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Daily Brief: Greece Bailout Funds Unlocked as EU, IMF Reach Deal on Debt Relief

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May 25, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Greece Bailout Funds Unlocked as EU, IMF Reach Deal on Debt Relief

Eurozone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund agreed to measures to restructure Greece's debt once its €86 billion ($95.9 billion) bailout ends in 2018, though they provided no figures on the concessions following talks in Brussels (FT). The move unlocks $11.5 billion in rescue loans for Greece this summer, which had been subject to a standoff as Germany demanded that debt relief only be considered after 2018 (Guardian). The IMF's Poul Thomsen said the fund "welcomes" (EU Observer) the recognition that "Greek debt is unsustainable and that Greece needs debt relief." The IMF has forecasted that Greece will have a debt burden of up to 250 percent of its GDP by 2050, and that "reprofiling" the terms of loans' repayment terms and interest rates could bring its debt burden down to 100 percent.


"With Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accommodating demands for extra austerity and Europe keen not to fuel euroskepticism in the U.K. before its referendum, the finance ministers lined up behind a package that avoids a repeat of last summer’s drama in which Greece was pushed to the brink of a euro exit," Ian Wishart, Corina Ruhe, and Nikos Chrysoloras write for Bloomberg.

"[I]f a country is already too deeply indebted, it may find that no amount of realistic adjustment and financing is enough – the curse of what economists call the 'debt overhang.' Under these circumstances, reliance on austerity to free up internal resources to service the debt chokes off economic growth. And pro-growth supply-side reforms cannot yield results fast enough to offset this impact. External creditors, for their part, balk at the prospect of providing the financing the country needs to get back on track, with those that provided financing earlier often unwilling to accept losses. This leaves only one real option: a disorderly market adjustment," Mohamed A. El-Erian writes for Project Syndicate.

"The International Monetary Fund is well aware of Greece’s unrelenting economic nightmare — on Monday, the fund predicted double-digit unemployment in Greece until at least 2040, and the country’s economy has been battered by years of recession. IMF chief Christine Lagarde insists Europe forgive some of Greece’s debt if the fund is to participate in the bailout program. Enter the Germans, who have steadfastly refused to even consider a Greek haircut until at least 2018, after Germany holds parliamentary elections in 2017," David Francis writes for Foreign Policy.


South Korean President Visits Uganda, Iran to Court Support for Sanctions on North

South Korean President Park Geun-hye will visit Uganda (WSJ), an ally of North Korea, in an effort to challenge the nations that maintain military ties with the North. Her visit follows a similar trip to Iran.

CFR's Scott A. Snyder discusses the urgency of North Korea's nuclear weapon ambitions for the U.S. administration in this article for CNN.

AUSTRALIA: A former director of Australia's detention centers for migrants accused the government of accessing his phone records, in part over his criticism of the country's detention policies (Reuters). Peter Young also accused Canberra of attempting to cover up deaths of migrants in detention camps.


Taliban Confirm Death of Leader in U.S. Drone Strike

The Taliban's leadership council confirmed that Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour had been killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan on Saturday and announced Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, the son of a previous Taliban chief killed in 2015, as their new leader (NYT).

This CFR InfoGuide looks at the history of the Taliban.

INDIA: A weather forecasting agency predicted a June–September monsoon season that will be the strongest in twenty-two years (Bloomberg). India has experienced lower than average monsoon rains in recent years, and fourteen states declare a drought this year (Live Mint).


Kurdish-Led Syrian Democratic Forces Announce Operation to Take Raqqa from ISIS

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces announced that they had thousands of fighters in the countryside north of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The militant group held the city for two-and-a-half years (Al Jazeera). Russia's foreign minister said the country was ready to coordinate with the SDF and U.S. coalition in attacks (Middle East Eye).   

This CFR InfoGuide examines the Kurds' role in a changing Middle East.

YEMEN: United Nations envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that Yemen's warring parties were "closer to a comprehensive agreement" to end the Saudi-led intervention to support Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi (AFP). Ahmed said the discussions in Kuwait focused on "various military and security issues including withdrawals and troop movements."

This CFR Backgrounder examines the internal divisions in Yemen and the causes of the current conflict.


Uganda Threatens Retaliation Over Congolese Attack on Police

Congolese soldiers shot and killed four Ugandan police officers near the countries' border along Lake Albert, prompting the Ugandan foreign minister to warn that future incidents "may compel Uganda authorities to take self-defense measures" (East African). The discovery of oil deposits on Uganda's side of Lake Albert has sparked tensions (Reuters).

BURUNDI: The U.S. special envoy to Africa's Great Lakes region called the most recent round of talks to resolve Burundi's political crisis "a positive step" (VOA). Thomas Perriello praised former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, who is facilitating the talks, for leading discussions that were "high on substance." The talks aim to end a standoff after President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a disputed third term in office last year.

This Global Conflict Tracker discusses the major events in Burundi's political crisis.


Amnesty International: EU Arms Sellers Complicit in Egypt Repression

Amnesty International released a report saying that twelve EU member states continue to supply Egypt with arms and policing equipment despite a suspension on such sales following the killings of hundreds of protesters by security forces in 2013 (Amnesty International). The report cited sales of small arms and armored vehicles (EU Observer) from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, and Italy.


Cuba Moves to Legalize Small Businesses

Cuba's government announced it would move to legalize thousands of small- and medium-sized private enterprises ( WSJ). The government has allowed individuals to work for themselves since 2010; the new changes would extend some legal rights to businesses as well as individuals.

BRAZIL: Interim President Michel Temer announced proposals to cut public spending and to repeal nationalist oil legislation in a bid to shore up confidence in the country's economy (NYT).

He said his top priority was to reform the country's pension system (Mercopress).

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