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Pressure in Europe Builds for Banking Reform

Pressure for financial reform has been building in Europe. In June, the financial services company Moody's Investors Service reduced Spain's credit rating. The rating was cut from A3 to baa3. That means that Moody's officials believe the credit risk of Spanish debt has moved from very low to moderate. The company said it acted because Spain is borrowing about one hundred twenty-five billion dollars in rescue loans for its banks.

Debt markets punished Spain by pushing up the interest rate on its long-term debt to about six point eight percent. That increases Spain's borrowing costs and hurts its already troubled economy. Spain was not the only country to get downgraded by Moody's. Cyprus got the same treatment.

Recently, American Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. He said the increase in borrowing costs for European countries like Spain means European officials must move quickly to avoid growing costs. In his words, "If you wait to move in these things and you let the market get ahead of you, then you increase the costs of the solution, and you make it harder to get there. Once you decide," he said, "there is no argument for doing it slowly."

Germany, Europe's largest economy, has been pushing for economic reform in the seventeen countries using the euro. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel has argued that her country is unwilling to put money at risk unless banking reform is enacted throughout the Eurozone. She warned that Germany's economic power was not unlimited.In early June, the European Commission proposed steps toward a common banking policy. The proposals include empowering nations to intervene when their banks are in trouble. But proposed changes may also bar support for failing banks. Some European leaders are pressing for an expanded European bailout fund.

Germany has resisted providing new financial resources. But details of any deal with big European economies have yet to be decided. Europe's financial crisis is likely to be a major international issue in the weeks to come.

For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. You can read, listen and learn English with more stories about economics and other subjects at (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 15Jun2012)