WASHINGTON — Wary of Europe's deepening debt crisis, President Barack Obama said Monday the United States stands ready to do its part to help the continent, even as the White House ruled out any financial contributions from U.S. taxpayers.
Meantime, a top European official offered his assurances to Obama and the American people that Europe's leaders fully understood the magnitude of the crisis. But European Commission President JosÉ Manuel Barroso warned that decisions on how to solve the economic woes could take time.
The annual meeting between U.S. and European Union officials came amid growing fears over the future of the euro. Experts say that without drastic action, the euro could be days away from collapsing, a scenario that could cause more financial damage to the already shaky American economy.
While Obama offered no specifics on how the U.S. may be willing to assist Europe, he said failing to resolve the continent's debt crisis could damage a U.S. economy saddled with slow growth and 9 percent unemployment.
"If Europe is contracting, or if Europe is having difficulties, then it's much more difficult for us to create good here jobs at home," Obama said at the conclusion of the day-long summit.
While Obama has offered support to his European peers, the U.S. believes the Europeans have the financial capacity to solve the debt crisis on their own.
But some U.S. allies, including Finland and the Netherlands, have called for the International Monetary Fund to be bolstered with more capital so that it could in turn help stem Europe's debt crisis from deepening and spreading.
The U.S. is the single-biggest stakeholder in the IMF. And earlier Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the IMF has substantial resources already.
"We do not in any way believe that additional resources are required from the United States and from American taxpayers," Carney said.
European leaders are set to meet Dec. 9 to discuss next steps in tackling the financial crisis. New ideas were circulating Monday for how to finally cap the debt woes that began in Greece two years ago and have spread to other larger economies, most notably Italy.
One idea gaining momentum, was a radical proposal in which countries that use the common currency would cede control of a big chunk of their budgets to a central authority. Some say the proposal would be a big leap toward a United States of Europe, a move that could greatly enhance European stability, but at the cost, critics say, of national sovereignty and democratic accountability.
Another plan being aired in the face of fierce German resistance is for the eurozone's six triple A rated nations to pool their resources through a joint bond to prop up some of the single currency bloc's most indebted members. Germany, the EU's richest member, rejects the idea because it fears it would be tapped for the lion's share of the bailout
Back in Washington, Barroso said Europe's leaders are taking strong steps to solve what he called an unprecedented situation.
"We are absolutely serious about the magnitude of the challenges," he said. "You have to understand that sometimes some decisions take time."
Carney said that Obama, along with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, would continue to stay in close contact with European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Greece later this week to meet with new Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, who took office earlier this month.
While Monday's meeting between Obama and European Union leaders centered on the global economy, there were also discussions on supporting democracy in the Middle East and North Africa, cooperation on counterterrorism and transatlantic law enforcement, and Iran.