Dutch PM says a country should be able to exit euro

BERLIN Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:47am GMT

Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte waves as he arrives at the European Union (EU) council headquarters for an EU leaders summit discussing the EU's long-term budget in Brussels November 23, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte waves as he arrives at the European Union (EU) council headquarters for an EU leaders summit discussing the EU's long-term budget in Brussels November 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Vidal

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BERLIN (Reuters) - A country should be allowed to leave the euro zone if it so wishes without having to quit the European Union as well, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was quoted by a German newspaper on Friday as saying.

There is no provision under the current EU treaty for a nation to exit the common currency area.

"We want to allow a country to leave the euro zone if it wishes to. At the moment that is not the case. A country can only give up the euro if it leaves the European Union," Rutte told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"We should revise the treaties to change that. We are ready for this," he added.

The euro zone's three-year-old sovereign debt crisis has fuelled speculation that one or more countries could leave the common currency area, with Greece seen as the most likely candidate. Athens insists it wants to keep the euro.

Though there is no formal legal mechanism for expelling a country, euro zone authorities would have the means to force out a nation like Greece that depends on external aid to pay its bills and honour its debts if they so chose.

But European governments fear a Greek exit would create a domino effect leading swiftly to the disintegration of the common currency area.

This week, euro zone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund agreed the terms of a fresh bailout for Greece aimed at averting national bankruptcy and keeping the country inside the euro zone.

The Dutch and German parliaments are both scheduled to vote on the latest Greek rescue package on Friday.

The Netherlands and Germany have been among the sharpest critics of Greece during the debt crisis and its failure to meet tough fiscal targets in exchange for bailout funds.

"It is vital for the survival (of the euro currency) that all euro zone countries honour the promises they made when they joined. Only thus can the currency be credible," Rutte said.

(Reporting by Gareth Jones; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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