EURO CRISIS

EU announces a 130-billion growth package to counter austerity impact

Spain, Italy, France and Germany agree to take a stimulus plan to next week’s summit

In a first sign that the era of austerity as the sole prescription for the euro zone’s ills is coming to an end, the leaders of Spain, Italy, France and Germany gathered in Rome on Friday to announce that one percent of EU gross domestic product (GDP), or around 130 billion euros, will be earmarked for a stimulus package.

“The goal is to relaunch growth and create jobs,” Italian prime Minister Mario Monti said. Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, underscored the common will for “more Europe, for a banking, economic, fiscal and political union” given that the euro is an “irreversible” project.

Market pressure on Spain and Italy’s sovereign debt has eased up in recent days due to expectations that European leaders will adopt stabilizing measures at a crucial summit next week. But analysts warn that if a credible deal is not produced, the risk premiums of both Mediterranean countries will quickly shoot up again beyond sustainable levels.

The agenda for Friday’s meeting included talks on how to advance towards a fiscal and banking union, and it may also have defined remaining questions regarding the EU rescue package for Spain’s banking sector.

Rajoy said he felt “enormously happy” on leaving the meeting in a former Medici palace after hearing, in French President François Hollande’s words, that EU leaders would “use all the mechanisms necessary to guarantee the euro zone’s stability.” However, Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined German opposition to Spanish banks receiving loans directly from the EU rescue mechanism. “There has to be a guarantor and the guarantor is the Spanish state [which can] tell its banks what they must change,” she said.

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