Sunday

28th May 2023

Merkel, Sarkozy: ‘Future of Greece is in euro’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy attempted to calm market anxiety over a possible Greek default on Wednesday evening, affirming their commitment to Greek membership of the euro.

“The president and the chancellor are convinced that the future of Greece in the euro area,” the pair declared in a joint statement with with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

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The declaration followed a teleconference with the Greek leader in which he restated his commitment to putting in place the agreed cuts, privatisation and structural reforms ordered by international lenders.

“The Greek prime minister confirmed his government's absolute determination to take all necessary measures to implement all commitments,” the statement continued.

“The implementation of the commitments of the programme is essential for the Greek economy can regain the path of a sustainable and balanced growth. The success of the recovery plan of Greece will strengthen the stability of the euro area.”

The joint statement was an effort to draw a line under what European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday called a “cacaphony” of often contradictory messages from various European ministerial sources, including Merkel’s own economy minister and his Dutch counterpart, that suggested Berlin and the Hague were preparing for a Greek default.

The conference call appeared to at least temporarily soothe the market beasts, with the euro rising and Asian stocks also on an upward tick after the conversation between the three leaders.

US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, who in an unprecedented move is set to attend a meeting of EU finance ministers this week, also offered markets a reassuring message of confidence in European leaders while also calling on the EU do act “more forcefully”.

"They recognise that they have been behind the curve. They recognize that it will take more force behind their commitments," he said in a CNBC television interview.

"There is no chance that the major countries of Europe will let their institutions be at risk in the eyes of the market. There is not a chance," he continued.

"They are absolutely committed and they have the financial capacity, the economic capacity to do what it takes to hold this thing together," he said.

The transatlantic efforts at pacifying markets came after Moody’s Investors Service downgraded two of France’s biggest banks, Societe Generale and Credit Agricole, a notch on the back of fears of exposure to Greek government debt and whether they would be able to borrow enough themselves to keep their doors open.

French officials were quick to insist that there was no question of their banks requiring an infusion of public cash, a move that could threaten the country’s own, Triple-A, credit rating and hike its borrowing costs.

"That is something which makes no sense. It is totally surreal. French banks do not need any outside capital to face up to risks," Bank of France governor Christian Noyer told RTL in response to the downgrades.

However, the issue is likely to a hot topic as European finance ministers meet in Poland on Friday.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde last week issued a call for European banks to received a rapid and substantial cash injection.

French banks hit amid worries over Greek exposure

Major French banking stocks were pummelled on Monday on the back of persistent worries that Greece is on the verge of defaulting on its loans. As shares tumbled, EU leaders have scrambled to get ahead of the curve.

Brussels: No plans being made for Greek default

The European Commission has denied it is making preparations for a Greek default after a series of comments by German authorities indicated Berlin is readying itself for precisely such a situation.

Greece unveils fresh cuts as euro pessimism spreads

The Greek government has unveiled a fresh round of austerity measures amounting to €2 billion as pressure mounts on the country to deliver on its commitments to reduce its debt-load.

EU task force for Greece ‘here to help, not control’

The head of an EU task force for Greece said on Thursday that the aim of the newly established body is to support the country as it attempts to slash its public debts. The team arrived in Athens as fresh figures put unemployment in the country at a record 16.3 percent, with 32.9 percent of young people out of work.

Greece in limbo after EU conference call

While negotiations between the Greek government and international lenders remain inconclusive, a report out of Athens suggests that the prime minister is looking to hold a referendum on staying in the euro.

EU finance chiefs cool on Geithner plan for eurozone

A unprecedented visit by US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner to a meeting of European finance ministers in Poland was coolly received by the gathered European economy chiefs, while the meeting itself saw little advance made on how the eurozone can deal with its ever-deteriorating debt crisis.

EU: national energy price-spike measures should end this year

"If energy prices increase again and support cannot be fully discontinued, targeted policies to support vulnerable households and companies — rather than wide and less effective support policies — will remain crucial," the commission said in its assessment.

Opinion

EU export credits insure decades of fossil-fuel in Mozambique

European governments are phasing out fossil fuels at home, but continuing their financial support for fossil mega-projects abroad. This is despite the EU agreeing last year to decarbonise export credits — insurance on risky non-EU projects provided with public money.

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