EU 'Big Four' in bailout row

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Leaders of Europe's "Big Four" will meet in Paris tomorrow for a summit that could expose the EU's incapacity to agree any common approach to the financial crisis.

The French President Nicolas Sarkozy pressed ahead with plans for the summit yesterday, despite what one French newspaper called a "crisis" between Paris and Berlin. Gordon Brown, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi will attend what could be a difficult meeting. Paris was furious yesterday that the German government had publicly shot down an alleged French proposal to create a €350bn (£275bn) EU fund to bail out threatened European banks. M. Sarkozy denied proposing what he dismissed as a "Paulson B" plan for Europe.

It later emerged that the rescue package was a Dutch idea, misreported by the media as French. The Dutch denied they had suggested a centrally funded EU rescue plan, equivalent to the US bailout package. They said they had proposed a series of national rescue plans of up to 3 per cent of each country's GDP. A version of this plan could still come before EU leaders tomorrow.