EU finance chiefs seek Spanish exit amid air chaos

MADRID, April 17 (BestGrowthStock) – Many of Europe’s finance chiefs
scrambled to find a way home after discussions in Spain on the
Greek debt crisis on Saturday, as a volcanic ash cloud from
Iceland turned much of the continent into a no-fly zone.

The Intercontinental Hotel, where European Central Bank
chief Jean-Claude Trichet and many other finance ministers and
central bankers were staying during an EU meeting in Madrid, was
quoting a price of 4,000 euros ($5,600) for a chauffeur-driven
car to Paris.

Italian central bank governor Mario Draghi said he planned
to get away as fast as possible once the main part of the talks
ended in the middle of the day, because flights in southern
Europe were for now less affected than the north.

“I have the advantage of being a Latin, and I think the
airports in southern Europe are still open, at least so far,”
Draghi said.

French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde was less sure of
her plans, with most commercial flights to Paris cancelled and
alternatives such as trains rapidly being filled up.

“We’ve no idea how we’re getting back,” she told reporters
at the Intercontinental Hotel on Friday night.

“I was initially booked on the 2:30 (1230 GMT, Saturday)
flight, and that one is ‘up in the air’ but not really up in the
air,” she quipped.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister, was also
at the Madrid gathering, and waiting to see how he would get
away.

An aide said the plan was to return on Sunday by government
plane, but only if the aircraft could make it south to Madrid
from Luxembourg to take him back.

Large parts of Europe enforced no-fly rulings for a third
day on Saturday because of the huge ash cloud. Volcanic ash
contains tiny particles of glass and pulverised rock that can
damage jet engines and airframes.

The volcano began erupting on Wednesday for the second time
in a month from below the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, hurling a
plume of ash 6 to 11 km (4 to 7 miles) into the atmosphere and
causing the worst air travel chaos since the Sept. 11 attacks of
2001.

The Madrid meeting involved finance ministers and central
bankers from the 27 European Union countries, including those
from the 16 EU countries that share the euro, and was also
supposed to involve one session with Asian finance officials.

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(For more stories on volcano’s impact click on [nLDE63F189])

(Reporting by James Mackenzie, Gavin Jones, Jan Strupczewski
and Krista Hughes; writing by Brian Love; Editing by Michael
Roddy)

EU finance chiefs seek Spanish exit amid air chaos