G-20 ministers gather for tense talks

By Michael Mainville ,AFP

PARIS — Finance ministers from the G-20 bloc of leading economies pressed Europe to tackle its debt crisis to stave off a global downturn as they gathered in Paris for tense talks on Friday. Eurozone leaders were celebrating Slovakia’s delayed ratification of new powers to the currency union’s bailout fund, but there was no respite from the crisis, with Spain’s credit downgrade underlining the threat to banks. Group of 20 (G-20) ministers from outside the eurozone made it clear heading into the Paris meeting that they expected answers from Europe on how it is coming to grips with the debt crisis. Europe is scrambling to deal with fears of a default by Greece — and possibly other European nations — that could send shockwaves through the continent’s financial and banking system. European officials have already warned that banks could lose more than the 21 percent on Greek sovereign bonds already agreed on, and that public support will be a last resort for those who fail to build up core capital buffers. Japan, the United States and other nations have pressed for Europe to come up with a detailed plan to prevent the eurozone’s weakness from pushing the world back into widespread crisis and recession. “We have heard a lot of promises from eurozone countries but actions to date have fallen short of what is needed,” Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said before departing for Paris. “It is critical that Europe deliver on a comprehensive package of measures that will address the sovereign debt.” “Clear and decisive action is critical to restoring confidence,” he said.

South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said Europe had been “behind the curve” in dealing with its financial crisis and that solutions were needed in time for the summit of G-20 leaders on Nov. 3 to 4 in Cannes. “We are looking for assurances from our European colleagues that by the time the summit of the G-20 takes place, we will have a clear message that will create confidence that Europeans are dealing with these issues and that the world can begin to stabilize itself,” he said.