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HIGHLIGHTS-EU finance ministers' meeting on crisis mechanism

BRUSSELS, May 9 (Reuters) - The following are comments by European Union finance ministers and other officials on Sunday ahead of their meeting to agree on a mechanism aimed at preventing Greece’s debt turmoil spreading to other countries.

BELGIUM FINANCE MINISTER DIDIER REYNDERS

“I hope that in a period of serious crisis -- because the crisis is serious -- we can make progress. “There are many different figures on the table and there are different mechanisms. The orientation (direction) is solidarity. To show that all countries in the eurozone are truly together to support their currency.

“If we can do that I think we can, in parallel, move towards a much more economic and social governance of the eurozone, and we know that in this period of crisis that these developments are possible. “We need to go to a solidarity mechanism from the eurozone, and we need to organise a real economic and social government from the euro zone also.”

LUXEMBOURG FINANCE MINISTER LUC FRIEDEN

“We first need clear political will to stabilise the euro. The euro is something which is a ... political and economic project, and therefore I hope that all ministers will share our view that there is no alternative to a strong euro.”

“We are a community where countries have to stick together, so if some countries are in difficulties others should help, because by doing that we help ourselves.”

Asked what kind of role should the ECB play:

“The ECB is an independent institution of the European Union so the ECB should certainly play a role, but according to its rules, and therefore political leaders should not influence the decisions of the ECB.”

AUSTRIAN FINANCE MINISTER JOSEF PROELL

“Clear announcements, clear support mechanisms and clear perspectives are required.”

“It is not for us as finance ministers to give advice to the ECB. The ECB is independent.”

“I see a ‘magical’ triangle that can provide a solution: the EU finance ministers, the ECB and the affected countries.”

“Speculation can only work against countries that have run careless financial and economic policy for years or decades.”

“This is a serious test for the euro and an incredible test of European politics. It is certainly the most critical and strained situation in years and decades, but it can be solved. We have the capacity.”

“We will do everything to shore up confidence in the euro so that we give a clear signal to the international finance markets.”

FRENCH ECONOMY MINISTER CHRISTINE LAGARDE

“We are there to work, to decide on a mechanism that allows us to ensure the stability of the euro, in the euro zone but also in the financial markets. It’s a meeting that’s important for Europe and for other (countries).”

“We are going to work as a follow-up to the summit that took place on Friday with heads of state and prime ministers.”

“Clearly we have to do important work and we have to take decisions that will restore the stability for the euro, in the euro zone, and we have to work on a mechanism that will be comprehensive and efficient to restore stability.”

SWEDISH FINANCE MINISTER ANDERS BORG

“There is a need for stronger measures, where we stand together to strengthen the stability of the financial markets here in Europe. We need to make progress today...

“We now see herd behaviours, that are really pack behaviours, wolfpack behaviours, and if we will not stop these packs, even if it is self-inflicted weakness, they will tear the weaker countries apart. So it’s very, very important that we now make progress, both when it comes to consolidation not only long term but short term consolidation, but also when it comes to a common facility to deal with the urgent problems.”

Would you contribute to a bailout of euro zone countries?

“I would not rule out anything, I would be willing to consider any option that would strengthen the common resources, so I would not rule that out.

“I know that in the core, this is a euro group problem, it is the countries in the euro group that have created the problems and it’s quite clear that our tax payers are not willing to support Greeks that go into pensions in their 40s or 50s. that is out of the question. But we also need resources to stop the market turmoil. If this goes on for more than a couple of days it will be very, very problematic for the recovery.”

DUTCH FINANCE MINISTER JAN KEES DE JAGER

Asked how he was hoping to restablish faith in the euro:

“We will have quite a debate of course this evening and this afternoon. We are determined to settle a solution. But there is some discusion about what the solution will be, of course.”

“But we will have a statement later on in the day and it will be a determined statement.”

What about need for any new legal basis?

“We will see about that ... under the current presentation we will also work under the present legal basis. But we will of course in the future need a lot of adapations, a lot of alterations, and of course also to tackle with the fundamental problems, the budgetary problems with some countries as well as the working of the economies in some of the countries.”

What about sums?

“There has been diocussion about that but I am not going to contemplate that at the moment.”

What solutions are you going to discuss?

“There are several alternatives at the moment. Of course we see some liquidity problems in the markets, today also with government bonds. We will address that issue.”

BRITISH FINANCE MINISTER ALISTAIR DARLING

Speaking to BBC in Brussels:

“I think it is important that we do everything we can to stabilise the markets, to show that we are coming through one of the difficult periods, and that we are prepared to do what is necessary to ensure that we have that stability.”

“Now the meeting today has been called because it’s necessary to make sure that in one or two countries’ cases we are doing the right things. Support is being provided from the appropriate quarter in order to make sure that we stabilise the situation, that we can continue with the recovery.”

Asked how far was Britain prepared to go to offer support:

“Well, firstly, the responsibility for supporting the euro and the Eurogroup countries lies with the members. Now we are not one of them, but it is clearly in our interest that everything is done in Europe to try and stabilise the situation.”

“But I am very, very clear that if there is a proposal to create a stability fund for the euro, that has got to be a matter for the Eurogroup countries, as it was in the case of Greece.”

“It’s in all our interests ... to make sure that whatever is agreed is in place quickly because it’s in all of our interests that those countries that may have difficulties have those difficulties resolved as quickly as possible.”

“What we will not do and what we can’t do is provide support for the euro, that’s got to be for those countries that use the euro, that are members of the Eurogroup.”

“The responsibility for supporting the euro must be for the Eurogroup members. When they went into the euro they knew exactly what the score was.”

“We need to show again today that by acting together we can stabilise the situation, we do not want to jeopardise the recovery that is slowly taking place. And we will play our part in that.”

“But when it comes to supporting the euro, obviously that is for the euro zone countries.”

FINNISH FINANCE MINISTER JYRKI KATAINEN

“All the governments in the European Union, and especially within the euro zone, need to show a very strong commitment to consolidate the budgets.”

“Extreme turmoil in the markets has not been good for the euro zone, so now we have to do the measures that normalise the markets.”

SPANISH ECONOMY MINISTER ELENA SALGADO

Asked what message the ministers would send to the markets:

“The same messages that were sent by the heads of state and government when they met last Friday. So this is that we are going to defend the euro, that we think that we have to give more stability to our guarantee.”

FINLAND’S KATAINEN

Speaking at a news conference in Helsinki:

“The situation in the financial markets has gone in a very bad direction, even though the Greek situation was brought under control.”

“Now we have to do everything we can to bring stability in time.”

“The alternative is still the same as when we talked about Greece: the threat of a serious bank crisis.”

Should a banking crisis occur: “We know what would happen. The bank crisis would not be one of a few countries, rather it would lead to a full recession in Europe.”

“Today and tonight we will seek a decision on how we can stabilise the European economy and banking market and avoid the worst. There are possibilities to do this, but it will be very tough to find a solution. Today we will do everything possible.”

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