MUNKMARSCH, Germany, July 30 (Reuters) - Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble interrupted his summer holiday on a remote North Sea island on Monday to brief his U.S. counterpart on latest developments in the euro zone crisis.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his aides arrived in three black limousines at an elegant hotel on the German island of Sylt, a favourite destination for wealthy Germans.
Dark storm clouds and heavy seas provided a backdrop for the talks at which Geithner was expected to reiterate U.S. concerns over Europe’s apparent inability to get on top of a crisis that now threatens the global economy.
Geithner and Schaeuble will issue a statement after their talks but have scrapped original plans for a news conference.
“The time window grew smaller for a press briefing so it had to be scrapped,” a finance ministry spokeswoman told a regular government news briefing in Berlin on Monday.
But she played down suggestions that the meeting of the two men on the sparsely populated island about six hours’ drive form Berlin amounted to crisis talks.
“It’s not an unusual thing for the minister to meet a visitor on his holiday. It’s a normal procedure. Because the minister is on holiday, the meeting is happening there.”
Geithner’s visit comes after the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, promised to do whatever it takes to protect the euro, comments that spurred expectations of more decisive action to restore investor confidence.
Washington has long urged bolder steps to tackle the euro crisis, but Germany, Europe’s largest economy, remains deeply uneasy about suggestions that the ECB resume its programme of buying the debt of troubled governments in the secondary market.
Schaeuble had been hoping to forget the euro zone crisis for a few weeks and said in one newspaper interview that he planned to “read a few books” and “clear my head”.
He said another aim for his holiday was “not to be put on the spot too much by journalists” for a few weeks.
Schaeuble spends the better part of a month each summer on Sylt, a narrow island 40 km long that is Germany’s largest North Sea island. Long a summertime playground for the country’s rich and famous, the resort is known for its sandy beaches, fine fish restaurants and relaxing atmosphere.
It is similar to Martha’s Vineyard in the United States and was used by director Roman Polanski as a setting in his 2010 film “The Ghost Writer”.
Schaeuble, who lives near the Black Forest in southwestern Germany, usually spends his summer holiday on Sylt, where he goes out on long workouts on his hand-powered bike. He has been in a wheelchair since a gunman attacked him in 1990, leaving him paralysed from the waist down.
Schaeuble gives several longer interviews to German magazines and newspapers during the summer holiday.
The ministry spokeswoman said Schaeuble also continues to conduct business on the telephone during his Sylt holidays, although she admitted that it was rare for him to hold a face-to-face meeting on the island with another finance minister.
Schaeuble’s boss, Chancellor Angela Merkel, is also on holiday but has taken time out to speak by telephone about the euro crisis first with French President Francois Hollande last Friday and then with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Saturday.
After each call, the leaders issued joint statements pledging they would do everything to protect the euro zone and to implement swiftly measures agreed by EU leaders at their last summit in June.