World News Brief, Thursday June 18

EU membership at risk for Greece; Hong Kong debates electoral reform; Australia and China sign free trade agreement; Palestinian government to dissolve; Swiss investigators look into FIFA accounts; and more


Greece Warns of Eurozone Exit The Greek Central Bank issued a warning (Bank of Greece) on Wednesday that the country would be put on a 'painful course' to default and a possible eurozone exit, which could even threaten its EU membership, if the government and its international creditors failed to reach an agreement. The warning comes a day before a high-stakes meeting (FT) of eurozone finance ministers in Luxembourg for what has been described as a "last-chance" effort to negotiate a deal. Greece's bailout program expires (Bloomberg) and the country faces a $1.8 billion IMF debt repayment deadline at the end of the month. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has threatened to skip the IMF payment in the absence of a reform agreement.


"It might be a relief to divorce a difficult partner. But the partner will still exist, even after this monetary marriage is over. Greece will remain strategically located and even inside the EU. Neither the Greeks nor their partners should imagine a clean break. The relationship will continue. It will just be poisonous. If, tragically, that fate cannot be avoided, it will have to be managed for a very long time," writes Martin Wolf in the Financial Times. "Greece's European creditors seem ready to abandon their solemn pledges on the irrevocability of the euro in order to insist on collecting some crumbs from the country's pensioners. Should they press their demands, forcing Greece to exit, the world will never again trust the euro's longevity. At a minimum, the eurozone's weaker members will undergo increased market pressures. In the worst case, they will be hit by a new vicious circle of panic and bank runs, also derailing the incipient European recovery," writes Jeffrey Sachs in Project Syndicate. "There is no question however that the bulk of the blame lies with successive Greek governments that have only fitfully shown true understanding of the economy's problems and a willingness to confront them. It is ultimately this lack of political ownership of reforms that separates Greece from other programme countries, and which is the main source of angst in European capitals," writes Harry Theoharis in the Guardian.


Hong Kong Debates Election Reform Protestors and supporters of a proposed election reform package rallied (SCMP) in Hong Kong as lawmakers opened debate on Hong Kong's democratic future (WSJ). The proposed reform, expected to go to a vote later this week, would allow residents to directly elect the special administrative region's chief executive in 2017. Critics say the reform package does not go far enough toward granting universal suffrage because Beijing would still have the oversight to vet candidates. This CFR Backgrounder looks at the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China.

AUSTRALIA: Australia signed (ABC) a free trade agreement on Wednesday with China, its largest trading partner, after a decade of negotiations. The deal will remove tariffs from more than 85 percent of Australian good exported to China.


Palestinian government to dissolve

Swiss investigators look into FIFA accounts

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