Belgium’s Vanackere Says Euro Area Hits Turning Point in Crisis

Belgian Finance Minister Steven Vanackere said the euro area has begun to emerge from the three-year-long debt crisis, crediting political plans for more financial integration and the European Central Bank’s pledge to limit government borrowing costs.

Vanackere said European leaders’ decision last June to seek a banking union and ECB President Mario Draghi’s announcement in September of a bond-buying program for euro nations willing to sign up to budget-austerity conditions marked a “turning point.” He said “in-depth structural” changes by European countries to bolster the economy have further improved the outlook.

“I am convinced that the signs of a turnaround are unmistakably there,” Vanackere told a conference of the European People’s Party this evening in Brussels. “There are good hopes.”

Vanackere is part of a growing chorus of European politicians who allege that the 17-nation euro area has deterred the threat of a breakup triggered by Greece in late 2009 through a combination of rescue packages, budget tightening, more centralized oversight of national budgets and banks and the possibility of unlimited ECB intervention in the sovereign-bond market. Vanackere said the part played by the ECB alone had made a “tremendous change.”

Draghi’s announcement five months ago of a bond-buying program followed 486 billion euros ($654 billion) in international commitments for Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain’s banking system since 2010 to soothe markets and has left governments with the task of agreeing on any rescue terms as well as on centralized bank supervision led by the ECB.

Vanackere warned against complacency, signaling that the fight against unemployment should be the euro area’s priority.

“Let’s not pretend that the crisis is over,” he said. “The crisis still is dramatically real. And it’s about longer-than-ever queues of job seekers.”

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