Merkel says Europe faces toughest challenge since WW2

Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:41am EST
 
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By Noah Barkin and Stephen Brown

LEIPZIG, Germany, Nov 14 - Warning that Europe faced its "toughest hour since World War Two," German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her party to set aside its misgivings about the euro and accept closer political integration as a solution to the bloc's deepening debt crisis.

In a one-hour address to thousands of delegates from her Christian Democrats (CDU), Merkel offered no new ideas for resolving the crisis that has forced bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and stirred doubts about the survival of the 13-year-old currency area.

But she said Germany, which as Europe's largest economy has provided the biggest share of the aid to stricken euro states, would have to make more sacrifices in the months ahead.

"The challenge of our generation is to finish what we started in Europe, and that is to bring about, step by step, a political union," Merkel told the party congress in the east German city of Leipzig.

"Europe is in one of its toughest, perhaps the toughest hour since World War Two," she said.

The two-day party meeting was originally supposed to focus on education policy but Europe's debt crisis has dominated headlines for months and thrust itself into the center of the debate.

Last week alone, the leaders of Greece and Italy were forced out and replaced with technocratic governments charged with pushing through tough austerity measures.

Merkel does not face an election until 2013, but knows that she too could become a victim of the euro zone turmoil if she puts a foot wrong.   Continued...