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Europe's trillion-euro debt safeguard

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Europe's trillion-euro debt safeguard


Relief for Italy… relief for Greece… for Spain… the whole euro zone in fact: EU leaders pulled back from the brink of potential disaster at their euro summit — which ran deep into Wednesday night — with their deal to support single currency states in dire difficulty. However, suspense remains over whether what they have agreed will keep the euro market-worthy.

The aim is to deflect the prospect of countries going bankrupt. Greece is closest to this iceberg, owing 160 percent of its national income.

The main points of the deal are as follows:

Banks are to write off 50 per cent of the Greek debt. The goal is to lop it down to 120 percent of GDP by 2020. Europe’s banks said they were ready to lend Greece 130 billion euros, at the same time as sacrificing 100 billion euros-worth of the 210 billion euros in Greek bonds they hold.

The second point is the European Stability Felicity. To get Berlin’s backing to seriously beef this up, the deal had to be that Germany’s contribution stays as it is.

The EFSF weighed 440 billion euros originally but jogging to keep up with ravenous Portugal and Ireland means it only has 250 billion left in it. So it is now going to get gassed up to one thousand billion — one trillion euros!

This is supposed to convince the markets the fund can save Italy or Spain if they tank.

This partial insurance for countries’ sovereign debts is (a) meant to encourage investors to buy their bonds, and (b) enable the creation of a fund with IMF backing where China and Russia (for instance) can help.

The third folio of the deal is recapitalisation of the banks by next July, to guard against contagion between countries enfeebled by debt, a cashback kitty to take the sting out of their Greek write-downs.

Under the recapitalisation plan, banks will be required to increase their holdings of safe assets to 9 percent of their total capital by the end of June — 106 billion euros to draw on in case of trouble, before crying for taxpayers’ money.

Further calling for reform of euro zone governance, the leaders are also counting on the European Central Bank for bond-buying support to maintain the pulse of the Italian and Spanish debt markets.

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