Europe Scrambles to Contain Debt Problems

Posted September 14th, 2011 at 1:30 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The leaders of Greece, France and Germany are holding a telephone conference Wednesday to discuss how to contain the European debt crisis.

Heavily indebted Greece was the first country in the European Union to secure an international bailout, partly financed by stronger European economies like Germany and France. Now, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are looking for ways to keep Greece from defaulting, pushing Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to advance his government's deficit-cutting, austerity plan.

But some financial analysts say they fear that the international aid, combined with the Greek austerity measures, will not be enough to pull the government in Athens out of the crisis and avoid default on its debts. As a result, two French banks that are owed large amounts of Greek debt had their credit ratings downgraded Wednesday by the international rating agency Moody's.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned in Washington that the global economy had “entered a new danger zone” because of the European debt crisis. He sharply faulted the 17 nations that comprise the eurozone for using a common currency while allowing each nation to set its own spending and taxation policies.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said at an investors' conference in New York Wednesday that he is confident that Mrs. Merkel and other European leaders will do what is necessary to make sure their major financial institutions are not at risk of collapse. Geithner meets European finance ministers in Poland on Friday.

The European debt problems have not been limited to Greece. In Italy, the eurozone's third-largest economy, the government won approval from Parliament Wednesday to move ahead with an austerity program designed to help fend off a financial crisis.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's $74 billion austerity plan is a mix of spending cuts, tax increases and changes to retirement plans aimed at achieving a balanced budget by 2013.

World financial markets have been hit hard because of fears of a Greek default and broader economic problems in parts of Europe. Financial experts fear a domino effect if the Greek economy fails.

European stock markets ended higher on Wednesday, in part because of new reports of support for European bond markets from China and other major newly developed powerful economies.