Slovenia next in line for eurozone bailout?

Sept. 13, 2013 at 6:27 PM
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BRUSSELS, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The eurozone faces more challenges in crisis-hit Greece and Spain and may have to bail out Slovenia next, officials say.

Slovenia's emerging liquidity problems made headlines in the eurozone less than a week before Germany's general election that will decide if Chancellor Angela Merkel retains her majority in Parliament.

Spain is facing its worst debit crisis and Greece has slashed more civil service perks, but while those problems are seen to be manageable, Slovenia's crisis is a new blip on the horizon.

European senior officials met Friday to discuss how to deal with Slovenia's gathering crisis, Germany's Handelsblatt business daily reported.

Slovenia's problem involves Nova Ljubljanska Banka, the country's largest bank. NLB has branches throughout Slovenia, Trieste in neighboring Italy and subsidiary banks elsewhere.

Recent downgrades by ratings agencies turned its stock into junk.

"The euro crisis has been on the back burner lately, but the problems facing banks in Slovenia are coming to a head," Der Spiegel online said. "Billions of euros in bad loans make the country a candidate for the next bailout," Europe's fifth in recent months.

Slovenia was wrongly seen elsewhere in the EU as a vibrant economy but a closer look revealed the country's rising living standards were propped up by bad credit, news media reported.

Slovenia was the first former Yugoslav republic to join NATO and the EU and touted by the EU as a model for other former socialist European democracies, Der Spiegel said.

The government of President Borut Pahor has already liquidated private banks Factor Banka and Probanka and put up $1.7 billion to guarantee the banks' liabilities. But the problems faced by Slovenian banking industry are much bigger than that rescue effort and in any case the Central Bank's move was seen as an attempt to prevent a run on banks.

Slovenian bad loan portfolio is said to exceed $9.3 billion.

The government in Ljubljana desperately wants to avoid becoming the fifth eurozone country to accept an international bailout of state finances, Der Spiegel said.

Four eurozone members that received bailouts -- Cyprus and Greece, Ireland and Portugal -- had to push through draconian budget cuts and tax hikes, Der Spiegel said.

Spain received EU emergency aid, not a full government bailout, though this may change. June data from the Central Bank showed Spain's public debt reached a record high of $1.3 trillion -- equal to about 92.2 percent of the country's economic output, the bank said.

Spanish austerity measures led to street protests with unemployment exceeding 26 percent.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wants to reduce liability toward reduced public spending, but the country's unemployment benefit payments make that a problem.

In Greece cash cuts have forced the government to withdraw perks from government staff.

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