Europe

Ukraine's presidential election yesterday—which appears headed to a second round run-off on Feb. 7 between the two leading candidates, Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko—unfolds against the background of financial ruin, The Wall Street Journal reported in an opinion piece. It has long been obvious that the defeat of the incumbent, Viktor Yushchenko, who has painted himself into the anti-Russian nationalist corner, would produce a political rapprochement between Ukraine and Russia. Mr. Yanukovych is committed to non-alignment (meaning no application for NATO membership) while Ms.
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Worries over Greece's swelling debt will dominate two days of talks between European Union finance ministers that started Monday, as the euro fell to a ten-day low against the dollar, The Canadian Press reported. Greece is trying to assure financial markets - and other EU governments - that it will reduce debt with a program of deep spending cuts and higher taxes. It is aiming to bring its massive deficit down to the EU limits intended to underpin the stability of the euro.
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The state’s main banks have pressed developers to take advantage of an uplift in the UK property market to sell land and investment assets to recoup loans before they are sold to the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) over the coming months, The Irish Times reported. A number of developers have been encouraged to put land in the UK, including some prime sites in London, on the market as the banks believe they will receive a better deal than if they were to sell the loans at a discount to Nama.
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European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said the ECB isn't willing to grant Greece special treatment to alleviate the country's economic turmoil even as Athens's latest plan to deal with the crisis was met with skepticism by investors, The Wall Street Journal reported. "No government or state can expect from us any special treatment," Mr. Trichet said following the European Central Bank's monthly meeting. The comments, which came as the ECB kept its key lending rate unchanged at 1%, helped push the cost of insuring Greek sovereign debt against default to a record.
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Icelandic pleas for further aid met with a cool response on Thursday as the IMF suggested its hands may be tied by an Anglo-Dutch debt impasse and Sweden signalled no immediate funds were on the way, Reuters reported. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said a solution for the so-called Icesave issue was not a condition for aid but the Fund still had to listen if members raised issues. "If a lot of members think we have to hold on, we have to hold on," Strauss-Kahn told journalists in Washington.
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Germany's Blue Wings is looking for funds following a dispute with shareholder Alexander Lebedev, as financial problems led regulators to ban the Duesseldorf-based airline from flying, Reuters reported. The carrier halted flights earlier on Wednesday, mere hours before German aviation authorities revoked its operating license for the time being, according to a spokesman for the company. Blue Wings' financial woes, which have left its staff without pay since mid-November, stem from a lack of financing from shareholders, the spokesman said.
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Auto makers are bracing for a brutal 2010 in Europe, as economic troubles and the end of government scrappage programs threaten to drag down sales, The Wall Street Journal reported. High unemployment and the inability of many consumers to access credit are keeping customers out of showrooms. At the same time, sales are likely to be further depressed in the absence of government incentive programs that last year encouraged consumers to trade in old vehicles for new ones.
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Raffaella Prestinoni's sweaters business in Varese used to be one of the millions of family-run companies anchoring the European economy. Today, companies such as hers threaten to dent the Continent's recovery, The Wall Street Journal reported. Heavily dependent upon hard-to-get bank loans and shut out of Europe's embryonic corporate-bond market, small and medium businesses here have been hit hard. The result: widespread insolvencies, job losses and a cloud over Europe's growth prospects in 2010. As important as small businesses are to the U.S.
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Greece was condemned by the European Commission on Tuesday for falsifying data about its public finances and allowing political pressures to obstruct the collection of accurate statistics, the Financial Times reported. In a damning report published as the eurozone grapples with its worst financial crisis since the euro’s launch in 1999, the Commission said figures from Greece’s were so unreliable that its budget deficit and public debt might be even higher than government had claimed last October.
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