Greece grants permits for Eldorado after miners clash with police

Workers were protesting potential job losses as company threatened to shut down all operations.

A group of Eldorado Gold (TSX:ELD)(NYSE:EGO) workers clashed with Greek police Wednesday outside government buildings in Athens during a protest against potential job losses, following the Canadian miner’s decision to suspend operations and investments in the country.

The Vancouver-based company, Greece’s biggest foreign investor, announced the potential halt Monday, adding that except for maintenance and environmental activities all other work would stop on Sept. 22 unless long-delayed licenses were issued in time.

The company, which employs more than 2,000 staff and contractors in the country, noted at the time that if the shutdown took place all but 300 workers responsible for maintaining mining facilities would be laid off.

Greece to grant permits for Eldorado after miners clash with police during protestAbout a dozen miners managed to push past police and enter the building, while riot police fired tear gas to push back at them, Reuters reports.

A delegation from the protesters later met with Environment Minister Giorgos Stathakis, who after the talks said three pending permits for Olympias, one of the miner’s projects awaiting licences, would be issued this week. The documents, he noted, would allow Olympias to be fully operational.

Later in the day, Eldorado confirmed the reception of two key permits from the minister — the Olympias Operating Permit and the modified Electromechanical Installation Permit for the tailings management facility at Kokkinolakkas.

The gold miner noted it’s still waiting for the approval of the technical study for the old Olympias mine closure and the installation permits for the paste plants at Olympias. The amended electromechanical installation permit for the Skouries flotation plant is also pending, it said in the statement.

“The company is also awaiting additional detail from the Greek Government regarding the pending arbitration process, which the government has publicly indicated that formal notification will be issued on 15 September, 2017,” it said.

“We are confident that any potential arbitration will again demonstrate Eldorado’s adherence to all applicable laws and regulations and its commitment to developing its Greek assets safely, responsibly and with utmost care for the environment,” Eldorado’s President and chief executive George Burns said.

Canadian Gov’t to intervene

The permit for Skouries, covering the construction of a smelter on site, where a gold extraction project is under development, won’t come as soon though. The licence has been delayed because of differences between Eldorado and the ministry’s technical experts regarding testing methods applied to comply with environmental regulations. Stathakis said earlier this month that issue would be settled by arbitration in a Greek court.

Canada’s trade minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Wednesday he’s working with Eldorado to help it solve the impasse with Greek authorities.

“As trade minister, is my job to support Canadian companies when they face a particular situation which would be either unfair or questioning the treatment that Canadian companies would have,” Champagne told Bloomberg. “I will always intervene and always will have the back of Canadian companies when they face unfair situations around the world,” he noted, adding he doesn’t not expect issue to impact implementation of the Canada-EU trade agreement.

Eldorado’s decision to freeze investments in Greece will also be discussed this Friday at the Eurogroup meeting, in Tallinn, Estonia, a euro area official told Bloomberg on condition of anonymity.

Greece to grant permits for Eldorado after miners clash with police

Skouries processing plant under construction. (Source: Eldorado Gold.)

Eldorado, which already operates Stratoni, has been trying to develop the Skouries and Olympias projects in the north of the country for years, but local opposition and an ongoing back-and-forth with authorities have delayed progress.

Not including Stratoni’s $2 billion acquisition, the gold miner has invested about $1 billion in the European country since 2012, and such figure would double if the it could fully develop its other assets in Halkidiki, northern Greece, the company said Monday.

Several in the community oppose mining in the forested country’s north because they believe the activity would hurt the regional tourism industry, destroy the area’s rich vegetation and pose a contamination risk to the groundwater.

Eldorado counters that together with generating new jobs and bringing hundreds of millions into Greece’s struggling economy, it has taken all necessary measures to protect the surroundings. Further, the miner says it’s still carrying out environmental clean-up work even of its predecessors.

Safer jurisdictions

Eldorado has slowly reduced its international footprint in the last two years, beginning with the sale of all its Chinese assets in 2016 and this year’s decision to indefinitely shelve expansion plans for Kışladağ mine.

This is not the first time Eldorado has halted operations in Greece. Last year, it suspended work and laid off 600 miners following a fall-out with the government. Activities resumed about five months later.

The miner also deferred recently a decision on developing a project in Brazil, citing low gold prices, and went through some leadership changes, with the appointment of one of Goldcorp’s top executives as CEO.

Instead, the company is seeking to strengthen its position in its home country. In July, it completed the acquisition of fellow Canadian miner Integra Gold (TSX-V:ICG), gaining access to the Lamaque project near Val-d’Or, Quebec. That asset has potential to produce 123,000 ounces of gold annually on average over 10 years, according to a preliminary economic assessment completed in February.

This is not the first time Eldorado has halted operations in Greece, but definitely the most drastic one. In January 2016, it suspended work at Skouries and threatened with laying off 600 workers following protests by local residents and yet another fall-out with the government. Work resumed about five months later.

Eldorado’s impasse with Greece will put to test the left-wing Syriza government’s new policy of welcoming private investment, or what prime minister Alexis Tsipras calls “Grinvestment”.

Shares in the company jumped more than 16% on today’s news, and were trading about 14% higher in both Toronto (14.11% to Cdn$275) and New York (13.67% to $2.24) before 10:30 am ET.

Greece to grant permits for Eldorado after miners clash with police during protest

Eldorado’s Greek miners are not so happy these days following the company’s decision to suspend all operations and investments in the country. (Source: Eldorado Gold.)

Source:, Cecilia Jamasmie  13/9/2017

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George Burns: a comprehensive interview

“They tell us one thing and they do something else”. The point of view of Eldorado Gold regarding its investments in Chalkidiki is analyzed in Kathimerini by the president of the company, George Burns. “We wish to have a good partnership with the Greek State. We have shown a great deal of patience and we will continue to do so”, says Mr. Burns. As for the attacks by ministers, he points out that they “are misinformed”.

The patience of Eldorado Gold, the parent company of Hellas Gold, has almost reached its limits regarding its troubled investment in Chalkidiki. According to George Burns, who began serving as president and CEO of the company last April, if the government blocks permanently the investment “they will be legally accountable to us” and there will be lawsuits.

“We will use all legal means of action in order to get the necessary licenses and authorizations and I believe that we will win the case”, said Mr. Burns, who we met at the offices of Hellas Gold in Central Athens. “However, if our disputes with the government cannot be resolved in a friendly way, I will do whatever is needed to safeguard the interests of our shareholders and employees”.

No improvement

Does Mr. Burns believe that the Tsipras government supports the investment?

“Every time I meet Mr. Stathakis he gives me the impression that he wishes that we move on. The problem is that his words are not consistent with actions. And this is particularly harmful for the agenda of the prime minister, Mr. Tsipras, who tries publicly and strongly to attract foreign investors and to accelerate the recovery of the economy. I have read this week an article in your newspaper that pleased me. Mr. Tsipras was saying to his ministers that they must reduce bureaucracy and all the pointless issues that prevent businesses from taking off. I thought that this is exactly what we need – but we still see no improvement ”.

Mr. Burns also reveals that, despite the efforts he made in order for a meeting with the prime minister to take place, there has been no response. “I am very encouraged by what Mr. Tsipras says and I would like to have the chance to meet him and discuss all issues”, he says. The head of the Canadian multinational speaks more positively about the leader of the official opposition. “Mr. Mitsotakis speaks publicly, in favor both of our sector and our investment. And the New Democracy party seems to support us politically, contrary to SYRIZA”.

How important is the case of Eldorado Gold regarding the international investors that consider investing in Greece?

“Very important. If you take a look at the investors in our company, they are big names, from the USA, Canada, Europe. The appetite for investment in other sectors in Greece exists – but the investors examine carefully the conditions in which we have found ourselves and the risks that our case exposes ”.

Mr. Burns looks back at the history of the activity of his company in Greece. “We spent more than two billion dollars to acquire these assets, and we spent another billion for their development”, he says. “Both should be operating today. Olympiada is essentially ready – the construction activities have been completed and tests are performed. The construction project at Skouries has been completed by 60%. Our initial planning provided for an expenditure of 190 million dollars at Skouries this year. By mid-year, we were obliged to reduce this amount to 85 millions, because we do not have one single permit of the ones we need in order to proceed. Both projects are affected by the lack of a timely licensing. They are ordinary licenses and permits, the approval of which should not take so much time”.

The investment in Chalkidiki “consists a large part of our business”, he remarks, “which has the result that the delays affect significantly the share price of Eldorado Gold (the investment of the company in Chalkidiki takes a large amount of my time compared to any other issue, he mentions). “Our share price has lost approximately 50% of its value compared to the beginning of the year”, he says (author’s note: over the last five years the share price fell by more than 85%).

Shareholders’ concerns

The other fact, he adds, that had a significant negative impact to the share price is “the large number of communications that the government may possibly resort to the procedure of arbitration”. This has caused “concerns and fear to our shareholders”. As Mr. Burns mentions, “we have not been yet officially informed that the arbitration will take place, nor that there has been any preliminary discussion, as is customary, about the existing problem, in order to find out if it can be resolved without any arbitration”. Instead, he remarks, there have been three Press Releases by the competent ministry, the last of which declared that the procedure would begin on August 31”.

This date has passed “without knowing yet what is the subject-matter of arbitration”, says the president and CEO of Eldorado Gold, expressing his surprise (Mr. Stathakis has set as new deadline the 15th of September). “Today, I can declare you that I am not aware of any pending issue, that prevents the development of these important assets. Meanwhile, we have won 18 cases at the supreme court (author’s note: the Greek Council of State). This situation is ridiculous!”

Given the fact that there are delays of several months, as well as grave attacks (about fraud, insider trading, money laundering, etc.) by ministers of the government, have there been any thoughts that the company acts more aggressively, by being, for example, the first to resort to arbitration?

“We want to have a good partnership with the Greek State. We have shown great patience, and we will continue to show patience”, he replies. Regarding the attacks by ministers, he says that “they are misinformed” and encourages them to discuss their information with him and the executives of the company: “They have never raised these issues in our meetings”.

We have a strong local support

Regardless of what happens in courts, the local reactions against Hellas Gold still go on. Can such a large-scale project succeed when it faces such an intense opposition by a part of the local population?

Mr. Burns firstly points out that “we have a very strong local support”, while the forces that are against the investment are “minor”.

“Look, I work in the mining sector for almost 40 years. In every area of the world that I have worked there are people who are ideologically opposed to mining extractions. A good company, such as our company, discusses with the people and tries to find a solution to the issues they pose. But there are people who will not support mines regardless of what the conditions are. Usually, when it is clear that the objections [author’s note: of the people opposed to the mines] are unfounded, the public administration and the government allow the operation of the company”.

Why this does not happen in the Greek case? Are the reasons political?

“I cannot say that. But what happens is very disappointing”.

The company’s critics insist however, that the flash smelting metallurgy process is inapplicable and dangerous for ore processing in the area, due to the high arsenic content in the concentrates. It is a view that has been adopted last November by the ministry of Environment, rejecting the technical study of the company for the metallurgy plant.

Leading scientists

Does the head of Eldorado Gold consider that this particular method is legally shielded and technically feasible?

“Certainly. We have the leading company in the world using this technology, in Finland; they have performed all the tests and have supplied all the technical documentation.

These leading experts have assured us that this method will succeed. Who says that it will not? I don’t understand it at all!”

(Regarding the rejection of the technical study last November, one more appeal of Hellas Gold to the Greek Council of State is pending. A trial date has not been set yet).

“I am an executive in the mining sector, but I am also an ecologist”, concludes the president and CEO of the parent company. “I believe that there can be a balance between these two, and the sector over the years has improved the method of planning, operation and closure of the mines. People who are unconditionally opposed to the mines have mobile (cell) phones, cars, access to electricity. None of the aforementioned would have existed without the extraction of the metals that are used in their manufacture”.

Critics and pending issues

The conflicts between the movement against mining extractions and the mining companies have lasted at least two decades in Chalkidiki, since the time of the Canadian company TVX. The reactions against Hellas Gold, subsidiary of Eldorado Gold, are in their peak since 2011, when the plans of the company for Olympiada and Skouries have been approved by the Papandreou government (by George Papakonstantinou as the competent minister).

People opposed to the investment argue that the technology proposed by the company for the mining plant of gold, silver and sulfuric acid that will operate, namely the flash smelting process, cannot be applied in the ore of the area, as arsenic content is high. The company replies that the method has been thoroughly tested and proven by the specialized Finnish company Outotec, of which the favorable opinion has been repeatedly accepted by the Greek Council of State.

The SYRIZA-ANEL government, has raised from the very beginning significant obstacles to the development of the investment, rejecting technical studies, reviewing permits that have been issued and delaying the issuance of new permits. The technical study for  the construction of the metallurgy plant, that has been rejected last November by the ministry of Environment, had been submitted on December 22, 2014. The administration, according to the current legislation, must respond to such requests within three months. The company has appealed to the Greek Council of State (December 28, 2016) against the decision of the ministry.

Respectively, according to “Hellas Gold” the following are pending: the approval of the technical study regarding the new enrichment plant at Madem Lakkos (delay of 31 months), the approval of the technical study regarding the closure of the old depleted part of the Olympiada mine (delay of 17 months), extensions and modifications of permits and licenses that are related with the enrichment plant at Skouries, the reconstruction permit of the water treatment plant of the Olympiada mine (the particular request has been submitted on September 8, 2016), etc. Finally, the consultation of the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) of Greece is pending for two years now, regarding the antiquities that have been found at the Skouries deposit.


39 years in the sector: George Burns began his career in the mining sector in Anaconda in 1978. He served as CEO in Centerra Gold and, until the end of 2016, in Goldcorp. He was appointed as president and CEO of Eldorado Gold at the end of last April. Since then he has traveled eight times to Greece, seeking solutions so that the investment of the company in Chalkidiki can proceed. He has also visited Greece one more time in March with his predecessor, Paul Wright.


[SOURCE: KATHIMERINI, SUNDAY EDITION, by Giannis Palaiologos, September 10, 2017]

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Eldorado Gold Announces Amended Investment Plans in Greece

TSX: ELD NYSE: EGO                                                                          

VANCOUVER, Sept. 11, 2017 /CNW/ – Eldorado Gold Corporation (“Eldorado” or the “Company”) today announces plans to suspend investment at its operating mines, development projects and exploration assets in Greece.

Despite repeated attempts by Eldorado and its Greek subsidiary, Hellas Gold, to engage constructively with the Greek government, the Ministry of Energy and Environment (the “Ministry”) and other government agencies, delays continue in issuing routine permits and licences for the construction and development of the Skouries and Olympias projects in Halkidiki, northern Greece. These permitting delays have negatively impacted Eldorado’s project schedules and costs, ultimately hindering the Company’s ability to effectively advance development and operation of these assets.

With the exception of a care and maintenance program and necessary environmental safeguarding costs, Eldorado and its Board of Directors have decided that under present conditions no additional investment will be made into the Kassandra Mines (Olympias, Skouries, Stratoni) in Halkidiki, the Perama Hill and Sapes projects in Thrace, and any exploration activity in the country.  Funds that were budgeted to be invested into community spending and infrastructure development will be phased out.  Similarly, tax revenues at the municipal, regional and national levels will also be affected.

Actions will be taken to place the Skouries and Olympias projects and the Stratoni mine on care and maintenance starting on September 22, 2017.  Suspension and termination of contractors and employees will be done in accordance with applicable labour regulations in Greece.  Environmental protection works and care and maintenance activities will continue in order to safeguard the environment and the assets. The Company estimates that a total of US$30 million will be spent to prepare for care and maintenance activities, with sustaining maintenance costs of approximately US$25 million annually.

The Company is also awaiting additional detail from the Greek government regarding the pending arbitration process.  Eldorado has not yet received formal notification of arbitration but is confident that any potential arbitration will again demonstrate the Company’s adherence to all applicable laws and regulations.  The Council of State (Greece’s highest court on environmental and administrative matters) has repeatedly confirmed the legitimacy of our permits and actions with 18 decisions in the Company’s favour.

The Company would re-assess its investment options in Greece upon approval and receipt of the required permits, coupled with a supportive government open to discussions surrounding the use and implementation of best available technologies.

George Burns, President and Chief Executive Officer of Eldorado Gold, commented:

“It is extremely unfortunate to find ourselves at this impasse when we should be advancing an important commercial project in partnership with Greece and adding another 1,200 jobs to our current workforce of approximately 2,400 people in Greece.  Eldorado’s investment in Greece is about building a world-class operation that can exist as a long-term partner to Greece and has the ability to promote advanced skills and training for its people and deliver well-paying jobs to sustain families and local businesses.  Of equal importance, as a commercial partner, this business can provide much-needed tax and export revenue for generations.”

“Eldorado has been a committed, responsible and patient partner to the Greek government and the people of Greece.  Since acquiring the Kassandra Mines for nearly $2 billion in 2012, Eldorado has invested an additional $1 billion in the country.  That figure would double if Eldorado were able to fully develop its Olympias, Skouries and Perama Hill assets.  However, as a result of the delay in issuing permits by the Greek government, Eldorado is unable to continue investing in the country.  We have a responsibility to our shareholders to allocate capital to projects not only with the best rates of return, but also in locations where host governments are supportive of our investment and work with us to grow a sustainable future.  As such, Eldorado cannot continue to put capital at risk without these permits and will pursue all avenues to advance its investment and contractual rights.”

“Should the Greek government wish to work within the framework of its contractual obligations with Hellas Gold, issue permits in a timely manner and support the investment, Eldorado will then be in a position to re-evaluate its investment plans in the country.”

Skouries Project (Halkidiki)

Construction and development activities at the Skouries project, with over $350 million invested to-date and a current workforce of 530 people including contractors, will be suspended effective September 22, 2017. 

Olympias Project (Halkidiki)

The refurbished Olympias processing plant is close to completing the commissioning phase and commercial production from Phase 2 was planned during the fourth quarter 2017.  Current headcount at Olympias is approximately 950 people including contractors.  Commissioning work and further development activity will be suspended effective September 22, 2017.  To date, Eldorado has invested over $400 million at Olympias. 

Stratoni Mine (Halkidiki)

The Stratoni Mine currently employs approximately 830 people including contractors and had a life of mine of approximately one year based on known proven and probable reserves at the beginning of 2017.  Geological potential exists to expand resources and extend mine life and Eldorado is currently undertaking a drilling campaign to test the lower portion of the Mavres Petres orebody.  Additional investment would be required over the next two years to further delineate additional resources. All mining operations and exploration activities will be suspended effective September 22, 2017.

Perama Hill and Sapes Projects (Thrace)

Perama Hill and Sapes are currently on care and maintenance pending approvals by the Ministry of Energy and the Environment for Perama Hill’s Environmental Impact Study and for Sapes’s drilling permit, both of which have been pending for over three years. 

Press Conference

George Burns, President & CEO of Eldorado Gold will host a press conference at the Athens Hilton Hotel today, September 11, 2017 at 11:00 AM local time (GMT+2) to discuss Eldorado’s amended investment plans in Greece.  His speech will be available shortly after the press conference at 

Conference Call

George Burns will host a conference call today, September 11, 2017 at 8:00 AM ET (5:00 AM PT) to discuss Eldorado’s amended investment plans in Greece.  The call will be webcast and can be accessed at

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At democracy’s birthplace, Macron dreams of Europe 2.0

Standing at a Greek site where democracy was conceived, French President Emmanuel Macron called on members of the European Union to reboot the 60-year-old bloc with sweeping political reforms or risk a “slow disintegration.”

Macron, on a visit on Thursday to Athens, urged EU nations to carry out six-month national reviews on EU reforms before imposing them — signaling his distance with the German-backed approach based on fiscal discipline within the eurozone.

“It would be a mistake to abandon the European ideal,” Macron said. “We must rediscover the enthusiasm that the union was founded upon and change, not with technocrats and not with bureaucracy.”

Elected by a landslide in May, the 39-year-old Macron has vowed to back efforts for closer integration in the EU, which has been rattled by a financial crisis, migration issues, a populist backlash and Britain’s decision to leave.

His proposal found enthusiastic support in bailout-stricken Greece, which considers France a vital ally and counterweight to fiscally hawkish Germany in its efforts to ease the stringent terms of its international rescue loans.

Reinforcing his message, Macron urged the International Monetary Fund to step back from its role in European bailouts — breaking with a widely accepted policy adopted when Greece sought international help seven years ago.

“I don’t think it was the right method for the IMF to supervise European programs and intervene in the way it did,” he said. “Let’s work within Europe and not turn to outside agencies.”

The eurozone rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism, should play the lead role in financial rescue within the euro currency zone, he said.

France, Europe’s No. 2 economy, had previously backed Germany’s insistence in involving the IMF to enforce austerity measures that came with bailout programs in Greece and other rescued economies including Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus.

Athens has relied on international rescue loans since 2010, and in return has seen its economy put under strict supervision by its creditors. Successive governments have had to enforce radical fiscal and structural reforms, including pension cuts and repeated tax hikes, in order to qualify for the loans.

Thursday’s visit came hours after Hurricane Irma, the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane on record, battered French, British and Dutch territories in the Caribbean.

“All of France is grief-stricken by the many victims yesterday from the hurricane,” Macron said. He promised to visit the region when the weather lets up and put climate change “at the heart” of policymaking.

His evening speech was given in front of the ancient Acropolis on Pnyx Hill, where popular assemblies were held in Athens 2,500 years ago and the idea of democracy was developed.

The French president delivered his opening remarks in Greek, delighting an audience that included most of the Greek Cabinet.

Elsewhere in the city, heated arguments broke out between police and stranded motorists as roads were closed across the capital for hours. More than 2,000 police officers were on duty for the visit.

A small group of left-wing demonstrators defied a 17-hour protest ban and forced their way through a cordon, briefly clashing with police.




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Eldorado mine arbitration to start in September

Greece plans to start an arbitration process this month to settle its differences with Canada’s Eldorado Gold Corp over its gold mine development plans in northern Greece, its energy minister said on Thursday.

Greece had previously planned to start the process last month. “We have decided to resort to arbitration to stop the tug of war which has been going on for many years and have things cleared up,” Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis told Greek state television.

Stathakis said the arbitration process will begin on September 15 and will last three months. Eldorado is developing the Skouries and Olympias projects in northern Greece, where it also operates the Stratoni mine. Skouries has been a particular flash point with the authorities, with differences lasting for years over testing methods applied to comply with environmental regulations. [Reuters]

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Eldorado’s condolences for the tragic accident

With a press release dated August 29, 2017, Eldorado Gold expresses its condolences for the tragic accident in Skouries. CEO George Burns has also a few words to say.

Eldorado Gold (“Eldorado” or the “Company”) today regrets to report that on the morning of August 28, 2017, during tree cutting operations at the Skouries Project in Greece, a contractor employee was struck by a branch from a falling tree resulting in fatal injuries. An investigation is underway.

“Our deepest condolences and support go out to the individual’s family, friends and colleagues at this time,” said George Burns, Eldorado’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Safety is our top priority at Eldorado Gold and we are committed to the well-being of our employees and contractors on all of our sites.”



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Greece’s Syriza revives radical policies in effort to placate base

“Eldorado Gold, facing the threat of a lengthy arbitration process with the government over permits to complete a gold-mining and processing plant at Skouries in northern Greece, warns that 1,200 jobs are at stake in an area of high unemployment. Production at Skouries was due to start this year but has now been pushed back to 2020”

After the reforms came the backlash.
Greece’s cabinet may be focused on implementing economic reforms agreed in return for an €86bn third international bailout but the government has also revived some of its radical polices in an effort to placate its core supporters, fearful that the leftwing party has gone soft under pressure from the bailout monitors.
Measures adopted last month by the Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, take aim at the party’s traditional enemies: high-earning lawyers and doctors, foreign-trained academics and private investors from abroad.
A tax squeeze on Greek professionals is being tightened, new legislation on universities rolls back reforms aimed at boosting academic standards, and the authorities are further delaying a €1.5bn gold extraction project by Canada’s Eldorado Gold, the country’s largest foreign investor.
Meanwhile, self-described anarchists with links to Syriza’s far-left faction have staged attacks on business premises and public buildings, smashing windows and throwing paint in scenes that recalled street protests early in the Greek crisis. Police made only a few arrests, and no case has so far come to court.
Nikos Voutsis, parliamentary speaker, shrugged off an incident last month in which members of Rubicon, an anarchist group, forced their way into the main courtyard of parliament demanding the release of a convicted terrorist. “Where violence [against persons] isn’t involved such events should be handled with tolerance,” Mr Voutsis said.
Analysts say the Syriza government is keen to reclaim its leftwing credentials after successfully completing a second bailout review, winning praise from its creditors, the EU and the International Monetary Fund, and securing the disbursement of a much-needed €8.5bn aid tranche.
In a move that underlined recovering confidence in Greece’s prospects, Athens returned to the sovereign debt market in July for the first time in three years with a €3bn bond issue. The economy is set to grow this year by 1.5 per cent, its best performance since 2007.
As part of the bailout terms, the government also agreed to implement a drastic reduction in the income tax threshold next year and make additional cuts to pensions, which have shrunk by 50 per cent during the crisis. These moves have helped bolster support for the opposition. In opinion polls, the conservative New Democracy party holds a double-digit lead over Syriza. “It’s become important for Syriza to remind its constituency that it still has a radical activist agenda, that it hasn’t gone soft under pressure from the bailout monitors,” says Professor Aris Hatzis, a University of Athens law professor and political commentator.
The new measures, while disruptive, appear to have been chosen with the aim of avoiding strong negative reaction from the EU and International Monetary Fund experts that oversee the reform programme, Prof Hatzis added. “They’re all in areas that aren’t exactly priorities for the creditors, at least in the short term.”
Earlier this year, the finance ministry imposed new regulations on Greek professionals, who are accused of being chronic tax evaders. These included paying a full year’s income tax in advance and making significantly higher social security contributions.
Under the provisions, the measures were backdated to 2015 in a move that would make lawyers, doctors and business consultants earning more than €75,000 a year pay more than 70 per cent of their annual income in taxes and social security. Some professionals doubt whether such high levies, seen by many as a punishment for laxity shown by previous governments, can be sustained.
“The market for legal services has shrunk significantly during the recession and so have lawyers’ pensions,” said Evangelos Kalafatis, a tax lawyer. “If these new taxes aren’t rationalised, working will no longer be attractive to many senior members of the profession.”
Greek academics say they are bitterly disappointed by a new law that reverses a 2011 reform of the university system, which passed by an overwhelming parliamentary majority. Students will again be allowed to postpone sitting final examinations indefinitely, and will also have voting rights at elections of university administrators.
The law also provides incentives for professors to spend their entire careers in one local institution, bans fee-based postgraduate courses taught in English that would attract foreign students and restores university “asylum” which prevents the police from entering a university campus.
“It’s a huge setback,” said Anna Diamantopoulou, a former EU commissioner who pushed through the law while serving as education minister. “We modernised university education and made it international . . . Now the universities will again be a battleground for domestic politics and those who can will go abroad to study.”
Eldorado Gold, facing the threat of a lengthy arbitration process with the government over permits to complete a gold-mining and processing plant at Skouries in northern Greece, warns that 1,200 jobs are at stake in an area of high unemployment. Production at Skouries was due to start this year but has now been pushed back to 2020.
“The key issue for Greece is that the benefits from these investments should have accrued already,” said George Burns, Eldorado’s chief executive.
Eldorado’s travails in Greece are often cited as a disincentive for investors worried about bureaucratic delays and the country’s tangled legal system. While Syriza lawmakers from the Skouries region claim that goldmining will cause irreversible environmental damage, the company’s proposals for the project have been upheld in 18 cases heard by expert judges at the council of state, Greece’s highest administrative court.
source:  The Financial Times Limited 2017, 29/8/2017 Kerin Hope, Athens
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Future of Halkidiki gold mines put in doubt

The Greek subsidiary of Canada’s Eldorado Gold, Hellas Gold, is set to put its investment in mining projects in Halkidiki on ice following the government’s decision to refer its dispute with the company to arbitration.

Hellas Gold announced on Wednesday that it has suspended the inauguration of the facilities at the Olympias mine in northern Greece ‘until further notice.’

The dispute between the mining firm and the government relates to the operating licenses for the Olympias and Skouries mines, which were due to be issued this January.

The arbitration process is due to begin at the end of August but it is not known how long it will take to be completed.

Meanwhile, the union representing some 2,400 people employed in the projects said that they plan to take action to protect their jobs.



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Greece to kick off arbitration process over Eldorado Gold’s project

Eldorado Gold (TSX:ELD)(NYSE:EGO) will face Greek officials in an arbitration court later this month as the country’s government sees the move as the preferred way to settle its differences with the Canadian miner.

The country’s Energy Minister George Stathakis met representatives from Eldorado’s local unit Hellas Gold in Athens on Wednesday to discuss the process and issues related to the miner’s projects in northern Greece.

According to the ministry’s statement (in Greek), the process is scheduled to begin at the end of August, though the company noted it has yet to receive formal notice of the looming mediation.

Licensing for Olympias is in the final stage, while permits for Skouries — the most contentious one — are pending.

“To be clear, we have not yet received formal notice of arbitration and permits applied for remain unissued,” Eldorado’s President and chief executive George Burns said in a statement. “We continue to evaluate all capital spending and development timelines at our projects in Greece.”

The Vancouver-based company, which already operates Stratoni mine in the country’s north, has been trying to develop the Skouries and Olympias projects for years, but local opposition and an ongoing back-and-forth with authorities have delayed progress.

The biggest differences between the company and Greek authorities revolve around testing methods applied to comply with environmental regulations at Skouries, whose final permits are still pending. Last week the company said production is now targeted for 2020, adding it had reviewed the project’s capital spending.

Licensing for the company’s Olympias project is in the final stage and Eldorado had said it expects to begin production at the gold, silver, zinc and lead mine before year-end.


source:, Cecilia Jamasmie

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Little change to Iranian oil imports in Greece

Iran’s crude oil exports in July are set to fall 7 percent from this month’s three-month high, mainly due to a decline in exports to Europe, a person with knowledge of the Middle Eastern country’s tanker loading schedule said.

In Europe, main buyer Turkey is lifting 194,000 barrels per day this month, down 27 percent from June. Italy is loading nearly 100,000 barrels per day, down from 133,000 bpd last month.

Greece and Spain are each lifting nearly 65,000 barrels per day this month, little changed from June, the source added.

[, from Reuters]

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