News Column

$895 Billion Bailout Ruling From Germany Nears

Sept. 11, 2012
Euro notes

A verdict by Germany's top court that may determine the fate of eurozone rescue efforts is to be handed down as planned Wednesday after a call for a postponement was rejected.

The German Federal Constitutional Court said it would deliver as scheduled Wednesday morning its decision on the new 700-billion-euro (895-billion-dollar) bailout fund - the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

The ESM was to have started operating in July, but its launch was delayed by the court's deliberations. As the major contributor, Germany's backing is needed if the new bailout fund is to come into force.

The Karlsruhe-based court has been considering objections - including one from 37,000 people - to the constitutional validity of Europe's fiscal compact on budget discipline and the creation of the ESM.

A decision to uphold the objections would not only be a major blow to Europe's hopes for bringing the debt crisis to an end, but undermine efforts that are gathering speed to avert an even deeper recession in the eurozone.

German legislator Peter Gauweiler, who is critical of bailouts, applied for a delay so the court could review an ECB programme for limitless purchases of government bonds announced last week. But the eight judges dismissed the suggestion.

A court spokeswoman said the judges had merely confirmed the timetable and had not decided on Gauweiler's call to require the ECB to abandon bond buying as a precondition for approving the ESM.

"We can't release any other information because the judges are continuing their consultations," she said.

In other eurozone economic developments, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras assured the European Central Bank (ECB) at talks Tuesday in Frankfurt that he would be "getting (Athens' economic) adjustment programme back on track."

The ECB said in a statement that Samaras and top aides discussed Athens' bid to slash spending with ECB President Mario Draghi.

"Both parties agreed that Greece has already taken significant steps towards budgetary consolidation and economic modernization, but that major challenges remain," the statement said.

Samaras assured the ECB "of his and his government's commitment to getting the adjustment programme back on track and continuing the necessary reforms for Greece to regain competitiveness and put its economy and public finances on a solid footing."

Samaras told Greek reporters after the Frankfurt meeting that he had praised Draghi's actions to bring stability to the eurozone "so that the attacks by the speculators finally come to an end."

Separately, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund recommended relaxation of Portugal's budget deficit targets, Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar said in Lisbon. The two institutions agreed to raise this year's target from 4.5 per cent of gross domestic product to 5 per cent.

Also, Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen warned that Spain was being hit by unfairly high interest rates, given its efforts to reduce its budget deficit.

Financial markets were steady as the verdict neared.

The 30-share DAX, the main Frankfurt index, was up 0.2 per cent at 7,228 in the afternoon. The euro climbed on foreign exchange markets to a four-month high of 1.2836 dollars.

The eurozone should avoid new financial rescue operations, Finland's Katainen said in Madrid in a reference to the bailouts granted to Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Bailouts could be avoided through mechanisms such as the possibility of the ECB buying debt on request, Katainen said during a visit to Madrid. The Finnish premier also stressed the need for "credible" measures and for strictly applying economic agreements.

Finland has been among the most reluctant eurozone members to help financially troubled countries such as Spain.

At a joint press conference with his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy, Katainen said Spain's interest rates were unfairly high, given its efforts to reduce its budget deficit.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel came under fire from the main opposition party.

Senior Social Democrat Thomas Oppermann called the ECB programme "undemocratic" and accused Merkel of the "peak of hypocrisy" because a debt mutualization - a hot button issue in Germany - was being carried out, effectively, in secret.

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Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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