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EU Finance Ministers to Discuss $253 Billion Economic Stimulus Plan


European Union finance ministers meet today and Tuesday to discuss the details of a $253 billion economic stimulus proposal by the bloc's executive arm. Lisa Bryant has more for VOA from Paris.

European finance ministers, meeting in Brussels, are expected to study the details of the economic stimulus plan and seek coordinated action on boosting the European Union economies, along with their own national stimulus plans. The bloc-wide proposal was announced the the EU's executive arm, last week, to pump up the economy of the 27-member European Union, which is fast sliding toward recession.

Analyst Katinka Barysch, of the Center for European Reform in London, believes the ministers will come to some kind of consensus at the end of the meeting, Tuesday.

"Hopefully a fairly united statement that the EU governments acknowledge that a fiscal stimulus is needed," she said. "That any protective reactions will have to be resisted. That there will be some kind of watering down of the stability and growth pact. That they will allow the European Commission to accelerate spending on regional aid projects and infrastructure projects, which means losing some of the rules that we usually apply to that spending."

But the details the measures and what they will actually aim to accomplish remain vague. The stimulus plan takes into account national packages to boost the economy, like those already announced by Britain, Italy and Germany. France is expected to announce its own plan, Thursday. But it is unclear how much of the funding involved is actually new money. Germany is also coming under pressure to up commit more funding to fight the downturn.

"There are obviously big divisions and Germany, particularly, is in the dock, because people say Germany, despite its very sound budget position and despite its big external surplus, isn't really willing to put as much into a fiscal stimulus as other countries are doing," continued Barysch.

EU leaders are expected to approve the final stimulus package during a summit, later this month.


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