German Vision Prevails as Leaders Agree on Fiscal Pact
Exactly 20 years to the day after European leaders signed the treaty that led to the creation of the European Union and the euro currency, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany persuaded every current member of the union except Britain to endorse a new agreement calling for tighter regional oversight of government spending. The accord, approved at a summit meeting in Brussels early on Friday, would allow the European Court of Justice to strike down a member’s laws if they violate fiscal discipline.
“It’s interesting to note that 20 years later we have realized — we have succeeded — in creating a more stable foundation for that economic and monetary union,” Mrs. Merkel said, adding, “and in so doing we’ve advanced political union and have attended to weaknesses that were included in the system.”
The agreement was a clear victory for Mrs. Merkel, and it prompted a sharp rally in stock markets in Europe and the United States. But it is viewed as unlikely to calm fears that Europe is unwilling to muster the financial firepower to defend the sovereign debts of big member states, including Italy and Spain, that have little or no economic growth and have big debt bills coming due soon.
At the meeting, member governments agreed to raise up to $270 billion that could be used by the International Monetary Fund to aid indebted European governments, and they moved up the date that a European rescue fund would come into operation. But the sums involved fell well short of what many investors and some Obama administration officials have argued are needed to ensure the survival of the euro. Administration officials on Friday welcomed the long-term overhaul of the euro zone’s rules, but argued that stronger measures were needed in the short run.