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Slovakia Approves Expanded Eurozone Bailout Fund


A nurse shouts slogans during a protest by hospital staff in Athens, October 13, 2011.

A nurse shouts slogans during a protest by hospital staff in Athens, October 13, 2011.

Slovakia has approved expansion of Europe's bailout fund for the continent's debt-ridden countries, becoming the 17th and final nation needed to complete action on the plan.

Slovak lawmakers Thursday committed their central European government to a $10 billion share of the $596 billion fund. The approval vote came just two days after Parliament had rejected the deal, toppling the government of Prime Minister Iveta Radicova.

Opposition lawmakers in Bratislava relented in the new approval vote after winning a commitment for a general election in March, two years ahead of when the Radicova government normally would have faced re-election.

All 17 nations that use the euro had to assent to the bigger fund for it to take effect. Initial Slovak opposition centered on the argument that one of Europe's poorest nations should not have to help bail out Greece and possibly other debt-ridden countries where workers enjoy better living standards.

The Greek debt crisis continued to play out across Europe on Thursday.

More Greek workers walked off their jobs in a heightened protest of the government's effort to impose austerity measures to satisfy international creditors.

Public transportation ground to a halt in Athens, while power company workers sought to block their employer from collecting a new property tax and lawyers refused to appear in court. The electric workers said the power company should not be used as a tax collector, with customers threatened with a power cutoff if they don't pay the tax.

The Greek protests are part of a string of demonstrations against the government-imposed austerity measures. The Greek Parliament is set to vote next week on the latest plan, one that would sharply cut the pay for 30,000 civil servants and eventually eliminate their jobs.

European officials voiced new worries about the effects of the continent's governmental debt crisis. It has roiled international stock markets for weeks, with share values falling again Thursday on London, Paris and Frankfurt exchanges.

The French finance ministry said banks heavily exposed to Greek debt might have to take losses of more than the 21 percent that was proposed in a July agreement calling for a second bailout for the Athens government. Some officials are suggesting that the banks' losses on Greek securities could reach 50 percent.

European financial officials have been pressing banks to increase their cash reserves so that they can withstand possible losses on government bonds they bought from Greece and other debt-ridden countries. But one major lender, Germany's Deutsche Bank, balked at that idea Thursday. The bank said it is the responsibility of governments to restore stability in their finances.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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