Sunday

4th Dec 2022

US agency drops bombshell on EU anti-crisis plan

  • S&P: 'A reform process based on a pillar of fiscal austerity alone risks becoming self-defeating' (Photo: Wikipedia)

US-based ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) has cut France's triple-A rating and trashed the EU's new fiscal treaty.

It said in a statement out Friday (13 January) the EU draft fiscal compact "does not supply sufficient additional resources or operational flexibility to bolster European rescue operations."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It noted that: "a reform process based on a pillar of fiscal austerity alone risks becoming self-defeating, as domestic demand falls in line with consumers' rising concerns about job security and disposable incomes, eroding national tax revenues."

It added "there is a risk [of] reform fatigue" in the worst-hit countries, creating "lower levels of predictability" on the political front.

The agency also downgraded Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain, scalping another triple-A country (Austria) and moving Cyprus and Portugal into junk territory.

On the positive side, it kept Germany's triple-A status and praised the European Central Bank, saying it "has engaged in unprecedented repurchase operations for financial institutions, greatly relieving the near-term funding pressures for banks."

The blow comes two weeks before 26 EU countries aim to agree the new treaty at a summit in Brussels. It also comes 100-or-so days before French leader Nicolas Sarkozy tries to get re-elected.

Sarkozy's finance minister, Francois Baroin played down the development. He said on national TV it is "not a catastrophe ... ratings agencies don't determine French politics." The president's opponents laid into him, however. Socialist candidate Francois Hollande said the downgrade proves Sarkozy's whole economic policy is wrong. The chairman of the Socialist party, Martine Aubry said Sarkozy is "solely responsible."

EU authorities said S&P made a mistake.

Economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said in a statement: "I regret the inconsistent decision ... at a time when the euro area is taking decisive action on all fronts of its crisis response."

Jean-Claude Juncker - the head of the euro-using countries' club, the eurogroup and the leader of Luxembourg - said he is "determined" to protect the triple-A rating of the EU's bail-out fund, the EFSF. By downgrading France, a big EFSF contributor, S&P risks increasing the fund's borrowing costs, creating a vicious circle.

In more bad news, Greece on Friday said talks with private bond-holders represented by the Washington-based Institute of International Finance have broken down.

If Athens cannot persuade investors to write off at least 50 percent of their debt by 20 March - the deadline for its next major repayment - it risks going bust and leaving the euro, in a setback of historic proportions for the EU project.

"We are fully aware of how critical the situation is. Until these negotiations are completed, we face dire economic dangers," Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said in a speech also on Friday.

Softer draft of fiscal treaty opens door for UK

Less stringent constitutional demands, a weaker role for the EU commission and a provision allowing the UK to join at a later stage are among the most recent changes to the draft treaty on fiscal discipline.

Merkel: eurozone crisis will take 'years' to solve

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has dismissed talk that next week's summit will bring about a definitive solution to the eurozone crisis, saying it will take years to overcome the single currency's problems.

Eurozone bail-out fund loses triple-A rating

The Eurozone's bail-out fund was downgraded by one notch to AA+ by the US ratings agency Standard & Poor's on Monday - a move likely to put an extra financial burden on contributing nations.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  2. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  3. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  4. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  5. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  6. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  7. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  8. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us