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Merkel to host European leaders for informal talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host the leaders of Portugal, Sweden and Austria next week for informal talks on the eurozone debt crisis and fiscal integration, her spokesman said Friday.

Steffen Seibert told a press briefing that Merkel would welcome Pedro Passos Coelho of Portugal, Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden and Austria’s Werner Faymann to a palace north of Berlin on Thursday.

“The informal talks over a working dinner will focus on issues surrounding the future of the economic and currency union,” Seibert said.

He added that the agenda would also take in Greece’s struggle to get on top of its crippling debt crisis and plans for a pivotal European Union summit in March, noting that Merkel would hold several such meetings in the coming weeks.

Next week’s gathering “reflects the diversity of the European Union” with its varying points of view, Seibert said. No news conference is planned.

Sweden is not a member of the 17-nation eurozone while Portugal, which uses the single currency, belongs to the crisis-wracked periphery that has relied on bailouts to cope with its towering debt.

Austria, one of six eurozone countries that enjoys the top AAA credit rating and thus low borrowing costs, has frequently joined Germany with an austerity-driven view of resolving the debt crisis.

EU leaders are hammering out a deal on a new treaty designed to beef up fiscal discipline in the run-up to their latest crisis summit on January 29.

The bloc aims to have the pact to restore the financial markets’ faith in the eurozone signed by March.