Greece

Protest signs on a wall in central Athens

Over the last 24 hours, a flurry of activity has taken place surrounding Greece’s €200bn debt restructuring, most of it expected but some of it potentially destabilising. Because the moves involve highly technical – but still significant – judgements by occasionally obscure groups, Brussels Blog thought it was time for another guide to what to watch for in the ensuing days.

The most eye-catching announcement was the one made last night by Standard & Poor’s declaring Greece to be in “selective default”. Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, chair of the group of eurozone finance ministers, put out a statement saying the move was “duly anticipated” – and he’s right. S&P signalled this way back in June when the first talk of a Greek restructuring began.

Even though it was expected, it’s still worth reflecting on: It is the first time an advanced economy has been in default since West Germany in 1948. Practically, however, the most important knock-on effect to watch will be on Greece’s banks. Read more

Ad appeared in the FT, International Herald Tribune, and Wall Street Journal's European edition

[UPDATE] The German version of the ad can be seen here via Twitter (thanks to blogger @TeraEuro for the link). It was in the mass-market daily Bild. And here’s the French version via Le Figaro (h/t @hbeaudouin).

With just days to go ahead of an expected Thursday meeting of eurozone finance ministers where they will finally give the green light to Greece’s €130bn second bail-out, a group of Greek businessmen has taken out advertisements in a wide range of international newspapers to plead their country’s case.

According to a spokesman for the group, which calls itself “Greece is Changing”, the ads were rushed into print by a group of like-minded business leaders and designed by Peter Economides, the acclaimed marketing strategist who, among other things, helped develop the “Think Different” campaign for Apple in 1997.

Economides, born in South Africa of Greek émigrés, has been on a campaign to get Greece to “rebrand” itself for months, and the ads ran in three English-language newspapers – the FT, International Herald Tribune and the Wall Street Journal’s European edition – as well as German, French and Dutch papers. (Dutch blogger Michiel van Hulten posted the version that ran in NRC Handelsblad here.) Read more

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis.

After more than 13 hours of talks, a second bail-out for Greece was agreed early on Tuesday morning. We’ll be bringing you reaction to the deal throughout the day. All times are GMT. By John Aglionby and Tom Burgis on the news desk in London.

15.45: Stanley Pignal, of our Brussels bureau, on how Jean-Claude Juncker  tries to keep the mood jolly with a rolled up FT.

Jean-Claude Juncker, chair of Eurogroup, used a lethal weapon to slap Swedish fin min Anders Borg: a rolled up #FT. http://t.co/lqu1jea5 #EU 

@spignal 

Stanley Pignal

15.30: FT video with Martin Wolf and John Authers looks at whether the package can possibly work, while Lex writers ask anyone would invest in Greece.

15.17: Markets update – they’re still in negative territory, reports Stephen Smith, of the FT’s markets team.

 Read more

Greece's Lucas Papademos, flanked by Greek and French finance ministers, at Monday's meeting.

The 10-page Greek debt sustainability report that we obtained Monday night is filled with very sobering conclusions that we highlighted in our news story that’s now up on the web.

But the document – prepared by analysts in the so-called “troika” of international lenders, the European Central Bank, European Commission, and International Monetary Fund – is filled with so much interesting data, that we thought we’d give it further airing here at the Brussels Blog.

The report, marked “strictly confidential” and dated February 15, starts with a page-long summary that includes arguably the most revealing paragraph in the entire document: Read more

Lead negotiators for Greek bondholders, Charles Dallara and Jean Lemierre, outside the Greek prime minister's office last month.

This morning, the dead tree edition of the FT has a story based on some leaked documents we got our hands on regarding the massive Greek debt restructuring that needs to begin in a matter of days.

The documents make clear the schedule is slipping dangerously; the meeting of eurozone finance ministers tonight that has been cancelled was supposed to approve the launch of the restructuring so the process can begin Friday. The whole thing needs to be done before a €14.5bn Greek bond comes due for repayment March 20. Time is running out.

But perhaps more interestingly is the fact that eurozone finance ministries asked for financial advice from New York financial advisors Lazard and legal advice from the New York firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton about what the consequences would be if they launched the debt restructuring – but were forced to scrap it after it had started.

As is our tradition, we thought we’d give Brussels Blog readers a bit more on what the documents had to say. Read more

Dutch EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes: "No ‘man overboard’ if we lose someone from eurozone."

[UPDATE 2] Dutch finance minister Jan Kees de Jager was asked about Kroes’ comments during the government’s regular parliamentary question time Tuesday. De Jager said that while the contagion risk in the eurozone has decreased over the last year because of measures taken in Brussels, a Greek exit would still be very costly.

[UPDATE] In response to Kroes’ comments, Olivier Bailly, an EU Commission spokesman, today insisted its policy towards keeping Greece in the euro has not changed.

José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, may have promoted his economic chief Olli Rehn to vice president last year with new responsibilities for managing the eurozone crisis, but in recent days a growing number of other commissioners seem to be elbowing in, opining on whether Greece will leave the single currency.

On Monday came an interview with Greece’s own commissioner, Maria Damanaki, where she told the newspaper To Vima tis Kyriakis that contingency plans for Greece leaving the euro were being “openly studied”. “Now they’re not simply scenarios,” said Damanaki, whose portfolio is fisheries. “They are alternative plans that are being openly studied.” Rehn’s spokesman insisted that no such plans were afoot within the commission, although he acknowledged some in the private sector were making such calculations.

This morning, however, comes another broadside, this time from Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner from the Netherlands – one of the eurozone’s remaining triple A-rated countries where support for more aid to Greece is dwindling. Read more

Greek government employees protest against austerity measures in Athens on Friday.

As the week comes to an end, we seem no closer to a deal to sort out Greece’s troubles than we were when it started. With rumours of a deal a daily (hourly?) occurrence, and questions over whether eurozone finance ministers will meet Monday to sign off on a new €130bn bail-out, Brussels Blog thought we’d revive our popular “viewer’s guide to the Greek crisis” to lay out the state of play for those not following the negotiations on an hourly basis.

The best way to think of what is currently happening in Greece is to look at it as the proverbial row of dominoes that must fall before a deal is complete. Unless they all fall in order, Athens is at risk of missing payment on a €14.5bn bond due March 20, which could lead to a messy default and renewed chaos across the eurozone.

The first domino has basically been complete since last weekend: a deal with private holders of Greek bonds to wipe off €100bn from Athens’ €350bn debt load.

As we reported on Monday, a consortium of private Greek debt holders has agreed to accept new bonds that are be worth half the face value of their current bonds (including a one-time cash payment). The new bonds would have low interest rates that would reduce their value even more. According to our sources, the “haircut” in the long-term value will be just over 70 per cent.

But there are two more dominoes that must still fall: Greece must (yet again) agree to new austerity measures being urged by the “troika” of international lenders –European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – and then Brussels must decide on how to fund any shortfall. Read more

A tram passes the euro sign sculpture in front of the European Central Bank ( ECB) in Frankfurt, Germany. Photographer: Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg

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

The turmoil in the eurozone has taken a troubling turn in recent days, with anxiety spreading from Europe’s periphery to its “core” countries. Even as Italy’s Mario Monti readies his economic agenda to be presented today, investors are looking at France, the Netherlands and Austria with increasing unease and wondering whether the ECB might yet ride to the rescue. Over in Greece, today is the anniversiary of 1973′s mass student protests – with demonstrators once more planning to take to the streets. And the bond markets are showing ever more strain, with today’s Spanish bond auction likely to test sentiment still further. We’ll bring you all the latest as it happens.

 Read more

Mario Monti arrives to unveil his new government at the Quirinale Palace in Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images 

Mario Monti arrives to unveil his new government at the Quirinale Palace in Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

 

Welcome back to the FT’s rolling coverage of the eurozone crisis. By Esther Bintliff and John Aglionby on the world news desk, with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.

This post will update automatically every few minutes but could take longer on mobile devices.

Europe’s two new technocratic prime ministers should consolidate their respective grips on power today. Lucas Papademos, in Greece, is expected to win a confidence vote in parliament, while Mario Monti, his Italian counterpart, announces his new cabinet. Eyes will not be far from the markets either, following yesterday’s bruising ride.

 

12.52: Here’s the full list of the new Italian cabinet, courtesy of our reporter Giulia Segreti who is at the Quirinale palace in Rome:

 Read more

 

Mario Monti, Italian prime minister designate – Image Getty

Welcome back to the FT’s live coverage of the eurozone crisis and the global fallout. By John Aglionby and Esther Bintliff in London with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.

This post should update every few minutes but might take longer on mobile devices.

Are calm waters finally visible on the horizon of the eurozone? Perhaps – for now. Mario Monti’s first full day as Italian prime minister designate will be marked by a bond auction and his efforts to form a government. A confidence debate starts in Greece on Lucas Papademos’s government. And German chancellor Angela Merkel holds her Christian Democratic Union party annual conference in Leipzig.

 Read more

Euro drachma

Josh Chaffin’s piece from the FT’s analysis page: Christos Chanos sits in a conference room at his family’s sun umbrella business in Athens and ponders one of the most pressing questions confronting his crisis-hit nation: should Greece leave the euro?

The head of a company founded by his grandfather in the ancient market stalls of the Monastiraki neighbourhood, he has first-hand experience weathering the destabilising effects of a debt crisis that has held Greece in its grip for nearly two years.

He understands the argument that reintroducing the drachma – which Greece swapped for the euro in 2001 – would enable the country to lower its costs and regain competitiveness. But, like many others, he is reluctant to go down that road. “If you ask me if we never should have entered, I could have a long discussion,” says Mr Chanos. “But at this point, I think it would be a huge distraction. What would happen the day after?”

 Read more

 

A screen in Hong Kong displaying the Hang Seng index’s turbulent day today. Image AP

Welcome back to the FT’s coverage of the eurozone crisis and its global fallout. Curated by John Aglionby, Tom Burgis and Orla Ryan on the news desk in London and with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.

This post should update every few minutes, but could take longer on mobile devices.

Market reaction to events in Italy shows that the crisis is now truly global. Markets are looking for more clarity from Rome on timings, particularly of the austerity vote. Meanwhile the saga of finding a new Greek prime minister rumbles on.

 Read more

Silvio Berlusconi

Welcome to the FT’s live blog on the eurozone crisis. Curated by Orla Ryan and John Aglionby on the world news desk with contributions from correspondents around the world. In Italy, doubts have emerged that Silvio Berlusconi can remain in power as the country’s borrowing costs continues to rise. Greece is expected to name a new leader after its two largest political parties late on Sunday decided to form a government of national unity. George Papandreou will stand down as prime minister.

This post should update automatically every few minutes, although it may take longer on mobile devices.

 Read more

 

George Papandreou Photo: AFP/Getty

Welcome to the FT’s live blog on the eurozone crisis.

Curated by John Aglionby and Orla Ryan on the world news desk with contributions from correspondents around the world. This post will update every few minutes though it may take longer on a mobile device.

George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, caused a major surprise on Monday night and re-opened the eurozone sovereign debt crisis when he announced a public referendum to approve the second bail-out thrashed out last week by European leaders. Public opinion polls show a majority of Greeks oppose the bail-out. The PM will hold an emergency cabinet meeting at 4pm UK time on Tuesday. Parliamentary debate on the proposal starts in Athens on Wednesday.

 Read more

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 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.”

 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

Finland's finance minister Jutta Urpilainen, left, and prime minister Jyrki Katainen

Senior European officials had hoped to finally bang out a deal today on Finland’s demand for collateral from Athens in order to participate in Greece’s new €109bn bail-out. But fellow Brussels Blogger Josh Chaffin reports in from Wroclaw, Poland, that the Finns don’t seem to be in a mood for compromise.

“I think we are going to debate about it, but unfortunately I don’t see that we can find a solution tonight,” Jutta Urpilainen, the Finnish finance minister, said heading into the meeting of her eurozone counterparts in Wroclaw. “We continue to negotiate. I’m optimistic that we can find a solution that everybody can accept.”

European Union officials have grown increasingly exasperated with the Finns, who made the demand for collateral part of the new governing coalition agreement reached after April’s indecisive national electionsRead more

In interviews on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti forum in northern Italy, economists Martin Feldstein and Hans-Werner Sinn say leaving the euro may be the only choice left for Greece. Former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar, though, urges peripheral countries to continue reforms.