Merkel to seek Bundestag support for bolstering European bailout fund

GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek backing from German lawmakers to bolster the euro bailout fund on the same day she heads to a European summit as banks joust with leaders over the size of losses they take on Greek bonds.

Leveraging the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and how far to cut Greece’s debt load emerged as two main hurdles in the way of a deal to combat the debt crisis at tomorrow’s European Union summit, the second in four days. On the markets, the euro weakened as Merkel’s party proposed a full vote in parliament, also on October 26.

“We are still missing some important parts of the complex puzzle that is how to solve Europe’s debt crisis,” Kathleen Brooks, research director at Forex.com in London, said yesterday.

“The biggest challenge for the German Chancellor over the next 48 hours is to persuade the German Bundestag to agree to the changes to the EFSF.”

Germany, as the biggest contributor to eurozone bailouts, is once more the fulcrum of the deliberations to stamp out the crisis that emerged two years ago in Greece. Under the terms of an agreement struck with Merkel’s coalition, she must seek parliamentary backing for any changes to the rescue fund that carry budget implications for Europe’s biggest economy.

“This is new territory,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, said when asked whether parliament could dictate Merkel’s stance at the next summit.

Lawmakers will discuss two models for leveraging the EFSF, neither of which is “mutually exclusive”, Seibert said.

With the first of two crisis summits in Brussels ending yesterday, attention is shifting back to Berlin as the blueprint is completed on how to aid banks and strengthening the International Monetary Fund’s role.

European leaders are looking at bank recapitalisations of about €100 billion while working on proposals to leverage the EFSF to increase its firepower to more than €1 trillion, Juergen Trittin, co-leader of Germany’s opposition Greens Party, said after he was briefed by Merkel in Berlin. Leaders are urging financial institutions to accept losses of between 50% and 60% on their Greek debt, he said.

“It seems that progress has been made over the weekend to get to a ‘comprehensive package’, but it is unlikely to be a bold one,” said Juergen Michels, chief euro-area economist at Citigroup in London. “There remain many open questions.”

Financial companies, represented by the Institute of International Finance, proposed a loss of 40% on Greek debt, said a person with knowledge of the discussions, who asked not to be identified because talks are confidential. The EU is calling on investors to forfeit as much as 60%, making a compromise at 50% possible, the source said.

Greece’s deteriorating finances have also narrowed Europe’s room for manoeuvre in battling the contagion, which threatens to pitch the country into default, rattle the banking system, infect Spain and Italy and tip the world economy into recession.

The German Bundestag won new powers over budgetary matters after complaints by coalition lawmakers that they were being steamrolled into accepting decisions made in Brussels affecting the German budget. They were bolstered by a September 7 decision by the Federal Constitutional Court that upheld Germany’s participation inEurope’s bailout fund so long as the Bundestag maintained its authority over Germany’s purse strings. Merkel’s coalition has 22 members of the 41-lawmaker budget committee.

The committee already set conditions on last Friday for negotiations. The bailout fund can’t receive a banking license or European Central Bank funding and the current €440bn volume and Germany’s €211bn contribution can’t be increased, the panel said.

European leaders yesterday’s ruled out tapping the ECB’s balance sheet to boost the rescue fund.

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