Reuters blog archive
Emboldened by the splitting of Silvio Berlusconi’s party and the media mogul’s expulsion from parliament, Prime Minister Enrico Letta has already won one confidence vote in parliament. Today, he has called another to cement his coalition’s standing.
Letta is expected to win with the help of a centre-right group which split from Berlusconi but tensions are rising between his centre-left PD, now by far the biggest party in the coalition, and the small group led by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano.
That’s partly because there’s a new man in town who may press for more left-wing policies that would enrage the centre-right.
Matteo Renzi, the 38-year-old mayor of Florence, was anointed leader of the PD on Sunday and has wasted no time making his presence felt. He will not join the government but as party leader he is favourite to lead the PD into the next election as its candidate for prime minister. He has indicated he will support Letta in the confidence vote and beyond.
The full Ecofin of 28 EU finance ministers meets after Monday’s Eurogroup meeting of euro zone representatives didn’t seem to get far in unpicking the Gordian Knot that is banking union. Ireland’s Michael Noonan talked of “wide differences”.
The ministers are seeking to create an agency to close euro zone banks and a fund to pay for the clean-up - completing a new system to police banks and prevent a repeat of the bloc’s debt crisis.
The Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers meets, followed by the full Ecofin on Tuesday, to try and unpick the Gordian Knot that is banking union.
The ministers are seeking to create an agency to close euro zone banks and a fund to pay for the clean-up - completing a new system to prevent a repeat of the bloc’s debt crisis.
The finance ministers of Germany, France, Italy and possibly Spain are expected to meet in Berlin to discuss banking union. Two sources told us Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem – who chairs the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers -- should attend as will EU commissioner Michel Barnier and key European Central Bank policymaker Joerg Asmussen.
There is a possibility, however, that a violent storm that has hit Germany could prevent the participants reaching Berlin. If they make it, they will bid to come closer to a solution on a planned European resolution mechanism to deal with troubled banks ahead of a full meeting of euro zone finance ministers next week to help fashion a deal by the end of the year.
Ukraine’s shock decision to turn its back on an EU trade deal continues to reverberate with mass rallies on the streets of Kiev in protest at President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision.
To try to defuse tensions, Yanukovich issued a statement saying he would do everything in his power to speed up Ukrainian moves toward the EU. Is this another U-turn or mere semantics? The answer is important.
A round of European Central Bank policymakers speeches this week can be boiled down to this. All options, including money-printing, are on the table but it will be incredibly hard to get it past ECB hardliners and neither camp sees a real threat of deflation yet.
Reports that the ECB could push deposit rates marginally into negative territory in an attempt to force banks to lend have been played down by our sources, not least because it would distort the working of the money market.
French President Francois Hollande is in Rome for talk with Italy’s Enrico Letta. Both have a lot on their minds.
The French economy contracted in the third quarter and Hollande faces a blanket of criticism over his timid economic reforms (although he has pushed through some labour and pension changes).
Today’s meeting of EU finance ministers will grapple with banking union and next year’s stress tests though with no German government in place, a leap forward is unlikely.
One German official seemed pretty clear yesterday, saying: “We don't want a mutualisation of bank risks.” That, some would argue, takes the union out of banking union and is certainly a very different approach to the one promised last year when EU leaders were scrambling to keep the euro zone together.
It’s euro zone third quarter GDP day and Germany and France are already out of the traps with the latter’s economy contracting by 0.1 percent, snuffing out a 0.5 percent rebound in the second quarter. Growth of 0.1 percent was forecast, not just by bank economists but by the Bank of France too.
Germany failed to match its strong 0.7 percent growth in the second quarter, but expanding by 0.3 percent – in line with forecasts - it is clearly in much better shape.
Third quarter UK GDP data are likely to show robust growth – 0.8 percent or more, following 0.7 percent in Q2 – more kudos to a resurgent finance minister George Osborne who only a year ago was buried in brickbats.
We can argue about the austerity versus growth debate ‘til the cows come home – there is still a strong case that if the government hadn’t cut so sharply, growth would have returned earlier and debt would have fallen faster. But the fact that the economy is ticking along nicely 18 months before the next election means Osborne has won the argument politically.