The leaders of the eurozone's four largest economies
said Friday they agree that measures to boost economic growth in the
area should be a priority in order to solve the current debt crisis.
"We are working on a European agenda for (the adoption) of concrete measures," said Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, referring to a European Union summit in Brussels next week.
Monti was speaking at a joint news conference in Rome with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
The four met for about two hours at Villa Madama, an aristocratic Renaissance residence. The talks were seen as preparation for the EU summit Thursday-Friday when more details on the four leaders' plans are expected to be presented.
Like the Italian premier, Merkel also stressed the importance of relaunching the eurozone's struggling economies such as those of Greece, Spain and Italy.
"It is the right signal that we invest an additional 1 per cent of the GDP of the eurozone in growth," Merkel added.
The adoption of such a pro-growth package would mobilize some 130 billion euros (164 billion dollars), Monti said earlier in the news conference.
Next week's summit could be poised to adopt a spending plan worth tens of billions of euros to boost infrastructure investments within the bloc, documents seen by dpa showed Friday.
Draft conclusions indicated that the plan should leverage "up to 180 billion euros of additional investment, spread across the whole European Union, including in the most vulnerable countries," and should be operational by the end of the year.
It was not clear to what extent this plan incorporated the growth measures the four leaders said they had agreed to in Rome.
But Merkel stressed that any concerted action would require much greater political cohesion between EU member states.
"We will work together on what I call a political union," she said. "The lesson from the crisis is not less Europe, but more Europe."
Hollande, who has been critical of Germany's insistence that economic recovery should be based first and foremost on budget austerity, welcomed what he said was a shift in focus.
"Who would have said just a few weeks ago that it (growth) would be so high up the agenda of an EU council? Growth, given the situation, has become the priority," Hollande said.
But, the French president appeared to qualify his support for Merkel's stance on greater political integration, something that has been interpreted as giving EU authorities the power to police national behaviour to prevent the reckless spending policies that landed Greece and others in trouble.
"There cannot be a transfer of sovereignty if there is no improvement in solidarity," Hollande said.
Rajoy, whose government is negotiating a deal to bailout Spain's struggling banks, said the four leaders had decided "to bet (in favour) of Europe's future."
"We want a political, economic, banking and fiscal union," he added.
Friday's meeting took place against the backdrop of fears that Spain and Italy would need bailouts after their borrowing costs spiked.
Monti, in a newspaper interview ahead of the talks, had stressed that the outcome of the meeting could determine the success or failure of next week's summit.
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