Daily Israel Report

Italian PM Lashes Out At 'Inappropriate' Remarks by EU Members

European finance ministers hit resistance while trying to stave off a rout prompted by skyrocketing interest charges on Spanish debt.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 7/10/2012, 5:21 AM

Mario Monti
Mario Monti
Reuters

Like a bad soap opera that lurches from crisis to crisis, the European finance ministers are convening against a backdrop of yields topping 7% on Spanish bonds.

This is ominous, because one of the purposes of the meeting was to shore up the Spanish banks. If the financial markets are already ignoring what has become a monthly fix, the euro zone may confirm pessimisict predictions faster than expected.

In any case, 7% has traditionally become the tipping point beyond which a beleaguered country is forced to solicit a bailout. Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy earnestly entreated his Eurozone colleagues to "move from words to deeds."

The open bickering among euro zone members is deepening the skepticism about an imminent financial solution. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti attacked "statements that I consider inappropriate by authorities of northern countries". 

He was referring to comments by Finnish finance minister Jutta Urpilainen, who stated that she would seek collateral for her country's contribution to a Spanish bank bailout.

The Italian Prime Minister claimed that such statements threatened to "undo unilaterally what was laboriously put together collectively." Mario Monti blamed the bickering for pushing up Italian interest costs and complained that Italy had loyally contributed to bailing out Greece, Ireland and Portugal, although Italian banks were far less exposed than French and German banks.

The entire notion of bank bailouts as a cheap substitute for a government bailout has been hit by German economists - led by Germany's premier economist Hans-Werner Sinn. He claims that the banking union solution proposed at a recent EU summit is even more perilous than covering sovereign debt, because the debt being dealt with is 3 times as large.

In addition, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing a slew of constitutional suits challenging the German contribution to the bailouts. German Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann claims that financial integration in Europe cannot be accomplished within a short timeframe, thus undermining a stopgap solution to the European debt crisis.