Leaders Warn of Economic 'Iron Curtain'

Eastern Europe melts down, but Western leaders refuse bailout
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2009 7:25 AM CST
British PM Gordon Brown, left, shakes hands with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek during arrivals for an EU summit in Brussels, Sunday, March 1, 2009.    (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
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(Newser) – EU leaders meeting in Brussels yesterday rejected a Hungarian-led effort to bail out the faltering economies of Eastern Europe, leading to apocalyptic warnings of an economic "Iron Curtain," with millions of unemployed workers heading west. Countries from the Baltic states to Poland and Romania have seen their once-booming economies implode, and several have turned to the IMF for aid.

Angela Merkel insisted that a bailout was inappropriate for the diverse countries of the East, while Gordon Brown said a huge injection of funds into the IMF was called for. The Czech prime minister, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, did not mince his words after the summit: "This is the greatest crisis in the history of European integration."