Por­tu­gal also needs fi­nan­cial aid

The Pak Banker - - I Nternational -

BRUS­SELS: It was Europe's 'an­nus hor­ri­bilis,' with game-chang­ing bailouts for Greece and Ire­land, more emer­gency res­cues seem­ingly guar­an­teed and tens of mil­lions of cit­i­zens ex­press­ing rage when the boom times turned to bust.

In May three peo­ple died at a bank in Athens af­ter ri­ot­ers threw fire­bombs in anger at the price to be paid by or­di­nary Greek peo­ple for their govern­ment's 110-bil­lion-euro in­ter­na­tional bailout.

Greek Pres­i­dent Caro­los Papou­lias warned that his coun­try stood on the "edge of the abyss." Three days later, on May 9, the 27 Euro­pean Union states pro­duced an ini­tial tril­lion-dol­lar de­fence against a ris­ing tide of pub­lic debt.

But by De­cem­ber the EU was forced to turn its emer­gency fund into a per­ma­nent, po­ten­tially lim­it­less com­mit- ment to res­cue part­ner gov­ern­ments who squan­der the euro's credit rat­ing.

That be­came un­avoid­able af­ter Ire­land had to call in 67.5 bil­lion eu­ros of in­ter­na­tional loans (and raid its pub­lic pen­sion fund) to plug a black hole in its bank­ing sys­tem.

Ex­perts pre­dict that Por­tu­gal at least will also need fi­nan­cial aid, with Spain and, all of a sud­den, rud­der­less Bel­gium like­wise firmly in spec­u­la­tors' sights go­ing into the New Year.

The 17-nation eu­ro­zone (Es­to­nia joins on Jan­uary 1) now faces rad­i­cal re­form if it is to com­pete with the world's new de­vel­op­ing giants for high­fly­ing in­ter­na­tional in­vest­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Alain La­mas­soure, chair­man of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment's bud­get com­mit­tee and a mem­ber of French Pres­i­dent Nicolas Sarkozy's gov­ern­ing party, the price could be EU in­te­gra­tion built up over decades.

"If the Union's fi­nan­cial pol­icy is de­cided in Ber­lin, its bud­getary pol­icy in London, its farm­ing pol­icy in Paris, its re­gional pol­icy in War­saw, its mil­i­tary pol­icy in Washington, its en­ergy sup­ply in Moscow, and its fu­ture nowhere, well, there's no more Europe," he said. Views on wealth, poverty, tax­a­tion, pol­i­tics and govern­ment changed ir­re­triev­ably in Europe's year of liv­ing dan­ger­ously-and or­di­nary peo­ple did not hide their anger.

Aus­ter­ity, from the Greek mean­ing bit­ter or harsh, when wine or fruit makes the tongue dry, was one of those words that en­tered the lex­i­con of ev­ery­day life. A Europe-wide day of protest at the end of Septem­ber gave fo­cus to many who sensed they were pay­ing for their masters' er­rors.

In Dublin, the gates of the Ir­ish par­lia­ment were rammed by a ce­ment-mixer truck with 'Toxic An­glo Bank' writ­ten on it, while in Brus­sels as many as 100,000 marched in protest.

The in­cluded a group of Ro­ma­nian po­lice of­fi­cers fac­ing salary cuts, pen­sion raids and com­pul­sory re­dun­dan­cies who trav­elled two days and nights on a bus from the Black Sea.

In a neatly un­pleas­ant irony, they ran smack into riot po­lice pro­tect­ing EU head­quar­ters, banks blamed for ex­ces­sive risk-tak­ing and de­signer stores that hid be­hind pri­vate se­cu­rity guards. The re­sent­ment only grew, when an­gry stu­dents clashed in De­cem­ber with po­lice out­side the 'mother of par­lia­ments' in London, where tu­ition fees are set to tre­ble and the coali­tion's deputy prime min­is­ter was la­belled a "liar and a snake." -Ap

PARIS: France's Tessa Worley clears a gate dur­ing the first run of the women's gi­ant slalom World Cup race in Sem­mer­ing De­cem­ber 28, 2010. -Reuters

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