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EUROZONE

French finance minister ‘convinced’ of EU deal

French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said he was "convinced" that European leaders would agree on a comprehensive deal to end the eurozone debt crisis at a summit on Wednesday.

“I’m convinced of it,” Baroin told Europe 1 radio on Monday. “If we said (there was) two thirds progress since Friday morning, we are realistic.”

“We agreed on disbursing the last installment of the preceding Greek programme,” he said referring to a European summit in Brussels this weekend.      

“We agreed on the level of recapitalisation for banks to face any shocks,” he added noting that there remained “technical discussions” on the European rescue fund.

“We know where we are going, we know that we don’t want Greece to default,” Baroin said, stressing that the crisis was “serious” and a “threat on a global scale.”

European Union leaders hailed good progress after a first summit on Sunday aimed at overcoming a crisis that has threatened to pitch the world into a fresh recession.

However, presidents and prime ministers left Brussels with few concrete details, vowing to reveal all at a second gathering on Wednesday despite mounting international and market pressure.

Leaders are still examining ways to beef up the EU rescue fund beyond its current firepower of 440 billion euros ($605 billion) without actually putting in more money.

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EUROPEAN UNION

How Britain tried to turn former French president Chirac against the euro

British diplomats tried to establish a "very private link" with former French president Jacques Chirac with the "unavowed aim" of exposing him to the risks of a European currency union, declassified documents revealed Thursday.

How Britain tried to turn former French president Chirac against the euro
French President Jacques Chirac (L) welcomes British Prime Minister John Major at the Elysee Palace 29 July 1995 in Paris. Photo: AFP
The government files from 1995 document Britain's plan to influence the French president's decision on whether to proceed with the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the group of policies that led to the formation of the euro.
   
“Chirac is alive to the risks of ploughing ahead with the EMU without thinking through the implications,” then British ambassador in Paris Christopher Mallaby wrote to the prime minister at the time, John Major, in a cable outlining his plan to “move the debate in our direction”.
   
He suggested “establishing a very private link” between Downing Street and Chirac's Elysee palace. 
   
“The pretext could be private discussions” about currency union, he wrote.
 
Photo: AFP
 
“The unavowed aim would be to ensure that Chirac was exposed to the risks of an early move to EMU, including the divisive political effect within the EU,” he added.
   
Britain never joined the currency union, having infamously been forced to withdraw the pound from a precursor on “Black Wednesday” in 1992 when it could 
not keep sterling above an agreed level, and was keen to stall the move towards a full union.
   
Mallaby targeted Chirac as a potential ally, saying his “thinking is unformed and influenceable.”
   
The documents also revealed Chirac's scepticism about European integration.
   
“He said bluntly that Europe was no longer very popular,” a foreign office cable quoted him as saying at a 1995 heads of government meeting.
   
The president added that the “EU seemed to be cut off from the real problems affecting the ordinary citizen… and people saw it as a mammoth bureaucracy poking its nose in where it was not needed,” added the memo.
   
Prime Minister Major replied that “he had been waiting five years to hear someone else say things like this!”, according to the cables.
   
Major is now a fierce opponent of Brexit, having been fatally damaged in office by internal divisions over his decision to sign Britain up to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.
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