EU finance ministers agree to bolster eurozone

EU finance ministers agree to bolster eurozone

EU finance ministers have agreed on steps to bolster the eurozone against future financial crises, striking a deal after negotiations that went through the night.

"We made it," Eurogroup President Mário Centeno said, describing the all-night talks as "a very intense and exhaustive negotiation."

The ministers will present the package to their leaders when they gather next week for the euro summit in Brussels.

The 27 ministers managed to grab what eurozone diplomats had long billed as “the low-hanging fruit” after almost two years of negotiations. That came in the shape of the eurozone’s bailout fund, known as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which will serve as the financial backstop to the EU’s authority for handling failing banks.

A draft version of the deal said the backstop could come into force earlier than its scheduled date of 2024, if eurozone banks managed to reduce their stockpile of bad loans in the coming years, POLITICO reported.

The ministers also managed to update the credit lines that the ESM can offer to countries in economic difficulty — but only under strict conditions.

Eurozone countries are also set to reform the so-called "collective action clauses" in their government bond contracts by 2022 that would make it easier to delay debt payments in the event of a country bailout.

The deal is set to make some reference to plans to develop a eurozone budget under the insistence from French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who clashed with the Netherlands over the need for a “stabilization function” in the final text.

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