Chancellor Angela Merkel has told German politicians that European partners' efforts to right the bloc's wavering economy "could not possibly be overestimated." Though she said there was "still much to do."
Chancellor Merkel used her parliamentary address before the European Union leaders' summit in Brussels both to praise the progress made within the bloc and to tell politicians that the process was only just beginning.
Speaking in the lower house of German parliament, the Bundestag, on Thursday, Merkel said she hoped that more measures would be set in motion in the Belgian capital before the summit's close on Friday - focusing on the bloc's ability to compete in the world economy.
"Therefore I would like us to agree upon concrete measures today and tomorrow that focus on how we can achieve this increase in competitiveness," Merkel said.
Great work, unfinished
The chancellor lauded the recently-announce EU finance ministers' deal to permit the European Central Bank (ECB) to monitor the bloc's largest banks, saying its significance "could not possibly be overestimated."
Merkel also lauded struggling eurozone economies for making tough spending cuts, often amid recession or rising unemployment, but said "there's still an awful lot left to do, in order to regain trust in the European Union. We cannot stand still half-way down the road."
Opposition politicians countered that rising unemployment and debt-loads in the bloc were partly the fault of the more conservative solutions advocated by Merkel's influential German government.
"You and your conservative friends are responsible for this bitter reality," leading Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel said, claiming that Merkel had formed a "Faustian pact" with British Prime Minister David Cameron. He was referencing Goethe's classic "Faust," in which the protagonist makes a deal with the devil.
Cameron, a Conservative, resisted the stronger banking regulation deal advocated by some European countries like France during the negotiation period.
Budget committee member Otto Fricke of the junior coalition partners, the Free Democrats, retorted that Gabriel's comments were "electioneering, pure and simple," with the countdown to next year's federal election underway.
Tete a tete with Hollande
The presidential palace in Paris, meanwhile, announced on Thursday that Merkel and President Francois Hollande would hold private talks prior to the EU summit, which gets underway later on Thursday.
The Parisian palace also alluded to a three-phase plan drafted by the president of the European Council, Hermann van Rompuy, a document Merkel referred to as a "primer of discussion" when addressing the Bundestag.
The chancellor instead said her desired focus were short-term, six-month measures to boost the bloc's competitiveness.
"If we can agree on a plan like that today and tomorrow, then for me, that would be a good achievement," Merkel said.
msh/dr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
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