Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Germany, France, Italy, Spain Agree to Stimulus to Fight Financial Crisis

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Germany, France, Italy, Spain Agree to Stimulus to Fight Financial Crisis

Article excerpt

LONDON -- Leaders from the eurozone's four largest nations -- Germany, France, Italy and Spain -- agreed Friday to pump as much as $164 billion into the region's moribund economy, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicating a fresh willingness to embrace fiscal stimulus as a tool to fight Europe's financial crisis.

The bow by Ms. Merkel -- Europe's strictest fiscal disciplinarian -- toward limited injections of cash indicated a victory for President Francois Hollande, France's new Socialist leader.

Mr. Hollande has sought to make government stimulus a key part of a German-backed crisis management plan that thus far has put forth deep budget cuts and austerity as the cure to what ails Europe.

But if Ms. Merkel -- known around Europe now as "Frau Nein" or "Mrs. No" -- gave in on stimulus, she appeared to win important concessions from the other three leaders on the larger question of how to roll out bigger fixes to the euro currency union.

At the same time, Ms. Merkel stood firm in her opposition to some of the short-term fixes to the crisis being floated by troubled Spain and Italy, whose economies are weathering severe stress, as panicked investors dump their government bonds.

The closely watched meeting of the four leaders Friday in Rome was aimed at reaching a united front among Europe's major economies ahead of a broader European Union summit in Brussels next week.

Although the outcome suggested that the region's top leaders were managing to compromise on some issues, they still appeared divided on others.

Ms. Merkel's embrace of a stimulus package in her strongest language yet, however, appeared to signal a recognition by Berlin that the region's nose-diving economies were in need of more economic medicine besides more and more cuts.

"We have to talk about the subject of growth and creating employment," Ms. Merkel said at a joint news conference in Rome. …

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