Merkel favors ‘Tobin’ tax, Sarkozy sets March 1 pact deadline

AP and AFP

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that she favored a financial transaction tax being introduced in the European Union or for the eurozone alone, after talks with French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Merkel told a joint press conference with Sarkozy that she “personally” could imagine “such a tax at the level of the eurozone” only, after France voiced its readiness to go it alone. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Monday for a new European pact enforcing tighter budgetary discipline to be signed by member states on March 1. “We would like to see negotiations on the accord wrapped up in the coming days and have it signed on March 1,” Sarkozy said after talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The leaders of France and Germany said boosting economic growth in the 17-nation eurozone is a priority in their efforts to stem the debt crisis that’s shown signs of spreading. Following a meeting in Berlin Monday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also urged Greece and its private creditors to quickly agree the restructuring of the country’s national debt.

Otherwise, she warned it would not be possible for Greece to receive its next batch of bailout cash. In October, the eurozone agreed a second bailout for Greece that involves the country’s private creditors accepting a 50 percent reduction in the value of their holdings of Greek debt. She added that both she and Sarkozy want Greece to receive the money. “We want for Greece to remain in the eurozone,” Merkel said. The two leaders also called for payments into the 17-nation eurozone’s permanent rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism, to be sped up in an effort to bolster confidence, and for a quick conclusion to negotiations on a new treaty enshrining fiscal rules. Germany has insisted on austerity measures in the so-called eurozone’s fight to lower budget deficits and regain investor confidence. Europe is working to hammer out a new treaty enshrining tougher fiscal rules, which leaders agreed at a summit in early December. Merkel added that resolving the crisis will be “step-by-step … there’s no single-dimension solution.” They also told reporters that Europe should compare countries’ labor market practices and learn from the best, and for European funds to be used in a way that could create jobs.