Merkel Says Socrates Was ‘Right’ to Push for More Portugal Cuts

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates did the right thing in putting a “far-reaching” program of austerity measures to parliament.

Merkel, in a speech to lower-house lawmakers in Berlin today, said that Socrates had been “right and courageous” in presenting an additional round of budget cuts, and that she was “grateful” to him for taking responsibility for his country’s finances.

“I regret that there wasn’t a parliamentary majority for it,” Merkel said, as she outlined her stance to lawmakers before traveling to Brussels for a two-day European Union summit on the debt crisis. The proposed Portuguese cuts, announced at the last EU summit on March 11, were supported by the EU and European Central Bank, she said.

Merkel made the case to German lawmakers for a package of measures to be ratified by EU leaders to tamp down the sovereign crisis that threatens to engulf Portugal after spreading from Greece and Ireland. Portugal was pushed closer to an international bailout last night after parliament rejected plans to cut the budget, prompting Socrates to tender his resignation.

There is no alternative to budget prudence, bolstering competitiveness and “filling in the gaps” on the rules governing the euro, Merkel said. It’s right to continue to impose conditions on “solidarity,” she said.

“I would rather focus on the growing competitiveness in Europe than constantly having to worry about rescue programs for other countries,” Merkel said. “We’re ensuring that Europe as a whole improves.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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