Portugal tip of iceberg as Euro leaders tackle debt woes - Yahoo! UK & Ireland FinanceWith the government in struggling Portugal on the verge of collapse, European leaders faced an uphill task Wednesday to agree on the stronger defences needed to resolve a threatening debt crisis. Leaders from the 27 European Union states locked horns Thursday and Friday in Brussels on how to best remedy a crisis which has jeopardised the future of the whole euro project and claimed Greece and Ireland as victims last year.
The meeting also comes against a troubled backdrop of differences over military action in Libya and fears of a major nuclear safety crisis in Japan.
The debt crisis will consume most of their energies, with leaders supposed to come up with a definitive, comprehensive action plan just at the moment when the Portuguese government looks likely to fall, forcing Lisbon into seeking a major bailout.
Protesters have erected giant banners railing against austerity measures imposed by cash-strapped governments near EU headquarters as police braced for some 20,000 demonstrators set to snarl Brussels traffic on Thursday.
Economists increasingly expect Lisbon to have to call for emergency loans. The last Moody's downgrade heaped the pressure on Lisbon, forcing it to pay ever higher rates of return to raise fresh funds to cover maturing debt. The benchmark Portuguese 10-year bond yield hit 7.464 percent just before 1400 GMT, an unsustainable level for the long term.
Lisbon must repay nine billion euros ($12.9 billion) of debt by June 15. A Portugal bailout would come at the worst possible time, not least because it would have to be sourced from an emergency fund, the temporary European Financial Stability Facility, worth 440 billion euros. Already tapped by Ireland, the amount the fund can actually lend today, allowing for a required buffer, is about 200 billion euros.
today, march 24:
Moodys downgrades 30 Spanish banks
today: FT.com / Capital Markets - No relief for soaring Greek borrowing costs
from athens to sacto---with italy, lisbon, the uk, albany, madison, springfield, detroit in between---there's just no stopping it
this is pretty big news, there are massive social and political and economic changes sweeping the union
France and Italy in call to close EU borders in wake of Arab protests | World news | The GuardianFrance and Italy have thrown down the gauntlet over Europe's system of passport-free travel, saying a crisis of immigration sparked by the Arab spring was calling into question the borderless regime enjoyed by more than 400 million people in 25 countries.
Challenging one of the biggest achievements of European integration of recent decades, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi also launched a joint effort to stem immigration and demanded European deportation pacts with the countries of revolutionary north Africa to send new arrivals packing.
The passport-free travel system known as the Schengen regime was agreed by a handful of countries in 1985 and put into practice in 1995. Since then it has been embraced by 22 EU countries as well as Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, but spurned by Britain and Ireland. It is widely seen, along with the euro single currency, as Europe's signature unification project of recent decades.
But like the euro, fighting its biggest crisis over the past year, the Schengen regime is being tested amid mounting populism and the renationalisation of politics across the EU.
In other setbacks to borderless Europe, Germany, France and other countries have been blocking the admission of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen in recent months, while the arrival of thousands of Middle Eastern migrants in Greece has fed exasperation with Athens's inability to control the EU's southern border.
Athens Mulls Plans for New Currency: Greece Considers Exit from Euro Zone - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - InternationalGreece's economic problems are massive, with protests against the government being held almost daily. Now Prime Minister George Papandreou apparently feels he has no other option: SPIEGEL ONLINE has obtained information from German government sources knowledgeable of the situation in Athens indicating that Papandreou's government is considering abandoning the euro and reintroducing its own currency.
Alarmed by Athens' intentions, the European Commission has called a crisis meeting in Luxembourg on Friday night. The meeting is taking place at Château de Senningen, a site used by the Luxembourg government for official meetings. In addition to Greece's possible exit from the currency union, a speedy restructuring of the country's debt also features on the agenda. One year after the Greek crisis broke out, the development represents a potentially existential turning point for the European monetary union -- regardless which variant is ultimately decided upon for dealing with Greece's massive troubles.
Greece suffers new downgrade amid debt fears - Yahoo! NewsCredit rating agency Standard & Poor's has lowered Greece's bond grade further into junk status, citing risks that the country will have to negotiate an extension on its debt repayments.
S&P lowered Greece's bond long-term bond grade on Monday by two notches to B from BB-, with "negative implications" for future efforts to improve public finances. It cut the short-term rating to C from B.