Spain region, Greek exit warnings rattle euro zone

Fri May 25, 2012 5:38pm EDT
 
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By Fiona Ortiz and Nicholas Vinocur

(Reuters) - Central banks and companies risk making a grave error if they do not brace for a possible Greek exit from the euro zone, Belgium's foreign minister said on Friday, rattling markets already alarmed by Spain's deteriorating finances.

Greek elections are scheduled for June 17 and could hasten the country's departure from the currency club should a government intent on ripping up the country's bailout program result.

Contrasting findings of opinion polls on Friday showed the outcome is too tight to call.

Greece accounts for little more than 2 percent of the euro zone economy but could pose a profound contagion threat if it quit the currency area, throwing the spotlight on Portugal, Spain and even Italy.

"There is no organized discussion at the European level along the lines of: what do we do (if Greece leaves)," Didier Reynders, who is both Belgium's foreign minister and deputy prime minister, told the European American Press Club in Paris. "Now, if central banks and companies are not preparing for the scenario, that would be a grave professional error."

Spain is in plenty of trouble even disregarding any backwash from Greece.

Its wealthiest autonomous region, Catalonia, on Friday said it needed help from the central government because it was running out of options for refinancing debt this year.

"We don't care how they do it, but we need to make payments at the end of (each) month. Your economy can't recover if you can't pay your bills," Catalan President Artur Mas told reporters.   Continued...

 
A Greek flag flies behind a statue to European unity outside the European Parliament in Brussels ahead of an EU informal heads of state summit May 22, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir