EU faces two tough months of bargaining to boost euro confidence

Sun Oct 21, 2012 6:46pm EDT
 
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By Paul Taylor

PARIS (Reuters) - European Union leaders face two months of tough bargaining on money, power and the future governance of the euro zone before they can boost confidence that the existential threat to the single currency has faded.

The European Central Bank's pledge to buy the bonds of struggling euro zone countries in unlimited amounts has changed the terms of Europe's debt crisis.

Yet French President Francois Hollande may have been a little premature in declaring a turning point last week after another night of summit negotiation yielded a deal for a euro zone banking regulator to be launched next year.

"We are on track to solve the problems that for too long have been paralyzing the euro zone and made it vulnerable," said Hollande. "I again have confirmation that the worst is behind us."

More nights of horse-trading lie ahead between now and mid-December in which EU states must agree on a common budget for the next seven years, closer fiscal union with more intrusive central supervision of national budgets and a possible separate budget for the euro zone, and more support for the most vulnerable euro states.

They will need to decide how to keep Greece afloat if, as expected, it reaches a deal with international creditors to avoid bankruptcy next month in exchange for more drastic spending cuts and structural reforms.

And they may face months of uncertainty over whether Spain, which has already been promised up to 100 billion euros in loans to recapitalize its ailing banks, can avoid a sovereign bailout.

Above all, the euro zone is a long way from returning to the levels of economic growth needed to make its debts more manageable and get millions of angry unemployed back to work.   Continued...