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Europe gropes for crisis fix, bond buys pushed

DON MELVIN

Published: Wednesday, June 20 2012 9:15 a.m. MDT

Yields on 10-year Spanish bonds reflecting government borrowing costs eased to 6.77 percent from over 7 percent after Monti raised the idea at the G-20 in Los Cabos, Mexico and French President Francois Hollande said current borrowing rates were "unacceptable." Yields over 7 percent pushed Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek bailouts.

Finance ministers from the 17 countries that use the euro will launch a closely watched series of meetings on Thursday when they gather in Luxembourg. That meeting will lay the groundwork for a summit of national leaders in Brussels on June 28-29. In between comes a meeting Friday in Rome among Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy.

That brings together the two biggest bailout donors, Germany and France, and the two biggest countries at financial risk, Italy and Spain.

Yet prospects for any kind of breakthrough at the meetings remained open to question.

Lots of ideas for strengthening the foundations of the euro have been floated. But most would take years to implement. Many short-term fixes run up against legal or political restrictions or simple lack of funds. European leaders held intensely awaited summits last year in March, July and December; none produced a convincing resolution.

"Even if the summit looks very unlikely to put an immediate end to the crisis, it could prepare the groundwork for a new architecture of the monetary union," analyst Carsten Brzeski at ING said in an investor note. "While this could be crucial step in a historical perspective, it might not be enough to restore calm on financial markets. "

Other ideas up for discussion include more central supervision of banks, whose losses have been a key financial burden for governments; EU-wide backing for bank deposits; and some form of common borrowing in which countries would share responsibility. Most of those ideas would require EU legislation or treaty changes that would take months or years. All face some kind of political controversy since they involve countries giving up power to EU-level bodies or being exposed to other people's financial risks.

AP Business Writer Colleen Barry contributed to this report from Milan, Italy.

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