A summit meeting of the 27 European Union (EU) leaders opened Sunday with general and often-heard calls for serious steps to be taken to deal with the debt crisis in Europe.
“The current economic challenges are deeply serious; slowing economic growth, rising unemployment, pressure on the banks, and risks in sovereign bonds,” said the President of the EU Council Herman Van Rompuy in his opening remarks.
“Our meetings of today and Wednesday are important steps – perhaps the most important ones – in the series to overcome the financial crisis,” he noted.
For his part, the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek said the most important topic on today’s agenda is lowering Greece’s debt burden and to decide how much, and in which way, private investors should be involved.
The recapitalisation of European banks and the Euro emergency fund, the EFSF, are two other issues on the agenda.
After the summit meeting of all the 27 EU states, the 17 Eurozone leaders will meet in the afternoon separately.
Analysts said that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are at loggerheads about the role of the EFSF. France favours turning the EFSF into a bank, while Germany wants to guarantee sovereign bonds.
Sunday’s summit is to be followed by a second Eurozone summit on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Belgian Premier Yves Leterme has warned that Sunday’s summit should not be allowed to be a day of debate without any conclusions being drawn.
Leterme said he fears that financial markets screens will colour deep red on Monday.