|Juncker breathes sigh of relief on eve of handover
Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker chairs his last meeting of Eurogroup finance ministers, before handing over to a Dutch newcomer.
Arriving at the European Union headquarters venue, Juncker said he was leaving feeling “some melancholy, but mainly relief,’’ AFP reports
Originally expected to lead the agenda at these talks, a formal request for aid from Nicosia appears to have gone backwards with the long shadow of Russian money-laundering especially hanging over negotiations.
So much so that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, in an interview with German and French newspapers published Monday, queried if any bailout should even take place – unless absolutely necessary for the wider eurozone's collective interests.
This flagged one issue for the ministers, as Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem – who took up his national job only in November – bids to secure the high-profile role as Juncker's replacement.
The mood has changed in 2013, mainly due to European Central Bank action to guarantee downwards-pressure on bond yields for governments which find interest rates on the debt market becoming prohibitive, as was the case for Spain and Italy last year.
``Markets are no longer betting that the ECB will commit suicide by letting major member countries implode,'' said Holger Schmieding, chief economist with Germany's Berenberg Bank.
Even Greece, despite a sixth year of recession, is said by its public creditors to be on the mend.
International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde told Athens daily Kathimerini on Sunday that no additional measures would be necessary if Greece carried out its obligations under the re-written aid programme finally agreed in December. “But if the structural reforms are not carried out...then more cuts would be necessary.’’
Ministers from the 17 euro zone states are also due to tackle the thorny question of “legacy assets’’ at the evening talks – in other words, which old banking debt can be considered eligible in the event of future recapitalisation of lenders by the euro zone rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism.