EU Hopes To Build Financial 'Firewall'

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European Union leaders gather at the end of the week, but have delayed a decision on whether to build a bigger financial firewall after giving Greece another bailout.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. European leaders agreed on the shape of a second bailout for Greece last week worth more than $170 billion. And this week, some of those leaders must now take the deal back to their respective legislatures for a vote of support.

SIEGEL: In a moment, we'll talk about that bailout and the broader turmoil in Europe with Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund. But first, attention in Europe now turns to the creation of a massive rescue fund meant to inoculate the eurozone from another Greece. From Berlin, NPR's Eric Westervelt has that story.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: German lawmakers yesterday signed off on their commitment for the second big bailout for Greece, a move applauded by 54-year-old Herbert Laschet, a Berlin city street cleaner.

HERBERT LASCHET: (Speaks foreign language)

WESTERVELT: It's all about European solidarity and Greece belongs to Europe, he says, so we're in solidarity with them. The alternative is a purely economic community, he adds, and that's all about profit. I'm with Greece. Those with more should help them out, Laschet said. Now that the Greek bailout is one step closer, attention shifts somewhat. European officials hope to build a strong enough permanent firewall to protect against wider financial chaos if similar Greek-style debt and fiscal crisis arise.

The permanent rescue fund called the European Stability Mechanism is scheduled to get going this summer with up to $660 billion in its coffers. There's been talk of raising that account to $1 trillion. But today, eurozone finance ministers postponed a meeting on the issue scheduled for later this week, underscoring the work ahead in reaching consensus on the issue.

Meantime, Chancellor Angela Merkel's mentor, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, today said European unity is still the crux of the matter. Kohl, who is 81 and in frail health, wrote in Bild, the country's largest circulation daily, that at its core, the crisis is about basic issues of peace and freedom in Europe nearly seven decades after the end of the second World War. The evil spirits of the past have by no means been banished. They can always return, Kohl wrote.

Adding, that means Europe remains a question of war and peace and the desire for peace remains the driving force behind European integration. He wrote that the only way out of the debt crisis is more Europe, not less. Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Berlin.

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