Merkel says "marathon" crisis will take years to solve

Fri Dec 2, 2011 4:48am EST
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By Stephen Brown and Noah Barkin

BERLIN (Reuters) - The euro zone debt crisis cannot be solved overnight, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday, urging instead a long-term approach that relies on tougher fiscal rules being enshrined in European treaties.

A week before European leaders meet in Brussels for what is being seen as a make-or-break summit for the 13-year-old single currency bloc, Merkel once again rejected the idea of joint euro zone bonds and cautioned against steps that might hurt the credibility of the European Central Bank.

"The government has made clear that the European debt crisis can't be solved in one fell swoop overnight. There is no miracle solution. There is no easy, rapid solution," Merkel told parliament. "Resolving the sovereign debt crisis is a process and this process will take years."

She is under growing pressure to take bolder steps to resolve a crisis that has spread like a virus from Greece, Portugal and Ireland to the very core of Europe, raising questions about whether the bloc can survive intact.

Merkel likened the battle to contain the crisis to a marathon, warning Europe against speeding from the start line with measures that would come back to haunt it before the finish line was reached.

"Marathon runners often say that the run becomes especially difficult at the 35 kilometer mark, but they also say that reaching the finish line is possible if you are conscious of the full challenge from the very start and approach it accordingly," Merkel told lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house.

"The one who starts fastest isn't necessarily the most successful. It is the one who is aware of what is involved in running the full distance."

Merkel spoke a day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy backed her push for stricter coordination of national budgets but warned against handing over control to a supra-national body in Brussels. "The reform of Europe is not a march towards supra-nationality," Sarkozy said in the French city of Toulon.   Continued...