German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that Europe's future prosperity and peace were at stake in talks to overcome the debt crisis, and political leaders had a historic duty to restore economic stability.
"What is good for Europe is good for Germany, half a century of peace and prosperity in Germany and Europe testify to that," she said in a speech to the German parliament ahead of a vote on a comprehensive package of measures to rescue the euro, due to be agreed by European Union leaders at an emergency summit on Wednesday night.
"No one should think that a further half century of peace and prosperity is assured. It isn't. And that's why I say if the euro fails, Europe will fail, and that mustn't happen."
The Bundestag, Germany's parliament, is due to vote on measures including the controversial boosting of the 440 billion euro rescue fund, or European Financial Stability Facility, through leveraging, a risky move seen as necessary to enable it to contain the crisis.
Win Certain in Parliament
Merkel is certain to win the vote as the motion is backed by the coalition and the major opposition parties, although she looks unlikely to be able to muster the symbolically significant "Chancellor majority" -- her own absolute majority of all parliamentary seats.
A minimum of 311 lawmakers from her coalition of conservatives and pro-business Free Democrats would have to vote for the motion, but a number of members of parliament are absent due to illness or business trips.
Whether she achieves that absolute majority or not, though, parliamentary backing is widely expected to strengthen Merkel's positing in the negotiations in Brussels on Wednesday, which will be the second summit in three days after leaders made progress in a first round of talks on Sunday.
Merkel, known for her cautious, low-key approach, opted for unusually grand rhetoric in her brief address to parliament, underlining the historic significance of current crisis talks.
"We have an historical oblication to defend and to protect the unification of Europe that our ancestors brought out of the war more than 50 years ago after centuries of hate and bloodshed," said Merkel, sounding calm and confident. "None of us can foresee the consequences if that weren't to succeed.
She added: "It must not happen, and that is my deep conviction, that people will one day be able to say that the political generation that bore political responsibility in the second decade of the 21st century failed to live up to history."
"That makes the political signal being sent by the Bundestag today all the more important. It sends the message that Germany parties will protect European unity and stand together for this purpose."
'Union of Stability'
Merkel said she was convinced that the measures being discussed would enable Europe to turn itself back into a "union of stability."
Merkel said the risks involved in maximizing the firepower of the EFSF were "acceptable." She added that a Greek debt cut on its own would not solve Greece's problems, and she won applause for declaring her solidarity with the Greek people undergoing painful austerity measures.
"A lots is being demaded of the people in Greece. They deserve our respect and they deserve a sustainable prospect for the future in the euro zone.
But Merkel also demanded tougher rules on punishing nations that fail to meet stability rules in future. "Breaches of the stability culture must pe punished more severely," said Merkel, "for example through lawsuits before the European Court of Justice."
She also praised Ireland, Portugal and Spain for the measures they have taken to reduce their debts.
Overcoming the crisis would take time, she added. European countries had neglected to make necessary economic reforms for decades. "It would be frivolous to claim they this backlog can be dissolved overnight."
cro -- with wire reports
Stay informed with our free news services:
|All news from SPIEGEL International||Twitter | RSS|
|All news from Europe section||RSS|
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2011
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH