Solidarity in euro zone should not lead to debt union, Merkel says

Banks Sweeping out Bad Loans       Ratio of non performing debt to total lending back below 2012               Source European Central Bank

She said she was "absolutely open to talking to the new Italian government about ways to help young people find work" given high levels of youth unemployment.

In her first detailed response to Emmanuel Macron's euro-zone ideas, the German chancellor blends caution and compromise: Yay to a Euro-IMF and deeper common defense, nay to Italian debt relief.

The chancellor spoke at a time of new concern about cohesion in the 28-member European Union, after a populist coalition with a strong anti-EU streak was installed in Italy last week. Most Eastern European states have shunned the deal, leaving countries like Greece and Italy complaining of unfair burdens. Merkel, who has faced criticism for not responding quickly and clearly to Macron's proposals made in September, said the bailout fund, know as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), was not sufficient to shield the euro zone from crisis.

Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung ahead of a crunch European Union summit this month that Germany as the eurozone's top economy would support an investment budget whose total would be "at the lower end of the double-digit billions of euros range". "As such, we would be able to take under our wing countries that get into difficulties because of extraordinary circumstances".

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She also said the EMF should be able to assess the debt sustainability of member states and "the instruments needed to restore this if necessary" - a nod to debt restructuring, which France opposes. Lawmakers from Merkel's conservative bloc have been cold to Macron's proposal, saying they are wary that his call for more solidarity could see German taxpayers' money used to fund profligate member states.

Merkel said Europe needed "quicker economic convergence" but stopped short of Macron's vision of a major investment budget, saying, in euros, it should be "at the lower end of the double-digit billions" and only phased in gradually.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is coming under pressure to address allegations that she knew as early as previous year about mismanagement in the government office for refugees that came to light recently.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a phone conversation with Italy's new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on June 2. Conte, a little-known 53-year-old law professor, was sworn in on Friday, ending three months of political deadlock in the wake of inconclusive March 4 elections.

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