18th Mar 2018


ECB showdown on bond-buying plan THIS WEEK

  • The ECB headquarters in Frankfurt: All eyes are on its 6 September meeting (Photo: Valentina Pop)

A keenly-awaited meeting of the European Central Bank board on Thursday (6 September) will have to reconcile a bond-buying plan aimed at helping Spain and Italy with the fundamental opposition to such schemes within Germany's Bundesbank.

Ahead of the Thursday meeting of eurozone central bankers within the ECB board, Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann told Der Spiegel that the ECB actions risk becoming "addictive like a drug" allowing governments to give up necessary reforms.

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Adding to the pressure, Bild newspaper on Friday quoted unnamed sources saying Weidmann had considered resigning - just like two of his predecessors - over the ECB plans to buy Spanish and Italian bonds. The measure is aimed at helping them lower their borrowing costs, which have reached bailout territory.

ECB chief Mario Draghi defended his stance in German newspaper Die Zeit by saying that in order to keep the euro stable the central bank sometimes has to go "beyond" its standard policies and adopt "exceptional measures."

A compromise solution has been in the works for the past month, whereby countries that want the ECB to buy their bonds first have to sign up to a reform programme with the eurozone bailout fund. The details of such arrangements are expected on Thursday. Spain may file an official request soon afterwards.

Ahead of the Frankfurt showdown, Draghi is meeting MEPs in the economics committee on Monday, but the gathering is behind closed doors.

Economics commissioner Olli Rehn and his colleague in charge of financial services, Michel Barnier, are to appear in a public session later that afternoon and take questions on plans to give the ECB supervisory powers over 6,000 banks in the eurozone.

Rehn is also likely to be asked about Greece, as the troika of international lenders is returning to Athens this week to check on the €11.5 billion worth of spending cuts required for the next tranche of bailout money to be disbursed.

Also on Monday, MEPs in the home affairs committee will vote on a deal struck with member states to restrict access to chemicals that can be used to make home-made explosives.

Meanwhile, EU council chief Herman Van Rompuy, who is drafting the plan on how to upgrade the eurozone to a true fiscal and political union, is due to travel to Germany, France, Italy and Greece.

An initial draft was already discussed in June, with leaders expecting more details by October on the reforms feasible in the short term. The parts which will require changes to the EU treaty will be tabled at a December summit.

Troika back in Greece this WEEK

The troika of international lenders returns to Athens this week to take stock of delays in implementing the bailout-linked austerity measures. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank may take some crisis-alleviating measures on Thursday.

ECB under pressure on bond-buying

Pressure is mounting on the ECB ahead of a key meeting on whether to buy Italian and Spanish bonds to help stabilise the euro.

Brexit and trade will top This WEEK

A crucial EU summit will decide whether to give a green light to the Brexit transition period, while the EU is also fighting to get exemptions from the new US steel and aluminium tariffs.

'Selmayrgate' moves to the EU Parliament This WEEK

As a global trade war looms over the new US steel tariffs, the EU's attention will shift to Strasbourg - where MEPs are expected to debate the Martin Selmayr appointment, trade, Brexit, journalism and the budget.

Italy and migration will top This WEEK

Italy will have voted for a government, Germany's social democrats will have voted to confirm a government (or not): the dynamics in European politics may change, while Brussels will focus on Brexit again.

Election fever picks up This WEEK

Italian general elections, a German coalition in the balance, and the European parliament fighting to get a voice in nominating an EU commission president. This and much more in a week packed with intrigue.

Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant

Niger has temporarily stopped all evacuations from Libya detention centres under an EU funded programme because so few are being resettled to Europe. Many of those that have been evacuated are pregnant, with some asking for HIV testing.

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