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Merkel calls for greater European integration

Germany’s chancellor has called for stepped up efforts to resolve the European sovereign debt crisis. Speaking just hours before the start of an EU summit, the chancellor said this required greater European integration.

Chancellor Angela Merkel began her policy statement to the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, by reiterating the importance of maintaining the common currency that is used by 17 of the European Union's member states.

"This euro is much more than a currency," the chancellor said. “"This euro serves as a symbol for the economic, social and political unification of Europe."

Referring to the EU summit to open in Brussels just a few hours later, the chancellor said much had been achieved in efforts to resolve the European sovereign debt crisis but that a lot of work still had to be done.

The chancellor then went on to make the case for creating structures that would lead to greater integration of the eurozone's economies.

"We have made good progress on strengthening fiscal discipline with the fiscal pact, but we are of the opinion, and I speak for the whole German government on this, that we could go a step further by giving Europe real rights of intervention in national budgets," Merkel said.

In this, she threw her support behind an idea voiced by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble earlier in the week that would see a European commissioner given the power to intervene in the budgetary affairs of member states. At the same time the chancellor acknowledged that the idea wasn't popular in some EU member states.

"This doesn't change our support for it," Merkel said.

No concrete decisions would be taken at this week's summit in Brussels, she added. Instead, she said the aim would be to lay the groundwork for a further summit in December, which would take decisions designed to lead to greater coordination and oversight of fiscal policy in the eurozone.

Desire for Greece to remain in eurozone

Merkel stressed Germany's ongoing readiness to help financially stricken states but said that this could only happen in return for them implementing financial reforms.

This, she said, was happening in one of Europe's hardest hit countries.

While she bemoaned the slow pace of chance in Greece, she also praised Athens for the tough austerity measures it has already implemented. She added that she wanted Greece to remain in the eurozone, but that she would leave the decision about releasing a further tranche of a bailout for Greece up to the so-called "troika," inspectors from the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund.

The chancellor also proposed the creation of joint funds to be financed from a financial transactions tax.These would be used to help troubled countries in the eurozone implement reforms. She said these would be temporary in nature and tied to specific projects.

The chancellor's speech was also seens as something of an opening volley in next the campaign for next year's parliamentary election.

The man who is to challenge Merkel for her job, the Social Democrats' Peer Steinbrück, was to deliver his party's response to her speech in the Bundestag.

pfd/ipj (dpa, Reuters)