

The minors were with their parents at the Porto Heli coastguard offices, the press officer said.

Speedboat accidents involving swimmers or other boats are common in Greece during the summer.

In 2016, four people including a four-year-old girl were killed when a speedboat sliced into their wooden tourist vessel near the island of Aegina.

Nobody was sanctioned as the prime suspect, an elderly Greek man, died a year after the accident.

 

5.1-Magnitude Earthquake Knocks Out Phone Service In Greece

Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org

 

A strong, shallow 5.1-magnitude earthquake jolted Athens on Friday, knocking out phone connections and causing power outages and minor damage, as worried residents rushed into the streets.

“It was a very intense quake, we were terrified, everyone started coming out (of the building),” said Katerina, who works in a six-storey cosmetics store.

One woman was lightly injured by falling plaster, reports said, and at least two abandoned buildings in the capital had collapsed, a government spokesman said.

News channels ran photos sent in by viewers, showing parked cars in central Athens damaged by fallen masonry.

“There are no reports of serious injury,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on television, adding that a small number of other buildings had suffered minor damage.

Petsas added that phone networks had become “overcharged” by the sheer number of users calling to check up on friends and family.

According to the Greek geodynamic institute, it was a 5.1-magnitude quake with an epicentre 23 kilometres (14 miles) northwest of Athens and was followed by several aftershocks.

The quake struck at around 1100 GMT at a depth of 13 kilometres, the institute said.

Worried residents and office staff have crowded outdoor areas but the government denied it had ordered an evacuation alert.

The fire department rescued dozens of people trapped in elevators in the capital, state broadcaster ERT said.

“People must remain calm,” said Efthymios Lekkas, head of the state anti-quake protection agency.

“There is no reason for concern. The capital’s buildings are built to withstand a much stronger earthquake,” he told ERT.

The epicentre was near the area where a 5.9-magnitude quake left 143 people dead in and near Athens in 1999.

The US geological institute said Friday’s quake had a magnitude of 5.3.

“For the time being we cannot be sure whether this was the main earthquake,” seismologist Gerassimos Papadopoulos told ERT.

“There have been at least three (smaller) aftershocks already, which is a positive sign,” he said, adding that the quake was felt as far as the Peloponnese islands.

“People in the capital must remain calm… they must be psychologically ready for more aftershocks,” he said.

News media reported electricity outages but said internet connections were still operating.

Greece lies on major fault lines and is regularly hit by earthquakes, but they rarely cause casualties.

In July 2017, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake killed two people on the island of Kos in the Aegean sea, causing significant damage.

AFP

Six Tourists Killed By Tornadoes, Hailstorms In Greece

A caravan overturned by strong winds lies on a beach where a storm killed a Czech couple in Nea Plagia, in Chalkidiki, Northern Greece, on July 11, 2019. Sakis MITROLIDIS / AFP

 

Fierce storms have killed six tourists and injured dozens of people in northern Greece, authorities said on Thursday.

Strong winds and hail on Wednesday evening tore into the beachfront of Halkidiki region, one of Greece’s most popular tourist areas, terrifying thousands of holidaymakers caught in the open.

“For five minutes it was hellish,” said Haris Lazaridis, owner of a tavern where a 54-year-old woman from Romania and her son were killed when the roof caved in.

“There was panic, people were howling and running to hide inside,” Lazaridis told AFP. He added that over 100 people were sheltering under the roof when it collapsed.

Nearly 30 people have been hospitalised in nearby Thessaloniki, including a 13-year-old girl from Serbia.

“It was a miracle that there weren’t more deaths,” said 39-year-old Kyriakos Athanasiadis, who is vacationing in the area.

“Nearly all the coastal restaurants were full, and you could see large objects flying,” he told AFP.

One woman reportedly told hospital staff she was picked up by the wind and thrown in a garbage bin, which then rolled away.

The freak storm only lasted about 20 minutes, but it was enough to overturn cars, uproot trees and balcony railings and cause mudslides.

READ ALSO: Pakistan Train Collision Kills Nine, Injures 66

‘Unprecedented phenomenon’

On a beach in Sozopoli, the storm toppled and ripped open a Czech family’s caravan, killing an elderly couple in their seventies and injuring their 48-year-old son and 19-year-old grandson.

Elsewhere in the region, a Russian man and his son were killed by a falling tree.

“It was an unprecedented phenomenon,” said Charalambos Steriadis, head of civil protection in northern Greece.

Officials have declared a state of emergency and army crews were working around the clock to restore electricity.

“I want to express my sorrow on behalf of all… We mourn for the loss of these souls,” said Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis, who is overseeing operations in the area.

“We are in solidarity with their relatives, with the people who have lost their families,” he added.

According to port police, a fisherman in his sixties was also missing.

At least 140 rescue workers were involved in the operation, emergency chief Vassilis Varthakoyannis said.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who took over Sunday after general elections, cancelled his meetings to address the disaster, his office said.

The storms came after temperatures in Greece soared to 37 degrees centigrade (98 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past two days.

The Greek national observatory said it had recorded over 5,000 lightning bolts around the country on Wednesday evening.

AFP

New Prime Minister Vows To Make Greece ‘Proud’ After Vote Triumph

Greece’s newly elected Prime Minister and leader of conservative New Democracy party Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaks to the press outside the party’s headquarters after the official results of the elections, in Athens on July 7, 2019. PHOTO: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP

 

Greece’s conservative prime minister-elect Kyriakos Mitsotakis vowed that the country would “proudly” enter a post-bailout period of “jobs, security and growth” after winning a landslide victory in Sunday’s general election.

Official results showed Mitsotakis on track to crush leftist premier Alexis Tsipras, who oversaw austerity measures after Greece’s dramatic rescue by international creditors in the European debt crisis.

“A painful cycle has closed,” Mitsotakis said in a televised address, adding that Greece would “proudly raise its head again” on his watch.

“I will not fail to honour your hopes,” he said as early congratulation calls came from outgoing European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

With official results from 94 percent of polling stations, New Democracy scored a crushing victory by nearly 40 percent — its best score in over a decade — to 31.5 percent for Tsipras’s leftist Syriza party.

“I want to see these people prosper. I want to see the children who left to return,” he later told party supporters.

Mitsotakis will be sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister on Monday.

Tsipras had earlier admitted defeat after over four years in power that saw Greece emerge from its third bailout.

The 44-year-old warned that his Syriza party would “dynamically” resist efforts to scale back the party’s pro-labour reforms.

If the results are confirmed, the 51-year-old Harvard graduate and former McKinsey consultant Mitsotakis will have a majority of 158 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament. Tsipras’s party will have 86 seats.

The final number will depend on how smaller parties fare. They need at least 3.0 percent of the vote to enter parliament.

 A family affair

New Democracy was last in power in 2014, in coalition with the Greek socialists.

Mitsotakis is a scion of one of Greece’s top political families.

He is the son of former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, one of the country’s longest-serving parliamentarians.

His sister is former minister Dora Bakoyannis, Athens’s first female mayor. And new Athens mayor Costas Bakoyannis, elected in May, is his nephew.

Sunday’s election was Greece’s third in as many months, and the first held in midsummer since 1928.

In May, New Democracy beat Syriza by nearly 9.5 points in European parliament elections. A week later, it completed a near-sweep of Greek regions in local elections.

After that, Tsipras was forced to call an early general election. His term was scheduled to end in the autumn.

 ‘Chance to recover’

Greece’s youngest premier in more than a century, Tsipras had trailed in the polls for months amid widespread dissatisfaction over high taxes.

“Greece is exiting 10 years of crisis and the new government will have the heavy task to give a chance to the country to recover completely or to sink”, 36-year-old Aphrodite told AFP, as she cast her vote in the bohemian downtown Athens neighborhood of Exarcheia.

“I hope that from tomorrow we will be able to breathe with relief. To take a deep breath, if Mitsotakis does what he promises,” added Athinodoros, a 48-year-old self-employed worker.

Tsipras has accused Mitsotakis — who was part of a 2012-2014 crisis government — of “disastrous” mismanagement that brought hundreds of thousands of job losses and business failures.

Mitsotakis has now pledged to create “better” jobs through growth, foreign investment and tax cuts and to “steamroll” obstacles to business.

Tsipras — who reduced unemployment and raised the minimum wage for the first time since 2012 — was criticised for campaigning as an anti-austerity crusader before eventually accepting a third EU bailout and the economic cutbacks that entailed.

In parts of the country, there was also a backlash against a controversial agreement with North Macedonia that ended a bitter 27-year dispute over the country’s name.

New parties

The new smaller parties fighting to secure representation are Greek Solution, a nationalist party formed by TV salesman Kyriakos Velopoulos, and MeRA25, an anti-austerity party founded by maverick economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

According to the exit polls, Varoufakis’s party could elect nine lawmakers.

Greek Solution could end up with 10 deputies, while neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn looks likely to be shut out of parliament for the first time since 2012.

Golden Dawn, until recently Greece’s third-ranking party, is in steep decline amid an ongoing trial for the 2013 murder of an anti-fascist rapper, allegedly carried out with the knowledge of senior Golden Dawn members.

Mitsotakis has promised to hit the ground running. A Eurogroup finance meeting on Monday will convene to discuss the state of Greece’s economy after tax cuts rolled out by Tsipras in May.

AFP

Five Things To Know About Greece’s July 7 Vote

 

Greeks head to the polls on Sunday in a snap ballot that could bring an end to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist government.

Here are five things to know about the vote, the third in Greece since May following European and local elections.

Greeks likely to abstain

Greece’s third election in as many months is unlikely to set participation records, even more so as July 7 is right at the heart of the busy tourist season.

Voting is officially compulsory in Greece and abstention is theoretically punishable by law, but the penalty is never applied.

In May, fewer than 59 percent of registered voters cast their ballots for the European parliament and the first round of local and regional elections. A week later, participation fell below 42 percent for the second round.

Will there be a stable government?

The memory of political instability in Greece at the height of the economic crisis is still recent. In 2011, the government collapsed and a few months later, back-to-back elections had to be held before a coalition administration could be pieced together.

The current electoral law gives a 50-seat bonus to the winning party, in principle enough to form a majority in the 300-seat parliament.

But if more than six parties enter parliament — which is a possibility — the winner may end up with a majority of just a few seats.

The conservative New Democracy party is heavily favoured to win, after a near-sweep in regional elections and a victory margin of over nine points in European parliament elections.

In that case, the conservatives could govern alone or alongside the socialist Kinal party in a repeat of the 2012 coalition.

But if the July 7 election fails to produce a government, a new electoral law will kick in without the 50-seat bonus, making uneasy alliances imperative.

Parties need at least three percent of the vote to enter parliament.

Communists vote, rain or shine

The Communist KKE party, which turned 100 last year, has some of the country’s most faithful supporters. It picked up 302,000 votes in the European parliament elections, nearly the same amount garnered in national elections four years ago.

They also secured the re-election of a Communist mayor in Patras, Greece’s third largest city.

Shifting sands of far-right

After a near-decade rise to the ranks of Greece’s third most popular party, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn suffered major losses in the last two voting campaigns, shedding half its electoral support.

Into the gap stepped Greek Solution, a new nationalist, pro-Russian party formed by journalist and TV salesman Kyriakos Velopoulos.

Out of the blue, Greek Solution won 4.18 percent of the vote and a seat in the European parliament.

A former far-right lawmaker, Velopoulos scored well especially in the north of the country, where there is anger at Tsipras’s deal with Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev to rename the neighbouring country North Macedonia.

Velopoulos has made no secret of his desire to attract Golden Dawn voters. Together, the two parties account for around nine percent of the Greek electorate.

Crisis gloom

Greece is struggling to recover from a near-decade-long debt crisis and a deep six-year recession. It emerged from its third straight bailout last year, but with a public debt of over 180 percent of output, it remains under strict supervision by its EU and IMF creditors.

AFP

Five Things To Know About Greece’s July 7 Vote

Greeks head to the polls on Sunday in a snap ballot that could bring an end to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist government.

Here are five things to know about the vote, the third in Greece since May following European and local elections.

Greeks likely to abstain

Greece’s third election in as many months is unlikely to set participation records, even more so as July 7 is right at the heart of the busy tourist season.

Voting is officially compulsory in Greece and abstention is theoretically punishable by law, but the penalty is never applied.

In May, fewer than 59 percent of registered voters cast their ballots for the European parliament and the first round of local and regional elections. A week later, participation fell below 42 percent for the second round.

Will there be a stable government?

The memory of political instability in Greece at the height of the economic crisis is still recent. In 2011, the government collapsed and a few months later, back-to-back elections had to be held before a coalition administration could be pieced together.

The current electoral law gives a 50-seat bonus to the winning party, in principle enough to form a majority in the 300-seat parliament.

But if more than six parties enter parliament — which is a possibility — the winner may end up with a majority of just a few seats.

The conservative New Democracy party is heavily favoured to win, after a near-sweep in regional elections and a victory margin of over nine points in European parliament elections.

In that case, the conservatives could govern alone or alongside the socialist Kinal party in a repeat of the 2012 coalition.

But if the July 7 election fails to produce a government, a new electoral law will kick in without the 50-seat bonus, making uneasy alliances imperative.

Parties need at least three percent of the vote to enter parliament.

– Communists vote, rain or shine –
The Communist KKE party, which turned 100 last year, has some of the country’s most faithful supporters. It picked up 302,000 votes in the European parliament elections, nearly the same amount garnered in national elections four years ago.

They also secured the re-election of a Communist mayor in Patras, Greece’s third largest city.

Shifting sands of far-right

After a near-decade rise to the ranks of Greece’s third most popular party, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn suffered major losses in the last two voting campaigns, shedding half its electoral support.

Into the gap stepped Greek Solution, a new nationalist, pro-Russian party formed by journalist and TV salesman Kyriakos Velopoulos.

Out of the blue, Greek Solution won 4.18 percent of the vote and a seat in the European parliament.

A former far-right lawmaker, Velopoulos scored well especially in the north of the country, where there is anger at Tsipras’s deal with Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev to rename the neighbouring country North Macedonia.

Velopoulos has made no secret of his desire to attract Golden Dawn voters. Together, the two parties account for around nine percent of the Greek electorate.

Crisis gloom

Greece is struggling to recover from a near-decade-long debt crisis and a deep six-year recession. It emerged from its third straight bailout last year, but with a public debt of over 180 percent of output, it remains under strict supervision by its EU and IMF creditors.

AFP

Reuters Star Photographer Behrakis Dead At 58 – Press Body

In this file photo taken on October 08, 2016, Greek photographer Yannis Behrakis speaks after receiving the Photo Trophy awarded by Nikon during the closing ceremony of the 2016 Bayeux-Calvados festival in Bayeux, northwestern France. The award-winning Reuters photographer Behrakis has died aged 58 after a battle with cancer, Greece’s foreign press association said on March 3, 2019. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Award-winning Reuters photographer Yannis Behrakis has died aged 58 after a battle with cancer, Greece’s foreign press association said Sunday.

Athens-born Behrakis, who worked at Reuters for more than 30 years and died on Saturday, was “one of the best photographers of his generation”, the press body said in a statement.

“His pictures shaped the very way in which we perceived events, from the war in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone to the refugee crisis and the Arab Spring.”

Prestigious awards included the World Press Photo in 2000, Bayeux-Calvados in 2016, and Photographer of the Year by the Guardian in 2015.

The married father of two also led a Reuters team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for coverage of the migration crisis, which erupted the previous year.

“Few people abandon everything to capture the truth. Yannis Behrakis defended truth in the four corners of the world,” Greece’s junior minister for media Lefteris Kretsos said in a statement.

In 2000, Behrakis had narrowly escaped death in Sierra Leone in an ambush by gunmen that killed Reuters colleague Kurt Schork and AP cameraman Miguel Gil Moreno.

One of his most striking pictures from Europe’s migration crisis is of a Syrian father carrying and kissing his daughter as he walked towards Greece’s border with North Macedonia in the rain.

“This picture proves that there are superheroes after all,” Behrakis later explained. “He doesn’t wear a red cape, but he has a black plastic cape made out of garbage bags. For me, this represents the universal father and the unconditional love of father to daughter.”

Three Children Missing As Migrant Boat Sinks On Border – Greek Police

File Photo: Migrants

 

A search was underway Sunday for four suspected migrants, three of them children, believed missing after trying to cross the river Evros from Turkey into Greece, local police said.

Twelve people overall were in a dinghy that sank on Saturday. Eight of them managed to swim to safety and alerted the authorities.

The river Evros has seen increased migrant traffic since Greek and EU naval patrols intensified in the Aegean in 2016.

Migration minister Dimitris Vitsas in October said numbers had increased dramatically, from more than 3,000 in 2016 to 5,500 in 2017 and some 12,000 up to that point last year.

Migration is among the issues to be discussed during a visit to Turkey next week by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Greek PM Announces Minimum Pay Rise As Elections Loom

Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras

 

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday announced an 11-percent rise in the minimum wage, the first after a decade of austerity and months ahead of legislative elections.

Tsipras, whose party is trailing in opinion polls, said the minimum wage would increase from 586 euros ($668) to 650 euros from February.

“Crushing workers is not the way to sustain growth and boost the economy,” he told the cabinet. “On the contrary, it’s a proven recipe for bankruptcy.”

Nearly 900,000 people would benefit from the move, either directly or indirectly, as the change would also affect unemployment benefits, he added. The benefit is calculated from a percentage of the minimum wage.

READ ALSO: N27,000 Minimum Wage Bill Passes Second Reading At Senate

It was a conservative-led government that slashed the minimum wage by 22 percent in 2012, under pressure from Greece’s EU-IMF creditors at the height of the financial crisis.

But Tsipras, with his leftist Syriza party trailing in polls some 10 points behind conservative rivals New Democracy, is in a race to improve his ratings.

Elections in Greece are not scheduled before October but there is speculation they could be held in May — coinciding with local and European parliament elections — or even sooner.

The 44-year-old prime minister heads a minority government after his nationalist coalition allies defected this month over their opposition to the historic name-change deal with neighbouring Macedonia.

AFP

BREAKING: Greek Defence Minister Resigns Ahead Of Macedonia Name Vote

 

Emerging reports suggest that Greek defence minister, Panos Kammenos has resigned ahead of Macedonia name vote.

Kammenos who is head of the main coalition partner of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, announced his resignation on Sunday ahead of the upcoming parliamentary vote to end a 27-year name dispute with Macedonia.

“The Macedonia issue does not allow me not to sacrifice my post,” Panos Kammenos said after a meeting with Tsipras.

“I thanked the prime minister for the cooperation and I explained to him that for this national issue we cannot continue,” he said, adding that his Independent Greeks party “is pulling out of the government”.

A Greek prosecutor had on Saturday ordered an investigation into allegations of threats against lawmakers over an upcoming parliamentary vote to end a 27-year dispute with Macedonia, a judicial source said.

Macedonian lawmakers voted to rename their country the Republic of North Macedonia on Friday and the agreement now needs backing from the Greek parliament to come into effect.

However the proposal has been met with resistance by many in Greece, who object to its neighbour being called Macedonia because it has its own northern province of the same name.

Ahead of the vote in Athens, two news websites alleged that a prominent member of Greece’s main opposition New Democracy party — which rejects the name deal — called on its members to phone MPs of the nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party and urge them to vote against the agreement.

ANEL is the junior party in Greece’s ruling coalition and strongly opposes the name change, a rift that threatens to destabilise the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who helped broker the deal.

The New Democracy member allegedly revealed the personal mobile phone numbers of ANEL MPs.

Athens News Agency said the news reports prompted the preliminary investigation into the allegations.

The investigation, according to judicial sources, is looking into whether personal data was violated as part of the probe.

ANEL leader Panos Kammenos, who is Tsipras’ defence minister, has threatened to pull out of the government when the deal comes to a vote, but some of his party’s MPs remain ambivalent.

Tsipras will have a crunch meeting with his coalition partner on Sunday morning in order to reach a make or break decision ahead of the vote.

If Kammenos refuses to back down, Tsipras hopes to rely on lawmakers from the small pro-EU To Potami party to get the agreement approved.

 

Macedonia PM urges Greek lawmakers to ratify name deal

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Saturday called on Greece to end the two nations’ decades-long dispute by ratifying the deal to rename his country The Republic of North Macedonia.

Macedonian lawmakers approved the agreement late Friday. It now needs backing from the Greek parliament to come into effect.

“Our parliament found the strength but it wasn’t easy. But I am convinced that the Greek parliament will also find the strength to make the decision,” Zaev told a press conference in Skopje.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the parliament’s decision, praising the Macedonian leader’s “vision, courage and persistence” in seeking a resolution to the dispute with Greece that would allow it to join NATO and the European Union.

“The United States sees this as a historic opportunity to advance stability, security and prosperity throughout the region,” Pompeo said in a statement released from Washington.

Eighty-one of the Macedonian parliament’s 120 members backed the name change, securing the required two-thirds majority to push it through.

Zaev, who came to power in May 2017, is now looking to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the deal, which the pair brokered last year.

“Within 10 days… if we see everything is in order, we will vote,” Tsipras said on Friday evening.

Athens has promised to lift its veto on Skopje’s attempts to join NATO and the EU if Macedonia changes its name.

Zaev said he was “convinced that Greek lawmakers will recognise the historical significance of the agreement.”

The accord aims to start unraveling one of the world’s longest diplomatic disputes. It began nearly three decades ago, with Macedonia’s declaration of independence, but has roots dating back centuries.

Since 1991, Athens has objected to its neighbour being called Macedonia because it has a northern province of the same name. In ancient times it was the cradle of Alexander the Great’s empire, a source of intense pride for modern-day Greeks.

Last June, Zaev and Tsipras reached a landmark compromise over the name dispute. Their efforts brought the pair a nomination for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

AFP