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Italy and Greece dominates EU finance discussions

brussels bureau

Italy and Greece dominates EU finance discussions


Italy and Greece may not have been present in body as EU finance ministers met in Brussels, but they were certainly in spirit. The pressure on Europe’s money men to come up with something tangible on Tuesday was intense as the turmoil in Athens and Rome played out. For Greece, however, no more money until it is able to prove it can be trusted.

“The sixth tranche could be disbursed once there is full clarity about Greece sticking to the agreed goals and policies of the EU/IMF programme. and of the decisions taken at the EU summit on the 27 October……it should be clear to Athens that solidarity is a two-way street,” EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn said.

But Greece’s troubles now seem increasingly minor compared to those of Italy. Now, the epicentre of the euro zone’s debt crisis, Rome’s borrowing costs have once again soared to dangerous levels.

Speaking after talks, Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said: “The problem Italy is facing is a lack of credibility on the financial markets. This credibility needs to be improved. It’s important that Italy not only announces measures, but also that it asks independent institutions – the EU Commission, but also the IMF – to check the situation and to report on it publicly.”

Despite calls outside the euro area for more decisive action to stop the crisis from spreading, there seems little sign. As our correspondent Raquel Garcia-Alvarez explains: ‘‘In waiting for a clearer picture of what’s taking place in Greece and Italy, the EU seems unwilling to make any move. Imposing a financial transaction tax, at least in the euro zone, is among several items still up in the air. This will be up for discussion at the next eurogroup. While the official invitations for that haven’t yet been made, that’s due to take place at the end of November.’‘

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