Zapatero Defends the Euro Zone

Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has come out in defence of the euro area, as rising levels of government debt, and in particular Greece's deficit crisis, have led to increasing questions over the stability of the 16-member zone.

"Nobody is going to be leaving the euro," said the Spanish leader, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday (28 January).

"More countries are going to be joining the euro. That is the best proof of how successful the project is," he added.

Mr Zapatero was backed up by Latvian President Valdis Zatlers and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in pledging to make the budget cuts and other changes required for membership.

Mr Papandreou denied speculation that Greece will have to be bailed out by the European Union, although an increasingly number of reports suggest EU officials are busy studying methods to transfer aid the embattled country.

"We haven't asked for money from the European Union," Mr Papandreou said, adding that Greece had already taken steps - including firing thousands of government workers - to cut its budget deficit, which reached 12.7 of GDP percent last year.

The Socialist leader also expressed a certain level of contrition for his country's problems, although he laid much of the blame on the previous centre-right administration.

"We Greeks see it as our problem to put our house in order," he said. "Greece blames itself, not the EU."

Latvia is currently battling severe economic problems, including unemployment of 22 percent, but Mr Zatlers said his country still intended to join the euro area by the middle of the decade.

"Keep the criteria," he said. "We all want to join the club."

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