It was just before the start of a Group of 20 economic summit described at the time as make-or-break for the 17-nation euro zone, and only weeks before a Spanish general election.
“She greeted me pleasantly and almost without any introduction put forward a proposal about which we had not had any indication,” Zapatero writes in a book to be published on Tuesday in Spain.
“Merkel asked me if I was willing to ask for a preventive credit line of 50 billion euros from the IMF, while another 85 billion euros would go to Italy,” he said.
“My response was also direct and clear: ‘No’.”
Merkel accepted his answer and leaders then exerted far greater pressure on Italy to take a bailout, hoping this would halt a spreading crisis that had erupted in Greece.
Zapatero, who stepped down before his Socialist party suffered a landslide election defeat that month, is the first European leader of the time to publish a memoir on the crisis that nearly broke the euro zone in 2010-12 and still smoulders.
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