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France, Italy see light at end of eurozone tunnel

French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti have said their governments are "determined to do everything to protect" the euro, also lauding recent progress in the debt debacle.

Mario Monti said on Italian radio before meeting his French counterpart Hollande that he thought the eurozone was nearing the end of its debt tunnel, and that "there's light at the end of the tunnel."

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Monti and Hollande urge vigilance in Paris

Seeking to maintain the comparative momentum of recent days, the two leaders issued a joint statement saying France and Italy "are determined to do everything to protect" the euro.

"Member states, like European institutions… must meet their obligations in order to maintain the stability and proper functioning of the eurozone," Monti and Hollande said, apparently alluding to European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi's pledge last Thursday that the lender would do "whatever it takes" to keep the currency union afloat.

Tuesday's Franco-Italian meeting in Paris followed hot on the heels of a weekend joint statement issued by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hollande also pledging to do whatever was necessary to shore up the eurozone.

Markets and investors had reacted largely positively to the recent statements, but Tuesday also delivered some gloomy economic tidings, turning the tickers back into the red.

Seeking gainful employ

People leave as others arrive at an unemployment registry office in Madrid, Friday, July 27, 2012.

Spain's tops the eurozone's unemployment league table

The Eurostat statistics office published monthly unemployment figures, saying that joblessness across the 17 eurozone countries reached a record high of 11.2 percent in June. There are broad disparities across the bloc, with star student Austria below 5 percent and struggling Spain flirting with the 25 percent mark.

Monti travels on to Helsinki and then Madrid as part of a European tour he said would help "secure the euro and give a decisive boost to European growth."

Italy is one of the countries hoping that the permanent eurozone rescue fund, the not-yet-ratified European Stability Mechanism, will be granted a banking license. This would allow it to borrow from the European Central Bank, making its theoretical capacity markedly larger. Despite newspaper reports in Germany suggesting a softening of opinion in Berlin, the Finance Ministry again stated its opposition to the idea on Tuesday.

A legal inquiry commissioned by the European Central Bank in March 2011 ruled that such a move would breach existing EU treaties on how governments are allowed to be financed.

msh/mz (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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