Dutch, Finns back stronger IMF role

Associated Press
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, center, the Finance Minister of the Netherlands, Jan Kees de Jager, right, and the Finance Minister of Finland, Jutta Urpilainen, left,  attend a  news conference  in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. The finance ministers of Germany, the Netherlands and Finland say they favor an "enhanced and strengthened" role for the International Monetary Fund as they seek to boost Europe's defenses against the debt crisis. The three ministers met to prepare for a meeting with other eurozone colleagues next Tuesday.  (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

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BERLIN (AP) — The Dutch and Finnish finance ministers advocated a stronger role for the International Monetary Fund in helping stem Europe's debt crisis as they met Friday with their German counterpart.

The three ministers, whose countries are among the eurozone's healthiest financially and have taken a hard line in the crisis, consulted ahead of a meeting next Tuesday of the 17-nation bloc's ministers.

They stressed the need to press ahead with implementing month-old decisions by European leaders aimed at shoring up the eurozone, particularly by increasing the firepower of the bloc's euro440 billion ($588 billion) rescue fund — the European Financial Stability Facility.

In addition to that, "We are convinced that we also need an enhanced and strengthened role of the IMF as well to ensure enough funds for the firewall," Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Kager said.

Bilateral loans from countries inside and outside Europe could "increase the effective size of the IMF; and the IMF could play a bigger role in this crisis through this," De Jager added.

His Finnish counterpart, Jutta Urpilainen, said that "one option" to build up Europe's firewall further is to strengthen the IMF's role.

As market tensions spiral higher, there has been increasing talk of a massive bond-buying drive by the European Central Bank to bring down troubled countries' borrowing costs — something that Germany, in particular, opposes.

Finland's Urpilainen said that "if there is nothing else left, then we can think about the strengthening of the role of the ECB, but we prefer the IMF and then also leveraging the EFSF." She said that jointly issued eurobonds — favored by the European Commission — are "completely impossible" for Finland.

Next Tuesday's meeting also should decide on what happens with a vital euro8 billion loan installment from Greece's existing rescue program that has been frozen for weeks, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said.

He didn't specify how the decision might go — saying ministers were waiting for an assessment from international debt inspectors, "then we will decide."

The three ministers are "very much pushing" for Greece and international institutions to conclude negotiations "before the end of this year" on a new euro130 billion aid package that would involve private holders of Greek bonds taking 50 percent losses, Schaeuble said.

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