Open Europe Blog

It may sound incredibly obvious, but the eurozone crisis is not only about Greece. Yes, Athens may be facing its “last chance” (Juncker dixit) to save its euro membership. And yes, the diplomatic offensive launched by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (see picture) to obtain a two-year extension to the EU-IMF adjustment programme clearly deserves attention.

However, while everyone is talking about Greece, quite important (and not necessarily good) news is coming out of other eurozone countries – of which, as usual, we also offer a comprehensive overview in our daily press summary.

In particular:

  • According to sources quoted by Reuters, the Spanish government is in talks with its eurozone partners about the eurozone’s temporary bailout fund, the EFSF, buying Spanish bonds – but has made no final decision over whether to request the assistance. Unsurprisingly, the European Commission said that there are no negotiations under way, and a bailout request from Spain is not expected “any time soon”. Right…
  • According to a high-ranking official at the Portuguese Finance Ministry quoted by Jornal de Negócios, Portugal (the ‘forgotten man’ of the euro crisis) will not be able to meet the EU-mandated deficit target of 4.5% of GDP for this year unless new austerity measures are adopted. The main reason seems to be the sharp fall in tax revenue: -3.6% during the first seven months of the year, as opposed to the 2.6% increase the Portuguese government was betting on for 2012. The alternative, the Portuguese press suggests, would be asking the EU-IMF-ECB Troika to relax the target. Boa sorte with that one, especially since in September we will hit the point where Portugal is within one year of being expected to return to the markets. Remember how the IMF’s requirement for a country to be funded for twelve months played out in Greece… 
  • A Cypriot government spokesman told reporters yesterday that the island’s public deficit at the end of the year will be around 4.5% of GDP – significantly higher than the 3.5% of GDP initially forecast. Clearly not good news, as this will almost certainly increase the EU-IMF bailout Cyprus is currently negotiating. Another headache for the Troika, which is due to visit the island again shortly (although no clear date has been specified yet).
  • New figures published by the Irish Central Bank show that €30.5 billion or 27.2% of the €112 billion outstanding in owner-occupier mortgages at banks in Ireland was in arrears or had been restructured at the end of June, up from €29.5 billion (26%) in March. Furthermore, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told the Irish Times that he will oppose any debt-relief plan for Ireland that “generates new uncertainty on the financial markets and lose trust, which Ireland is just at the point of winning back.”

Add the German Constitutional Court ruling on the ESM treaty along with the Dutch general elections (with the EU-critic Socialist Party led by Emile Roemer ahead in the polls) into the mix and it really looks like there will be little room for boredom in September.

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