Denmark tells Merkel solve crisis before treaty change
Denmark, the next country to hold the EU presidency, on Thursday resisted German calls for "limited" treaty changes in the bloc amid growing opposition to Berlin's plans to shore up the euro.
On the eve of talks between British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over sharp differences on Europe's future, Merkel clashed with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on the same subject.
While Merkel stressed at a joint press conference the need for "limited treaty changes" so as to punish those who breach fiscal rules and help restore EU credibility, Thorning-Schmidt said the bloc did not have time for the haggling that that would entail.
"It is my hope that if we have to discuss treaty changes it will be a narrow process. I think it is very, very important that we focus on solving the (budgetary) discipline crisis and having sound economies in Europe," she said, referring to a planned debate on the issue at an EU summit in December.
"We think we should do first things first -- first solve the crisis and then we can discuss how to create more discipline at a later stage," said Thorning-Schmidt, who took office last month and will hold the six-month EU presidency from January 1.
Merkel said the struggling 17-member eurozone, a core group within the 27-member EU, required a "greater degree of integration, of commitment" to survive as a currency union. Denmark does not belong to the eurozone.
The chancellor has called for states that repeatedly breach the debt and deficit limits laid out in the EU's Stability and Growth Pact to face sanctions imposed by the European Court of Justice, a move which would require changes to the EU rule book.
After meeting Merkel Wednesday, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he would prefer to see current mechanisms at the EU's disposal exhausted before contemplating treaty change.
Several countries including Britain, which is not a eurozone member, are resisting efforts to see more central authority handed to Brussels.
Cameron, who will hold talks with Merkel in Berlin Friday, lashed out this week against "grand plans and utopian visions" and called for an EU with "the flexibility of a network, not the rigidity of a bloc."
© 2011 AFP