EU crises talks critical, says George Osborne

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Indy Politics

A round of weekend negotiations in Brussels will be "critical" in selling the eurozone crisis, Chancellor George Osborne said today.

Before leaving for Brussels for talks tomorrow with fellow EU finance ministers, he said resolving the crisis would be a boost for growth, not just in the eurozone but in the UK and across the world.

Mr Osborne is attending a meeting tomorrow ahead of a Sunday summit of all 27 EU leaders amid growing concern that an answer to the economic crisis in Europe is slipping from the grasp of the member states.

A crunch summit was planned for last Monday, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a postponement until Sunday after realising they were far from agreement on key issues such as a massive reinforcement of an existing bailout fund for struggling eurozone countries, and a major recapitalisation of European banks to help them withstand economic shocks.

A sense of indecision and confusion worsened last night when Paris and Berlin announced that another summit would be held in Brussels next Wednesday - indicating no results were likely from the Sunday meeting.

The announcement only reinforced nervousness in financial markets and increased frustration in European capitals in the face of an apparent revival of the Franco-German axis in Europe.

"At the moment Merkel and Sarkozy are dictating everything we do on this crisis," said one EU official.

Tonight, eurozone finance ministers were meeting in Brussels. Then all 27 EU finance ministers, including Mr Osborne, gather for more talks.

On Sunday morning, EU leaders take the stage - and then eurozone countries meet again to consider the conclusions.

Now, at the instigation of Paris and Berlin, the leaders of the 17 eurozone countries are due to meet again in Brussels on Wednesday, in a move which reinforced a sense of indecision clouding firm results about how to ringfence the Greek economic crisis and reassure markets that the euro is a stable currency and that Europe's banks can withstand future economic shockwaves.

"Now that Germany and Paris have called another summit next Wednesday, what is the point of having a summit this Sunday when it is clear that nothing will be agreed?" asked one Commission official. "What signals are we sending to the markets, which have been dictating everything we do for months?"

Meanwhile Mr Osborne said: "The coming days will be critical for resolving the crisis in the eurozone.

"I am convinced of everyone's commitment to this. A resolution to the eurozone crisis would be the biggest boost to growth in Britain and around the world."

Prime Minister David Cameron arrives in Brussels early on Sunday for the half-day summit, although reinforcement of an existing eurozone bailout fund will only involve the 17 eurozone countries.

Recapitalisation of Europe's banks, on the other hand, will involve all 27 member states.

UK Independence Party leader and MEP Nigel Farage commented: "Even the Commission realises that charging around like headless chickens isn't the best way to calm the markets.

"I know they haven't a clue, they know they haven't a clue, even Fred down the Dog and Duck knows they haven't a clue. It's a pity that George Osborne hasn't spotted it yet."

Mr Farage added: "Meanwhile, millions across Europe and particularly in Greece lose their jobs.

"They should be honest and help Greece leave the Eurozone straightjacket, rather than prolong the agony."