Dec. 8 - French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with other leaders before Europe's eighth crisis summit of the year to promote their plan to amend the EU's treaty and toughen budget discipline as a way to solve the debt crisis. Joanna Partridge reports.
It's the most important EU summit for years. And ahead of it French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, met with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and other European leaders in Marseille. Paris and Berlin wanted to use this pre-summit meeting to lobby for their planned change to the EU treaty to toughen budget discipline so that it's ready by March. Sarkozy said Europe is facing an extraordinarily dangerous situation. And the leaders know all eyes are on the EU to finally solve its two year old crisis at the eighth summit of the year. SOUNDBITE: GERMAN CHANCELLOR, ANGELA MERKEL, SAYING (German): "We will find ways out of this crisis, we will find good solutions, and with this we will be one step closer to overcoming the crisis, but it won't be over with one big bang, but it will take years of hard work. Because we have to overcome things that took decades to come about so it won't be overcome with one step." Some European countries are sceptical of the need for treaty change and there are fears the summit could be divisive. SOUNDBITE: EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT, JOSE MANUEL BAROSSO SAYING (French): "We need to come out of this crisis stronger and more united. While all the economic indicators are in the red, unemployment is rising and there's the real risk of recession, we have to end the uncertainty and come out with confidence." U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with Italy's new Prime Minister Mario Monti in the last country on his whistle-stop tour of Europe. He's been pushing for action on the crisis which is now threatening the world economy. SOUNDBITE: U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY, TIMOTHY GEITHNER SAYING (English): "The United States and the world as a whole have a very strong interest in the success of the efforts of Europe." Ratings agency Standard and Poor's has also increased the pressure on Europe by threatening a mass downgrade of the ratings of euro zone countries. Some have been looking to the European Central Bank to take a more dominant role. The ECB cut interest rates on Thursday and offered banks long term funds but doused hopes of it significantly increasing its buying of government bonds. That disappointed the markets. And while all eyes will be on Brussels, over half of 57 economists polled by Reuters don't expect the summit to deliver a decisive solution to the crisis. Joanna Partridge, Reuters