NEWS

EU president rules out Greece leaving the eurozone

EU president Herman Van Rompuy ruled out on Monday any question of Greece leaving the eurozone and indicated he was willing to serve a second term to help Europe overcome the debt crisis.

While Greek finances deteriorate and eurozone governments struggle to finalise a second bailout for Athens, Van Rompuy rejected any suggestion of pushing Greece out of the single currency area.

?This would create more problems than solutions,? he told VRT Flemish radio.

Van Rompuy, who meets both the prime minister of Finland, Jyrki Katainen, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, separately in Helsinki and Berlin later on Monday, added: ?The euro has never been stronger than it is today.? Van Rompuy said: ?The first thing to do is to put in order the affairs of countries that implemented bad policies in the past and face problems today.

?Financial markets see that there are still problems in the execution of (budget) plans in Greece and Italy. Europe must increase pressure on those countries in order for them to implement the plans they put together,? he said.

The abrupt interruption of an EU-IMF mission in Greece last week unnerved the markets, causing the interest rate demanded for two-year Greek bonds to soar to 50 percent on Monday.

The European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund ended ahead of schedule their review of Greece?s budgetary efforts in Athens on Friday. The trio gave Athens 10 days to move forward on structural reforms.

Van Rompuy said he could not predict how long the eurozone debt crisis would last.

?But because the work is not finished, I do not rule out a second mandate,? the former Belgian prime minister said. ?I would not do it for personal glory.? Van Rompuy took his post as the EU?s first president in January 2010 after European leaders appointed him at a summit over more high-profile figures such as former British prime minister Tony Blair. His term expires in June 2012.

Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have together also asked Van Rompuy to assume a new post they want to create as eurozone president, also suggested as a 30-month tenure.[AFP]