Euro will survive debt crisis, German Chancellor Merkel says
BERLIN - The 16-nation euro currency will survive the debt crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed Thursday, and a senior central banker said the European Union would be willing to increase its 750 billion euro ($1 trillion) bailout fund if necessary.
Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy also called for a swift conclusion of the negotiations for an Irish bailout.
Axel Weber, the head of Germany's central bank and a leading rate-setter at the European Central Bank, said Thursday that European nations would be willing to boost the emergency fund by as much as 100 billion euros ($133 billion) to fully cover the total public debt load of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.
But when Merkel and Sarkozy discussed the eurozone's troubles on the phone Thursday evening they said the 750 billion euro emergency fund would remain unchanged until it expires in 2013, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.
The leaders of Germany and France, the eurozone's twin economic engines, said their governments are working "under high pressure on a joint proposal for a crisis mechanism that is to replace the current one beyond 2013," the statement said.
Merkel and Sarkozy were impressed by the austerity budget presented by the Irish government, adding they agreed that the negotiations involving the Irish government, the EU and the International Monetary Fund "should swiftly be brought to a conclusion," Seibert said.
Amid the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone, the 16-nation currency wallowed near two-month lows against the dollar Thursday, trading at $1.3364 - down from a recent high of $1.4244 on Nov. 4. Some analysts predicted it would drop further as other heavily indebted countries, such as Portugal and Spain, risk following Greece and Ireland in needing massive bailouts.
But Merkel said the euro currency will survive the debt crisis.
"I'm more confident than this spring that the European Union will emerge strengthened from the current challenges," she told business leaders in Berlin, referring to May's 110 billion euro ($146 billion) bailout of Greece by the EU and the International Monetary Fund.
She said the crisis has strengthened the eurozone, leading EU leaders to agree on new rules for a tougher growth and stability pact, and bringing into operation the 750 billion euro emergency fund.
"We now have a mechanism of collective solidarity for the euro," she said. "And we all are ready, including Germany, to say that we now need a permanent crisis mechanism to protect the euro," Merkel added.
Experts say that while rescuing Greece, Ireland or even Portugal is manageable for the EU's emergency fund, bailing out Spain - whose economy is five times larger than any of the other three countries - would test its limits and threaten the euro's existence.