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German Leader and I.M.F. Chief Split Over Debt

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NY Times
March 10, 2012

BERLIN — With a deal on Greek debt finally done, Europe will shift its attention to two of its most powerful women, friends who have dueling views about what needs to be done to prevent future Greek-like meltdowns from spreading to other economies.

The International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, who is French, finds herself on a collision course with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, posing a test for the unusually close relationship between the two leaders. They have opposing stances on how much money is need to protect vulnerable economies, and how it should be raised.

Ms. Lagarde says Europe needs at least $1 trillion in emergency funds and is pressing for a much more robust European contribution before the I.M.F. commits to raising more money from its members. She has worked hard to drag along Ms. Merkel, who is hamstrung by a domestic constituency sharply opposed to committing more money to rescue neighbors.

In spite of the sometimes tough negotiations, colleagues and confidants describe a warmth and chemistry between the two leaders that transcends policy differences. They are on a first-name basis. They frequently exchange text messages. Shortly after Christmas, Ms. Lagarde brought Ms. Merkel a trinket from Hermès and received a recording of the Berlin Philharmonic playing Beethoven from Ms. Merkel, a classical music lover.

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This article was posted: Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 5:43 am

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