The leaders of France and Germany on Monday vowed to speed up various measures to ease the eurozone crisis, as the euro flirted with new lows on the market amid signs of heightened banking tensions.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that an agreement on stricter budgetary rules tying in all EU members except Britain should be signed by March 1.
Merkel said negotiations on a text were “progressing well” and announced Paris and Berlin could accelerate payments into a permanent fund for possible future bailouts that is due to come into force later this year.
“Germany and France are ready to review ... to what extent our payments can be accelerated in a certain way and thus once again make our trust in and support for the eurozone clearly visible,” she told reporters.
EU leaders are looking into ways of arming the fund, the European Stability Mechanism, with its resources in one go, rather than putting in smaller tranches under the current plan.
Meanwhile, the IMF reportedly expressed growing doubts about Greece’s long-term ability to reduce its debts. Merkel called for the “rapid implementation” of reform measures in Greece, warning that new bailout funds could not be paid out otherwise.
Amid renewed speculation that Greece could be forced out of the euro, she said: “It is our intention that no country should leave the eurozone.”
Merkel also hailed as a “good initiative” French plans to introduce a controversial tax on financial market transactions alone if necessary, but added she would prefer a broader approach.
“I find it a good initiative from the French side to say that we have to speed things up ... personally I could imagine such a tax in the eurozone,” Merkel said.