EU agrees on permanent bailout fund

EU agrees on permanent bailout fund

The European Union leaders have agreed on the final terms of its permanent bailout fund to use it as a mean to rescue any member country that may face financial crisis in the future.

The decision came at a meeting of the EU heads of state in Brussels on Thursday, a Press TV correspondent reported.

The permanent bailout instrument will be put in place in 2013 to rescue, if necessary, the countries using the euro currency.

The leaders agreed that eurozone nations will start contributing to the fund in 2013 over the course of five years.

They also decided on the exact amount the fund will be able to loan.

“We will make sure that 500 billion euro is available with a tipple A status. we have agreed to ensure that the temporary facility as an effective lending capacity of 440 billion euro will be in place in June,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters.

The leaders also agreed to increase economic coordination in the eurozone in areas such as taxation and retirement policy.

Currently, the 17 nations that use the euro have different rules on those things, making it hard for them to sustain a common currency.

The meeting also led to an agreement for greater economic surveillance of the EU’s national economies.

The eurozone’s temporary rescue facility, which currently has 250 billion euros, will expire in 2013.

The temporary instrument was established last year to rescue two eurozone members – Greece and Ireland. Economists agree that having these bailout funds is important.

‘Portugal on brink of demanding bailout’

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates (R) with Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos

Portugal Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos says the country’s political crisis looks increasingly likely to give it a “big push” towards an international bailout.

Santos, who was attending a European Union finance ministers’ meeting on euro bailout plans in Brussels on Monday, said; “I see a consensus (between the government and opposition) as being further and further away.”

He described the opposition parties as having become entrenched in their criticism of Prime Minister Jose Socrates’ spending cuts, and reluctant to engage in a dialogue.

If opposition parties vote down a new set of measures designed to cut the budget deficit, the request for help from International Monetary Fund could come within the next few weeks. That vote takes place Wednesday, and Socrates has said he will quit if the new austerity package is rejected.

A failure to solve the political crisis would give “a big push to the country to fall into the arms of outside aid,” Teixeira dos Santos said.

Sarkozy’s popularity hits record low

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

A fresh opinion poll shows that more than seven out of ten people in France are unhappy with President Nicolas Sarkozy’s performance.

The survey carried out by the French Institute of Public Opinion showed only 29 percent of the poll respondents approved Sarkozy’s actions, Reuters reported on Saturday.

This is his worst approval rating since he took office in 2007. Sixty nine percent of the respondents said they disapproved his policies.

However, the drop in Sarkozy’s popularity is not a reason for the opposition to celebrate. Only 39 percent of the poll respondents thought that the opposition would have done a better job if it was in power.

The unemployment rate in France among youth aged 15 to 24 years reached 25 percent in the third quarter of 2010, well above the European average of 20 percent.

French president’s popularity fell to a record low amid criticism of his government’s handling of the crisis in Tunisia.

France’s opposition has criticized the government for being slow to drop support for ousted Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who fled his country on January 14.

US, Russia discuss joint missile system

Russian President Medvedev meets US vice President Biden

The US and Russia have held talks to discuss an initiative for a joint US-Russia missile system as well as ways to boost their economic ties.

In a meeting with Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, US vice President Joe Biden described the initiative as difficult, but a game changer if the two sides can get it done. “It will say to the world the two largest superpowers in the world are mutually developing the ability to have missile defenses,” said Biden.

America’s mingling ties with Russia prove that the reset in the US-Russia relations is real and that Russia wants to improve its economic relationship with the world community, Press TV’s reporter said.

For his part, Medvedev said all economic ties seriously fall behind the political ones. They are obstructed by the absence of Russian in the World Trade Organization.

Speaking to Russian business leaders, human rights activists, and opposition members, Vice President Biden made it clear that Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization is a top priority for Washington.

“The United States strongly supports Russia’s accession to the WTO. And we’re working with Russian negotiators in Geneva to move this process forward. And I think we’re making real progress,” said Biden.

Also on the agenda of the talks between Russian leaders and the US Vice President were the current events in the Middle East and the situation in Libya, as well as a possible deal to purchase eight airplanes from the Boeing corporation.

Political analyst Masha Lipman believes that Russia has a clear interest in improving its ties with the US, adding that after the war in Georgia and the economic crisis in the country, Russia figured that it requires foreign investment when it comes to developing modern technologies. Therefore, it has decided to repair its ties with the west, especially the United States.

Russia is the only major economy outside the WTO and has been in membership talks for the past 17 years.

Russia launches $650bn military plan

A russian aircraft carrier

Russia is planning to spend $650 billion on renewing its military equipments, including helicopters, submarines and warships until 2020.

The plan includes the purchase of 100 warships, 8 nuclear submarines, 600 jets and 1,000 helicopters.

Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin says the plan would largely extend the number of modern equipments adding the main task is the modernization of the armed forces. However, Popovkin says Russia is not interested in purchasing any foreign weapons or military hardware.

With only 10 percent of its armed forces considered as “modern,” the Kremlin needs to upgrade its decrepit military by recruiting and training new troops as the country continues to rely on its antiquated equipments and is currently short of manpower. A drive to improve the forces is said to have already begun.

The new S-500 anti-missile system is supposed to back the country’s missile defense in the near future. However, on the naval front Russia has failed to regain parity with the US as it has not spent on new aircraft carriers.

An independent military analyst Alexander Golts says “Much of Russia’s focus appeared mistakenly aimed at keeping nuclear parity with the United States at a time when the greatest threats to the country’s security were coming from North Korea and Central Asia.”

German minister gives up doctorate

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

Germany’s Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has given up his doctorate title after being accused of plagiarizing parts of his thesis.

Last week, Guttenberg announced he would give up his title temporarily until his university investigates the charges, state-run BBC reported.

However, after a closer inspection of his thesis, he has now given up his title permanently.

Guttenberg is said to have copied an article from a newspaper and another passage from a public lecture to his thesis, without identifying any sources while some were incorrectly attributed.

The defense minister is under fire from German media and members of opposition but has dismissed calls on him to resign.

Chancellor Angela Merkel says she stands by her defense minister.

“I appointed Guttenberg as minister of defense,” she told reporters. “I did not appoint him as an academic assistant or doctor. What is important to me is his work as minister of defense and he carries out these duties perfectly.”

Greece: EU, IMF exceeded their role

Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou

Greece has accused the European Union and International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) of exceeding their duties by calling for massive privatization to ease the country’s debt burden.

“The EU, European Central Bank and IMF representatives have gone beyond their role,” AFP quoted Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou as saying on Monday.

“They have acted in a unilateral manner on questions which are solely the Greek government’s responsibility,” he complained.

Papaconstantinou made the comments during a parliamentary debate on the 50-billion-euro privatization plan and other austerity measures which have caused much dismay in Greece.

The row broke out after the European Union and the IMF quarterly inspection of Greece’s efforts to recover from an economic crisis that pushed the EU member state on the verge of bankruptcy last year.

Nevertheless, Papaconstantinou did not rule out putting the 50-billion-euro privatization plan into practice, calling it ambitious but doable.

“In a country where we often leave our national assets unexploited, there needs to be discussion on how we can really make them employ them,” he said

One of the plans includes selling beaches to develop tourism and the tourism housing market.

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