COVENTRY — Britain’s business minister called on the Bank of England yesterday to consider new ways to unblock the flow of credit to small companies in order to help the country’s sluggish economy. Vince Cable said he had written to the number two at the central bank, Paul Tucker, seeking a discussion of possible changes to the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) which was launched last year. The FLS is central to efforts by the British government and the Bank of England to snap the UK economy out of two years of stagnant growth after the financial crisis enfeebled many banks. So far, the scheme has boosted mortgage lending but has not been a big help for small and medium-sized enterprises.
ATHENS — Greece’s leftist opposition party has regained a narrow lead over the ruling conservatives, an opinion poll published yesterday said. The survey by Pulse for the 6 Imeres newspaper also showed Greeks divided over their government’s tough stance against strike action. It put support for Syriza at 24 percent, giving it a 1.5 percentage-point lead over New Democracy but still within the margin of error of 2.7 percent. That compares to 29.6 percent for New Democracy and 26.9 percent for Syriza in a parliamentary vote last June. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy party and the anti-bailout Syriza have been neck-and-neck in recent polls.
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel is pledging that the German government will try to ensure that a tax on financial transactions is introduced quickly. The tax is designed to help pay for the rescue of Europe’s banks and discourage risky trading. A group of 11 European Union countries, including heavyweights Germany and France, got the official go-ahead last month to work on the introduction of the levy. Merkel said in her weekly video message yesterday that her government will do everything to make sure talks go quickly, but gave no date.
SOFIA — Hundreds of Bulgarians have marched through downtown Sofia carrying torches and chanting nationalist slogans despite protests by human rights groups. Yesterday’s march was organized by the far-right Bulgarian National Union to honour the memory of Hristo Lukov, a World War II general known for his anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi activities. The march, attended by nearly 1,000 people according to organizers, was guarded by numerous police officers in riot gear, but there were no incidents. The march was met with protests and criticism by a number of human rights groups who accused its organizers of promoting racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.