Monthly Archives: October 2011

Anti-austerity protesters in Athens hold up a Greek flag that says "not for sale" on Friday.

Thanks to some help from the European Commission, we have a bit more clarity on where European leaders will be spending the new €130bn in Greek bail-out aid. But the new data we received makes all the more clear that a huge amount is dependant on the still-to-be negotiated details of the 50 per cent Greek bondholder haircut deal, which may not be completed until the end of the year.

Just to remind readers where the confusion lies, of the €130bn in new funding, only €30bn was officially earmarked in last week’s summit communiqué – and that money will go for “sweeteners” to current bondholders so they’ll participate in a bond-swap programme. If they are going to take a 50 per cent cut in the face value of their bonds, they insisted on getting something else in return, and this was the price.

Of the remaining €100bn, fully €30bn will go to bank recapitalisations, not then €20bn we assumed last week. Although EU banking authorities have called for €30bn in new capital for Greek banks, officials tell us this is in addition to the €10bn provided in the first €110bn Greek bail-out.

Which leaves us with only €70bn to actually run the Greek government for the next three years. How did European authorities come to this number? That requires even more detective work, after the jump. Read more

Greek prime minister George Papandreou, right, with his counterparts at Wednesday's summit

Thursday’s early-morning deal on a new €130bn Greek bail-out is different in magnitude and in kind from the July €109bn programme it replaces, but in one respect they’re very similar – European officials have had a hard time explaining what, exactly, the money is for.

The one thing they have announced is that €30bn of it will go to so-called “sweeteners” to convince Greek bondholders to accept 50 per cent haircuts on the face value of their bonds.

How this would work has yet to be negotiated, but in the July plan, such sweeteners were used to create a collateral pool for new, gold-plated Greek bonds that could be used in a bond swap programme. In order to convince bondholders to trade in their current bonds that are about to come due for new bonds that don’t come due for 30 years, these new bonds needed to be extra safe. The collateral “sweeteners” were the means to do that.

How is the remaining €100bn in the new €130bn Greek bail-out going to be spent? A little detective work after the jump. Read more

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. In the early hours of the morning, eurozone leaders emerged from their summit in Brussels with a deal designed to stem the sovereign debt crisis. The markets seem pleased but big questions on the details remain. We’ll bring you reactions, news and commentary as we get it throughout the day.

All times are London time. By Tom Burgis on the news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world. This post should update automatically every few minutes, but it may take longer on mobile devices.

14.33: In Brussels, EU officials and journalists are walking around in a daze following the euro-summit’s 6am finish on Thursday morning, reports the FT’s Stanley Pignal:

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Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis as we head into the evening. Europe’s leaders have gathered in Brussels to try to deliver a solution to the sovereign debt crisis. It has been nervy day in the markets and national capitals – all of which you can read about on our live coverage from earlier on. Tonight we should discover whether Europe’s leaders can overcome their differences and chart a course towards recovery or whether they will once again fail to reach a deal. We’ll bring you news and commentary as we get it.

All times are London time. By Tom Burgis on the world news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world. This post should update automatically every few minutes, but it may take longer on mobile devices.

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Welcome to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. Today’s summit in Brussels could, in years to come, be viewed as a turning point in the eurozone crisis. Or, it could be just one more extended meeting at which policymakers tried – and failed – to agree on a plan big enough to calm the storm in Europe’s sovereign debt markets. We’ll bring you news and commentary throughout the day.

All times are London time. By Esther Bintliff on the world news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world. This post should update automatically every few minutes, but it may take longer on mobile devices.

13.05: In case you want to know the timetable for tonight’s summit, it’s here. Ominous small print: “The programme may be modified in light of progress of the meeting.”

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Juncker, left, heads Eurogroup of 17 euro finance ministers. Rostowski, right, the Ecofin of all 27.

UPDATE 2: The Polish presidency has just made the official announcement. They say the cancellation allows heads of government to decide the things finance ministers were originally going to tackle. Despite negative market reaction to the news, several EU diplomats insist this is a diplomatic miscue by the Poles rather than a sign of things to come.

UPDATE: European diplomat confirms meeting of 27 EU finance ministers has been cancelled.

It’s getting uncomfortably close to crunch time for eurozone leaders, with just over 24 hours left before the summit-to-end-all-summits. But will they actually be able to agree on the big euro rescue plan? A letter sent last night by Jacek Rostowski, the Polish finance minister, makes it seem doubtful.

Since Poland currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, Rostowski is charged with convening a meeting of all 27 EU finance ministers tomorrow ahead of the big summit to lay the groundwork for a final agreement.

But officials tell Brussels Blog the so-called “Ecofin” council meeting is now likely off, and in a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister who chairs the group of 17 eurozone finance ministers, Rostowski makes it appear the cancellation is due to a failure to agree on outstanding issues. Read more

After a two hour overrun, the meeting of the EU 27 has broken up here in Brussels, to be followed by a pow-wow of the 17 eurozone members. This could be another late one.

One thing we know has been agreed so far: more meetings.

Instead of a single summit of eurozone leaders next Wednesday, as had been planned on Thursday afternoon, it now looks like there will be at least two – but probably three – more separate get-togethers.

The most important of those will be European Council (of 27) just before Wednesday’s eurozone summit.

This is painted as a big win for Britain and Poland, the biggest “outs” (of the eurozone) who are afraid of seeing their influence on the wider EU wane by literally not having a seat at the negotiating table for the big decisions taken by eurozone leaders. Read more

European summits are fertile ground for PR stunts, if only because of the hundreds of journalists milling around waiting for decisions to be made.

Oxfam today has distributed copies of “(Not the) Financial Times”, a 4-page edition of our paper dated November 2016 and devoted to the effects of a hypothetical tax on cross-border financial transactions, or Financial Transaction Tax, apparently agreed in 2011.

In this alternative universe, bankers will be pleased to discover that the adoption of a so-called Tobin tax has helped boost their popularity rating from near 0 per cent today to 80 per cent by 2014. Read more

France and Germany may be divided over the key issues on the agenda of today’s European Union summit. But President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel have found common ground in the need to hammer Italy over its heavy debt load.

The leaders of the EU’s biggest and most powerful member states called in Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, this morning for a pre-summit tongue-lashing. The message they delivered, according to one diplomat familiar with the discussion, was that Italy must deliver “specific and convincing reform measures soon.” They communicated a similar message to Berlusconi at a gathering on Saturday evening held by the centre-right European People’s Party.

Sarkozy also expressed his displeasure with Italy’s refusal to make way for a Frenchman on the European central bank’s executive board, according to the diplomat. France is due to lose its seat when Jean-Claude Trichet steps down as ECB president at the end of the month to be replaced by Mario Draghi, the outgoing president of the Bank of Italy. Berlusconi infuriated the French this week when he declined to free up a seat on the powerful decision-making committee by refusing to name current board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi as Draghi’s replacement. Read more

French president Nicolas Sarkozy arrives at the summit this morning.

The big European Union summit will be divided in two parts today, with all 27 EU leaders meeting in the morning before the session is narrowed to the 17 members of the eurozone in the afternoon.

The Brussels Blog has obtained a copy of the 12-page draft of the morning gathering’s communiqué, circulated to summiteers this morning, and unless things change at the meeting, it looks like there will be no final decision on the one thing the 27 had hoped to finish today – a plan to recapitalise Europe’s banks.

The draft “welcomes progress made” by EU finance ministers during their 10-hour meeting on Saturday, but says the work will not be officially signed off until another meeting on Wednesday – the first official acknowledgement that leaders from all 27 EU countries (and not just the eurozone) will have to meet again next week. Whether that meeting will be the heads of all 27 governments or just their finance ministers remains to be seen. Read more

 

People may be forgiven for wondering what European leaders will do this weekend since most decision-making has been postponed. (See 10.25 entry) Photo Reuters

Welcome to our coverage of the eurozone crisis. Compiled by John Aglionby on the world news desk in London, with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are London time. The post should update automatically every few minutes.

This weekend was meant to be the moment European Union leaders came together to end the eurozone debt crisis. But continuing differences between France and Germany, primarily over how to boost the firepower of the €440bn eurozone rescue fund, mean another summit will be required. As one European official said: “We’ve lost the main parachute and we’re on the reserve chute and we’re not sure that will even work.”

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Welcome to our live coverage of the eurozone crisis, compiled by John Aglionby and Esther Bintliff on the world news desk in London with contributions from correspondents from around the world. All times are London time. The blog should update every few minutes.

The optimisim of last week that European leaders were on top of the eurozone’s debt crisis and would deliver a comprehensive solution at a summit in Brussels this weekend is waning. Significant differences remain on the three key items – a second bail-out for Greece, recapitalising Europe’s banks and finding a mechanism to leverage the eurozone’s €440bn rescue fund.

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Demonstrators camping out in front of the ECB in Frankfurt on Wednesday morning.

UPDATE 5: The gathering has broken up with nobody speaking to the press. Lagarde left first, followed by Sarkozy. The EU’s Barroso, Van Rompuy and Rehn then left together. Merkel exited by the back door.

UPDATE 4: The meeting is expected to break up shortly so Trichet and Draghi can attend an 8pm concert in their honour.

UPDATE 3: Ralph Atkins, our man in Frankfurt, reports the meeting of leaders is now underway at the Alte Oper, Frankfurt’s concert hall.

UPDATE 2: European officials are now saying that Nicolas Sarkozy will also be flying to Frankfurt to meet with his counterparts, after the arrival of his new daughter.

UPDATE: Our Frankfurt bureau chief, Ralph Atkins, reports that IMF cheif Christine Lagarde is also in attendance.

If anyone is looking for where deals on the highly-anticipated Sunday summit might be struck today, they may want to cast an eye towards Frankfurt.

Several of the European Union’s big hitters will be in Germany’s financial capital for a leaving celebration for Jean-Claude Trichet, who departs from the helm of the European Central Bank at the end of the month. Read more

Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovich, left, and Commission president José Manuel Barroso in March 2010

The European Commission announced today that Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich was no longer welcome in Brussels on Thursday after opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison last week.

Both Yanukovich (who made Brussels his first foreign stop when he became president last year) and Tymoshenko (who attended the pre-summit gathering of centre-right presidents and prime ministers ahead of the March EU summit) have been regular visitors to Europe’s capital as Ukraine tries to finalise an “association agreement” with the EU before the end of the year.

Coincidentally, Ukrainian foreign minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko was in town on the day of the Tymoshenko verdict and held a round-table with a small group of Brussels-based journalists. Given the day’s events, Brussels Blog though it would be a good time to provide more excerpts from last week’s interview. Read more

If the eurozone’s presidents and prime ministers were hoping to get home at a reasonable hour Sunday night after their much-anticipated summit, they can pretty much forget it.

The European Council, which organises such gatherings, just released the schedule of events for Sunday, and the meeting of the 17 members of the single currency won’t even begin until 4pm, with a “working dinner” scheduled to start at 7:15pm. Read more

From our foreign affairs blog:

Welcome to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. All times are London time. This post should update every few minutes, but it may take longer on mobile devices.

Curated by John Aglionby and Esther Bintliff on the world news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.

Today’s main drama is in Bratislava (it’s not often one says that), where the Slovakian parliament is voting whether to back the expanded eurozone rescue fund, the EFSF. (The pic is of Iveta Radicova, the Slovakian prime minister, just in case you were wondering.)

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Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini

The euro and European stock markets rallied today after Herman Van Rompuy delayed Monday’s EU summit by a week, a rally pegged to market hopes the new date was a sign European leaders were finally preparing a comprehensive agreement to deal with the worsening debt crisis. Read more

During last week’s gathering of European Union finance ministers in Luxembourg, prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the group of euro finance chiefs, announced what the FT had already reported: lenders were going to make “technical revisions” to a key part of Greece’s second €109bn bail-out.

The reopening of the second bail-out was probably inevitable, given Greece’s steadily deepening recession, and the part that needs changing is known as the package’s PSI, or “private sector involvement”. PSI a complicated series of bond swaps and roll-overs which in theory will get current Greek bondholders to delay repayment on €54bn in debt that was to come due between now and mid-2014. Read more

From our foreign affairs blog:

Welcome to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. All times are London time. Curated by Esther Bintliff and John Aglionby on the world news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world. This post should update automatically every few minutes, but may take longer on mobile devices.

13.45: Following our Shakespeare competition earlier in the week, it’s time for another foray into the world of literary metaphor, courtesy of former Fed staffer Ed Yardeni, now of Yardeni Research. Ed has traditionally been one of the market’s biggest bulls. Now even he seems to have turned bearish…

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From our foreign affairs blog:

Welcome to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. All times are London time. Curated by Esther Bintliff and John Aglionby on the world news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world. This post should update automatically every few minutes, although it may take longer on mobile devices.

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