Merkel 'regrets' rejection of Portugal austerity plan
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her regret Thursday that Portugal's parliament had rejected Prime Minister Jose Socrates's "courageous" austerity programme, prompting his resignation.
"In order to deal with the challenges we face, what is needed a consistent path of (budgetary) consolidation and reform ... Yesterday showed how difficult this is," Merkel told the German parliament.
"It is regrettable that a parliamentary majority was not possible," she said in a speech before heading to a European Union summit in Brussels, calling Socrates's austerity efforts "correct and courageous."
"This shows how much political courage is needed."
All five opposition parties voted Wednesday against the government's fourth cost-cutting plan in a year, increasing the chances that Portugal will follow Greece and Ireland in applying for a bailout worth billions of euros (dollars).
EU leaders plan to replace an emergency bailout fund in 2013 with a permanent war chest underpinned by stringent budgetary discipline and closer cooperation in economic policy among the 17 nations sharing the euro.
© 2011 AFP