Reuters blog archive
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Washington for talks with Barack Obama after Europe and the United States imposed wider sanctions on Russia.
Obama is already looking ahead to a third round of measures and has hinted at impatience with Europe, saying there had to be a united front if future sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy were to have real bite. At home, the Republicans are accusing him of weakness so will he put pressure on Merkel to move ahead in a way that the European Union has shown it is entirely unready to, at least yet?
The east of Ukraine remains in turmoil with pro-Russian separatists, who have seized civic buildings and police stations in a number of cities and towns, saying Ukrainian forces had launched a big operation to retake the eastern town of Slaviansk. That would mark the first significant military response from the government in Kiev.
The interior minister said a pilot has been killed and others wounded by anti-aircraft missiles used by the rebels. Separatists said at least one helicopter had been shot down.
De-escalation? Forget it. Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Moscow rebels in the east yesterday and Russia launched army drills near the border in response.
The big question now is whether Russian troops will cross into eastern Ukraine following a constant stream of warnings from Moscow about the security of Russian speakers there.
Ireland will officially exit its bailout on Sunday. Not much will happen but symbolically it’s huge and will be used by the EU as evidence that its austere crisis-fighting approach can work. Today, the IMF will confirm Dublin passed the last review of its bailout programme – the final piece in the jigsaw. Finance Minister Michael Noonan is also expected to speak.
For Dublin, this is only the beginning.
Support for the coalition government has slumped with the minority Labour party suffering worst (‘twas ever thus in coalitions).
As a result, Labour is pressing for a loosening of the purse strings while the dominant Fine Gael under premier Enda Kenny seems prepared to bet on a return to growth delivering the votes they need to rule outright after the next election, due by early 2016.
The Slovenian government is poised to publish the results of an external audit of its banks, which will say how much cash the government must inject to keep them afloat. We’ve heard from sources that the euro zone member needs as much as 5 billion euros to recapitalize largely state-owned banks.
The central bank said on Tuesday that sufficient funds were available to an international bailout but, while the euro zone might breathe a sigh of relief, Ljubljana’s problems are far from over. A fire sale of state assets will be triggered and the banks are so embedded into the Slovene economy that deleveraging will cause great damage.
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.
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.
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.
Reuters reported over the weekend that Angela Merkel’s Conservatives and the centre-left SPD had agreed that a body attached to European finance ministers, not the European Commission, to decide when to close failing banks.
At the risk of blowing trumpets this will make the euro zone weather in the week to come and could open the way for agreement on long, long-awaited banking union by the year-end.
Spanish third quarter GDP figures tomorrow are likely to confirm the Bank of Spain’s prediction that the euro zone’s fourth largest economy has finally put nine quarters of contraction behind it, albeit with growth of just 0.1 percent.
Today, we get some appetizers that show just how far an economy with unemployment in excess of 25 percent has to go. Spanish retail sales, just out, have fallen every month for 39 months after posting a 2.2 percent year-on-year fall in September, showing domestic demand remains deeply depressed. All the progress so far has come on the export side of the balance sheet.
Italy has dropped out of the spotlight a little following the protracted political soap opera surrounding Silvio Berlusconi. But it remains perhaps the euro zone’s most dangerous flashpoint.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta now has some time to push through economic reforms, cut taxes and spending in an effort to galvanize activity. But already the politics look difficult.