Friday 15 December 2017

DSK’s ‘equipment’, leaks, pensions and the Ukraine

Eurogroup also kicked off an intense round of negotiations with Greece that will come to a conclusion this week, with a deal likely to be struck

ECHOES OF WAR: Birds swarm in the sky as shelling between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces takes place in a residential area of the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine last Friday. Photo: AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
ECHOES OF WAR: Birds swarm in the sky as shelling between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces takes place in a residential area of the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine last Friday. Photo: AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany reached a ceasefire deal after 17 hours of talks in Belarus on the Ukrainian conflict.

The ceasefire will come into force today as part of a deal that also involves the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line.

Russian president Vladimir Putin announced the deal, saying: "We have agreed on a ceasefire from midnight, 15 February."

German chancellor Angela Merkel, who helped to broker the deal in Minsk alongside French president Francois Hollande, said "we now have a glimmer of hope", but added that the leaders were under no illusions and that "there is very, very much work still to do".

Hollande said the deal covered all the contentious issues, including border control, decentralisation, and the resumption of economic relations, but also warned that much more needed to be done to resolve the crisis.

A meeting of Eurozone finance ministers - the Eurogroup - last week kicked-off a week of intense negotiations between Greece and its European partners. This week could well decide if Greece finds a way to stay in the eurozone.

Reaching an agreement will be incredibly tricky and this week will be incredibly tough. But there is still scope for one to be reached.

Greek exit from the eurozone is now more likely than in the fraught period of 2012.

A compromise is possible, but it will require one side or the other to shift significantly. This still looks more likely to be Greece and Syriza; however, with strong backing from the Greek parliament and polls showing strong public support for their tough stance, the positions of both sides are becoming increasingly entrenched, but a deal seems likely.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions condemned the imposition "by diktat" of changes to the state pension age, saying it will see "citizens being deprived of a significant benefit they earned and paid for".

ICTU official Fergus Whelan said: "This hasty arbitrary diktat, we are told, was agreed with the Troika. There was no political debate; no public consultation and no cost-benefit analysis of the measure. There was no consideration given to the significant labour market issues involved. Neither was there thought given to issues of fair play, or equity, or minimising hardship to those worst affected."

Changes to the state pension will see the qualifying age rise to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028. Mr Whelan said there had been no explanation given as to why Ireland should have the highest public pension age in the EU.

The Government excludes 7,550 unemployed people aged 65 or over in receipt of a Jobseeker's payment or credit from the live register figures, it also emerged. There are 2,373 people aged 65 or over in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance, 2,365 on Jobseeker's Benefit and a further 2,812 with a Jobseeker's Benefit credit only, which would increase the numbers on the live register to 367,750.

In all, 21 people were last week arrested so far as part of the investigation into the anti-water charges protest in Jobstown last November. All have been released without charge.

The investigation relates to a protest which trapped Tanaiste Joan Burton in her car for several hours. A water balloon was also thrown at her head during the protest.

Socialist TD Paul Murphy and two county councillors were among four people arrested and questioned by gardai on Monday. They were released later in the day. Files are being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released information about the business conduct of HSBC, a British multinational banking and financial services company, under the title Swiss Leaks. The ICIJ alleges that the bank profited from doing business with dictators, tax evaders, dealers of blood diamonds, arms dealers and other clients.

The cache of secret files includes Irish people who made tax settlements with the Revenue Commissioners for more than €4.5m.

The Dail's spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, is seeking an urgent report from the Revenue Commissioners on its investigations into tax evasion by certain Irish clients of HSBC.

In Lille, France, Dominique Strauss-Kahn's treatment of women was again under scrutiny as French judges quizzed him about a text message in which he asked a friend to bring "equipment" to a sex party.

Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, admitted using the word to refer to women was "inappropriate". The 65-year-old, who is accused of aggravated pimping, said the use of the phrase doesn't mean he saw them as sex workers. 

Sunday Independent

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