The German chancellor has met her counterpart from the Netherlands Mark Rutte in Berlin, where they discussed eurozone finances. She was tight-lipped with reporters afterwards, though she was glad to talk soccer.
Angela Merkel told reporters on Wednesday that there were "no concrete plans" for using the European emergency funds to buy the sovereign debt of struggling countries, thereby reducing the interest rates they have to pay.
Such a move would theoretically be permitted, Merkel said, but she cautioned that such possibilities were "purely hypothetical," adding "there are no concrete plans that I'm aware of."
The overarching European rainy day funds, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and its predecessor the European Financial Stability Facility, are theoretical currency reserves designed to guarantee for any future "bailouts" such as those granted to countries like Greece, Ireland and Portugal. The new ESM is meant to be a more flexible fund with more potential uses, with the possibility of buying sovereign debt one of the more popular suggested options.
Merkel instead told reporters that re-establishing growth in the EU was another key part of the recovery. She was speaking a week ahead of an EU summit where leaders are expected to work on parallel policies designed to stimulate growth. The idea is to counterbalance the austerity efforts being made across much of the bloc.
"The competitiveness needs to be restored, we must measure ourselves against the best, and to do that we need fresh ideas," Merkel said.
She also praised countries like Portugal, Italy and Spain for persisting with unpopular cuts in a difficult economic climate, calling their deficit-reduction efforts "impressive."
Football, not finances
Merkel and her visitor from the Netherlands Mark Rutte were perhaps more vocal about the ongoing Euro 2012 soccer tournament in Poland and Ukraine, where the two arch-rivals recently played each other.
Rutte even said that "on Sunday all of Holland crossed its fingers for the German team," something that might ordinarily be unthinkable. As it happened, Germany's win against Denmark did not help the Netherlands, owing to the fact that the Oranjes couldn't beat Portugal in their last group game. Rutte also congratulated Germany on their three consecutive wins and wished them luck for the remainder of the tournament, from which the Dutch have been eliminated.
Germany's next game is against Greece in the quarter finals in Gdansk on Friday, and Merkel told reporters that this might be the perfect occasion to meet freshly sworn-in Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
"I have just congratulated the Greek prime minister on being elected, and spoke to him to say so," Merkel told reporters. "I would be delighted if he came to Gdansk. Whether he can arrange it is something I can't say. It would be up to him."
Friday's quarter final is Germany's first game that will be played on Polish soil at Euro 2012 - and the first that Merkel plans to attend. All three of the less important German group stage games were played in Ukraine.
msh/sej (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)