Eurozone Approves Greek Aid, New Bank Regulation

Posted December 13th, 2012 at 10:00 am (UTC-5)
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Eurozone finance ministers have approved the release of more bailout money for Greece, ending weeks of fears that the debt-ridden country might default on its financial obligations.

The finance chiefs approved the $44 billion payment to Athens Thursday after the Greek government this week bought back $41 billion in government bonds from private investors at a steep discount in order to cut its debt.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras described release of his country's latest rescue package as evidence that “Greece is back on its feet. The sacrifice of the Greek people have not been in vain.”

Earlier, European Union finance ministers reached a deal to create a single supervisor for banks in the 17-nation currency bloc, as well as for institutions in the other 10 EU nations that opt in to the system.

European economics commissioner Olli Rehn said the decisions on the Greek bailout and bank supervision are important milestones for the continent's economy.

“Today's decision on the Greek package will remove the clouds that are hanging over Greece, will reinforce confidence. And last night's decision on the single supervisory mechanism for euro area banks is a breakthrough towards a true banking union, which is significant and crucial in order to restore and reinforce confidence in the European economy.”

EU leaders agreed on the principle of a central banking oversight body at a summit in June and promised a plan by the end of the year. The oversight is due to begin in March and be fully operational in early 2014.

Failing banks have drastically affected some European economies, spreading the debt crisis to governments that stepped in to save their banks.

The new oversight body will ultimately allow Europe's rescue fund to directly inject money into troubled banks. It is also the first step toward a banking union with the ability to close down failing banks.

Banks with assets of more than $39 billion or equal to more than 20 percent of their country's gross domestic product are subject to the European Central Bank oversight, a standard that would include about 150 banks.

The eurozone has struggled to advance its economy in the wake of the three-year governmental debt crisis. Unemployment has risen to 11.7 percent throughout the region, the highest level since the currency bloc was formed in 1999.