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BERLIN (Reuters) - Euro zone countries could create a Stability Union to secure deeper fiscal integration relatively quickly, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Sunday.
"One can do that quickly," he told ARD television, referring to changes to the Lisbon Treaty that Germany has wanted to allow much tighter budget controls in the 17 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," Schaeuble said.
In Brussels earlier on Sunday, EU officials said 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.
Germany's original plan was to secure agreement among all 27 EU countries for a limited change to the Lisbon Treaty by the end of 2012, a way of shoring up the region's defences 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, either via an agreement among just the euro zone countries, or a separate agreement outside the EU treaty that could involve a core of around 8-10 euro zone countries, officials say.
Schaeuble said a Stability Union could be a decisive step to winning more confidence from the markets.
"The important signal, to convince financial investors in the world, is and remains a stable currency," Schaeuble said. That means that every euro zone member has to do its homework on its budget discipline.
"We want to ensure that through treaty changes," he said.
Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by David Stamp