NEWS

EU calls emergency meeting to deal with eurozone crisis

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has called an emergency meeting of top officials dealing with the euro zone debt crisis for Monday morning, relecting concern that the crisis could spread to Italy, the region?s third largest economy.

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet will attend the meeting along with Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the region?s finance ministers, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Olli Rehn, the economic and monetary affairs commissioner, three official sources told Reuters.

The talks were organised after a sharp sell-off in Italian assets on Friday, which has increased fears that Italy, with the highest sovereign debt ratio relative to its economy in the euro zone after Greece, could be next to suffer in the crisis. A second international bailout of Greece will also be discussed.

Greece is already receiving 110 billion euros ($157 billion) of international loans under a rescue scheme launched in May last year but this has failed to change market expectations that it will eventually default on its debt.

Senior euro zone officials worry that progress towards a second Greek bailout, also totalling around 110 billion euros, is not being made quickly enough and that the delay is poisoning investors? confidence in weak economies around the region.

?We need to move on this in the next couple of weeks. It?s not a case of waiting until late August or early September as Germany is saying. That?s too late and markets will make us pay for it,? a top euro zone official told Reuters on Saturday.

German officials insist they too want to put together the second Greek bailout as quickly as possible, but the private sector?s contribution is proving to be a major sticking point. [Reuters]