Sarkozy and Merkel invite EU president to head eurozone

France?s President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent a joint letter Wednesday to EU president Herman Van Rompuy inviting him to chair a body of eurozone leaders.

The pair said they hope to strengthen coordinated financial planning within the 17-nation single currency bloc in the face of the current sovereign debt crisis and want the former Belgian prime minister on board.

?The euro is the foundation of our economic success and the symbol of the political unification of our continent,? the zone?s two most powerful leaders said, in a joint statement drawn up after they held talks on Tuesday.

?France and Germany propose to reinforce once more the governance of the eurozone within the framework of existing treaties,? they wrote, proposing that eurozone leaders elect a president for a two-and-a-half year mandate.

?We have expressed our hope that you could assume this role,? they added.

Eurozone finance ministers already meet regularly in what is known as the Eurogroup, and which is chaired by Luxembourg?s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

European financial markets and the euro exchange rate have been gripped by uncertainty as one eurozone member after another has begun to struggle to cope with mounting government debt, threatening the unification project.

Markets had looked to Merkel and Sarkozy?s Paris summit for reassurance, and many observers had hoped that they would endorse the idea of issuing a common ?eurobond? to pool member states? debts.

But the pair stopped short of a measure that would have angered German taxpayers by giving them a greater share of the burden of supporting weaker economies like Greece, calling instead for tougher fiscal discipline.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso nevertheless called Tuesday?s meeting an ?important political contribution by the leaders of the two largest euro area economies.? [AFP]