June 20th, 2012
01:29 PM ET

Samaras sworn in as head of new Greek government

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras was sworn in Wednesday as Greece's new prime minister, following months of political uncertainty for the debt-stricken country.

He was inaugurated at the presidential mansion after meeting with President Karolos Papoulias, who asked him to form a new Greek government.

His swearing-in followed the news that three parties - the center-right New Democracy, which placed first in Sunday's vote, Pasok and the Democratic Party of the Left - had reached agreement on the terms for the coalition.

Speaking as he left the presidential mansion, Samaras said: "We trust that with God's help we will do all we can to get our people out of the crisis. I will ask the government tomorrow morning to work hard in order to be able to give tangible hope to our people."

Greece has been without an elected government for 223 days, and the new government, which has pledged to push for a renegotiation of the painful austerity measures imposed under the terms of an international bailout, will face significant challenges.

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Filed under: Economy • Europe • European Union • Greece
May 16th, 2012
11:48 AM ET

Greeks set election date amid possibility of bank panic

Greece will hold new elections on June 17, state media reported Wednesday, after Greeks pulled hundreds of millions of euros out of the banking system amid fears that the country will not be able to stay in the European Union's single currency.

Setting the date for a new vote comes 10 days after a national election in which voters punished the major parties for harsh budget cuts, leaving no party able to form a government.

A caretaker administration led by a senior judge will run the country until the new vote.

Interim Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos and his Cabinet will take their oaths of office on Thursday morning, Greek state television reported.


Filed under: European Union • Greece
May 15th, 2012
09:17 AM ET

Greek talks end with no deal on government

Greek politicians ended a meeting with President Karolos Papoulias without any sign of agreement Tuesday, increasing the chances the country would have to hold new elections as its debt crisis threatens the stability of the European Union's single currency.

Greece has been in a political stalemate since elections nine days ago left no party with a majority. The leaders of three different parties have tried to cobble together a workable coalition, but all have failed.

The politicians have until Thursday to come up with a government or call new elections.

The political instability has raised the possibility that Greece will fail to make debt payments as early as next month, potentially forcing the country out of the euro, the currency used by 17 European Union countries.

The European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund have been pumping money into Greece to keep that from happening, but they have demanded that the Greek government slash spending to get the funds.

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Filed under: European Union • Greece
May 10th, 2012
08:58 AM ET

Greek Socialist leader gets chance to form government

The leader of the Socialist PASOK party in Greece is starting efforts to build a government, his party said Thursday, making him the third Greek politician since Sunday to make the attempt.

The PASOK party of Evangelos Venizelos came in third in parliamentary elections on Sunday, and his effort to hammer out a workable coalition comes after the heads of the parties that came in first and second admitted defeat.

He will have an uphill battle after voters angry about tough government budget cuts backed parties on the far left and right, punishing PASOK and New Democracy, the more moderate parties that made the cuts.

He has three days to cobble together a deal.


Filed under: Budget • Economy • European Union • Greece
March 6th, 2012
08:24 AM ET

Offers to resume Iran nuke negotiations back on table, EU foreign policy chief says

The United States and other countries offered to resume negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program on Tuesday as Iran signaled a willingness to let international inspectors visit a key military base.

The United States, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany offered to resume stalled talks in a letter from European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. She was responding to an overture that Iran made last month.

The prospect of negotiations comes amid rising concern that Israel may attack Iran to disrupt its nuclear program.

Israel and the United States suspect Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. International inspectors also have voiced concern, but Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian purposes.

Meanwhile, Iran offered Tuesday to let international nuclear inspectors into one of its military bases, but only after significant details are worked out, its team at the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

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Filed under: Europe • European Union • Iran
February 27th, 2012
10:10 AM ET

Syria says new constitution approved; EU imposes new sanctions

Syria's new draft constitution received overwhelming approval, the nation's interior minister said Monday.

Some 89.4% of voters approved the draft, said Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar, and 57.4% of eligible voters cast ballots.

"We would like to say congratulations to Syria and to the Syrian people, who expressed their legitimate right" to vote, al-Shaar told reporters.

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Filed under: European Union • Syria
January 23rd, 2012
08:24 AM ET

European Union bans Iran oil imports

The European Union banned the import of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products and banned the export of key petrochemical technology to the country Monday in an effort to cut off sources of funding for Iran's nuclear program, the EU announced.

Iran exports 2.2. million barrels of oil a day, with about 18% bound for European markets, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The world consumes about 89 million barrels of oil per day.

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Filed under: European Union • Iran • World
January 22nd, 2012
04:49 PM ET

Croatian voters back bid to join European Union

Croatians voted Sunday in support of their country's bid to join the European Union, paving the way for the southern European nation to become the alliance's 28th member.

According to official results, posted on a government website, about 66% of voters backed Croatia's entry into the EU and 33% sided against the move. Turnout was about 44%.

Already a member of NATO, Croatia is now poised to join an EU bloc that includes its neighbors Slovenia and Hungary. It is one of five nations listed as "candidate countries" on the European Union's website.

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Filed under: Croatia • European Union
On the Radar: Fast and Furious hearing, EU summit, ex-coach's accuser
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is set to testify about Operation Fast and Furious before a House panel Thursday.
December 8th, 2011
08:22 AM ET

On the Radar: Fast and Furious hearing, EU summit, ex-coach's accuser

Three things to follow Thursday:

Fast and Furious hearing: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder faces what is expected to be a stormy congressional hearing on a flawed gun sting operation known as Fast and Furious.

Holder on Thursday is due to testify in front of a House panel investigating possible wrongdoing in the operation, which was run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The progam, which began in 2009, allowed illegally purchased firearms to be taken from gun stores in Arizona across the U.S.-Mexico border to drug cartels. The intent was to monitor the flow of weapons to their ultimate destination.

However, hundreds of weapons were lost or unaccounted for, and a storm of outrage erupted when two of the missing weapons were found at the site where Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed last December.

About 1,400 internal documents about the operation were delivered to three congressional committees last week. One Republican senator on Wednesday called on Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer to resign, alleging that Breuer had been dishonest with Congress about his knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious.


Quest: Banks' move helps but doesn't address fundamental eurozone problems
A German banner says to "Bring banks back in line" at a recent protest outside the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany.
November 30th, 2011
11:05 AM ET

Quest: Banks' move helps but doesn't address fundamental eurozone problems

Editor's note: The U.S. Federal Reserve, acting with other nations' central banks, took steps Wednesday to support the global financial system with a coordinated plan to lower prices on dollar liquidity swaps beginning on December 5 and extending these swap arrangements to February 1, 2013. CNN's international business correspondent Richard Quest takes a look at how big of a help the plan is and what more might need to be done to ease the eurozone crisis.

It is time for a reality check on what was announced Wednesday morning.

In the highly complex world of banking, this move to ease access to dollars is the equivalent of adding oil and grease to the wheels of the system. The banks are lending and borrowing from each other on an hourly basis, frequently in foreign currencies. In recent weeks, it has been more difficult to get hold of currencies as a crisis of confidence takes its toll.

The so-called swap lines (where one central bank borrows foreign currency from another) have been around since May 2010. Today they have eased the price at which that money is lent to banks, and they have made it easier to borrow across the range of currencies. For instance, a bank in Frankfurt, Germany, needing yen can get it more quickly; the Swiss can get dollars; and the Japanese can get euros and so on.

Velshi: Banks' move a coordinated effort to help Europe buy time

This will all make it easier for banks to get on with the daily business of lending between each other - it greases the wheels - but it does not address the fundamental problems of the eurozone.

I don't see any moral hazard issue (a term in economic theory for a situation where there's an incentive to share a risk) in this announcement. They are not saying the banks are too big to fail - they are saying the system is too fragile to seize up. It is a sensible, moderate and proportionate response. What is lacking from the Europeans is a credible, long-term solution to the crisis. And from the Americans, a long-term solution to the debt debacle. Only when these are solved will there be the remote possibility of business as normal.

Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, said Wednesday that we are entering a critical period of 10 days to complete and conclude the crisis response of the European Union - its very own 10 Days of Christmas.

Business 360: 10 days to solve the euro - but how?

And each day I will write about what the gift or groan is for that day.

Start the clock.

Velshi: Banks' move a coordinated effort to help Europe buy time
The euro symbol is seen in front of the European Central Bank in Germany.
November 30th, 2011
09:38 AM ET

Velshi: Banks' move a coordinated effort to help Europe buy time

Editor's note: The U.S. Federal Reserve, acting with other nations' central banks, took steps Wednesday to support the global financial system with a coordinated plan to lower prices on dollar liquidity swaps beginning on December 5, and extending these swap arrangements to February 1, 2013. CNN's chief business correspondent Ali Velshi takes a look at why they may have made the move and how it can help the struggling European banks temporarily.

This major coordinated global move was undertaken because a global credit freeze - the likes of which we haven't seen since just after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in Sept of 2008 - was looking entirely possible.

By way of background, the cost (or rate) for European banks to borrow dollars from other European banks has skyrocketed since May and, in some cases, banks haven't been able to borrow for short periods (overnight to three months) at all.

Under international banking rules, banks must end each day with a certain reserve. As a matter of course, they lend each other money through a largely automated system on a nightly basis to cover any short-term shortfalls. Increasingly, with fears that over-leveraged banks could have a "run on the bank" and the lending bank might not be repaid, banks are hesitant to make short-term loans to other banks. If they do, it's at a premium rate.

The net follow-on effect is that under-capitalized banks stop offering short-term credit facilities to their clients. (Think of how clothing purchases are financed: Retailers don't pay cash to suppliers - a bank pays the suppliers, then gets cash from the retailer as sales are made.) As clients find it more difficult to raise much-needed daily operating cash from banks, they need to immediately slash cash expenditures. Generally, the easiest way to do that is to lay people off.

In an attempt to stave off the consequences of a global credit freeze, the Federal Reserve, in coordination with major central banks, has created a credit line available to those central banks, whereby they can borrow dollars at reduced interest rates for periods of three months. The central banks, in turn, can lend to commercial banks in their respective countries. This is meant to reduce the cost of short-term borrowing for troubled European banks and to give them immediate access to dollars.

This was done immediately after the collapse of Lehman Brothers as well, to alleviate the consequences of banks being largely unwilling to lend to other banks, even for short periods, for fear that the borrowing banks could fail.

This is a serious development that doesn't solve an underlying problem of bank instability. It buys time for banks to try to find solid footing for themselves.

Quest: Banks' move helps but doesn't address fundamental eurozone problems

And, in case you were wondering, it is an instance of the creation of "moral hazard" - a term in economic theory for a situation where there's an incentive to share a risk - as the central banks have jointly decided that some shaky European banks may be "too big to fail."

New Greek PM wins key vote of confidence from parliament
November 16th, 2011
12:25 PM ET

New Greek PM wins key vote of confidence from parliament

[Updated at 12:25 p.m. ET] New Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos won a vote of confidence in the Greek parliament Wednesday, paving the way for his interim coalition government to take power.

He won the vote with 255 in favor to 38 against, as 293 votes were cast in the 300-seat Parliament.

[Posted at 11:11 a.m. ET] The new Greek prime minister, Lucas Papademos, faces a vote of confidence in Parliament on Wednesday, following his appointment to replace George Papandreou.

Papandreou quit last week, forced out by public anger at the budget cuts he was pushing through to get international funds to pay his country's debts.

Fears that Greece might default caused shock waves through the European and American banking systems and sent stock markets on a wild ride that at times wiped billions of dollars of value out of existence.

Papademos, a former banker and European Central Bank vice president, became his country's interim prime minister Friday after several days of political wrangling.

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Filed under: Economy • Europe • European Union • Greece
November 14th, 2011
08:58 AM ET

Italian prime minister nominee meets with political leaders

ROME (CNN) - The economist nominated to become Italy's new prime minister began talks with political leaders Monday to discuss forming a government, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.

Mario Monti's talks with political parties will continue Tuesday, ANSA said.

After the meetings, the 68-year-old economist is expected to present a team of ministers and a government plan, and ultimately will face approval by the Italian Parliament. His mandate is to lead Italy out of its market-shaking debt crisis and push through tough new austerity measures.

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Filed under: Business • Europe • European Union • Italy • World
November 12th, 2011
03:52 PM ET

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi resigns

Silvio Berlusconi officially resigned as Italy's prime minister Saturday, according to the presidential palace press office.

His resignation comes just hours after the Italian lower house of parliament approved a series of austerity measures demanded by Europe to shore up confidence in the country's economy. It passed by a vote of 380 for to 26 against.

The package, which includes spending cuts and proposals to boost growth, was approved by the Senate Friday, resulting in a market surge.

The prime minister, who has survived many previous sexual and ethical scandals, pledged to step down once the economic measures passed both houses of parliament after losing his majority.

Berlusconi’s departure signals the end of an era in Italian politics. The 75-year-old business tycoon has been a dominant force since forming his Forza Italia party in 1994.

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Filed under: Economy • European Union • Italy
November 4th, 2011
07:04 PM ET

Papandreou wins confidence vote

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou won a confidence vote in Parliament early Saturday after days of political turmoil sparked by his controversial proposal to hold a referendum on an international bailout for Greece.

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Filed under: European Union • Greece • World
Report: 2010 was worst year yet for piracy on high seas
A Somali pirate gazes from the shore toward a captured ship on the horizon.
January 18th, 2011
09:43 AM ET

Report: 2010 was worst year yet for piracy on high seas

Last year was the worst on record for piracy at sea, according to a report issued Monday.

Pirates captured 1,181 sailors aboard 53 ships in 2010, according to the report from the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau. Eight of the captives were killed, the report says.

Ships reported 445 pirate attacks in 2010, a 10% increase from 2009.

"These figures for the number of hostages and vessels taken are the highest we have ever seen," said Capt. Pottengal Mukundan, director of the bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre. "The continued increase in these numbers is alarming."

The waters off the coast of Somalia remain the most dangerous in the world, as 49 ships were captured there - 92% of all ships taken, according to the report.


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Filed under: Crime • European Union • Pirates • Somalia • World • Yemen