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Europeans tell Obama ‘don’t blame us’

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BERLIN — European leaders and media are challenging President Obama's comment this week that Europe's financial crisis is "scaring the world."

"I don't think Europe's problems are America's only problems," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said late Tuesday. "It's always easier to give other people advice."

At a town hall meeting in California on Monday, Mr. Obama said the slowing U.S. economy is linked in part to Europe's failure to properly manage its financial crisis.

"So they are going through a financial crisis that is scaring the world, and they are trying to take responsible actions, but those actions haven't been quite as quick as they need to be," the U.S. president said.

His remarks were widely seen as support for a European plan that would boost the EU's bailout fund from its current $597 billion limit to $2.7 trillion and shore up EU banks by supplying more money.

But Stephan-Andreas Casdorff, editor of Germany's Tagesspiegel newspaper, interpreted Mr. Obama's comments to mean that "Europe is to blame when it goes bad the USA."

In an editorial Wednesday, Mr. Casdorff wrote that Mr. Obama has "not delivered" fixes for the "horrendous problems" in the U.S. economy that remain since the sub-prime mortgage meltdown of 2008.

He rejected Mr. Obama's point that Europe is not acting fast enough on resolving the debt crisis, saying it would be imprudent to "simply print more money."

Noting that the German government favors cost-cutting and fiscal austerity to deal with Europe's financial crisis, Mr. Casdorff said such measures would better serve America's $14 trillion debt crisis than printing more money and "triggering hyperinflation."

Over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Europe's financial crisis is "the most serious risk now confronting the world economy" during an International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington.

The German financial newspaper Handelsblatt targeted Mr. Geithner Tuesday, when it wrote that poor management of spiraling U.S. debt could trigger an inflationary crisis: "[He] has been trying for more than 2 1/2 years to suffocate his crisis with money."

As for Mr. Obama, a "desperate battle" for re-election means "he'd rather construct myths, such as claiming that the Europeans alone are responsible for the American mess," the financial daily said.

Mr. Schauble, the German finance minister, stated his willingness to "give advice [back] to the U.S. government," saying it would be foolish to increase the EU's bailout fund in an effort to stave off defaults from Greece, Italy or Spain.

"I don't understand how anyone in the European Commission can have such a stupid idea. The result would be to endanger the AAA sovereign debt ratings of other member states. It makes no sense," he said.

Michael Meister, deputy chairman of Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union parliamentary group in the Bundestag, backed Mr. Schauble's view that, despite the current debt crisis, the European Central Bank has succeeded keeping inflation at reasonable levels.

Mr. Meister also roundly rejected Mr. Obama's criticism of debt crisis management in Europe: "With his criticism of the European Union, the president tried to deflect the U.S. government's own mistakes in recent years and its ongoing fiscal problems."

But some European commentators have warned that without dramatic action on the debt, America will lose confidence in the eurozone.

In Tuesday's London Daily Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote: "The danger for Germany is that America will lose patience, with unpredictable consequences. The U.S. Federal Reserve is currently propping up the system in a variety of ways, including dollar swaps."

The German daily newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung wrote: "[When] the Europeans have got their house in order, the financial markets will return their attention to America's debt crisis and its ailing political system. Financially, Europe is currently the most dangerous place in the world."

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