Merkel wants ambitious overhaul of euro zone in 2-3 years

BRUSSELS Thu Nov 8, 2012 1:59am IST

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) is welcomed by European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Brussels November 7, 2012. Merkel is holding meetings with several political groups at the European Parliament on Wednesday. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) is welcomed by European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Brussels November 7, 2012. Merkel is holding meetings with several political groups at the European Parliament on Wednesday.

Credit: Reuters/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on fellow European leaders on Wednesday to agree an ambitious, concrete plan for closer fiscal and economic integration next month that can then be put in place over the next two to three years.

In a speech to the European Parliament in Brussels, Merkel said the crisis-hit currency bloc could only win back confidence by pressing ahead with economic reforms and laying out a roadmap for deeper unity.

"I will work to ensure that we agree an ambitious roadmap in December for renewing our economic and monetary union," Merkel said. "It should include concrete measures that we can implement over the coming two to three years."

EU leaders are due to meet in mid-December to discuss changes to the rules governing their common currency, including closer coordination of economic policies.

Merkel set out four elements in her speech, including harmonizing financial market regulation, closer fiscal and economic policy integration, and steps to ensure greater democratic legitimacy for decisions taken at the European level.

She reiterated her support for giving European institutions new rights to intervene in national budgets when they violated EU rules. She also spoke of the need for closer coordination of labor and tax policies, while making clear that the sovereignty of member states in these areas must be respected.

Despite her push for a "deeper" union, Merkel made clear that she did not want a two-speed Europe, dividing members of the currency bloc from those EU members which do not use the euro.

After her appearance in Brussels, Merkel is due to travel to London to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron amid a standoff over the EU's medium-term budget. Under pressure from euro-sceptics in his party, Cameron is gradually pulling away from Europe to the irritation of EU states including Germany. (Reporting by Noah Barkin)

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