Greece’s oldest literary society, the Parnassos cultural club, stands opposite a church on one of Athens’s oldest squares. Its neoclassical facade and monumental columns were designed to impress. The society, named after the home of the Muses, had a single objective: to promote the nation’s “intellectual, moral and social improvement” as Greeks, newly freed from the shackles of Ottoman rule, sought to pursue the course of other European states. It was here that poets and writers came, that Maria Callas first sang, that every artist of every hue first exhibited, and royals and prime ministers flocked. It is also why Parnassos’s fortunes have reflected those of Greece. “These crisis years have been difficult years,” says Leonidas Georgopoulos, the sprightly septuagenarian who sits on the society’s board of directors. “You could say it has been an era of decadence. But decadence is always followed by renaissance and that is what … [Read more...] about Has Greece finally escaped the grip of catastrophe?
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Jean-Laurent Bonnafé has heard all the reports, all the speculation. For months now, the market has been buzzing with the possibility that his bank, BNP Paribas SA, might take a run at acquiring a beleaguered competitor,Commerzbank AG. And why not? The Frankfurt-based bank has been struggling to find its footing even as France’s biggest lender, brimming with profits, has been pushing hard into Germany’s industrial heartland on the hunt for corporate clients.So is it true?Bonnafé, a 25-year BNP veteran of stolid technocratic bearing, frowns at the question. It’s a rainy spring morning in Paris, and the chief executive officer is sitting in a salon in the bank’s palatial headquarters at a table bearing baskets of freshly baked croissants and silver pots of coffee. He shakes his head.“No, no, no. At this moment, you cannot take on large transactions,” Bonnafé says in French-accented English. The reason, he explains, is that BNP … [Read more...] about This French Banking Giant Looks like “the JPMorgan of Europe”