Eurozone crisis hots up

Squabbles abound over bailout funds, austerity measures and whether to stay in Europe. And the Sarkozys haven't even begun to discuss a name.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
A political storm's a-brewing over the question of how much it will take to recapitalise Europe's banks. The European Banking Authority says it's run emergency stress tests and expects to have to raise between €70bn (£61bn) and €90bn for banks to meet the core tier one capital ratio targets of 9% set by the European Central Bank, thus making up for writedowns of sovereign debt.

But others - the International Monetary Fund, for example - reckon that won't be enough. In fact, a recent IMF report found that there was a €200bn hole in banks' balance sheets from sovereign debt writedowns. And what's worse is that the EBA is expected to reduce, rather than increase, its estimation of a shortfall. Could Europe's banks about to be in for a very nasty surprise?

All this squabbling is part of the run-up to a crucial meeting of European leaders, who will decide this weekend whether or not to ratify the EBA's plan, along with plans to turn the European Financial Stability Facility (aka the European bailout fund) into an actual bank, which would then be able to draw on European Central Bank funds to shore up the likes of Greece, Spain, Italy, and any other economy that finds itself out of its depth.

But prospects for the meeting are not looking good, mainly because France and Germany are having trouble coming to an agreement over how much to give the EFSF. Having spent just half an hour with his (presumably rather nonplussed) wife and newborn daughter, French president Nicolas Sarkozy fled to Germany last night to try to convince German chancellor Angela Merkel to increase the firepower of the €440bn fund, upping it to €2tn and enacting that fully-fledged bank idea. Alas, a truce was not forthcoming. MT wonders what's more difficult - giving birth or saving the euro? Our money's on the former.

Still, if things go on as they are, there might not be an awful lot of Greece left to save. Police are expecting another day of walkouts by everyone from shop-keepers to taxi drivers, doctors, lawyers and construction workers over the imminent approval of an austerity bill which is needed to secure bailout loans from the EU and IMF. With 300,000 public sector workers to be temporarily laid off, cuts in civil servants' wages and the tax-free threshold to be lowered, it's going to be a decidedly bitter pill for the Greeks to swallow. Although, given that yesterday's preliminary vote was only very narrowly in its favour (154-141), there's a chance it might not be approved at all.

Do we really want to be a part of the EU mess, then? That's what David Cameron wants to know - he's moved a parliamentary vote on a referendum on whether to stay Europe forward to Monday (yes, a vote over whether to have a vote - you can't say we don't have enough bureaucracy in this country). This is all because, although the Conservative party line maintains that leaving Europe would leave the UK in an exposed position, 70 Eurosceptic Tory MPs say they want out. Although the party has threatened them with a three-line whip. That's not quite as medieval as it sounds - but it's brutal nonetheless. So the chances of anything too revolutionary coming of the vote are slim... 

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Subscribe

Get your essential reading delivered. Subscribe to Management Today