Germany, France examine radical push for eurozone integration

Sun Nov 27, 2011 5:58pm EST
 
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By Luke Baker and Julien Toyer

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Germany and France are exploring radical methods of securing deeper and more rapid fiscal integration among euro zone countries, aware that getting broad backing for the necessary treaty changes may not be possible, officials say.

Germany's original plan was to try to secure agreement among all 27 EU countries for a limited treaty change by the end of 2012, making it possible to impose much tighter budget controls over the 17 euro zone countries -- a way of shoring up the region's defenses against the debt crisis.

But in meetings with EU leaders in recent weeks, it has become clear to both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy that it may not be possible to get all 27 countries on board, EU sources say.

Even if that were possible, it could take a year or more to secure the changes while market attacks on Italy, Spain and now France suggest bold measures are needed within weeks.

As a result, senior French and German civil servants have been exploring other ways of achieving the goal, one being an agreement among just the euro zone countries.

"The goal is for the member states of the common currency to create their own Stability Union and to concentrate on that," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told ARD television on Sunday.

Another option being explored is a separate agreement outside the EU treaty that could involve a core of around 8-10 euro zone countries, officials say.

An even more pressing decision faces euro zone finance ministers when they meet on Tuesday.   Continued...