Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

EU member States – Sanctions against Russia again extended, new U.S. sanctions against Russia, beginning ‘BREXIT’ talks after Britain’s vote and formal notification to leave the E.U.

December 15, 2017

Joint U.S. and EU action, stepping up punitive measures targeting key sectors like energy, arms and financing sanctioning Russia’s continued illegal actions in Ukraine, undermining Ukranian territorial integrity and sovereignty, will hurt European economies slowing recovery, hitting Russian import ban European food producers, harming above all the German economy with close ties to Russia and the already stagnating Euro-zone economy. EU agreed to extend Russia economic sanctions until January 31, 2016, leaving time to enable EU to judge the compliance and full implementation of the Minsk peace agreement, planning Russia to extend the ban on Western food imports for six months starting from early August 2015, deciding the European Union in December 2015 to extend sanctions on Russia for another six months. A further six month extension of the bloc’s economic and financial sanctions against Moscow to punish Russia for the annexation of Crimea and support of separatists in eastern Ukraine has been agreed on by the EU, extending sanctions until the beginning of 2017. EU leaders signaled a further shift form austerity of the €uro-crisis giving member States extra time to consolidate their budgets as long as they pressed ahead with economic reforms, insisting France and Italy on a further easing of EU budget rules (3% ceiling) to stimulate growth and cut unemployment, pledging Germany for budget discipline, saying countries must move faster on reforms. Euro-sceptic and populist parties scored dramatic gains in voting 2014 for the European Parliament, however continuing pro-European centre-right and centre-left parties to control more than half of the 751 seats, forced to collaborate to get key legislation through the Parliament and into law, as they will face unprecedented challenge of noisy anti-establishment members determined to stop business as usual, saying German Chancellor Merkel the EU must create jobs to counter populist wave, demanding French President Hollande EU should concentrate on what matters, on growth and employment, adding British PM Cameron that Brussels has got too big, too bossy, too interfering, seeking with Sweden and the Netherlands a repatriation of powers from Brussels. Analysts warn of increasing political risks in Europe in 2015, as protest- and populist parties are rising. ECB said European policymakers should not give up efforts to make their economies more efficient and stick to budget rules, despite a strong protest note in European elections, moving on with structural reforms to finish what was started in 1999 and make the €uro-zone work. The €uro-zone’s overall Government deficit fell to the EU limit of 3% in 2013 from 6,2% in 2010, striking the €uro-zone’s fiscal stance the right balance between cutting debt and helping growth, however warning the IMF that the unemployment rate of around 12% was still too high. Inflation moving ever closer toward zero, a stagnating economy, a double-digit unemployment rate and new signs of reform fatigue among Euro-zone Governments are posing a serious challenge for the ECB, that it says it cannot solve alone, expressing G20 concern about Europe’s extended stagnation asking for more Government spending to stimulate growth, insisting Germany in structural reforms, strict budget controls and balanced budget, rejecting stimulus, expressing ECB and IMF the need to see countries using Government money prudently to avoid the Euro-zone slipping into its third recession since 2008, increasing pressure on Governments that have fiscal space like Germany, which posted its biggest budget surplus since reunification in the first half of 2014, asking Paris for a ‘NEW DEAL’ in Europe, expecting movements from Berlin to avert a policy clash. German Chancellor Merkel insisted that all member States must fully respect the reinforced rules of the Stability and Growth Pact, reminding the Euro-zone debt crisis has not yet been overcome and its causes have not been eliminated. ECB’s Draghi warned that no amount of fiscal or monetary accomodation can compensate for necessary structural reforms in the Euro-area, delaying France and Italy labor market reforms and to open up to more competition, failing the two countries to cut their budget deficits and debt in line with EU rules, opting EU Commission not to sanction them for missing public finance targets, giving both until spring 2015 to bring their debts and deficits in line. British PM Cameron strongly opposed nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker, the candidate of the European People’s Party, which won the European Parliament elections, as the next President of the European Commission, describing him as face of the past, while Junckers, supported by German Chancellor Merkel, says the crisis is not yet over and EU budget policy must remain as it is, posing politics rather than economics the biggest risk to the long-term endurance of the €uro, saying 48% of British voters they would currently vote to leave the EU in a referendum, while 37% would vote to stay, naming EU leaders Juncker as new EU Commission President, confirming the European Parliament his nomination by a comfortable majority, announcing Juncker Euro 315 Billion investment program to bolster European economic recovery, setting up EU a 21 Billion Euro European Fund for Strategic Investment, with the aim of drawing in 15 times that amount in private- and public – sector money to boost desperately needed jobs and growth, confirming EU Finance Ministers details of the 315 Billion Euro four-year investment plan, including an eight-member committee that will choose the projects. China will pledge a multi-Billion Dollar investment in the new infrastructure fund at a summit on June 29, 2015, in Brussels, considering the fund is going to create opportunities for China to invest in the EU, in particular in infrastructure and innovation sectors. France, Germany, Italy and Poland have each announced they plan to contribute 8 Billion Euros, while Spain and Luxembourg are pledging smaller amounts. The bloc is relying mainly on private investors and developments banks to fund projects from an initial list of almost 2000 submitted by the 28 member States, from airports to flood defenses, that are together worth 1,3 Trillion Euros. In addition the EU Commission is exploring whether the EU could become collectively a member of the $100 Billion China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank/AIIB, Beijing, expecting China that European companies and Governments would take a greater interest in President Xi Jinping’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, aiming to create a modern Silk Road Economic Belt with railways, highways, oil and gas pipelines, power grids, Internet networks, maritime and other infrastructure links across Central, West and South Asia to as far as Greece. Greece, taking over the EU Presidency for the first half of 2014, criticising imposition of austerity, spending cuts and fiscal policy by Berlin and Brussels, is expecting still some more debt relief, like a further reduction of interest rates on existing loans, a new extension of the maturities and amortization schedule and some relief on financing EU structural funds, planning the €uro-zone to assure IMF it will keep funding Greece, enabling the IMF to disburse its next share of international aid to Athens, despite Greek delay in implementing 153 savings measures. Greece reached a primary budget surplus in 2014, confirming it doesn’t want a third bailout, raising €3 Billion with a coupon of 4,75%, after bringing a first sale of new Greek Government bonds more than €10 Billion of bids, backing Euro-zone Finance Ministers a precautionary ESM credit line for Greece after the country exits its bailout at the end of 2014. Greek Parliament approved budget 2015, preparing for the end of ‘an era of forced bailouts’, granting Euro-zone Finance Ministers Greece a two-month extension of the current bailout program, calling the country for early Presidential elections December 17, 2014, mounting political uncertainty, including fears Greece may exit Euro-zone, seeing European leaders no risk of contagion from Greek vote. PM Samaras failed to gather enough support for his candidate, Stavros Dimas, in a first, second and third Parliament vote, calling for national general elections to be held on January 25, 2015, suspending the IMF new disbursements of aid money until a new Government takes office, saying a Merkel ally that Euro-zone politicians are not obliged to rescue Greece as the country is no longer of systemic importance for the bloc, as Germany seems to believe an exit of Greece is manageable and the danger of contagion is limited, because Portugal and Ireland are considered rehabilitated, revising Fitch outlook on Greece to negative from stable. Greek leftist Tsipras was sworn in as new PM, after forming Government with a small Party of nationalist independent Greeks, winning Tsipras’ anti-austerity, left-wing Syriza 36,3% of the votes in general election and 149 seats in the 300-seat Parliament, just two short of an absolute majority, and Kammenos’ right-wing Party the Independent Greeks 4,8% of the votes and 13 seats, while ruling conservative coalition won just 27,8% and the extreme right Golden Dawn in third place 6,28% of the votes. Syriza’s Tsipras has pledged to renegotiate Greece’s debt arrangements with EU, ECB and IMF/amounting to €257 Billion, naming radical Yanis Varoufakis as Finance Minister, while Independent Greek leader Kammenos will take over the Defense Ministry, aiming France’s Socialist Government to facilitate Greece-Euro-zone talks. Moving to change Europe, leftist Greek Government is seeking anti-austerity allies in Spain, Italy and France, saying Greek Finance Minister he is looking for a new deal with the EU, ECB and the IMF, putting in doubt if Greece will continue to cooperate with the TROIKA and comply with its austerity program, but not calling any more for a write-off of Greece’s foreign debt, but proposing now a ‘menu of debt swaps’, making the ECB already €65 Billion available in emergency liquidity to Greek banks, as long as Athens will give compliance with the terms of the EU/ECB/IMF bailout program. The U.S. expressed support for a positive outcome of Greece-EU talks intending reaching a deal on a new aid program that would put an end to austerity and pursue necessary reforms. Greece’s negotiations with the EU failed to reach an agreement and Athens has been given time until February 20, 2015, to renew bailout-program, of which 70% would be acceptable for Greece and 30% could be replaced, announcing Greece it will submit a request to extend ‘loan agreement’ for up to six months, saying Germany no such deal was on offer, demanding that Athens must comply with the terms of its existing international bailout-program, sealing Euro-zone Finance Ministers finally a four-month extension after Athens sent a detailed list of reforms it plans to implement by the end of June 2015, returning Greece after seven years to growth, expanding its GDP by 0,8% in 2014, after shrinking by 0,4% in the final quarter of 2014, seeing the EU Commission a contraction of 1,4% in 2015. Athens is determined to loosen austerity to revive its economy. Greek Parliament elected pro-European former Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos as new President. Fitch lowered Greece’s rating by two notches to the high-risk level of CCC down from B, saying it nevertheless expects the Government would survive its cash squeeze, cutting the rating agency Athen’s growth forecast 2015 to 0,5% from 1,5%. Berkshire’s Buffett said ‘Grexit’ ‘may not be bad’ for the Euro-zone and could be ‘constructive’ for the region. Greece confirmed loan repayment €450 Million to the IMF, while still struggling to pay other debts, and has been requested to improve package of proposed reforms in time for the meeting of €uro-zone Finance Ministers on April 24, 2015, to decide whether to release more funds to keep the country afloat. Moody’s further downgraded Greek Government bonds to junk territory, cutting rating to Caa2 from Caa1, a level that is equivalent to an extremely speculative junk bond, lowering also Greek local and foreign currency bond ceilings to B3 from Ba3, citing the increased probability that Greece may exit the €uro-zone in the event of a sovereign default, saying Greece it will default in June 2015 without aid from lenders, suggesting the $300 Million-IMF payment on June 5, 2015, is under question, allowing creditors Athens to bundle four payments due in June 2015 into a single €1,6 Billion lumpsum, which is now due on June 30, 2015. EU President Juncker declined to speak to Greek PM Tsipras after the leftist leader rejected as ‘absurd’ international creditors’ terms for a cash-for-reform deal to keep Athens from default, saying ultimate proposals are not realistic, warning not to impose humilating conditions on his country. The IMF quits Greek negotiations because of major differences, telling EU PM Tsipras to stop gambling, leaving for home also the entire Greek delegation after continuing disagreements, downgrading Standard & Poor’s Greek long term credit rating from CCC+ further into junk territory to CCC with a negative outlook, cutting also further the credit rating of Greece’s biggest four banks, reflecting the probability that Greek banks will default if Athens doesn’t reach an agreement with its creditors, discussing Senior EU officials formally for the first time a possible Greek default. Greece and creditors failed in a ‘last attempt’ to reach a deal, coming a Greek default and a possible ‘Grexit’ closer, shifting the focus now to a June 22, 2015, EU emergency summit after Greek talks collapsed, to discuss the situation of Greece at the highest political, increasing ECB again emergency liquidity for Greek banks valid until Monday, June 22, 2015, moving Greece on the road of a possible Euro-zone exit. EU leaders received new Greek reform proposals cautiously, saying German economic experts the ‘Grexit’ is the solution, raising ECB its Emergency Liquidity Assistance/ELA to Greek banks again to €89 Billion. Greek debt declared by analysts as still sustainable, but will miss debt targets set out by creditors in 2012, seeing the IMF as worst case Greek debt falling to 142,2% of GDP in 2022 from 176,7% of GDP in 2015, assuming a new bailout program of at least 3 years with concessional financing. The Euro-zone readies to deal with a Greek debt default after its other 18 members refused unanimously to extend bailout program beyond June 30, 2015, the day Greece must pay €1,6 Billion to the IMF, following PM Tsipras’s surprise announcement of a referendum to take place on July 5, 2015, on an offer from creditors that his leftist Government rejected. Greece is set to introduce capital controls, keeping from June 29, 2015, Athens stock exchange and Greek banks closed, after ECB refused to increase emergency funding to Athens, saying analysts there may be a wave of contagion, affecting peripheral Government bond spreads, eventually weakening the Euro and contributing to new market volatility. Standard & Poor’s downgraded Greece’s credit rating again from CCC to CCC-, after Athens announced it will not pay €1,6 Billion to the IMF due on June 30, 2015. Greek aid Program expired on June 30, 2015, missing Athens its June 30, 2015-payment to the IMF, finding itself effectively in default, saying the Eurogroup Athens’ stance towards its creditors would have to change before its Euro-zone partners could consider any additional financial assistance, depending on the result of the referendum on previous EU credit terms, warning the IMF Greece will need €50 Billion more in financial assistance until the end of 2018, and must reform before getting debt relief. After the referendum, voting Greeks against the new EU bailout conditions, supporting their leftist Government, PM Tsipras offered creditors a reform package, including last-minute concessions, appealing to his party’s lawmakers to back it, intending to save the country from a financial meltdown, calling France the new proposal as trustworthy and serious. Greece won a conditional agreement to receive a third bailout of €86 Billion over three years, which may still face opposition within the Greek’s coalition government, needing the authorization of the German Parliament to opening loan negotiations. According to IMF secret report Greece will need far bigger debt relief the Euro-zone partners have been prepared to envisage so far, expecting a 30-year grace period on servicing all its European debt, including new loans, and a very dramatic maturity extension, passing Greek lawmakers a tough economic package demanded by Euro-zone as part of the bailout deal, rising ECB Emergency Liquidity Assistance/ELA for Greek banks by €980 Million to nearly €90 Billion, approving European Finance Ministers €7 Billion in bridge loans, allowing Greece to pay a key obligation of €4,2 Billion to the ECB and clear its arrears of about €2 Billion with the IMF, reopening Greece its banks, deciding the European Stability Mechanism/ESM to open formally negotiations with Greece on a third bailout program worth up to €86 Billion over three years, after German lawmakers backed the new Greek bailout, seen as a last attempt to fulfill this extraordinary difficult task, raising Standard & Poor’s Greece’s sovereign credit rating by two notches to CCC+ from CCC-. Greece and its lenders reached a new up to €86 Billion bailout agreement, needing to be adopted by the Greek Parliament and approved by Euro-zone countries, while a strong first review of the implementation of measures will take place in October 2015 and any discussion of debt relief has to come later. Greece will get €26 Billion as a first tranche of the three-year bailout program, €13 Billion very early to cover its debt repayment needs and an initial €10 Billion to be set aside at the ESM to bolster the capitalization of  Greek banks, which will have to pass a stress test before receiving fresh equity, while the remaining €3 Billion of the first €26 Billion tranche will be disbursed in the coming months in return for Greek reform progress, renewing the IMF call for the Europeans to grant Athens debt relief to make its global debt sustainable as condition to study an involvement in the bailout deal, considered as indispensable by the Eurogroup. Euro-zone Finance Ministers agreed with some additional measures to the Memorandum of Understanding to lend Greece up to €86 Billion, after Greek lawmakers accepted their stiff conditions despite a revolt by supporters of leftist PM Tsipras, which may lead to a confidence vote and eventually to early elections. PM Tsipras resigned paving way for snap elections to be held on September 20, 2015, which could allow him to return to power in a much stronger position without anti-bailout rebels in Syriza to slow him down, opposing the toughest part of the latest program, including further pension cuts, more value-added tax increases and a ‘solidarity’ tax on incomes, hoping the Eurogroup that the resignation would not delay or derail implementation of the bailout package, increasing eventually support in Greece for the third Euro-zone bailout program. Greece’s interim cabinet headed by caretaker PM Vasiliki Thanou has been sworn in and the Greek Parliament has been dissolved ahead of the snap elections to take place on September 20, 2015, giving the latest opinion survey Ex PM Tsipras a lead against his opponents backing 23% of voters his Syriza party. Leftist Tsipras and his Syriza party return to power with an unexpectedly clear election victory, forming Tsipras as new PMagain a coalition Government with his former partner, the right-wing populist party of independent Greeks/ANEL, obtaining Syriza 145 seats and ANEL 10 seats, gaining a narrow majority of 155 seats of the 300-member legislature, expecting Greece’s European creditors a swift and full implementation of the bailout deal. Greece is likely to qualify for recapitalization funds for its banks by a November 15, 2015, deadline, as the ESM has up to €25 Billion earmarked for the recapitalization of the Greek banking sector, having already disposed €10 Billion to be available, ready to be wired to Greece. According to the stress tests of Greek banks they have to raise €14,4 Billion of extra capital to cover mounting unpaid loans, reaching the total of non-performing loans €107 Billion, expecting the ESM that the third bailout for Greece will be smaller than the initially envisaged €86 Billion because Greek banks need less recapitalization. Greek Parliament approved a 2016 budget, including sharp spending cuts and some tax increases to satisfy the country’s internacional lenders, at a time of growing austerity fatigue. EU Ministers explored specific measures for a possible debt relief, which could be offered to Greece, ‘if necessary’, at the end of the bailout in 2018 if the country implements all the agreed reforms; the IMF however is insisting to give Greece eventually earlier a break on its future massive debt repayments. Euro-zone Finance Ministers will release €10,3 Billion in new funds for Greece in recognition of painful fiscal reforms pushed through by PM Tsipras, agreeing also to offer Athens debt relief in 2018 if that is necessary to meet agreed criteria on its payments burden, securing an agreement with the IMF to again joining the Euro-zone in funding the bailout for Greece. The Euro-zone granted Greece a short -term debt relief, while it’s still unclear if the IMF may join the Greek bailout Program of up to €86 Billion, continuing discussions how far Greece has advanced with reforms needed  for the release of the next tranches of loans. Greece received another credit lifeline worth $9,5 Billion advancing negotiations for a possible debt relief including finally also the IMF. Italy took over EU’s rotating Presidency for the second half of 2014, winning Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party/PD by nearly 41% of the vote at European elections, coming not only first, but first with a margin of almost 20 points, getting chief rival anti-Establishment Five Star Movement  /M5S of Beppe Grillo only 21,2%, becoming PD, winning more votes that any other party in the EU, the second largest force in the European Parliament, pledging Renzi that EU should focus more on growth, employment and reforms. Re-elected British PM Cameron promised an in-out EU referendum before ending 2017, warning President Obama Cameron of risks if Britain exits EU, signaling Goldman Sachs European banks would leave London ‘in very short order’ if Britain voted to exit EU, saying Standard & Poor’s Britain’s top credit rating is at risk because of the planned European Union referendum, lowering the outlook on the country’s AAA rating to negative from stable. Legal protection for London’s banks will be at the heart of UK’s EU reform plans, warning British Chancellor Osborne that a failure to change Lisbon treaty would prompt Britain to leave EU, saying shortly non-€uro-zone States will have to choose between joining the €uro or leaving EU, insisting ‘we don’t want to join the €uro’. EU leaders agreed on budget deal cutting ‘payment ceiling’ to €908,4 Billion, meeting austerity demands of British PM, reducing the higher ‘commitment ceiling’ to €960 Billion for the next seven-year budget 2014-2020. PM Cameron won a surprisingly solid victory in the British general election, leaving a stunning disappointment for the opposition Labour Party and its leader, Ed Miliband, who stepped down, gaining Conservatives in the 650-seat-House 331 seats, while Labour will hold 232 seats, accepting for five more years re-elected PM Cameron mandate to form first majority Conservative Government since John Major’s surprise victory in 1992, repeating Cameron a promise to hold a referendum on the membership in the EU. Moody’s downgraded UK’s AAA rating one notch to AA1. Greece’s international lenders discussed Greek financial requirements and extrafunding needs over €32,6 Billion, agreeing to reduce Greek debt by €40 Billion to 124% of GDP by 2020, putting together a package of steps, including debt buyback from private investors providing EFSF/ESM funding of about €10 Billion, return of profits of €11 Billion and also future accounting profits on ECB’s holding of Greek bonds, a reduction of lending rates on the first Greek aid package, an extension of repayment terms by 15 years of old and new bilateral and EFSF loans and deferring EFSF loans’ interest for 10 years. Greece’s leftist PM Tsipras said the EU was ‘sleepwalking towards a cliff’, expecting a debt relief for itself to be honored by end-2016 so that the economy could recover, considering that ‘Brexit’ will either awaken European leaderships or it will be the beginning of the end of the EU. After contracting the Greek economy by 0,2% in the 1stQ. 2016, it expanded by 0,2% in the 2ndQ. 2016, expecting the EU a full year decline of 0,5% or slightly better for 2016, seeing Greece’s economy rebounding by 2,7% in 2017. The German-led European fiscal pact was signed by 25 of the 27 EU nations, with the exception of Britain and Czech Republic. The EU Commission started a European project bond program to finance infrastructure projects involving a cooperation between private stake holders and EIB, EU and member States. The permanent €uro-zone bailout fund ESM entered officially into force October 8, 2012, after the German Constitutional Court ratified with conditions treaty to establish the ESM, saying Euro-zone rescue measures and transfers of competences to Brussels exhaust constitutional framework, remaining Germany’s liability capped at €190 Billion. Euro-nations will allow ESM to leverage its capital with the same techniques as its predecessor EFSF, which failed to attract investors, hoping to boost ESM lending capacity eventually to more than €2 Trillion to bailout if necessary Spain and Italy. The IMF increased its funding of currently around $380 Billion to address global financial needs, totaling new pledges from 37 nations $456 Billion, agreeing the €uro-group to boost the bloc’s bailout lending limit to €800 Billion. Spain asked for €uro-zone help to recapitalize its ailing banks agreeing European Finance Ministers to provide up to €100 Billion, approving EU Commission payment of a rescue package of €37 Billion to bailout troubled banks and of €2,5 Billion for Spain’s planned ‘bad bank’, granting EU Spain two extra years to meet deficit reduction target. €uro-zone rescue funds will be allowed to directly recapitalize banks, not adding to national debt level, once a single banking supervisory mechanism overseen by ECB has been set up, obtaining Italy commitment that the EFSF may purchase limited amounts of Government debt provided the country sticks to its current reform program, approving leaders a €120 Billion growth package, including proposed EIB €10 Billion capital increase. The ECB announced to expand its sovereign bond-buying program reaching actually €208,7 Billion, setting initially no limits on the amounts of bonds to be purchased with remaining maturities of one to three years to bring down the interest rates of crisis nations, confirming it will not treat itself as a preferred creditor, announcing January 2015 a more than Euro 1 Trillion QE program, saying it will buy Euro 60 Billion in sovereign debt from March 2015 through September 2016 to revive Euro-zone economy, warning analysts you cannot address structural reforms with monetary policy. There was a consensus about risk sharing, meaning only 20% of purchases will be the responsability of the ECB and 80% of national central banks, buying up sovereign bonds in proportion to their ‘capital key, which would have to absorb any potential losses should a Government of the Euro-zone default. After Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s also Fitch lowered French sovereign debt rating from ‘triple A’ to ‘AA+’, agreeing EU to give France two extra years to meet EU deficit target of 3%, asking France for still more time to cut budget deficit, rejected by the European Commission, cutting Standard & Poor’s France credit rating from AA+ to AA, saying Paris is not implementing needed reforms to repair economy, unveiling French President Hollande plans to find around €50 Billion of spending cuts between 2015-2017 to help narrow budget deficit, reducing corporate charges by €30 Billion as part of a ‘responsability pact’ with employers. Shifting the ECB away from austerity, France announced in September 2014 it will not reduce its budget deficit to within EU limits until 2017, finally accepted by the EU, growing deficit steadily to 4,7% of GDP in 2016, despite having already been granted extra time to do that by 2015, although it has been expected France would set an example and show budget discipline, seen as the anchor of confidence in the European Union. Ruling Socialist lost local French elections, naming Hollande, facing the lowest popularity levels, new PM, winning Le Pen’s anti-Euro National Front with 25% of the vote European Parliament elections, becoming the strongest party in France, pushing Hollande’s ruling Socialists with only 14% into third place, gaining French far-right first Senate seats, losing Hollande’s Socialist Party its majority in the Upper House to centre-right UMP. Fitch cut France’s credit grade one notch from AA+ to AA, saying Paris has fallen short in its efforts to trim fiscal deficit, lowering Standard & Poor’s, which already reduced France’s rating to AA, its expectations of a debt reduction of the country, lowering Moody’s France’s Government bond rating one notch to ‘Aa2’ with a stable outlook from ‘Aa1’ with a negative outlook, because of the country’s continuing weakness in the medium-term growth outlook. Liberal Emmanuel Macron has been elected as new President of France, succeeding Hollande, giving a vote of confidence to France and Europe, reducing uncertainties of the Euro-zone, seen as a good news to open trade and globalization. German Chancellor Merkel y President Macron agreed to draw up a road map to deeper EU integration, despite scepticism in Berlin over his proposed reforms. EU plans to implement the 11-nation financial transaction tax from 2014, failing its introduction EU-wide, opposed by Britain and Sweden. European leaders agreed on a supervision plan putting €uro-zone’s about 130 largest banks under the direct oversight of the ECB, which promised to put €uro-zone banks through a rigorous stress test before assuming supervisory role in November 2014, becoming French central banker Danièle Nouy €uro-zone’s new super-regulator. Italian Senate approved expulsion of Berlusconi from Parliament following his conviction for tax fraud, given for his year sentence community service. Florence mayor Renzi, who wants to remodel the left, became the new leader of Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party, voting the party in favor of urgently needed reforms, prompting Letta’s resignation accepted by President Napolitano, asking Renzi to form a new Government, who was sworn in as PM, promising to quickly enact economic reforms to get the country out of financial difficulties, announcing a sweeping fiscal reform, reducing income tax by a total of €10 Billion annually for 10 Million low and middle income workers from May 1, 2014, saying they would help economic recovery without breaking EU budget deficit limits. Standard & Poor’s downgraded Italy’s long-term credit rating due to economic weakness from BBB to BBB-, just one level above junk, with a stable outlook, expecting a growth of only o,2% for 2015, measure seen as a blow to PM Renzi, resigning President Napolitano January 14th, 2015, giving the country two weeks to find a successor, posing new risks for PM Renzi, whose candidate is constitutional court judge and one-time Christian Democratic Minister Sergio Mattarella, with a reputation of integrity, who finally was elected in a fourth vote by the Italian Parliament as new President, considered as a victory for PM Renzi. Italians voted no rejecting in a referendum on whether to streamline its baroque legislation, constitutional changes, dealing a blow to PM Renzi, who resigned, succeeded by Italy’s new PM Paolo Gentiloni, a loyalist from Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD). Italy’s Government adopted to support the banking sector starting with a bailout of Monte dei Paschi di Siena and should reduce contagion risks for other banks. Standard & Poor’s downgraded Finland from AAA to AA+, leaving only Germany and Luxembourg with the AAA rating in the Euro-zone, maintaining Moody’s and Fitch still Finland’s AAA rating. Chancellor Angela Merkel secured a big election win, beginning her third four-year term as German Chancellor after forming a ‘grand coalition’ with the Social Democrats.  Germany’s current account surplus has come under scrutinity from the U.S., the IMF and the EU, as it hits about 7% of GDP since 2007, expected to remain also in 2014 and 2015 above the EU 6% threshold, facing the ‘slow’ pace of domestic demand growth and the dependence on exports criticism, calling the U.S. Treasury on Germany to push domestic demand, importing more to boost other economies in Europe. German officials explain that the €uro-zone as a whole has a very small surplus and without the German surplus toward third countries the €uro-zone would have no surplus at all but a deficit; the U.S. deficit won’t be improved by an European one being added to it; the German economic growth has been driven mainly by domestic demand recently. EU leaders postponed a deeper discussion of the future of the Economic and Monetary Union/EMU because of no reform consensus between France and Germany and because of the more pressing migration issue, planning the European Commission to give more budget leeway to States that can prove to have suffered extraordinary costs to face the refugee crisis. German Chancellor Merkel, facing pressure from her conservative supporters as much as from opponents, called Europe vulnerable and the fate of the Euro ‘directly linked’ to resolving the migration crisis, while Berlin and Brussels continue to ask for more distribution across Europe. But Germany is counting on little help as leaders of EU co-founder France fear an anti-immigrant National Front and EU’s third largest economy Britain is consumed with its own debate on whether to just quit the European Union all together. Europe could face a wave of migration that may eclipse today’s refugee crisis if growing global economic troubles are getting worse. The European Union sealed a controversial deal with Turkey intended to halt illegal migration flows to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara, remaining doubts if it’s legal and workable as German Chancellor Merkel recognized, who was a driving force behind the agreement. Germany is seeking the creation of ‘safe zones’ to shelter refugees in Syria; keeping refugees on the Syrian side of the border would help Brussels and Ankara, which hosts 2,7 Million Syrian refugees, stem the flow of migrants to European shores, warning the U.N. against the plan unless there was a way to guarantee the refugees’ safety. The EU is intending to convince Britain with a new compromise reform package to accept a deal in a bid to prevent a ‘BREXIT’, saying PM Cameron he’ll hold the long-pledged referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union on June 23, 2016, recommending to remain in a reformed EU, warning U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to London that if Britain votes to leave the European Union it will only suffer disadvantages and could be waiting a decade for a free trade deal with the United States. British voted for EU exit, as 52% were in favor of leaving the European Union, claiming they want an independent Britain, resigning PM Cameron, plunging global markets, expected to slow further global growth. Theresa May will become British PM on July 20, 2016, succeeding Cameron, and is the new leader of the Conservative Party who will lead Britain’s negotiations to exit the European Union. British PM May will not hold a parliamentary vote on ‘BREXIT’ before formally triggering Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, as a majority of the 650 lawmakers had declared themselves ‘remainders’. According to opponents elected lawmakers should review the vote before the process is started, since the EU-referendum is not legally binding. ‘BREXIT’ will require a vote in Parliament, U.K. court rules, a decision which seems likely to slow, but not halt the process. Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that the Government must seek parliamentary approval before invoking the formal process for leaving the EU, a decision considered as a victory to parliamentary democracy; the ‘BREXIT’ process has been formally activated by British PM May on March 29, 2017. The EU-Parliament, which has the final say on any ‘BREXIT’ deal, adopted its ‘red lines’ for tough ‘BREXIT’ negotiations, insisting Britain first agree divorce terms before striking a new trade deal. EU27 adopted a united stance on ‘BREXIT’ and urge Britain to be more realistic in its approach, suggesting that tough negotiations are ahead. EU officials are preparing for talks on Britain’s exit from the bloc to begin on June 19, 2017, after the British election on June 8, 2017. Ruling British Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority forming PM May a minority government backed by a small Northern Irish party, seen fighting for survival, weakening her position for the coming ‘BREXIT’ negotiations. German officials said the plan was to agree a rollover of EU sanctions against Russia, which are due to expire at the end of January 2017, but there is concern that President-elect Republican Trump might move in the opposite direction after his inauguration on January 20, 2017, fearing the EU that Russia will use the time before Trump’s inauguration to launch new offensives in Syria and Ukraine. The EU agreed to extend Russia sanctions until mid-2017 in a signal to Trump, formally extending again its sanctions against Russia until January 31, 2018. European Parliament President Martin Schulz steps down, saying he would not stand for re-election as speaker of the EU legislature, returning to German politics, becoming the Social Democrats candidate to challenge Conservative Merkel’s bid for a fourth term as Chancellor. Italian conservative Antonio Tajani, a former EU commissioner and an ally of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, was elected president of the European Parliament, succeeding German Social Democrat Martin Schulz. The recent lack of a G20 rejection of protectionism evidenced the pressure of an increasingly protectionist United States under President Trump and may lead to a weakening of the World Trade Organization/WTO and a more aggressive use of protectionist policies, pledging two of the world’s strongest export nations, Germany and Japan, to keep global trade free and open defending globalization, supported also by China, saying globalization is unstoppable, marking eventually China’s rise and America’s decline, where growth under President Trump remains modest. After President Trump declined to endorse in Brussels NATO’s doctrine of collective defense, leaving a fragile Atlantic alliance, and resisted during the G7 summit in Sicily to agree to any deal that would see the U.S. remain in the Paris climate accord, and allowing only shaky agreement of free trade, a frustrated German Chancellor Merkel convinced that the times when we could completely rely on others are over to a certain extend, underlining her doubts about the reliability of the United States as an ally, said Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands, without the United States and Britain. President Trump announced that the U.S. will pull out of the Paris climate change agreement, rejecting and regretting international leaders his decision, reaffirming China and India their commitment to meeting their targets, responding France and Germany that the Paris agreement could not be renegotiated. In the eve of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Japan and the European Union signed the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement/JEEPA, a trade deal that has been four years in the making, wanting both sides to show they can fill the vacuum left by America’s withdrawal from its role as the world’s trade dealer. The European Union and Canada said they agreed to start a free trade agreement, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement/CETA, on September 21, 2017, paving the way for over 90% of the treaty to come into effect. Once dominant the United States found itself isolated at the G20 in Hamburg, as on issues like immigration, trade and climate change the Trump administration stands alone. According to the latest reports UK’s final Brexit divorce bill will reach more or less €50 Billion, which the British would have to pay to leave the EU. EU opened next Brexit phase allowing to begin crucial talks on a future relationship with Britain, after 27 EU-counterparts of PM May endorsed an interim deal on the terms of Britain’s divorce from the EU.

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