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Euro zone crisis


  • Hollande party split on French deficit goal

    French President Francois Hollande faced divisions in his party on Tuesday over a 2013 budget crucial to his credibility with euro zone partners, after top Socialists publicly questioned next year's deficit target.

    The split over the cut in the budget shortfall is the latest political embarrassment for Hollande just as surveys show his popularity ratings have nose-dived since his election on a perception he is not doing enough to kick-start the economy and tackle unemployment at 13-year highs.

    Read on
  • GREECE: A small group of disabled citizens displays its disapproval of austerity cuts by heckling Troika representatives at the Ministry of Labour on October 2. The protest follows similar action on Monday.

    Credit : Newsbeast.gr

  • GREECE: Report from local outlet Newsbeast:

    With boos at troikanous answer yesterday Greeks. Today, after yesterday’s jeering them out of the Treasury, about twenty people from Disabled Struggle Coordination Committee denounced the Troika representatives outside the Ministry of Labour on the Stage. however, the chief, Paul Thomsen, arrived some time in the ministry later as it had been known that there are protesters outside. So the security officers tried to put him into the ministry avoiding protestors. Thus, in going from gallery to gallery not to confront the demonstrators. Earlier, the U.S. ambassador visited the building phase to express its support for the Greek government and the belief that our country will not come off the euro area.

  • Austria dislikes the idea of creating a separate budget for euro zone countries before it is clear what such a plan aims to achieve, the finance ministry says.

    Reuters' Michael Shields sends us this quote from a ministry spokeswoman: "The finance ministry takes a sceptical view of a central budget. Before talking about a central budget one would have to decide which areas one wants to mutualise at all. Speaking about a budget without knowing what for will certainly not lead to the desired results."
  • Global economic outlook weakens slightly: OECD

    The outlook for the world's major economies including the United States and Germany has deteriorated slightly, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said on Monday.

    In its latest monthly report on the global economy, the Paris-based think-tank said its composite leading indicator (CLI) for the 33-nation OECD area fell to 100.1 in August from 100.2 in July, pointing to an ongoing trend of weakening growth.

    The CLI for the euro area fell to 99.4 from 99.5, while the Group of Seven major nations - France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States - slipped by one point to 100.2.
  • Lithuania to reject austerity, quick euro entry in vote

    Austerity-weary Lithuanians are set to eject the country's ruling centre-right coalition in an election this month, a move likely to delay the moment the small European Union member state joins the euro and to ease ties with Russia.

    However, the new government, which opinion polls show is likely to be a broad coalition led by the centre-left Social Democrats, is expected to largely stick to austerity as the Baltic state cannot afford to be frozen out of debt markets.

    Read on
  • A pensioner pushes a riot policeman during scuffles between protesting pensioners and police near the EU offices October 8, 2012. About 500 pensioners participated in an anti-austerity march at the EU offices in central Athens a day before German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Greece. About 6,000 policemen will be deployed in the capital for her 6-hour visit, turning the city centre into a no-go zone for protest marches planned by labour unions and opposition parties. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

  • Pensioners shout slogans against the EU and the government during a march towards the EU offices in central Athens October 8, 2012. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

  • Germany says Merkel visit to Athens does not mean aid for Greece

    German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Sunday that Chancellor Angela Merkel's trip to Greece this week did not mean the debt-stricken country would receive the next tranche of aid from its bailout.

    "The chancellor will not discuss with Greece a matter which the troika must report on first," Schaeuble told broadcaster ZDF in an interview, referring to the "troika" of the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank.

    Read on
  • Spanish industry workers take part in a protest against government austerity measures in Madrid October 8, 2012. Spain's central bank chief undercut the government's proposed 2013 budget on October 4, saying it was based on over-rosy forecasts for economic growth and tax revenue, as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy weighs when to seek an international bailout. The banner reads " Don't hit me , I am a college .... from the industry sector ". REUTERS/Juan Medina

  • Greece's Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras (L) talks with Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde (R) at a eurozone finance ministers meeting in Luxembourg October 8, 2012. Euro zone finance ministers will launch their 500 billion euro permanent bailout fund on Monday, putting in place a major defence against the debt crisis that now threatens Spain. [REUTERS/Yves Herman]


  • Video: Demonstrators march on Patras in protest of Angela Merkel's visit to Greece
  • A banner bearing the colours of the German flag is placed in front of the Greek parliament by anti-austerity protesters in Athens October 8, 2012. The banner reads "Angela don't cry", in reference to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. About 6,000 policemen will be deployed in the capital for her six hour visit, turning the city centre into a no-go zone for protest marches planned by labour unions and opposition parties. [REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis]

  • IMF warns global economic slowdown deepens, prods U.S., Europe

    The IMF said the global economic slowdown is worsening as it cut its growth forecasts for the second time since April and warned U.S. and European policymakers that failure to fix their economic ills would prolong the slump.

    Global growth in advanced economies is too weak to bring down unemployment and what little momentum exists is coming primarily from central banks, the International Monetary Fund said in its World Economic Outlook, released ahead of its twice-yearly meeting, which will be held in Tokyo later this week.

    "A key issue is whether the global economy is just hitting another bout of turbulence in what was always expected to be a slow and bumpy recovery or whether the current slowdown has a more lasting component," it said.

    "The answer depends on whether European and U.S. policymakers deal proactively with their major short-term economic challenges."

    Read on
  • The IMF has also said that it expects Spain to miss its deficit targets in 2012 and 2013.

    Reuters' Julien Toyer reports:

    Spain will miss its deficit targets in 2012 and 2013 and its debt will jump to more than 90 percent of gross domestic product next year as it recapitalises its banking sector, the IMF said on Tuesday.

    The International Monetary Fund said in its fiscal monitor report that the country's deficit would reach 7 percent of GDP in 2012 and 5.7 percent in 2013, compared with European Union-agreed targets of 6.3 percent of GDP this year and 4.5 percent of GDP next year.

    Read on
  • More from the IMF, this time concerning Great Britain. This comes from my colleague David Milliken:

    IMF says UK should defer spending cuts if growth disappoints

    Britain should defer spending cuts planned for next year if growth turns out to be much weaker than forecast, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday.

    The IMF said Britain's deficit-cutting plans were already behind forecast, but that Chancellor George Osborne should be prepared to slow them further in the short term if other measures failed to boost demand.

    The IMF's budget assessment came hours after it sharply downgraded Britain's growth outlook, predicting the economy would shrink 0.4 percent this year, before growing by a tepid 1.1 percent in 2013.

    The reports will make uncomfortable reading for Osborne, who will unveil updated growth and budget forecasts on December 5. Many economists already believe he will struggle to meet his goals of eliminating the structural budget deficit within five years, and putting net debt as a share of GDP on a downward path by 2015.

    The IMF said a first line of defence against weaker growth would be for the Bank of England to loosen monetary policy and for the government to allow total unemployment benefit payments to rise if joblessness increased.

    But if that failed to spur growth, Osborne should postpone some of the cuts planned under his flagship austerity programme to future years, it added.

    "If growth should fall significantly below current ... projections, countries with room for manoeuvre should smooth their planned adjustment over 2013 and beyond. This includes ... the United Kingdom," the IMF said. The IMF gave a similar message in May, when it forecast 2.0 percent growth for 2013.

    Read on
  • Despite the IMF warning, David Cameron isn't for turning. Speaking on Sky News, the PM said:

    "What we need in Britain is not 'Plan B', which is more borrowing. How can you borrow your way out of a debt crisis?

    "What we need is what I call 'Plan A+', we need to keep our plans, difficult though they are to cut public spending and deal with the deficit, but we need to add to that every measure that business has been asking for. And that's what we're doing.

    "The IMF are not saying change course, they are saying stick to your plan unless things get dramatically worse."

    (Reporting by Matt Falloon, Reuters)
  • As we are all aware; what we are seeing is the eventual fall of the EU; with no way out - it is time to wind it up in its current form and start again.
  • Spain may get nod to ease pace of fiscal cuts

    By Robin Emmott

    The euro zone believes Spain's budget cuts should take account of its recession, its economy minister said, as regional policymakers debated whether to let the country slacken the pace of its austerity drive.

    The International Monetary Fund said late on Monday that Spain will miss the 2012 and 2013 deficit targets that it agreed with the European Union as the economy will contract far more next year than the country has forecast.

    Read on
  • Riot police drag away a demonstrator in Syntagma Square in Athens during a violent protest against the visit of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel October 9, 2012. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

  • IMF’s long-term worry: decades of higher rates

    By Christopher Swann and Martin Hutchinson, Breakingviews

    The International Monetary Fund has a new long-term worry: decades of higher interest rates. Don’t get too comfortable with low borrowing costs, is the downbeat message from the normally overoptimistic fund’s flagship World Economic Outlook. Slightly feebler growth of 3.3 percent for 2012 is the short-term concern. But past fiscal excesses and an ageing population could push up interest rates for a generation.

    Read on
  • FLASH: French government achieved majority parliamentary backing for fiscal pact solely with votes from left-wing bloc
  • European governments can't agree on anything, can they? Talks on a $45 billion merger of EADS and BAE Systems have collapsed because France, Germany and Britain failed to reach agreement over a deal which would have created the world's largest aerospace and arms group.

    Reuters' Kate Holton says:

    Britain's BAE and the Franco-German EADS had been working towards a 17:00 British time deadline to either walk away from the talks or seek an extension.

    In a statement, BAE said it had become clear that the interests of the governments could not be adequately reconciled with each other or with the objectives that BAE and EADS established for the merger.

    "BAE Systems and EADS have therefore decided it is in the best interests of their companies and shareholders to terminate the discussions and to continue to focus on delivering their respective strategies," it said.
  • Here's some reaction to the collapse of the EADS-BAE deal (reporting by our UK and Paris newsrooms):

    PARIS-BASED RISK ARBITRAGE TRADER:

    "The reason why EADS stock isn't popping is because of the loss of management confidence, and the view on the company as being 'tainted' since it felt it needed a merger.

    "Most EADS shareholders were against the deal from the beginning. Most have held their long positions, and put on an arbitrage trade using their original longs in the first place."

    ZAFAR KHAN, ANALYST, SOCIETE GENERAL

    "I would have thought that they would have gone for an extension but clearly Germany must have dug in their heels for them just to call it a day at this stage.

    "I take this as very good news as I didn't think this was a very good deal. I think it should be a huge sigh of relief for EADS shareholders.

    "BAE shareholders need to ask management where they go from here because clearly in agreeing to do this merger there was an implicit admission that maybe their focus on defence was perhaps a failed strategy."

    RICHARD HUNTER, HEAD OF EQUITIES AT HARGREAVES LANSDOWN STOCKBROKERS

    "One of the surprises is probably that the general feeling was that they were at least looking to increase today's deadline.

    "It was clearly a question of shareholder and political issues and they were insurmountable given the time that we had … EADS were going to have the slightly larger representation in the new company so what they haven't got now is that distraction to the business that they would otherwise have.

    "The market perceived that BAE would get a better part of the deal. It was also mooted that should the deal go ahead it might lead to further consolidation in the sector, which now looks less likely."

    RICK JONES, SENIOR TRADER, JN FINANCIAL, LONDON:

    "I've just taken profits on EADS. The expectations were that the deal would not go through after all the negative news flow. I would expect EADS to go back up to around the 28 or 29 euros level."

    IAN WADDELL, UNITE NATIONAL OFFICER FOR AEROSPACE AND SHIPBUILDING, SAID:

    "The highly skilled workforces of both companies are the beating heart of British manufacturing. A merger, with a jobs guarantee, would have created a strong new company that could have protected the UK's long term interests.

    "There was an industrial logic to the merger, but national and political interests proved to be the stumbling block. The UK government now needs to strengthen its ‘golden share' and send a powerful message that it backs British manufacturing and BAE systems."
  • ECB sees "severe distortions" in bond markets

    By Paul Carrel

    There are severe distortions in euro zone sovereign bond markets stemming from unfounded investor fears about a potential break-up of the single currency, the European Central Bank said in its monthly bulletin on Thursday.

    The ECB said its new bond-purchase plan - dubbed "Outright Monetary Transactions", or OMT - was a "necessary, proportional and effective" instrument to ensure the transmission of its monetary policy across the euro zone.

    The ECB says tensions in bond markets have disrupted the transmission of its monetary policy.

    "The current situation is characterised by severe distortions in government bond markets which originate, in particular, from unfounded fears on the part of investors of the reversibility of the euro," it said in the bulletin.
  • Highlights from the IMF, World Bank meeting in Tokyo

    GERMAN FINANCE MINISTER WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE

    "There is no country in Europe which would give any thought to the question of abolishing the euro."

    "I am convinced that we will be able to tell our friends and partners around the world that Europe is in the process of solving its problems and Europe is aware of its responsibility."

    "We are convinced that in Germany and Europe it is of central importance ...that the public believes that there are reasons to trust the long-term foundations of our policies."

    "Therefore, we believe that we will fulfill our international obligations with our policy of growth-friendly deficit reduction."

    SCHAEUBLE ON IMF SUGGESTION GERMANY STIMULATE DOMESTIC DEMAND

    "Such suggestions reveal not so great knowledge about Germany's situation. Domestic demand does rise in Germany."

    "We are the growth engine of Europe and we believe it is not helpful when one creates an impression that there are solutions that would be easier."

    "I don't believe in criticising others. That's cheap. It would be much more reasonable when others would solve their problems and Europeans theirs."

    "The IMF has said time and again that high public debt poses a problem. So when there is a certain medium-term goal, it doesn't build confidence when one starts by going in a different direction."

    "When you want to climb a big mountain and you start climbing down, then the mountain will get even higher."

    LAGARDE ON EUROPE DEBT CRISIS AND U.S. 'FISCAL CLIFF'

    "There are threats on the horizon, threats that can be addressed, should be addressed but are not necessarily addressed. Here I'm talking about ... the policy decisions that should be taken within the euro zone, in particular, and policy decisions that should be made in the United States of America to address the issue of 'fiscal cliff' and debt ceiling."

    LAGARDE ON EFFORTS BY EURO ZONE TO DEAL WITH DEBT CRISIS

    "As is often the case with the euro zone, there is good news and bad news. Good news is the fact that this European Stability Mechanism that had been discussed and in the making for the last months has now been christened ... That is the good news. In terms of speed, the bad news is that for it to actually operate there will be a legislative and often parliamentary process for the fund to effectively work."

    LAGARDE ON IMF'S ROLE IN EUROPE

    "We are flexible but when we monitor we want to know that what we monitor is something that we are comfortable with, that makes sense from an economic point of view, which means that we also want to participate in the design."

    FINANCIAL STABILITY BOARD CHAIRMAN MARK CARNEY

    "There are signs that reforms ... in euro zone countries are starting to improve their competitiveness and their current account. It is important that the current momentum is not lost..."

    "The core of the global banking system has substantially improved their (global systemically important financial institutions') capitalisation and I would say liquidity. But there are regions of the global economy where that is not the case."

    "(FSB) members expressed concern about unresolved issues in the cross-border application of regulation (of derivatives). They called on jurisdictions to put in place their legislation and regulation promptly and to act by end of 2012 to identify and address conflicts, inconsistencies and gaps in their national frameworks."
  • Greece's biggest company, drinks bottler Coca Cola Hellenic, has left the country and headed to Switzerland.

    Reuters' correspondent Harry Papachristou sends us this report from Athens:

    Greece's biggest company is leaving the country, drinks bottler Coca Cola Hellenic (HLBr.AT) said on Thursday in announcing it will move to Switzerland and list its shares in London, dealing a blow to the debt-crippled Greek economy.

    The material impact on Greece may be limited - its Greek plants will go on working and CCH said the five percent of its business that the world's second-ranked Coke bottler has in Greece will be unaffected. But analysts quickly saw it as bad news for a nation struggling to compete inside the euro zone.

    Coca Cola Hellenic, which already has secondary stock market listings in London and New York, said in a bourse filing in Athens that shareholders, most of whom are abroad, will exchange all their stock for shares in Coca Cola HBC AG, based in Switzerland. That stock will have its primary quote in London.

    "A primary listing on Europe's biggest and most liquid stock exchange reflects better the international character of Coca Cola Hellenic's business activities and shareholder base," the company said in its regulatory statement.

    The firm, in which The Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) of the United States has a 23-percent stake, bottles Coke and other drinks in 28 countries from Russia to Nigeria. About 95 percent of its shareholders and business activity are outside Greece.

    "This transaction makes clear business sense," chief executive Dimitris Lois told analysts in a conference call. An overwhelming majority of shareholders have already accepted moving a company which has long complained about Greek taxes.

    Analyst Manos Hatzidakis of Beta Securities in Athens said that the move made sense for the firm, which follows Greek dairy group FAGE this month in seeking a low-tax, low-volatility haven for its corporate base - in FAGE's case Luxembourg.

    "The Greek bourse is losing a very good company and the London Stock Exchange is gaining a very important group," said Hatzidakis.

    "It's very bad news for the Greek economy and bourse."

    Read on
  • Good morning, and welcome back to our rolling updates of the euro zone crisis.
  • Anna Yukhananov and Gernot Heller send us this report from the IMF/World Bank meeting in Tokyo:

    Greece, Spain and the euro zone's slow progress toward debt reform took centre stage at IMF meetings on Friday despite Europe's best effort to remove itself from the spotlight.

    The International Monetary Fund recommended that some of Europe's debt-burdened countries take a bit more time to reduce budget deficits, arguing that moving too fast is counter-productive because it hurts the economy.

    The shift was welcomed by some emerging market countries as well as long-time critics who say that the tough conditions attached to IMF loans inflict undue economic pain and make it harder for countries to grow their way out of debt.

    "We have been arguing for some time that single-minded and draconian fiscal policies may be counterproductive and have a tendency to backfire," said Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega.

    But Germany, Europe's largest creditor country and the key to any lasting fiscal reforms, pushed back against that advice and said reversing course on promised deficit reductions would only weaken credibility.

    Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Europe had made plenty of crisis-fighting progress, echoing comments from other European officials who said there should be greater attention paid to U.S. fiscal troubles too.

    "Europe is not the source of all problems in the world," he told reporters at a briefing on Friday.


    Read on
  • Reuters' Treasury Editor Mike Peacock says the main euro zone focus is still the IMF meeting in Tokyo:

    Our bunch remain very much in the critical spotlight, with Germany predictably pushing back, although the story doesn’t really seem to have moved on from the past two days.

    The criticism that euro zone ministers are facing in Tokyo – that they have again taken the foot off the pedal as the heat of crisis has cooled – his hard to contest. We’ve seen mixed messages from Spain on whether it will seek a bailout (with Germany apparently telling it to hold back), slippage on banking union plans with cross-border supervision now more likely at the start of 2014 than 2013 and glacially slow progress on working out what the hell to do with Greece, although at least on that front everyone now seems to agree that it must be kept in the euro zone for the foreseeable future.

    Having said that, the bond market has not yet exacted any price for the ECB’s words failing to be matched by actions – Spanish 10-year yields are still comfortably below six percent, having peaked around 7.5 in the summer and shorter-dated borrowing costs have fallen more sharply because the ECB has said that is where it would concentrate any bond-buying. As we’ve seen time and again, it may well be that when market pressure is reapplied that the next round of crisis measures will be rushed into action.

    Spanish economy minister de Guindos has just splashed across the screens from Tokyo saying Spain has not been pressured by anybody to take a bailout nor is there any political resistance from abroad to such a request. Hmmm.

    Italy’s Mario Monti highlighted one of the key points late on Thursday, saying the ESM rescue fund should rapidly be allowed to recapitalize banks directly rather than only give aid to governments. That would go some way to shoring up confidence in Spain’s battered banking sector and sever the “doom loop” between weak banks and their governments. But as things stand, that can only happen once cross-border banking supervision is in place – so no time soon then.
  • And here's a look at some of the other events going on today in the currency bloc:

    LISBON - Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho attends bi-monthly parliament debate.

    DUBLIN - German opposition leader Peer Steinbrueck, UK opposition finance spokesman Ed Balls and Irish deputy PM speak at conference.

    DAKAR – French President Francois Hollande travels to Senegal before heading to the Francophonie summit in Kinshasa. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a trenchant euro zone critic, will also be there.

    WARSAW - PM Tusk is expected to announce a package of policy measures aimed at battling the slowly weakening economy, a big moment for him given Poland has for years seemed virtually immune to the turmoil going on around it.
  • Spain says no resistance in euro zone to an aid request

    By Julien Toyer

    Spain's economy minister said on Friday there was absolutely no political resistance from within the euro zone to a Spanish bailout request.

    Asked if Spain wanted more political clarity rather than technical details before taking a decision on an aid request, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said: "absolutely not."

    "There was no pressure, in one sense or in the other," he said.

    Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings, he said that any Spanish move on seeking an international programme would not depend on rating agency moves.

    De Guindos also said that if the economic forecast that the European Commission releases in November showed that the recession was deepening, it could lead Spain to revise its nominal budget deficit targets, while leaving unchanged its structural deficit-cutting efforts.
  • Highlights from IMF, World Bank meetings in Tokyo

    SPANISH ECONOMY MINISTER LUIS DE GUINDOS ON POTENTIAL AID:

    Asked if Spain wanted more political clarity rather than technical details before taking a decision on an aid request, de Guindos said: "absolutely not."

    "There was no pressure, in one sense or in the other."

    IMF CHIEF CHRISTINE LAGARDE ON GIVING GREECE MORE TIME:

    "Given the ... lack of growth, given the market pressure, given the efforts that have been undertaken, a bit more time is necessary."

    LAGARDE ON THE PACE OF FISCAL ADJUSTMENT:

    "We have consistently, I have consistently ... said the same thing: adjustment is needed, but it's not going to be at the same pace for all; it's going to be country-specific and it's going to be also part of the rest of the package of policies that are put in place. But there's no doubt in our mind that the burden of debt that is currently weighing on the shoulders of advanced economies is not sustainable in the long-term."

    GERMAN FINANCE MINISTER WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE ON GIVING GREECE MORE TIME:

    "We have to wait to see what the final outcome of the report of the Troika will be. Until we have the Troika report, we must not speculate."

    SCHAEUBLE ON FISCAL POLICY:

    "I think it's even more important for sustainable growth that investors and consumers have some confidence ... We have to stick to what we announce, and we have to implement it step by step... If you want to go in some direction, you must not start to move in the opposite direction."

    "We need a sustainable fiscal policy as one precondition of sustainable growth... and that is the best way to get more jobs."

    SCHAEUBLE ON LIFTING ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY:

    "I am optimistic that in one year we will have overcome the most part of the uncertainty related to Europe."

    JEANS WEIDMANN, BUNDESBANK PRESIDENT AND ECB COUNCIL MEMBER:

    "The world economy is in a difficult state, but there is no reason for painting a black picture".

    "The fiscal cliff in the United State and the energy prices are other factors alongside the euro debt crisis that pose risks for the world-economy."

    "What is of some concern to me is that the hopes and expectations of the governments are increasingly focused on the central banks as main actors in fighting the economic and fiscal problems."

    "I want to underline, that monetary policy is not an instrument that can solve everything, it is not a miracle weapon. It cannot solve problems it can only provide short-term financing while stretching its mandate and in the process ends up in the tow of fiscal policy."
  • Now this is interesting - the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK says the European Union will win the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. The decision by the five-member panel, led by Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjoern Jagland, was unanimous, NRK said based on several "trusted" sources.

    The official announcement is expected at 10am BST.
  • EU to win 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, broadcaster NRK says

    The European Union will win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its historic role in uniting the continent in an award that plays down the euro zone's debt crisis, Norway's NRK public radio said.

    The prize, worth $1.2 million, will be presented in Oslo on December 10. The decision by the five-member panel, led by Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjoern Jagland, was unanimous, NRK said.

    "We have had confirmation from people whom we trust who say that it is the EU that will get the prize," NRK radio said, an hour before the prize announcement at 0900 GMT. The Nobel committee and the EU delegation to Norway was not immediately available for comment.

    Founded with the Treaty of Rome in 1957 with a community of six nations seeking greater economic integration, the bloc has expanded to 27 including east European states added since the Cold War.

    But the EU is mired in crisis with strains on the euro, the common currency shared by 17 nations.

    The prize was a surprise, especially given the EU's current woes. And many Norwegians are bitterly opposed to the EU, seeing it as a threat to the sovereignty of nation states.

    Norway, the home of the peace prize, has voted "no" twice to joining the EU, in 1972 and 1994. The country has prospered outside the EU, partly thanks to huge oil and gas resources.

    The five-member committee is appointed by parliament, where parties are deeply split over EU membership. Jagland has long favoured EU membership.

    Jagland earlier said the decision was unanimous and "not particularly complicated".

    (Reporting by Balazs Koranyi, Victoria Klesty, Alister Doyle and Terje Solsvik)
  • If the European Union does win the Nobel Peace Prize, there's bound to be a great deal of criticism about the timing. The euro zone crisis still threatens the global economy, and as the collapse of the EADS-BAE deal earlier in the week showed, european governments can't agree on the price of a pint of milk. What about Angela Merkel's hostile reception in Athens? And who gets to pick up the $1.2 million cheque, Greece?

    Anyway, we'll have all the news and reaction right here on this live blog.
  • If this EU Nobel Peace Prize thing is true, it's going to be an awfully long European Commission midday press briefing...

    — Luke Baker (@LukeReuters) October 12, 2012

  • BREAKING: THE EUROPEAN UNION WINS NOBEL PEACE PRIZE -- OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
  • The 2012 #NobelPeacePrize was awarded to European Union (EU).

    — Nobelprize_org (@Nobelprize_org) October 12, 2012

  • Statements are beginning to come in from delighted EU officials. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament says he is "Deeply touched and honoured" that the EU has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • 2012 #NobelPeacePrize "for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace & reconciliation, democracy &human rights in Europe."

    — Nobelprize_org (@Nobelprize_org) October 12, 2012

  • EU Nobel Prize. Well the timing is poor and LOL-worthy. But if you can't see how the EU construction process facilitated peace, then...

    — Jessica Reed (@GuardianJessica) October 12, 2012

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Pentagon disinvites China from major U.S. military exercise

WASHINGTON The Pentagon on Wednesday disinvited China from a major U.S.-hosted naval drill in response to what it sees as Beijing's militarization of islands in the South China Sea, a decision China called unconstructive.