Rajoy Battles ECB for Loans; Monti Appeals for EU Action

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy,
Mariano Rajoy, Spain's prime minister. Photographer: Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg

Spain attacked Germany for what it termed fostering the financial crisis, saying the biggest European economy has benefited from the single currency as its banks profiteered by lending to the fast-growing South.

“It’s true that some countries including Spain lived beyond our means but that’s because banks from the core decided to make lots of money investing here,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Onda Cero radio radio. If Germany “throws one country to the wolves that will affect everyone, so they should take a more long-term view.”

Rifts are deepening with Greek elections on June 17 risking the first exit from the single currency as voters buckle under the continent’s most severe austerity program. Italy’s bond yields soared at an auction today and German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected “seemingly easy” solutions to the financial turmoil, pushing back against calls by France, Spain and Italy.

Garcia-Margallo said Germany’s export-led economic boom was powered by the monetary union that depresses their currency. He commented a day after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he would “battle” the European Central Bank for cheap loans to avoid a sovereign bailout.

Rajoy yesterday called for the ECB to buy Spanish government debt investors are dumping to ease the government’s interest costs in a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Rajoy’s Battle

“That is the battle we have to wage in Europe,” Rajoy told Parliament in Madrid. “I am waging it.”

“What we’re seeing now says much about the deepening cracks in Europe’s political financial and economic edifice,” Nicholas Spiro, managing director at Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London, said in a telephone interview.

The EU and the ECB have already lent or pledged the equivalent of about 40 percent of Spain’s annual economic output to the state and country’s financial institutions. Spanish lenders took a record 287.8 billion euros from the central bank in May, which many channeled into government debt to support the sovereign.

The government agreed June 9 to borrow another 100 billion euros from the EU to recapitalize the banks. The ECB likely bought as much as 40 billion euros of Spanish securities in its government-bond buying program, according to Marco Valli, chief Euro zone economist at UniCredit SpA in Milan.

Surging Yields

The yield on Spain’s 10-year debt rose to a euro-era record of 6.998 percent today while Italy’s benchmark bond yields increased to 6.29 percent. The Spanish rate, which has jumped 78 basis points since the bailout request, rose for a fifth day after Moody’s Investors Service cut Spain’s credit rating to one step above junk late yesterday and said a further downgrade may follow.

French President Francois Hollande, who is pushing back against the austerity measures advocated by Germany, will meet Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in Rome today. Monti called for a “credible package of growth measures” yesterday as he said Europe faces a “particularly intense and crucial phase.”

The increasingly fractious tone of relations is adding to doubts that European leaders will be able to plot a route out of the crisis when they meet in Brussels on June 28. The bank rescue will probably fail to avert a full sovereign bailout out for Spain, and Monti may have to follow Rajoy in seeking aid within months, James Nixon, chief European economist at Societe Generale SA in London said.

Greek Vote

Any measures may come too late for Greeks who will vote June 17 on whether to back Alexis Tsipras, who wants to scrap the austerity plan dictated by the EU and the International Monetary Fund as a condition of its bailout. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, who supports the bailout conditions, said backing Tsipras will see Greece thrown out of the euro.

“We have no sense that European partners will follow this tactic of blackmail heard from some quarters and stop funding,” Tsipras, whose Syriza party is vying for first place in pre-election polls, said in an interview in Athens yesterday with Bloomberg Television. “Something like that would be catastrophic not only for Greece but for the entire euro area.”