Michael Gottschalk/AFP/Getty Images
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel make their way to a press conference in Berlin on Monday.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel make their way to a press conference in Berlin on Monday. Michael Gottschalk/AFP/Getty Images
Finance ministers from the 27 European Union countries meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday to consider what, if anything, their governments can do together to stop the spreading financial crisis.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised Monday that "all necessary measures" would be taken to ensure financial stability. However, individual European governments disagree over what should be done.
The crisis is testing the strength of the EU like nothing the region has experienced in years. As long as the European economy was healthy, countries moved steadily toward greater integration.
But it now appears these governments do not yet have the institutions or tools or even the political commitment to deal collectively with an economic crisis.
Germany, with the largest economy, is noticeably cool on joint Europe-wide action. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, speaking Monday night after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, called for the creation of an "umbrella" fund to protect European banks.
But Merkel said each country must meet its responsibility. Speaking earlier, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck said Germans, "do not want to pay into a big pot where we do not have control and don't know where German money might be used."
The crisis is a special challenge for the European Central Bank, which serves all those countries using the euro as their currency. In Europe, as in the United States, even strong industrial companies are finding it almost impossible to borrow money.
ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet, in Luxembourg to meet with EU finance ministers, said the central bank would continue to pump capital into money markets to get credit moving again.
"You can tell the citizens they can count on the ECB," Trichet told reporters.