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Bailout fund would calm, not heal: EU

The European Commission [EU] on Wednesday dubbed an idea to use eurozone rescue funding to lower high borrowing costs for Spain and Italy via a bond buyback, as ‘financial paracetamol'.

Amadeu Altafaj, spokesman for the EU's eurozone commissioner Olli Rehn, said using the European Financial Stability Facility - or its successor, the incoming European Stability Mechanism - to tame runaway bond yields and spreads ‘could be useful to calm markets’.

The idea, according to some reports from G20 talks in Mexico, is to use hundreds of billions of euros available in the EU financial firewall to buy debt directly from governments struggling to obtain competitive rates on money markets. This would force down the risk premium.

However, Altafaj told a regular Commission news conference that this would likely only work ‘for a certain time’ and would not resolve root tensions.

‘It would be financial paracetamol,’ he said. ‘It could soothe tension, pain and malaise... but it does not heal the root causes, the structural problems of the economies of Italy, Spain and others. It is not a substitute for structural and economic reforms that can boost confidence.’

Italian Premier Mario Monti said at the close of the G20 summit in Mexico that European Union leaders were considering the use of rescue funds as a mechanism to bring down borrowing costs.

‘Italy has floated an idea which deserves consideration, we'll speak about it at Rome,’ French President Francois Hollande said, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Talks between the ‘Big Four’ of Germany, France, Italy and Spain in Rome on Friday are designed to prepare a full summit of EU leaders in Brussels at the end of next week.
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