Jan. 9 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met for the first time this year to discuss boosting growth and jobs in the crisis-hit euro zone, and also warned Greece to speed up debt restructuring. Joanna Partridge reports.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel got used to spending time together in 2011. This year's unlikely to be much different and in their first meeting of 2012, they discussed how to boost growth and jobs in the euro zone in the wake of the ongoing debt crisis. Merkel had a warning for Greece. SOUNDBITE: German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, saying (German): "The voluntary debt restructuring of Greece must be pushed forward and in our opinion, the second Greek rescue package, including the restructuring, must be quickly realised, otherwise it will not be possible to pay out the next tranche to Greece, which we want to be able to do. We want Greece to stay in the euro zone." Berlin and Paris want to speed up payments into the euro zone's permanent bailout scheme. And get a new EU treaty to introduce closer fiscal union signed as soon as possible. SOUNDBITË: French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, saying (French): "We hope that the intergovernmental treaty is decided in the next few days, that the negotiations be concluded in the next days and that the treaty will be signed on the first of March. The Chancellor and I want Europe to make a decision as quickly as possible." Sarkozy is also aggressively pushing for a new levy on financial transactions, or "Tobin tax" - which Britain opposes, afraid of its effect on the City of London. He's up against the clock to get that passed before France's two-round presidential election in April and May. He's trailing in the polls at a time when French unemplyoment is at its highest level in 12 years and the country is on course for a record trade deficit in 2011. That contrasts with the German economy, which keeps showing it can withstand the crisis - as data released on Monday showed exports rose by 2.5 percent in November. There wasn't much news from the summit to boost the euro, which is hovering around a 16-month low against the dollar, but is expected to fall further on concerns about euro debt, especially the situation in Italy and Spain. And it won't be long until Merkel and Sarkozy meet again - they're holding talks with Italian Prime Minister on the twentieth of January, and will attend an EU summit at the end of the month. Joanna Partridge, Reuters