European leaders vow to aid Greece during euro plight
BRUSSLES —European leaders promised Thursday to safeguard their common currency, the euro, by aiding Greece during its debt crisis. But they offered no immediate assistance to the Greek government and remained silent on how they would respond if investors remain jittery about Greece and other nations with weak economies that use the euro.
Germany blocked discussion of specific bailout mechanisms, forcing the leaders of the 27 countries in the European Union to turn their attention instead to prodding Greece to get its finances under control, promising stringent monitoring of Greece’s tough austerity program.
With the euro facing its worst crisis since it was created in 1999, the leaders who gathered in Brussels offered little more than a statement pledging “determined and coordinated action” if needed to protect the financial stability of the 16 nations within the bloc that use the euro.
“It’s a political message that we wanted to send out today,” said Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, the umbrella body under which the leaders met. “The Greek government will take the responsibility for cleaning up its public finances.” The leaders said that finance ministers would meet Monday to discuss additional actions.
With days of diplomacy having led up to the meeting, many people had expected that the leaders would produce a more specific plan to reassure markets that have been anxious about who would organize a Greek bailout if necessary.
Van Rompuy and Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the finance ministers whose nations use the euro, which is known as the euro zone, were clearly disappointed by the result of last-ditch private talks on Thursday aimed at persuading Germany to commit to a broader accord, said a diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Discussions on the eve of the talks had centered on a bailout that might use financing from nations that use the euro and that would call on the expertise of the International Monetary Fund to ensure that aid extended to a country at risk would be conditional on it overhauling its finances. The plan endorsed by the leaders includes a role for the monetary fund to help prod Greece into action, but without incentives to encourage the Greek government to meet its goals. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany argued that since the Greek government had not yet asked for financial assistance, any discussions about aid were premature, an official said.