Reports that Germany and France have begun talks to break up the eurozone amid fears that Italy will be too big to rescue


European debt crisis spiralling out of control

Reports that Germany and France have begun talks to break up the eurozone amid fears that Italy will be too big to rescue


Larry Elliott, Heather Stewart and John Hooper in Rome
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 November 2011 16.16 EST
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European Union
Debt crisis sets markets in turmoil amid reports of talks about the break up of the eurozone.

Fears that Europe's sovereign debt crisis was spiralling out of control have intensified as political chaos in Athens and Rome, and looming recession, created panic on world markets.

Reports emerging from Brussels said that Germany and France had begun preliminary talks on a break-up of the eurozone, amid fears that Italy would be too big to rescue.

Despite Silvio Berlusconi's announcement that he would step down as prime minister once austerity measures were pushed through parliament, a collapse of investor confidence in the eurozone's third-biggest economy sent interest rates in Italy to the levels that triggered bailouts in Portugal, Greece and Ireland.

Italian bond yields surged through the critical 7% mark, at one point hitting 7.5%, amid concern that the deteriorating situation had moved the crisis into a dangerous new phase.

In Athens talks to appoint a prime minister to succeed George Papandreou were in deadlock, and will resume on Thursday morning. The Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, sought to reassure the markets by promising that Berlusconi would be leaving office soon.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said the situation had become "unpleasant", and called for eurozone members to accelerate plans for closer political integration. "It is time for a breakthrough to a new Europe," she said. "Because the world is changing so much, we must be prepared to answer the challenges. That will mean more Europe, not less Europe."

The president of the European commission, José Manuel Barroso, issued a new call for the EU to "unite or face irrelevance" in the face of the mounting economic crisis in Italy. "We are witnessing fundamental changes to the economic and geopolitical order that have convinced me that Europe needs to advance now together or risk fragmentation. Europe must either transform itself or it will decline. We are in a defining moment where we either unite or face irrelevance," he said.

Senior policymakers in Paris, Berlin and Brussels are reported to have discussed the possibility of one or more countries leaving the eurozone, while the remaining core pushes on toward deeper economic integration, including on tax and fiscal policy. "France and Germany have had intense consultations on this issue over the last months, at all levels," a senior EU official in Brussels told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.
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