Berlin sees ‘no need’ to boost EU firewall fund

Germany reiterated on Wednesday there was no need to pour more money into the eurozone's crisis-fighting war chest, a week ahead of a crunch EU summit likely to be dominated by the issue.

Berlin sees 'no need' to boost EU firewall fund
Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman told reporters in Berlin: “The position of the federal government has not changed. There is no need” to raise the volume of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

“We have agreed with our partners that we would look at the volume in March,” stressed the spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

Several top officials, including the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, have called for the eurozone to boost the capacity of the ESM, currently set at a maximum of €500 billion ($661 billion).

One way leaders are considering doing this is by adding cash left over in the €440-billion European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) that was due to be phased out in favour of the ESM in the summer of 2013.

However, Seibert noted that Italy and Spain are now able to borrow at much lower rates on the bond markets. Analysts were concerned that soaring bond yields in those major economies could prompt contagion throughout the eurozone.

“In this respect, we have a different priority as far as the ESM is concerned. We believe that we need to decide very soon in what form and in how many tranches we pay in capital to the ESM,” he said.

Germany was prepared to send a “strong signal” in this respect, he added.

Eurozone leaders will hold a special meeting on March 2 to discuss the currency’s debt firewall and elect a new eurozone boss, with EU president Herman Van Rompuy favoured to win the job.

Berlin has already indicated it might be ready to pay in its share of the €80 billion in hard cash in one lump sum, rather than in several tranches.


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German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

Russia's war in Ukraine is slowing down the economy and accelerating inflation in Germany, the Ifo Institute has claimed.

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

According to the Munich-based economics institute, inflation is expected to rise from 5.1 to 6.1 percent in March. This would be the steepest rise in consumer prices since 1982.

Over the past few months, consumers in Germany have already had to battle with huge hikes in energy costs, fuel prices and increases in the price of other everyday commodities.


With Russia and Ukraine representing major suppliers of wheat and grain, further price rises in the food market are also expected, putting an additional strain on tight incomes. 

At the same time, the ongoing conflict is set to put a dampener on the country’s annual growth forecasts. 

“We only expect growth of between 2.2 and 3.1 percent this year,” Ifo’s head of economic research Timo Wollmershäuser said on Wednesday. 

Due to the increase in the cost of living, consumers in Germany could lose around €6 billion in purchasing power by the end of March alone.

With public life in Germany returning to normal and manufacturers’ order books filling up, a significant rebound in the economy was expected this year. 

But the war “is dampening the economy through significantly higher commodity prices, sanctions, increasing supply bottlenecks for raw materials and intermediate products as well as increased economic uncertainty”, Wollmershäuser said.

Because of the current uncertainly, the Ifo Institute calculated two separate forecasts for the upcoming year.

In the optimistic scenario, the price of oil falls gradually from the current €101 per barrel to €82 by the end of the year, and the price of natural gas falls in parallel.

In the pessimistic scenario, the oil price rises to €140 per barrel by May and only then falls to €122 by the end of the year.

Energy costs have a particularly strong impact on private consumer spending.

They could rise between 3.7 and 5 percent, depending on the developments in Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and the German government’s ability to source its energy. 

On Wednesday, German media reported that the government was in the process of thrashing out an additional set of measures designed to support consumers with their rising energy costs.

The hotly debated measures are expected to be finalised on Wednesday evening and could include increased subsidies, a mobility allowance, a fuel rebate and a child bonus for families. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s proposals for future energy price relief

In one piece of positive news, the number of unemployed people in Germany should fall to below 2.3 million, according to the Ifo Institute.

However, short-time work, known as Kurzarbeit in German, is likely to increase significantly in the pessimistic scenario.