ECONOMY

Lack of EU clarity harms Greece

The European Union should be more specific about how it would support Greece in a crisis, to help lower the highly indebted country’s borrowing costs now, Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said yesterday. In an interview with Reuters, he also said that while Greece respected the eurozone’s principle of dealing with fiscal problems internally, it did not rule out seeking International Monetary Fund assistance but was not actively pursuing it. If the EU was to provide a clearer indication of the mechanism that might be used in an emergency to help Greece, bond spreads would fall and a rescue would not be needed, Papaconstantinou said. «The best deterrent is the one that you place on the table for all to see and you never have to use. That’s what the markets are looking for,» he said. Greece needs to borrow or refinance some 53 billion euros this year, more than 20 billion of it just in April and May. The premium investors demand to hold Greek government bonds rose yesterday on market talk that the government is preparing to auction 3-5 billion euros of 10-year bonds next week. The interest rate difference between the Greek 10-year bond and its German equivalent grew to 345 basis points yesterday from 320 on Wednesday, indicating that any attempt by the Greek government to borrow money next week would come at a hefty premium. Senior Finance Ministry sources said yesterday the government has yet to make any final decision as to whether it is planning to turn to capital markets next week. Credit default swaps on Greek government debt climbed 10.5 basis points to 361.5, according to CMA DataVision prices. Meanwhile, Spain drew a stampede of demand for a government bond issue yesterday and Portugal’s borrowing cost fell in signs that market fears of sovereign risk in the eurozone may be easing, at least for the time being.