Leaders give lukewarm response to Sarkozy and Merkel's bid to save euro

One Italian newspaper portrayed the German Chancellor as a bully in an SS uniform and sporting a Hitler moustache
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If Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy hoped their efforts on Tuesday to save Europe's faltering economy would be rewarded with high praise, they would have been disappointed yesterday by Europe-wide condemnation in newspapers and only a lukewarm reaction from other European leaders.

Despite the grand, but unspecified, pledges of deeper fiscal co-ordination and promises to work together more closely, newspapers were largely apathetic to the statement made in Paris.

Worried at being seen by domestic voters as supporting the sick men of Europe with their own taxpayers' money, the leaders of the eurozone's two biggest economies rejected pressure from economists and politicians to agree to the issue of eurozone bonds. The bonds are seen with increasing inevitability as means of supporting the likes of Greece, Italy and Ireland.

Even before Tuesday evening's meeting, the Italian press was not confident. Last weekend, Libero accused Ms Merkel of using the crisis to assert German influence over the rest of the Continent. Portraying the German Chancellor as a bully in an SS uniform and sporting a Hitler moustache, the front page screamed: "Germany sets the eurozone under pressure in order to control it."

More sober reflection was seen in other papers yesterday. "Germany and France try to grab control of the crisis," said La Vanguardia in Spain.

Shares fell on the disappointment in the market over at the leaders' reticence over eurozone bonds. "We have exactly the same position on eurobonds," Mr Sarkozy said. "One day we could imagine them, but at the end of a process of European integration, not at the beginning."

The Italian Finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, described the plan as a "masterstroke". Italy would be one of the countries to benefit most.

Others have been cooler on the idea, however, particularly those from countries with stronger economies. Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, warned that a plan to introduce eurobonds should be accompanied by a schedule of punishments for countries that breach budgetary rules.

Petr Necas, the Czech Prime Minister, said closer integration would create more problems than it solved. "Whenever some problem occurs in the [EU], some silver bullet is pulled out, and it is always closer and closer integration," he said.