BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders gathered on Thursday for a critical two-day summit focused on trying to find a solution to the euro zone debt crisis.
Following are highlights of comments from leaders and other senior officials as they arrived before an informal dinner to begin the summit:
“We Austrians always said we don’t demand one (a treaty change) but if there should be one we will have a look what is in there. Now we know what is in there: basically it says the debt brakes are to introduced and to be abided by. That is also something we Austrians demand because if the foundation isn’t right you can’t build a house.
“We are very much in favor of have a strong enough firewall to fend off financial markets. Strong walls need to be on a strong foundation. Should there be a debate about more discipline we will support that.”
“No that’s the actual problem. That we need the foundation is out of question but the firewalls aren’t strong enough. There are different suggestions how to strengthen them and I hope we will take home a result.”
“There are different suggestions. One suggestion that has repeatedly come from us and (Eurogroup President) Jean-Claude Juncker and others have supported, is that the ECB gets additional flexibility to support the rescue fund, the EFSF, and to have financing there. That would be one way that would be really good.”
“But there are other ways too. To combine the first and second rescue fund, the ESM. There are many ideas that show that we are keen on increasing the firewall.”
“Everybody notices it: if Italy is attacked or another country is attacked, everybody is affected. The markets react to everything. It’s not possible, what some believe, that they’re an island and that’s why these walls need to be strengthened.”
On MAKING PROGRESS WITH THE FULL 27 EU MEMBERS OR THE EURO ZONE 17:
“We shouldn’t give up hope but the words I’ve heard from the UK, from Prime Minister (David) Cameron, are going in the wrong direction. He wants to be left out of financial regulation. We want more finance regulation, not somebody who wants to exclude himself from the little regulation that we have managed to get since the crisis. The starting point to have it with 27 is not very good.”
“The IMF could play a more important part, but I’d prefer a model where the ECB would be strengthened. The ECB could do more to support the rescue mechanism. We support suggestions that Jean-Claude Juncker and others have made. We believe the ECB should play the main part.”
SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER FREDRIK REINFELDT ON POSSIBLE TREATY CHANGE:
“I have no support for a treaty change in Sweden as of now. We are of course willing to discuss different measures, but I think the core of the problems that we have in Europe is economic and need to be dealt with now, and in that capacity a treaty change could be too time-consuming, that’s not the short (term) solution.”
“I want to make clear that treaty change or not, I think that’s actually not at the heart of what we need to do here tonight. I think we need to push on reforms in the most indebted countries, I think we need to increase the firewall to regain confidence from financial markets, and enhance growth in Europe. That’s the three main things we need to deliver.”
ON THE FIREWALL — EUROPEAN FINANCIAL STABILITY FACILITY AND EUROPEAN STABILITY MECHANISM:
“I think it’s a combination both of EFSF and ESM that is discussed, but Sweden has also said that we are willing to contribute towards the bringing in of the IMF solution.
“Bringing these three together, that could really be a strengthening of the firewall that could increase the confidence in the financial markets at the same time as we push on with more reforms in the most indebted countries.
“The combination of this is what I think we need.”
“Tonight, both markets and millions of Europeans are looking for leadership to see the solution to this deep crisis.”
FINNISH PRIME MINISTER JYRKI KATAINEN ON POSSIBLE TREATY CHANGE:
“The market is more interested in firepower of mechanisms and the IMF’s future role. We are in favor of stricter rules but the treaty change is not the only way to get stricter rules.”
“Hopefully we can achieve a good solution. If there is the necessity to change the treaty, we are in favor of it, it’s not a problem for Finland, but let’s see. It will be a very tough meeting I don’t know how long it will take.”
ON POSSIBLE TREATY CHANGE FOR EU 27 OR ONLY FOR EURO ZONE 17:
“It is always better if you change the current treaty of 27 because it’s important to get a strong, united Europe and not to divide it. The situation seems to be quite tricky and now we all must be cooperative and ready for compromise. Hopefully we only have one common treaty for everybody.”
DANISH PRIME MINISTER HELLE THORNING-SCHMIDT ON TREATY CHANGE TO FIND A SOLUTION TO THE CRISIS:
“I come with a mandate to negotiate this, and we’re very open. We think that if the euro countries see treaty change as part of the solution, we are able to back that treaty change.”
“What is most important right now is that we show a willingness to compromise and a willingness to find solutions in common, and then it is very important for all of us that we keep the 27 member states together. This is what has worked in other times of crisis for Europe, and that is what we will be working (for) now as well.”
“These are important talks and we need obviously to get that stability in the euro zone that’s good for European countries, good for Britain as well, but also we need to protect Britain’s interests.
“Those are my aims and that’s what we’ll be discussing.”
GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL ON RESTORING EURO CREDIBILITY:
“The euro has lost credibility and this must be won back. We will make clear that we will accept more binding rules.
“The 17 members states of the euro have to make this clear and that means the Commission will get more responsibilities and the European Court of Justice will get more responsibilities.
“That will make clear that in the future we will stick to the agreement of the Stability and Growth pact.
“We are making an important step towards stability and a fiscal union. The 17 countries have to do this in order to do a favor to all of Europe. Negotiations will show whether it will work on the basis of 17 plus x countries, or all of the 27.
“It is important for me, as a result, that the euro can only regain its credibility by changing treaties to such an extent that we are moving towards a stability union.
“That for me is central and I hope we can be successful.”
“Step-by-step we will approach the goal that unifies us. I think the member states that are not part of the euro have, just as much as those in the euro, a fundamental interest in the euro area working with more commitment and moving closer together towards a fiscal and stability union.”
“It’s a very important European summit. The most important thing for Belgium is to find solutions for citizens and to have the European spirit and solidarity during this summit.”
“We have a lot of work to do. It has to be coordinated, it has to be decisive, and the International Monetary Fund will participate in these efforts.”
“What we have to do is to make sure that such crises can’t reoccur in the future. We have to do everything to make sure that sanctions for countries that don’t abide by the agreements are as automatic as possible.
“At the same time we have to make sure that countries that are in trouble now will come up with a credible program to tackle these problems.
“We have to make sure that we are ready to help such a country if they are under strong surveillance and such a program exists.
“We also have to make sure that we keep the union of 27 together. It is not just a union of 17 euro countries. It is of great importance for a country such as the Netherlands, which is growth-orientated and believes in importance of jobs, that we keep countries such as the UK, Sweden and the Baltic countries and Poland in.”
EUROGROUP PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER ON CHANGING THE EUROPEAN UNION TREATY:
“I would very much like if we managed a treaty change and an final agreement of the architectural foundations with 27 (EU member states). Should it turn out that not all 27 are able to go down this path, then we have to make a treaty change for the 17 euro states. I don’t want this but I don’t exclude it.”
“I’d like a treaty with 27 member states on board — if that is not possible, with 17. I would not consider that, even though I would not like it, a dividing wall going through Europe.
“The 17 member states are sharing a common currency. Their relationship is more intimate than between the 27.”
“I do think that the German and French proposals are pointing in the right direction, because these proposals in fact are the proposals some of us made months and months ago.”
“That’s a question we have to discuss quietly tonight. I don’t want to commit to that before. I wouldn’t mind but we will have to discuss that.”
Other comments ahead of the summit:
VICKY FORD, CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ON BRITISH APPROACH:
“Within the area of financial services legislation, I think the UK should be focusing on avoiding EU ‘one size fits all’ legislation, which could limit the power of the UK’s own regulators, as well as areas of legislation that would result in UK jobs relocating outside the EU, for example the financial transaction tax or bans on specific financial activities.”
ON NEGOTIATING OPT-OUTS AND VETOES:
“Opt-outs and vetoes in this area sound good for the UK given the weight of financial services to the British economy, but this would have to be very carefully negotiated.
“If the cost of the UK getting an opt-out was to give all of the 27 different countries identical vetoes, then negotiating future legislation in this area could be chaos in getting cross-border agreements and undermine the single market.
“I am not saying that the UK should have no veto on all financial ‘rules’. The UK does have a veto on taxes, including the financial transaction tax.
“The UK also has a specific opt-out from the Stability and Growth pact and therefore from the debt and deficit rules upon which it looks like any euro zone ‘economic government’ or ‘fiscal government’ is to be based.”
Reporting by Robin Emmott, Annika Breidthardt, Charlie Dunmore, Robert-Jan Bartunek, John O'Donnell, James Mackenzie, Christopher Le Coq, Justyna Pawlak, David Brunnstrom, Mark John and Rex Merrifield