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European Leaders Pledge To Save Euro At G20

(c) Sky News 2012

Euro leaders are set to unveil fresh efforts to save the single currency, after pledging at the G20 to bring down dangerously high government borrowing costs.

The world leaders meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, for the annual G20 summit said they would take action to drive down government bond yields across the euro area.

US President Barack Obama expressed his relief at Europe (Chicago Options: ^REURUSD - news) 's "heightened" urgency saying: "Over the last two days, European leaders here in Cabos have made it clear that they understand the stakes and they pledged to take the actions needed to address this crisis and restore confidence, stability and growth."

The move came after Spanish bond yields - the key measure of how cheaply the country can borrow on capital markets - hit their highest level since the creation of the euro.

The expectation is that, within days, the euro area will pledge to activate a scheme whereby its 750bn euro (£604bn) bailout funds - the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) and ESM (European Stability Mechanism) - buy up bonds of the most troubled euro area economies.

The move is regarded by some as being a first step towards a fiscal union across the currency area, and represents a shift in attitude from the Germans, who had resisted taking such action until recently.

It comes after two days of talks among the world leaders and increasing pressure from non-EU nations, including the US and China, to tackle the crisis before it sends the world economy into a tailspin.

Although the EFSF and ESM already have legal powers to buy bonds, they have not done so yet - leaving this to the European Central Bank.

But Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is reported to have pressured for this scheme to be activated given his and Spain's borrowing costs are regarded as having hit unsustainable levels.

Although the issue is addressed only in passing in the communique, more detail is expected to be revealed on the action in the coming days and weeks.

British Chancellor George Osborne told Sky News: "I think the eurozone can do things to try and bring those bond spreads, those really high borrowing costs, down in various countries.

"They can do more things to transfer resources from richer parts of the eurozone to poorer parts of the eurozone, and stand behind the weaker banks in the eurozone.

"We've been urging them for a year and they are inching towards a solution but I don't think there is a single country in the world who wouldn't wish it would happen a bit quicker and get some stability in the world economy."

The G20's final communique did not mention such policies explicitly, but did name check the ESM and indicate that it would do whatever possible to bring down those elevated bond yields - including imposing new borrowing rules.

It said: "The adoption of the Fiscal Compact and its ongoing implementation, together with growth-enhancing policies and structural reform and financial stability measures, are important steps towards greater fiscal and economic integration that lead to sustainable borrowing costs.

"The imminent establishment of the European Stability Mechanism is a substantial strengthening of the European firewalls. We fully support the actions of the Euro Area in moving forward with the completion of the Economic and Monetary Union."

Attention will now be focused on the European leaders, who meet for another summit in Brussels next week.