Merkel says no country will have to leave euro zone

BERLIN (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed her view that no country will have to leave the euro zone, despite the fiscal and economic crisis that has rocked the 17-nation currency bloc, in comments published on Friday.

Asked by national news agency DPA whether, amid the ongoing debt and recession woes hitting several southern member states, any of them will have to leave the euro, she said: "No, I don't see that happening."

Pushing her message of the need for greater fiscal discipline, structural reform and strengthened competitiveness, she said: "All of us have to jointly become better, and for that we need European unity."

Dr Merkel, who faces elections on September 22 in Europe's biggest economy, has long championed fiscal discipline that has forced painful spending cuts in countries such as Greece and Spain.

More recently, she has focused on the need to help the victims of the crisis, almost six million jobless under-25-year-olds, and repeatedly said that "Germany will only do well if Europe does well".

Asked whether she had switched emphasis too late and made mistakes in the past, she defended her initial focus on orderly public finances.

"Greece, Portugal and other countries were in a position where they could no longer raise funds because of their high debts," she said. "Because this threatened the euro as a whole, we agreed to help these countries under the condition that they reduce their deficits.

"After all, that (deficits) was what triggered their crises."

Dr Merkel added: "As soon as the countries affected by the crisis return to a path of solid finances, there is a need to also improve competitiveness and to promote new - now sustainable - growth and employment."