EU must work together to overcome debt crisis: Ireland

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The European Union will only emerge from its debt crisis if member states work together, Irish President Mary McAleese warned Monday during a visit to Spain.

The 27-member bloc has struggled for more than a year to manage heavy debts built up in some countries, leading to bailouts for Greece and Ireland and the threat of similar action for Portugal and perhaps even Spain.

European leaders have set a two-day summit starting Thursday as a deadline to deliver a "comprehensive" response to the debt crisis. Analysts warn failure to strike a deal this week may fan financial market fears.

"Today we face an unprecedented financial and economic crisis which affects the lives of all our people. This crisis can only be tackled through solidarity and through an effective response at the European level," McAleese said at a lunch hosted by Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in Madrid.

"This week the European Council will meet to adopt a range of measures to deal with the challenges that face us. I believe passionately that by working together and with the support of our partners, we will emerge from this crisis to a secure and sustainable future."

Eurozone leaders agreed this month to beef up rescue funding for debt-hit nations and lower the interest rate on Greece's rescue loans.

But they refused to reduce the interest Ireland must pay on its bailout package unless Dublin budges on its business taxation level, one of the bloc's lowest at 12.5 percent.

McAleese, a former radio and television journalist, began her three-day visit to Spain on Monday.

She will hold talks with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Tuesday in Madrid before wrapping up her visit Wednesday in Barcelona where she is scheduled to visit the Sagrada Familia cathedral.

© 2011 AFP

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