EU officials do not rule out third summit this weekend

26.10.11 @ 15:38

  1. By Leigh Phillips

With negotiations ahead of Wednesday evening's (23 October) EU and eurozone summits in "chaos", EU officials have confirmed that yet another EU emergency summit may be called this weekend.

A senior figure close to the discussions told EUobserver: "Nothing has been decided yet. The idea has been put out there to put the frighteners on some of the actors to encourage a deal today."

Separately, an official in the cabinet of EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy, when asked if another summit will be called, said only there is "no news ... there is a summit today. We'll see."

The bare bones of an agreement may be delivered at the end of the Wednesday or weekend summit, with the technical details to be decided at a lower level in the following days. "There was technical work to be done upstream and there will be technical work to be done downstream,” Olivier Bailly, a spokesman for the European Commission told reporters on Wednesday.

Convergence has been reached on the scale of a second bail-out of Europe’s banks - somewhere in the range of €110 billion. But agreement is still far off on two other key elements of a "comprehensive solution" - the size of a haircut on bank holdings of Greek public debt and how to boost the firepower of the eurozone's rescue fund, the EFSF.

For their part, diplomats are becoming increasingly exasperated.

One gloomy figure told this website: "I'm tired of it all. I just want to get out of here. They have to realise we're talking about the destruction of Europe here."

Another downcast individual said: "Whether it'll be enough is perhaps a bit on the hopeful side. There's not much optimism in the air with so many obstacles." Describing the situation as “chaotic”, he added there is a network of parallel discussions and negotiations going on "in capitals, here in Brussels, at all different kinds of levels. It's such a complex thing."

Banks playing 'hardball'

Fury at the position of the Institute for International Finance, the trade association of the world’s banks, is bubbling over, with one EU official noting that the banks have already been bailed out to the tune of €4.6 trillion.

The IIF is thought to be refusing to budge from a maximum of a 40 percent haircut while the EU is pushing for between 50 and 60 percent. "There is frustration at all levels," the contact said of the IIF. "They’re playing hardball."

So much of the grand bargain in the offing depends on the willingness of European and international banks to accept a substantial but voluntary haircut on their holdings of public debt. The imposition of a write-down would be viewed as a default, with unforeseen consequences on world markets.

The International Monetary Fund for its part, which has consistently taken a harder line on the banks than the EU and the European Central Bank throughout the crisis, is not ruling out the need for a haircut as high as 75 percent, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

"If you were a bank and you saw Europe on the edge, what would you do? You hold all the cards," said one diplomat regarding the discussions with the banking association.

Two-shirter expected

EUobserver spoke to a range of EU officials to gauge their hopes for the evening.

All paint a grim picture of the ad hoc organisation behind the scenes, saying they are unclear who is responsible for circulating information.

"It's difficult. Anyone who says it's gonna be a cake-walk is lying through their teeth," said the most optimistic of the characters interviewed. "But when the crisis is big, big things happen."

Even this individual said that he was prepared for the meeting to go through the night and into Thursday morning: "I've brought a clean shirt and have two bananas at the office so I can last."