A look at key players in Europe's financial crisis

AP News
Posted: Dec 08, 2011 2:19 PM
A look at key players in Europe's financial crisis

As European leaders meet in Brussels in an effort to save the euro, a brief look at some of the key players:


As leader of Europe's biggest economy, Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken the lead in setting the political agenda for the summit. A stony-faced Merkel has lectured the other EU leaders about Teutonic fiscal orthodoxy and the necessity of making profligate nations that helped cause the financial crisis feel the pain for overspending. The 57-year-old opposes eurobonds that would mutualize the debt of all eurozone nations and insists on EU treaty changes to enforce more budgetary rigor. At summits, she usually gets her way.


France's high-energy president faces re-election in four months and is staking his reputation on his handling of the European debt crisis. The 56-year-old Sarkozy is more prone to dramatic entreaties in public than the pragmatic Merkel. Their styles clash, but their cooperation has been key to EU decision-making in recent years. Sarkozy has conceded to more of Merkel's positions in recent weeks as France's own debt rating has come under pressure. Sarkozy wants closer union but opposes surrendering too much national sovereignty to EU bodies, a particularly sensitive subject ahead of April elections that he may lose.


British Prime Minister David Cameron won the 2010 elections on a promise to slash spending and organize a referendum if a new EU treaty would move more power from London to Brussels. His Conservatives failed to win a majority and he governs with the more moderate Liberal Democrats. If a change in EU treaties is sought at the summit, Cameron will demand protection for Britain's financial services sector. Britain doesn't use the euro, and the 45-year-old Cameron fears getting left out of decision-making if the eurozone makes its own rules. But the difficulty of getting treaty changes ratified in Britain could prompt a separate eurozone agreement.


The soft-spoken, professorial Mario Monti was warmly embraced by all European leaders when he replaced scandal-ridden Silvio Berlusconi as Italy's prime minister last month. As a former European Union antitrust commissioner, the 68-year-old Monti has the credentials as the best possible politician to get debt-laden Italy back to financial health. He is in charge of Europe's third-biggest economy, and with a nation carrying euro1.9 trillion ($2.55 trillion) in debt, many say he holds the fate of the euro in his hands. Beyond the summit, his major challenge comes over the next year when he has to refinance hundreds of billions of debt.


As a former Belgian premier and budget minister, Herman Van Rompuy knows all about dealing with high debt and bulging budget deficits. The first full-time European Union president mostly brokers behind the scenes. Over the past year, the 64-year-old has largely gone along with the Franco-German tandem known as "Merkozy." Coming into Thursday's summit though, he has been arguing for limited changes in EU decision-making to stave off the crisis, going right in the face of more drastic measures demanded by Merkel. He has prepared official proposals with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to put to the leaders.


Draghi, the new president of the European Central Bank, hardly could have picked a tougher maiden summit. Basically, he has his fingers on the euro's purse, and pressure has grown over the past weeks to open it far more to help out the struggling eurozone nations in a break with his predecessor, Jean-Claude Trichet. Under the 64-year-old, the ECB has shown some initial signs that it could make a greater effort to save the euro. Hours before the summit, Draghi took modest steps to help revive Europe's economy and financial system, including cutting a key interest rate.


The leader of the International Monetary Fund since July, Lagarde knows the Europe debt crisis and EU decision-making from the inside after years as French finance minister. But she now has to keep global needs in mind. The 55-year-old has had to explain Europe's woes to countries such as China and the United States, and balance conflicting views on how and whether to use the IMF's resources to help Europe. Poised and with a ready grin, Lagarde is the first woman to head the IMF and enjoys the respect of many of the leaders meeting in Brussels this week.