May 24 - European Union leaders meeting in Brussels have urged Greece to stay the course on austerity and remain in the single currency bloc, while senior officials advised them to make preparations if the country decides to quit. Andrew Potter reports.
A photo which will hardly become an icon of decisive action. The latest European Union leaders' meeting in Brussels proved inconclusive amid market anxiety that Greece could be about to crash out of the euro zone. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy spoke after the gathering concluded, in the early hours of the morning. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL HERMAN VAN ROMPUY SAYING: "We will ensure that European structural funds and instruments are mobilised to bring Greece on a path towards growth and job creation. Continuing the vital reforms to restore debt sustainability, foster private investment and reinforce its institutions is the best guarantee for a more prosperous future in the euro area." But the meeting exposed a growing split between Germany and France, under the leadership of new President Francois Hollande. At his first such event, Hollande said pooling the euro zone's debt liability into euro bonds was a viable way of saving the euro currency. Germany says that's not an option. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE SAYING: "I respect Mrs Merkel's point of view when she says euro bonds are not an instrument of growth in themselves. It is a tool that could under certain conditions lead to growth. So it's an ongoing debate." The UK isn't in the euro zone, but Europe is its biggest export market. And Prime Minister David Cameron was left furious after European leaders once again tried to get the UK to agree to a European financial transaction tax. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON SAYING: "A financial transaction tax is a bad idea. It would put up the costs of people's insurance, it would put up the costs of people's pension. It will cost many many jobs and it will make Europe less competitive and I will fight it all the way." In the background of the Brussels meeting, experts who work for European finance ministers were reportedly putting plans in place in case Greece leaves the euro zone. That's looking more likely by the day. Anti-austerity parties are expected to poll well when Greece holds elections next month. Officials say the country will run out of money within two months without more outside funding. Andrew Potter, Reuters