ECONOMY

In Brief

Think tanks: Eurozone plan goes against Maastricht Treaty BERLIN (Reuters) – A planned eurozone aid package for Greece goes against the spirit of the Maastricht Treaty and the International Monetary Fund should take a leading role in any rescue, top European economic institutes said yesterday. The eight think tanks said the IMF would be more credible than an EU institution in demanding repayment of financial aid if conditions were not fulfilled and the IMF also had more experience in bailout packages. Eurozone nations have agreed to the terms of emergency loans for Greece if the debt-ridden country is unable to finance itself on the market. Eurozone states would supply two-thirds of the loans and the IMF would provide the remainder. «Such aid contravenes the spirit of the Maastricht Treaty,» the institutes wrote in a twice-yearly report to the German government. «To ensure the currency union is not further damaged, the institutes believe it is crucial for the IMF to be responsible for the supervision of the conditions laid out… and for the decision about freeing up further tranches [of aid].» To avoid a loss of confidence in the entire eurozone, any mechanism that regularly granted countries aid would be counterproductive, they said. Bulgarian C/A deficit shrinks on plunging imports SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s current account deficit shrank to 0.5 percent of annual gross domestic product in the first two months of 2010 from 2.6 percent in the same period a year ago due to plunging imports. The deficit, which has made the European Union member dependent on foreign cash flows and vulnerable to external risks, melted to 155.3 million euros ($211.8 million) from 864.9 million a year ago, the country’s central bank said yesterday. The current account registered a surplus for February of 87.9 million euros, down from a deficit of 312.3 million a year ago. The economic downturn hit the Balkan country hard, curbing domestic demand. In February, imports dropped 8.5 percent to 2.2 billion euros on an annual basis, the data showed. Exports, however, rose 10.4 percent year-on-year to 1.9 million euros, which the Finance Ministry says was a sign of recovery. Legal challenge Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday he was not worried about a potential legal challenge to the European Union’s aid package to Greece. On Wednesday, a German economist threatened to legally challenge the aid deal because he said it broke EU rules by offering cash at below market rates. But Juncker told Reuters he did not expect problems with Germany’s position on the deal. «I’m not really concerned,» he said on arriving in Madrid for meetings of eurozone finance ministers and central bankers. (Reuters) Branch improvements Emporiki Bank, majority-owned by France’s Credit Agricole, has completed the upgrade of 20 branches in its Greek network as part of plans to boost operations in the region. The bank plans to adopt a new operations model for 50 branches in Greece by the end of 2010, out of the 340 in the country. Changes being adopted target improved efficiency and synergies from the network, in line with the retail banking model adopted by Credit Agricole. Emporiki Bank is Greece’s sixth-largest lender based on market capitalization with a value of some 1.9 billion euros.