Despite the festive atmosphere at a gala hosted by the European Central Bank to send its president, Jean-Claude Trichet, into retirement, persistent worries about the eurozone debt crisis dominated the evening.
Trichet will retire as the ECB head this month
The head of the European Central Bank (ECB), Jean-Claude Trichet, urged swift action on solving the eurozone debt crisis during a farewell celebration Wednesday at the bank's headquarters in Frankfurt. Trichet is set to officially retire from his post at the end of the month.
"The present calls for immediate action," Trichet said. "The future calls for a vision of where we are going, a sense of direction."
Among the dignitaries in attendance at the celebration was former French president Giscard d'Estaing, who praised Trichet's service in Europe over his eight-year term.
"The euro thanks you, President Jean-Claude Trichet, for having served it so well," d'Estaing said.
The head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso said he hoped Trichet's "legacy will remain a part of the ECB's DNA."
Trichet's successor at the ECB, Mario Draghi, was also in attendence. Draghi is currently the head of the Bank of Italy and will take over for Trichet on November 1.
Getting down to business
But it wasn't all caviar and champagne toasts at Trichet's farewell: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy - key leaders in determining the eurozone's best course out its debt crisis - held meetings behind closed doors after the celebration as they continue to hammer out the details of a plan.
Sarkozy came from his wife's hospital to the meeting
EU leaders hope to have a roadmap in place by the weekend, ready for a critical EU summit, set to get underway Sunday.
According to Sarkozy's office, no official statement was planned after the working meeting, which also included Barosso and the president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy.
However, Merkel did address the crisis in a speech to guests at the gala in Frankfurt.
"I am firmly convinced that we can solve these problems," the German chancellor said, saying changes to European treaties were not out of the question. "If we want to seize the crisis as an opportunity, we must be prepared to act more quickly and even in unconventional ways."
"If the euro fails, Europe fails but we will not allow that to happen," Merkel said.
Sarkozy missed the main part of the festivities for Trichet's retirement because he was with his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who had just been admitted to a Paris maternity clinic. She is expecting the couple's first child together.
Author: Matt Zuvela (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Mark Hallam