Europe

Germany and France rally around euro ahead of summit

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet members of the public in Freiburg, 10 December
Image caption The two leaders were meeting ahead of an EU finance summit

French and German leaders have passionately defended the troubled single currency at talks ahead of an EU summit on the eurozone debt crisis.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said France was "deeply attached" to the euro while Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said if the euro failed, "Europe fails".

Meeting in the German city of Freiburg, they repeated their opposition to a proposal for joint eurozone bonds.

Mrs Merkel also opposed increasing the existing euro rescue mechanism.

In other developments connected to the summit in Freiburg:

  • Mr Sarkozy warmly welcomed the arrival in France of the first German soldiers to be stationed there in peacetime. The battalion was being officially installed at Illkirch-Graffenstaden, just outside Strasbourg
  • A high-speed rail bridge was opened between Germany and France near Strasbourg as part of an ambitious network to span the EU
Image caption German and French soldiers paraded together in Strasbourg

'The euro is Europe'

"I'd say for us in Germany that the question of expanding the rescue mechanism is not now on the table," she said after the bilateral summit with Mr Sarkozy.

"Less than 10% of the rescue mechanism has been used for Ireland. It is not on the agenda."

She said that setting up a permanent mechanism for future eurozone crises would be the best way of showing the single currency was being defended.

"The EU summit [next week] should give a sign that we are defending the euro, which is why it is important to have a decision on the permanent crisis mechanism and treaty change," she told journalists.

The euro would not be allowed to fail, Mrs Merkel added, because it had "a meaning that goes beyond a mere currency".

Mr Sarkozy said: "We will defend the euro, because the euro is Europe."

EU leaders will meet in Brussels next Thursday for a two-day summit dominated by the eurozone debt crisis.

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