The eurozone launches its much-awaited €500-billion rescue fund late on Monday, a positive backdrop for finance ministers trying to settle Greece’s tortuous debt bailout and as Spain agonises over seeking a rescue.
Finance ministers of the 17-state euro block gather just 10 days before the European Union’s (EU’s) 27 leaders meet in Brussels, with market calm giving them some breathing room after months of turmoil and anxiety over Spain’s future.
The meeting will see the formal launch and inaugural board meeting of the European Stability Mechanism, a key step forward in the eurozone’s defences against the debt crisis which has helped push the bloc back into recession.
The fund is not yet operational, however.
Ministers will sign legal papers instituting the fund, which was initially due to enter service on July 1 but was delayed by a challenge at the German Constitutional Court The ESM will have €200 billion ($260 billion) of working funds once the first instalments of government capital are paid in by the end of the month, on top of about another €150 billion still available in a temporary fund, the European Financial Stability Facility.
“It is another very important instrument with an important funding capacity comparable only with the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.