France to urge Britain to help save the euro: report

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The French prime minister has said he will on Thursday urge Britain to back deeper European integration to save the euro or risk disaster in its own economy if the currency fails.

Francois Fillon told Britain's Times newspaper that he is taking the message to British Prime Minister David Cameron at talks in London.

The meeting comes a day after the euro received some welcome relief with a successful 1.25-billion-euro (1.6-billion-dollar) bond auction in Portugal, the latest eurozone member under pressure after Greece and Ireland.

"Europe finds itself at an historic turning point. The real question right now is whether we keep building on this adventure or whether we leave it at that," Fillon was quoted as saying in the paper.

"In order to consolidate the euro we will need gradually to harmonise our economic, fiscal and social policies, hence we are going to go towards greater integration.

"We are going to need to put in place an economic system of governance for the eurozone. Great Britain is not part of the eurozone; at the same time the decision we will take will have great importance to Britain."

Speaking at the prime ministerial residence in Paris, Fillon said the issue was now whether Britain, ruled by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, would help or hamper integration.

"The question is: is the UK ready to accept or encourage greater integration of the eurozone or is the UK distrustful of that and will it create obstacles and make it more difficult to happen?" he said.

Britain was so closely linked to the EU's internal market that "it would be a catastrophe and a disaster for Great Britain itself if the euro failed," he added.

Fillon went on that it was in Britain's interest to bolster the single currency and strengthen Europe's position on the global stage.

"Great Britain is one of the major powers of this world. If it left the EU, the EU would be left much weaker and I do not believe Great Britain would have much to gain," he said.

The successful bond sale in debt-laden Portugal and news of record economic growth for Germany gave the 17-nation eurozone a much-needed boost on Wednesday.

Lisbon has been beset by speculation that its eurozone partners want it to accept a bailout to avert a wider crisis.

It is feared that any economic disaster in Portugal could drag down others, including Spain, after Greece and Ireland were both given huge EU/IMF loans last year.

© 2011 AFP

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