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Flaherty urges Europe to move toward banking union

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty urged European leaders on Thursday to move swiftly toward greater banking integration and to use public funds if necessary to recapitalize their banks, criticizing their actions so far as "incremental".

Speaking in Galway, Ireland, as a summit of euro zone leaders in Brussels began, Flaherty said any plan to ease the European debt crisis should include a more effective firewall to break the link between problems in the banking sector and sovereign finances, steps toward deposit insurance for European banks, and "ensuring euro zone banks are fully capitalized, using public funds if necessary".

"And there cannot be market confidence unless there is a solid plan to address the underlying challenges in a way that's credible and believable by the markets," Flaherty said in the prepared text of a speech.

An outspoken critic of European policymakers for acting too slowly in the crisis, Flaherty said the summit on Thursday and Friday was their chance to get it right.

"Unfortunately, the euro zone response has been incremental and, so far, has failed to break the negative feedback loops that characterize the European crisis," he said.

"The world hopes that European leaders, meeting at the euro zone summit ... agree on - and quickly begin to implement - the bold actions that they understand are needed."

Canada's economy is also under threat from economic weakness in its top trading partner, the United States, Flaherty warned.

"Let me talk about what we are facing in the euro zone but that is not to ignore the weakness in the U.S. economy and especially the recent stalling of the U.S. economy, which is again of very serious concern," he said. "(As is) the level of debt in the U.S., and the political gridlock which is acknowledged by the American government."

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