June 22, 2012 - 10:32 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Leaders of the eurozone's four biggest economies gather in Rome Friday, June 22, to thrash out ideas to tackle the debt crisis, with calls for the bloc's bailout fund to intervene on bond markets set to top the agenda, AFP reports.
The talks, which will also focus on efforts to kickstart much-needed growth in the eurozone's struggling economies, will set the stage for a crucial European Union summit in Brussels on June 28 and 29.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti will host German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for the talks at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT), with a news conference at 4:00 pm.
With the eurozone's relentless debt crisis threatening to engulf Spain and Italy and weighing down the global economy, Europe's leaders are under intense pressure to find solutions to the two-year-old crisis.
Monti has urged fellow European leaders to back a plan for the eurozone rescue fund - the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) - to ease pressure on struggling countries by buying their bonds on the secondary market.
Both Madrid and Rome have been hit with rocketing borrowing costs, despite a series of structural reform packages in Italy and a eurozone rescue loan of up to 100 billion euros ($125 billion) in the works for Spain's stricken banks.
Italy's foreign ministry said Thursday that Paris and Madrid were open to the idea, but that Berlin still needed to be convinced.
Merkel said this week there were "no concrete plans" for the EU bailout funds to buy the bonds of struggling countries, though it was "one of the options" being considered.
Friday's talks are also expected to look at refocusing eurozone economic policy on growth instead of austerity, with observers hoping Monti can act as a mediator between Paris and the bloc's pay-master Germany.
Hollande has proposed a 120 billion euro "growth pact" for the eurozone including a financial-transactions tax and infrastructure investments to boost job creation.
Funds for the pact would come from three sources: 55 billion euros from unused European structural funds, 60 billion euros raised by the European Investment Bank and 4.5 billion euros in project bonds for infrastructure works.