EU leaders arrive in Brussels for summit

Dec. 8, 2011 at 8:32 PM
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BRUSSELS, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- EU leaders arrived in Brussels Thursday for a summit to put in place the economic reforms needed to restore growth and resolve the eurozone debt crisis.

The two-day Brussels summit of leaders of all 27 European Union members is being billed as the last chance to save the euro, the British newspaper The Guardian reported.

Upon arriving at the summit venue, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters, "The Euro has lost credibility and that needs to be restored," the BBC reported.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy echoed her concern at an EU meeting in Marseille, France, saying, "Never has Europe been so necessary. Never has it been in so much danger."

A plan put forward by Merkel and Sarkozy would reshape the eurozone through tough budget discipline, The Guardian said.

Merkel and Sarkozy outlined their vision for European reform in a letter delivered Wednesday to European Council President and summit Chairman Herman Van Rompuy. Besides demanding a new euro rulebook aimed at establishing "fiscal union" among the eurozone countries, Merkel and Sarkozy proposed the eurozone's 17 finance ministers, known as the Eurogroup, hold monthly summits during the crisis, install a permanent president and create a ministerial structure to run the group.

They called for a new legal framework empowering the Eurogroup to forge ahead with a 0.1 percent securities-transaction tax. The European Commission has said the tax could raise a minimum $43 billion a year. Britain opposes the tax.

Merkel and Sarkozy also called for a host of other policies on financial regulation, labor markets, corporation tax principles and a "more efficient" use of the EU budget in the eurozone.

Many of the proposed ideas would require significant treaty changes, which officials said would require national legislative approvals and possibly national referendums.

Van Rompuy offered a fast-track alternative, seeking to exploit arcane EU protocols to revise the treaty and still accomplish what Merkel and Sarkozy proposed.

Britain said Van Rompuy's idea would still require at least parliamentary ratification. Britain said it would demand special protections if any treaty changes are made.

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