Wednesday, April 01, 2015

EU Should Do 'What It Takes' To Save Ukraine - Soros

LONDON, England -- European leaders should do "whatever it takes" to save Ukraine, says billionaire investor George Soros.


"Europe needs to wake up before it's too late," says George Soros.

Echoing the famous phrase used by Mario Draghi to shore up the eurozone, the investor and philanthropist says that rather than fretting about Greece, European leaders should be focusing on the crisis unfolding in a country that shares the same values as the rest of Europe.

"Here is a country that wants to be European, is sacrificing lives for that principle, and yet Europe is ignoring it. Europe needs to wake up before it's too late," he told the BBC's In the Balance programme.

Russia's annexation of Crimea a year ago, and its continued support for armed rebels in eastern Ukraine, has devastated Ukraine's economy.

Its GDP [gross domestic product] shrank by 7% in 2014 and is expected to fall by another 5% this year.

Ukraine's currency has collapsed - losing more than half its value against the dollar.

That has boosted the cost of imports and seen inflation soar to more than 20%.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already provided $17bn (£11bn) in financial aid, but much more is needed says Mr Soros.

Rescue plan 

His scheme involves delivering $50bn in financial aid.

He says the EU's balance of payments assistance facility, offered in the past to Hungary and Romania, had $47bn in unused funds.

A financial stability mechanism, used in Portugal and Ireland, has $16bn.

However, he acknowledged existing regulations would need to be modified to make these funds available for a non-EU country like Ukraine.

George Soros says he will add $1bn of his own money through his Open Society Foundations, which was formed in 1979 and has focused on promoting democracy in former Communist countries in central and eastern Europe.

His critics say his plan requires more generosity to be shown to a country outside the EU than is being shown to a eurozone country like Greece.

He describes the situation in Greece as "a long-festering wound that was mishandled from the beginning.

Now there is a lot of bad blood and the best you can hope for is to muddle through".

He believes Greece's economy is on a downward spiral and that the chance of it staying in the eurozone is now no more than 50/50.

But he warns against making the same mistake with Ukraine.

"We must not drip-feed Ukraine, but allow it to flourish," he says.

"That is what is needed to turn the tables on Putin who is the aggressor".

He argues that the appetite for radical reform in Ukraine is much greater than in Greece.

'Much more serious' 

His conclusions amount to a dire warning.

"If Europe doesn't help, Ukrainian blood currently being spilt will become European blood.

"If Russia tries to divide the Baltics, who have large Russian-speaking populations but are also members of NATO, then NATO will be obliged to defend them.

"It is much more serious than people realise."

Speaking in his London home, George Soros also had a word of caution for the UK.

He, of course, was partly responsible for ensuring the UK did not join the eurozone.

His hedge fund's attacks on the value of the pound in 1992 saw the UK crash out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism - a precursor to the euro.

However, he clearly thinks he did the UK a favour and has this warning:

"The UK has the best of both worlds - access to the single market and its own currency."

"It would be foolish to throw that away."

Source: BBC News

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