Nation/World

Leaders circle wagons to guard hard-hit euro

French President Nicolas Sarkozy,  left, walks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Friday.  (Associated Press)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, walks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Friday. (Associated Press)

BRUSSELS, Belgium – French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced early today that the 16 eurozone nations will set up a financial defense plan by the time markets open next week to shield their shared currency against further attack.

With Spain and Portugal’s fragile financial systems already pounded by markets in the wake of the Greek debt crisis, Sarkozy and Merkel laid out a plan to defend all euro nations against aggressive market movement.

“The euro is an essential element of Europe. We cannot leave it to speculators,” Sarkozy said following nine hours of emergency talks by leaders from eurozone nations.

“We will not let others undo what generations have created,” said Sarkozy.

Eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker underscored the urgency of the threat by saying that even the staunchly independent European Central Bank was on board to help out with the operation after Jean-Claude Trichet huddled with Sarkozy and Merkel just before the summit.

“The ECB will want to contribute” to the mechanism, he said.

“We are talking about a global attack against the euro, and the eurozone must react as one,” Juncker said.

Sarkozy said European finance ministers will hold another emergency meeting Sunday to work out specifics of the anti-speculation plan.

The urgency of Sunday’s hastily arranged Ecofin meeting is the first clear indication that fears of contagion are coming true, with the crisis that emerged from Greece starting to affect other eurozone countries.



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