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French, German leaders meet on eurozone future

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrive to speak to the media following talks at the Chancellery on January 9, 2012 in Berlin, Germany.

Jeremy Hobson: The leaders of France and Germany are meeting in Berlin today. Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel are trying to hash out the details of a master plan to save the euro. But it appears the leaders are still working on the same old problems.

The BBC's Steve Evans is with us now from Berlin with more. Good morning.

Steve Evans: Good morning to you.

Hobson: So it sounds like Merkel and Sarkozy are both still trying to tackle this old question: how can European economies grow while governments are cutting back?

Evans: Sure, and they are pretty united on this -- they think the way you get growth eventually is by having tightened belts; austerity’s the word. Now there are people elsewhere in Europe and elsewhere in America who say that if you get governments to tighten their spending, to cut their spending when there’s a recession maybe on the way, well then that’s a surefire way of getting that recession to happen. But, that debate’s sort of been had between these two people. What these two people are focusing on is, how you get that austerity. And they’re going to emphasize amendments for balanced budgets. So that’s what these two want now, and they want now the whole thing done, by the end of the month.

Hobson: And let’s talk about another topic that has come up over and over again and apparently is a main point of discussion today -- this is the idea of a financial transactions tax, a tax on things like stock and bond trades to pay for some of these bailouts. What are the chances that we’ll actually see something like that?

Evans: I think the chances are quite high but it is contentious. President Sarkozy, who’s facing election in April, is very very keen on it and he’s  said that he will go ahead and have it in France, even if nobody else does it. Outside the eurozone, but within the European Union, Britain has said we don’t want it unless everybody has it. Chancellor Merkel is for it, but she wants some kind of unity. I think we may well have it, but it’s by no means certain.

Hobson: The BBC’s Steve Evans in Berlin. Steve, thank you so much.

Evans: You’re welcome.

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