EU finance ministers meet, strong euro a concern

EU finance ministers went into a meeting on Tuesday with differences over the recent strength of the euro and its possible impact on the struggling economy a cause of concern as the worst of the debt crisis eases.

New eurozone finance ministers head Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Monday that the G20 was the proper, traditional forum for any discussion of exchange rates after France insisted the issue be discussed in the group.

"It was part of the discussion but the main conclusion was that it should be discussed, if anywhere, at the G20 later this week," Dijsselbloem said after chairing his first Eurogroup meeting.

G20 finance ministers and central bankers meet later this week in Moscow, with concerns over possible "currency wars" moving up the agenda after Japan took steps to push the yen down sharply so as to make its exports cheaper than its competitors.

Top French officials have said the euro should not simply be left to the whims of the markets in the face of efforts by some countries to weaken their currency so as to gain an export advantage.

Ireland's Michael Noonan said on Tuesday as he went into the meeting of all 27 EU finance ministers that the issue would be raised at the G20 given all the debate going on.

But Noonan also noted that the strength of the euro reflected progress in resolving the debt crisis which several times in the past few years had looked as if it would sink the single currency entirely.

"We have come through a period where concerns were about the instability of Europe; now it seems to be strong," Noonan said, echoing a position taken my several other member states, including Germany, the bloc's paymaster and biggest economy.

On Monday, the 17 eurozone finance ministers reviewed progress on several key issues, including a difficult debt bailout for Cyprus and how the bloc's new back-stop rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism, will work in practice.

In addition, ministers discussed Greece's bailout programme and welcomed progress Ireland had made with the European Central Bank on aid and the restructuring of the Anglo Irish Bank, whose collapse ultimately pushed Dublin into seeking an international rescue.

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