The ECB is expected to buy Spanish and Italian debt
Ralitsa Kovacheva, 8 August 2011
The European Central Bank, together with the leaders of the seven leading global economies, are conducting an unprecedented campaign in a bid to calm financial markets. Beside the instability of the euro area and increased pressure on Italy and Spain, here came the decision of the Standard & Poor's rating agency to lower US's credit rating from AAA to AA+. To prevent dramatic market reactions on Monday morning, the G7 leaders and separately - France and Germany, as well as the European Central Bank - issued separate statementson Sunday evening, expressing their willingness to take decisive actions to prevent further spread of the debt crisis.
Last week European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called on the eurozone countries to accelerate the adoption at national level of the decisions taken at the euro area summit on 21 July, so that they could enter into force as soon as possible. The leaders' attempt to demonstrate determination and explicitness has been blurred in time because of the August holidays of national parliaments.
Although the statement of Mr Barroso has provoked some critical comments, on Sunday, August 7, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy backed his call. In a joint statement, France and Germany "reiterate their commitment to fully implement the decisions" of the meeting of 21 July and "in particular, they stress the importance that parliamentary approval will be obtained swiftly by the end of September in their two countries”. The two leaders welcomed the consolidation measures announced by Italy and Spain, and especially the Italian government's intention to achieve a balanced budget a year earlier than previously envisaged.
In the same vain was also the statement of the European Central Bank after the conference call between the members of the Governing Council of the institution. "The ECB will actively implement its Securities Markets Programme," the statement reads. This was interpreted by analysts as a clear intention of the Bank to begin massively buying Italian and Spanish government bonds. The ECB tried to help Greece, Ireland and Portugal in a similar way as it bought their debt worth 80 billion euros.
According to the decisions of the euro area summit, the rescue fund (EFSF) must obtain similar functions, after the changes agreed by the member states come into force. Based on an ECB analysis, showing that there is a risk to the financial stability of the euro area as a whole, the Fund will be allowed to buy debt on secondary markets - an option that was strongly opposed by some Member States until recently.
The G7 leaders (the Group of Seven leading economies) also issued a statement which declared their readiness to address the challenges on their fiscal deficits, debt and growth and in turn welcomed the commitments made by France and Germany on the one hand and by the ECB on the other. "We are committed to taking co-ordinated action where needed, to ensuring liquidity, and to supporting financial market functioning, financial stability and economic growth," the statement of the G7 stresses.