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How Germany's Merkel convinced EU to change rules after the Greek crisis

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, together with France's government, pushed through a tough amendment to EU finance rules today.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 29.

Yves Logghe/AP

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German diplomacy, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, appears to have won an important victory today as European Union leaders agreed to a German-French proposal that could have brought a bitter crisis among EU states.

Mrs. Merkel and France's Sarkozy government announced last week they sought a permanent mechanism for averting another Greek style euro-meltdown crisis. For days ahead of a two-day EU summit in Brussels, they were called “bullying” or “isolated." German media played the event as a major test for Merkel that might end embarrassingly.

But as the summit ended today with an agreement to amend the newly minted Lisbon Treaty that took eight years to pass, analysts said diplomatic pressure and argument by the Franco-German alliance appears to have been effective in forcing a change that seemed impossible last month. Precise details of the changes are expected in December in a report by EU chief Herman van Rompuy.

What Germany and France did not achieve were punitive measures – a loss of voting rights – for nations whose deficits balloon dangerously.

The Lisbon Treaty, which took effect in 2009, governs how the EU operates – including the economic responsibilities and commitments of member countries, which were severely tested by the Greek debt crisis earlier this year.

Merkel's case for stronger rules

Merkel played the agreed changes as a sensible necessity that would create stability and is good for Europe, telling reporters today: "We are doing everything to ensure that there will never be a repeat of the crisis we have had… I think it is important to create a clear culture of stability in Europe. That is the ultimate for good cohesion in the EU. Europe makes us strong, but this Europe needs rules."

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