Germany calls for European rating agencies after S&P; downgrade

January 16th, 2012 - 4:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Athens, Jan 16 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Europe needs to create independent credit rating agencies and stop relying solely on leading US-based agencies, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said during his visit to Greece late Sunday in the wake of S&P;’s mass European downgrade last week.

“It is time for Europe to prove capable of facing up to the credit ratings agencies,” Westerwelle said.

The markets across Europe are barely given time to breathe before the rating agencies’ decisions plunge them back into uncertainty, he said.

“It is very important we give the agreements and pacts (reached by EU member states) a realistic chance (to work). This is the only way we can bring trust back into the markets,” Westerwelle said.

Standard & Poor’s downgraded nine eurozone countries late Friday, insisting the region’s leaders were not doing enough to solve their debt crises.

S&P; stripped France and Austria of their top AAA ranking to AA+, in a move likely to complicate the currency union’s efforts to endure the worsening debt crisis. Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia also suffered a one-notch downgrade, while the ratings of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus were cut by two levels.

“… rating actions are primarily driven by our assessment that the policy initiatives that have been taken by European policymakers in recent weeks may be insufficient to fully address ongoing systemic stresses in the eurozone,” the agency said on its website.

Germany, by far the strongest economy in Europe and main contributor to Europe’s bailout fund for troubled economies, as well as Finland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg maintained their triple-A ratings.

A deal reached by the EU countries during the Dec 9 summit in Brussels, which provides for the creation of a fiscal union to deepen the integration of national budgets, “has not produced a breakthrough of sufficient size and scope to fully address the eurozone’s financial problems”, the agency said.

S&P;, Moody’s and Fitch, the world’s three leading credit rating agencies, are private companies headquartered in the US. Ratings from Moody’s and S&P; are considered as mandatory for large debt issuers.

European stocks traded lower Monday in the wake of S&P;’s decision as investors were unnerved by the worsening prospects of the eurozone’s economies and their ability to tackle their sovereign debt crisis.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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