Banks should accept a bigger loss on Greek debt, say ministers

 

Eurozone finance ministers said that they have agreed that banks should accept substantially bigger losses on their Greek bonds, with a new report suggesting that writedowns of up to 60 percent may be necessary.

The report from Greece's international debt inspectors, which formed the basis for discussions at the finance ministers' meeting on Friday, says that in order to keep rescue loans from the eurozone to the €109 billion foreseen under a second bailout deal tentatively reached in July, Greece's debt would have to be cut by 60 percent.



Even that would leave the country's debts still at 110 percent of economic output in 2020.



"Yesterday we agreed that we need a substantial increase in the contribution from the banks," said Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's prime minister who also chairs the meetings of eurozone finance ministers. That means the July deal, under which banks would have taken writedowns on their Greek bondholdings of about 21 percent, is definitively off the table.



Austria's Finance Minister Maria Fekter told journalists that the eurozone's chief negotiator Vittorio Grilli had been asked to restart negotiations with banks.



Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos confirmed as he arrived for the meeting that leaders were looking for banks to write down more than the July agreement envisaged. "But in any case, Greece is not a central problem for the eurozone," he said. "Now the point is to take a more general and more constructive decision for eurozone as a whole."



The report did not make policy recommendations, and in fact the European Central Bank opposes cutting Greece's debts further. But finance ministers are clearly paying close attention to the document.



Another scenario showed that if Greece's debts are cut by 50 percent, the country would need €114 billion, on top of the July package.



The agreement to push for much bigger losses is a key step in helping Athens eventually dig out from underneath its debt burden.



But asking banks to more significantly write down their Greek debt will raise concerns about their ability to withstand the losses as well as the ensuing turmoil on financial market.



As a result, the finance chiefs from the 27 EU countries, meeting Saturday in Brussels, are also expected to force banks across the continent to raise billions in capital for their rainy-day funds.



Both measures are critical to solving Europe's debt crisis, which is now threatening to engulf larger economies like Italy and Spain and is blamed for dampening growth across Europe and even the world.



"The crisis in the eurozone is doing real damage to many of the European economies, including Britain," George Osborne, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, said as he headed into Saturday's meeting. "We have had enough of short-term measures, sticking plasters that get us through the next few weeks."



European leaders had promised a solution would come from a summit on Sunday — following the two days of finance ministers' meetings — but they have now scheduled another get-together of EU leaders for Wednesday. Still, this weekend, they appeared to be making progress.



Pressure on finance ministers was high, after the report from Greece's debt inspectors — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — showed that the country's economic situation had deteriorated dramatically since the summer.



If the July deal with banks were to go ahead, the report said, Greece's debt would peak at a massive 186 percent of economic output in 2013 and only decline to 152 percent by the end of 2020.



That would prevent Greece from raising money on the markets until 2021 and require the eurozone and the IMF to put in an extra €252 billion in new loans through 2020, according to the report, which was given to the ministers on Friday and seen by The Associated Press.



Greece has already been relying on €110 billion in international emergency loans since May last year.



While the ministers were making progress on reducing Greece's debts, an arguably bigger problem remained intractable: boosting the firepower of the eurozone's €440 billion bailout fund to keep the crisis from spreading.



Increasing the effectiveness of the European Financial Stability Facility is meant to help prevent larger countries like Italy and Spain from being unable to afford to borrow money from markets — which is exactly what happened to Greece, Portugal and Ireland and why those countries needed bailouts.



But Germany and France still disagree over how to do that and failed to make much progress on that front Friday night. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are set to meet Saturday evening in the hopes of moving toward a deal.



In a sign that the pressure is rising on leaders to come up with an overarching solution, the finance ministers from the 17 countries that use the euro also said they'll regroup Saturday afternoon.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy