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European Leaders Say Worst of Debt Crisis Over

  • VOA News

Some European leaders are saying that the worst of the continent's three-year governmental debt crisis is behind it, even as they remained cautious about its weak economy.

The leaders approved creation of a single supervisor for the eurozone's largest banks and handed Greece more bailout money at their yearend summit in Brussels. French President Francois Hollande said Friday that Europe could now move to strengthen itself in 2013 without showcasing its worst problems to the world.

"What I want to do next year, is to make Europe more solid, more strong - a Europe that thinks about everybody and that does not make a spectacle of its problems," said Hollande. "I think those times are over.''

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who oversees Europe's most robust economy, acknowledged the progress in stabilizing the finances of the governments in the 17-nation euro currency bloc.

"We agreed on a roadmap for the future development of the currency union and talked about different aspects of this that are important," said Merkel. "Above all, it was important to define 'when' we do 'what.' We've had some successful days for the stabilization of the eurozone. [For example, there was] the payment of the Greek aid tranches. It was noticeable today that the Greek prime minister said that he can finally begin to focus on growth for his country and take the last steps that are necessary, for example, tax reform.''

But she also sounded a note of caution, saying that implementing the new banking controls and economic reforms in Greece will be "very difficult and painful." She said the eurozone's jobless rate - already at a record-high 11.7 percent - will remain elevated, and that some countries are in steep recessions.

Greece cut its debt this week by buying back bonds from private investors, who agreed to a steep discount on their holdings. But Italy, the eurozone's third largest economy, said Friday that its debt hit a new peak in October - more than $2.6 trillion.