Economic growth was the mantra among European leaders as they began a crucial summit on Thursday, though expectations of a breakthrough on the explosive issue of pooling government debt appeared to have fallen by the wayside.

European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Olli Rehn said he expected leaders would agree on new growth measures, as well as on action to reduce borrowing rates for Spain and Italy, which are approaching unmanageable levels.

The leaders of Italy, France and Spain have been pressing Germany to agree to share debts before markets push the 17-nation eurozone closer to collapse.

The European Union’s top officials and the International Monetary Fund have argued the same.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel isn’t budging. She has argued repeatedly that short-term solutions such as pooled debt or a more active European Central Bank are useless unless some form of central control is established over national budgets.

While they may not change Ms. Merkel’s mind, leaders who avoided confronting her in the past may not hold back now.

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