GO
Loading...

The EU Looks for a Legal Way to Bail out Greece

Carolina Cimenti|CNBC Reporter
Friday, 5 Mar 2010 | 3:48 AM ET

The European Commission invited regulators, central banks, ratings agencies, fund managers and brokers for a technical meeting Friday in Brussels to discuss the fundamentals of the credit default swaps market.

The meeting comes before the EC's drafting of regulation for CDS and the derivative market because the Commission wants to investigate how the sovereign credit-default swaps affect Greece's current debt problems.

The EC says this is going to be a very informal and technical meeting. "This is normal, we always do this as a first step for regulation drafting", an EC spokesperson told CNBC.

The Commission is acting very quickly this time. It's been less than a month since reports about a former Greek government using currency swaps offered by Goldman Sachs and other 14 financial institutions to "hide" its debt rocked the financial world.

And while the Commission is trying to sell Friday's meeting as a simple technical briefing, analysts in Brussels believe it's a much bigger deal.

"We are talking about horribly complex financial instruments", Karel Lannoo, CEO of the Centre for European Policy Studies, said.

"And the European heads of state and the European Commission want to be sure that if they ever offer Greece a bail out, they won't be benefiting speculators. They will do whatever they can to avoid their money going to the wrong pockets", he added.

Therefore this meeting also has the aim to find out what are the exposures of European banks and hedge funds to Greek CDS, Lannoo believes. "The whole idea is to avoid a new cycle of speculation now," he explained.

Around the 'No Bailout Clause'

Some lawyers in Brussels also believe this meeting, apart from being the first step for regulation and the beginning of a war against "sovereign speculation", can also be the solution Europe is looking for to find a legal basis to bail out Greece in case it's needed.

"Greece still needs to raise 20 billion euros ($27.2 billion) by the end of the year. And if the EU decides to give debt guarantees to banks willing to buy Greek bonds, that will be a bailout and will firmly hurt the Lisbon Treaty", says a lawyer based in Brussels.

"The problem is that, once the EU doesn't respect its own rules, how can it keep fining companies for not respecting them either? It creates a huge authority problem for the Commission", he says.

This is because of the so-called "no bailout clause" of the Lisbon Treaty, which states that "the Union shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments".

The only way around this article would be another one, which says: "when a member-state is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control, the Council (...) may grant Union financial assistance to the member-state concerned".

If the European Commission manages to state that the CDS market amplified the Greek crisis beyond Greece's control, maybe then the EU as a whole will be able to give Greece a hand without loosing its authority.

Contact Europe: Economy

  • CNBC NEWSLETTERS

    Get the best of CNBC in your inbox

    › Learn More