There was no shortage of opinions at the EU summit, as leaders debated the continent’s financial woes. The talks closed with no agreement on an immediate growth strategy and a note of caution for Greece.
The meeting ran into the early hours, with representatives of all 27 member states making statements.
French President Francois Hollande told a press conference it had been possible to gain some agreement on pooling debt into eurobonds as a long term strategy for integration. However, he said there was no agreement on the idea as a tool for shorter term growth.
"Germany remains convinced that eurobonds can only be the end of a process, while we believe it's the start of a process. That's it, in a nutshell," he said.
Hollande added that he hoped to make progress at a summit late next month. "This was a necessary first stage," he said, admitting there was still work to do to convince their partners.
The French president, attending his first EU summit as leader, said that the meeting had taken so long because there had been so many speakers – rather than because there had been major disagreement.
Eurobonds would be jointly issued and could protect debt-ridden countries like Spain and Italy by shielding them from high borrowing rates. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had earlier given a clear signal that she was determined to fight her corner.
Measured support for Greece
Greece was also on the agenda, after the Greek prime minister warned that his country might be poised for a eurozone exit.
After the five-and-a-half-hour summit, European Union president Herman Van Rompuy reaffirmed EU leaders' commitment to preserving Greece's place in the eurozone, but added that Athens must honor its promises.
"We want Greece to remain in the euro area while respecting its commitments," said Van Rompuy.
Speaking after the meeting, president of the group Eurogroup body of finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters the eurozone countries would “have to consider all kinds of events. However, he insisted that “the working assumption” was that Greece would remain part of the euro.
In his press conference, Hollande called for structural reforms to be implemented to boost growth in Greece.
The summit began after European shares plummeted and the euro hit a 22-month low against the dollar on Wednesday, amid market anxiety about Greece.
rc/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)