France and Germany seek support for crisis plan
By Leigh Thomas
PARIS (Reuters) - France and Germany are to sound out conservative European leaders on Thursday about their plan to defuse the euro zone's debt crisis, eager to rally support before a high-stakes EU summit.
Paris and Berlin need to win backing quickly for their crisis plan, which aims to amend the European Union's Lisbon treaty to toughen budget discipline, if they are to have it ready as they hope by March.
President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel have a chance to rally some other leaders behind their masterplan before the EU summit at a congress of the conservative European People's Party on Thursday in Marseille, southern France.
With many details still to be hammered out, Sarkozy and Merkel want to secure other EU countries' support at the summit starting late Thursday in Brussels and scheduled to end on Friday.
But a senior German official dampened hopes for a breakthrough at the summit while, in contrast, France's finance minister said the leaders of the two countries would not leave Brussels until a "powerful" deal had emerged.
If all 27 EU states do not support more fiscal union by adapting the treaty, which took eight years to negotiate, then Sarkozy and Merkel want the 17 euro zone countries to go ahead alone with more integration.
The French and German leaders are due to arrive at mid morning in Marseille, and Sarkozy is due to make a speech at 1230 GMT. He and Merkel are both due to hold bilateral meetings later with Spanish Prime Minister-elect Mariano Rajoy before they head to Brussels.
"We need more binding and more ambitious rules and commitments for the euro area member states," Sarkozy and Merkel wrote in a letter to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who has made his own proposals for tackling the crisis. Continued...