EU leaders urge members to work to boost growth

EU leaders called on the 27 member states to coordinate their economic policy more closely to boost growth.

EU leaders urge members to work to boost growth

Leaders of the European Union called on the 27 member states on Friday to coordinate their economic policy more closely to boost growth and ensure the bloc emerges strongly from the financial crisis.

They made the fight against climate change a priority at talks launching Spain's six-month presidency of the bloc, and tried to allay concern that the EU leadership may lack cohesion as it implements changes under its new Lisbon reform treaty.

"We need more economic growth, now and in the future," EU President Herman Van Rompuy told a news conference after talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

"It is only by working very closely together at all levels that we will be able to deliver results and face challenges."

Echoing the Belgian's remarks after talks in Madrid, Barroso told a joint news conference: "We have to strengthen coordination. We cannot continue what we have done up to now".

Barroso has just started a second five-year term as head the European Commission, the EU executive, and Van Rompuy is a week into a 2-1/2-year term as the first president of the Council of EU leaders, a post created under the Lisbon treaty.

Zapatero will work alongside them for six months in a mainly organisational role during Spain's six-month presidency.

The three men will oversee plans to revive Europe's economy after the worst recession in decades and will lead efforts to enhance the global standing of the EU, a bloc representing nearly 500 million people.

Cloudy outlook

The European Union's statistics agency confirmed on Friday its estimate that the 16-country euro zone emerged from recession in the third quarter of 2009, with 0.4 percent quarter-on-quarter growth after five quarters of falling output. The EU as a whole grew 0.3 percent compared with the previous quarter.

However, unemployment is rising fast, many countries face soaring debts and budget deficits, and Van Rompuy said this week the long-term economic outlook was "cloudy".

Van Rompuy has called for an annual growth rate of at least 2 percent of gross domestic product to keep pace with the rest of the world and EU leaders have increasingly underlined the need to match the rise of emerging powers such as China.

"The balance of power has shifted and Europe is more on the defensive now than it was a few years ago," Van Rompuy said.

Zapatero suggested on Thursday setting binding economic goals for member states under a 10-year plan to boost growth and competitiveness, and called for corrective measures for those that did not comply.

Barroso and Van Rompuy signalled their backing in principle for tough measures to boost recovery but made clear a decision could not be taken on such proposals until after they are discussed at a summit in Brussels on Feb. 11.

Spain has proposed bringing together the heads of the 16 states that use the euro currency to discuss policy, reviving an idea raised by France. Germany has opposed this in the past and Barroso and Van Rompuy did not comment on the proposal.

The leaders said the EU would not abandon efforts to reach a deal to fight the effects of global warming following U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen last month.

Van Rompuy said the EU had hoped for more in Copenhagen but added: "We are in for the long haul".

Reuters

Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2010, 20:16
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