Aid deal alone won’t restore euro zone credibility

By Timothy Heritage – Analysis

BRUSSELS (BestGrowthStock) – The euro zone still has a long way to go to restore its credibility after finance ministers endorsed emergency loans for Greece on Sunday.

The repeated failures of the European Union and the 16 countries of the euro currency area to convince financial markets that Athens can service its debts have been widely blamed for making Greece’s financial situation worse.

The bill for the rescue might have been much smaller if the other euro zone countries had acted more decisively and agreed a loan package several weeks ago. Instead, investors’ confidence has sunk and Greece’s borrowing costs have soared.

Some investors had also expected the EU and International Monetary Fund to offer Greece more than the agreed sum of 110 billion euros ($146.5 billion), spread over three years.

This could raise questions about whether the loans are sufficient to see Greece through, even though Athens is now likely to meet a big debt payment looming on May 19.

* Although the EU-IMF aid package cleared an important obstacle by winning the approval of euro zone finance ministers, several obstacles remain to formal endorsement, including parliamentary approval in many euro zone countries. The legal process is particularly important in Germany because, as the EU’s biggest economy, it would provide the biggest bilateral loan.

* Chancellor Angela Merkel strongly backed rescuing Greece on Sunday and said she was optimistic the German parliament would pass the legislation clearing the way for the rescue. But Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle was more guarded, saying Berlin would examine the agreement closely before deciding whether to contribute. The opposition SPD said giving support for the legislation would depend on whether the government could convince it to do so. Any delay in securing parliament’s approval could undermine confidence in Berlin’s commitment to an aid package that faces strong German public opposition.

* EU President Herman Van Rompuy has called a summit of euro zone heads of state and government for Friday to confirm the finance ministers’ decision. This serves to highlight how cumbersome and slow the EU decision-making process is and could leave room for doubt about the final EU decision even though Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the Eurogroup, said the summit would not reverse the outcome of Sunday’s meeting.

* Agreement now will not paper over the cracks in the unity of the euro zone and the whole 27-country EU that have been exposed during the crisis and have slowed down agreement on a loan package. The crisis has in particular underlined differences in the economic visions of France and Germany. Their combined support is vital for any important EU policy but their relations are described by some experts as being as bad as at any time in the past two decades.

* The ministers’ endorsement is unlikely to dispel the impression of many investors and countries outside Europe that the decision to turn to the IMF was a sign of weakness, showing the euro zone was unable to solve its own problems. The euro zone has looked ineffectual because it has a no-bailout clause which member states had to find a way around to agree on the rescue. Its image has also long been hindered by the fact that member states have often failed to meet the fiscal targets set by the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact but escaped punishment.

* The Greek government’s austerity measures are opposed by many Greeks and have caused protests and strikes. This has raised questions about Athens’ ability to carry out the demands made of it under the EU-IMF program. Economists say that if the rescue fails to calm markets, European countries could end up footing a bill of half a trillion euros to save other heavily indebted countries in the euro zone.

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(Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

Aid deal alone won’t restore euro zone credibility