Crisis talk, austerity calls mark euro anniversary

Sun Jan 1, 2012 12:33pm EST
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By Alexandra Hudson

BERLIN (Reuters) - Policymakers marked the 10th anniversary on Sunday of the introduction of euro notes and coins by urging governments in the currency bloc to save and consolidate to overcome their debt crisis.

While German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called the euro "a clear success story" and pledged the currency would remain stable, he also urged vulnerable debtor states to follow a tough savings course in 2012, boost their competitiveness and work to win back market confidence.

"This is not a euro crisis, it is a debt crisis in some euro states," Schaeuble told German newspaper Bild in an interview to be published in Monday's edition of the paper.

The crisis that began in Greece more than two years ago has since forced Ireland and Portugal to seek bailouts and now threatens the efforts of the bloc's third largest economy, Italy, to raise 450 billion euros ($580 billion) to finance its debt burden this year.

The head of Standard Chartered bank told a British Sunday newspaper that political leaders had yet to offer a meaningful solution to the bloc's debt crisis.

"We enter 2012 with a very difficult outlook for the euro zone ... with an increasing possibility of countries actually leaving the euro zone," Peter Sands, chief executive of the Asia-focused bank, told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper in an interview.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel herself warned 2012 would be harder than 2011 and Europe still had a long way to go in overcoming the crisis.

In Italy, President Giorgio Napolitano called for sacrifices. "No one today can shirk his or her responsibility to contribute to putting the public accounts on track and averting Italy's financial collapse," Napolitano said in a 20-minute, nationally televised address late on Saturday.   Continued...