EU countries must stick to fiscal pact: Merkel
BERLIN GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated on Wednesday that European Union countries that have signed the bloc’s fiscal pact for greater budgetary discipline must stick to what they have agreed. “Everyone must stick to the things we have agreed. Twenty-five countries have already ... signed the fiscal pact,” Merkel told reporters as the pact comes under increasing pressure, with French president-elect Francois Hollande among others seeking its renegotiation in favour of more growth. “Growth and solid public finances are not a contradiction ... solid finances are a necessary but not sufficient precondition” to promote a fastergrowing economy in the euro area, Merkel repeated. EU leaders meeting in Brussels on May 23 to discuss ways to foster growth in the struggling 17-nation eurozone will proceed on this basis, she said. Hollande has sought to shift the debate in Europe from the austerity measures championed by Merkel, while Berlin has insisted that both budget cutting and growth initiatives are required for a healthy economy. Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the chancellor would “push for the fiscal pact as it is and will base her negotiations with the (German) opposition on this.” Germany’s Social Democrats have also called for growth-stimulating measures to be added to the pact. The two will meet in Berlin on May 16 to thrash out the issue. Earlier on Wednesday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti called for a “coalition of the willing” to boost growth even as European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso again ruled out a renegotiation of the fiscal pact. Elections Sunday in Greece saw voters switch support to parties opposed to tough austerity policies adopted in return for bailout aid, highlighting growing disapproval of the hardline approach to the eurozone debt crisis.