News / Europe

EU Moves on Budget Rules, Works to Promote Growth

European Parliament President Martin Schulz holds a news conference during a European Union summit in Brussels, January 30, 2012.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz holds a news conference during a European Union summit in Brussels, January 30, 2012.
Al Pessin

All but two European Union member countries have agreed on new fiscal rules designed to ensure there is not another regional debt crisis, and to regain the confidence of the financial markets.

The 27 European Union heads of government came to Brussels to finalize what is called the “fiscal compact” to avoid future crises, and to find ways to promote economic growth to lift their countries out of the current one.

The accord, which sets strict rules for government budgets, was approved by 25 of the leaders and is to be signed in March. Britain and the Czech Republic did not join the accord. Britain says it would take away too many powers it has to regulate its own economy.

The European leaders have been the targets of much criticism for not doing enough quickly enough to address the debt crisis and accompanying economic downturn. But the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said the continent's effort is on track.

“We have a strategy, and we are staying the course,” Barroso said.

His colleague, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, said he is not concerned that the two countries did not join the new agreement, saying the 17 that use the common euro currency and other interested countries must be able to work on their problems, even if the EU is not unanimous on the approach.

“With this treaty we maintain as much as possible the unity of the union, taking into account that those who have a common currency have the possibility to deal with the problems linked to their currency,” Van Rompuy said.

The European leaders also took several steps designed to stimulate economic growth, launching programs to help small businesses and to create jobs, particularly for young people. But they acknowledge the effort is difficult at a time when most countries do not have enough money to directly create jobs or stimulate economic growth.

The head of the Brussels-based research organization Friends of Europe, Giles Merritt, says European leaders and their people still have not faced up to the fundamental challenge before them.

“I don't think they've got very good marks from anybody. We all know Europe has been living beyond its means. There has to be a complete sort of restructuring of European society. We all know that. What we don't know is how to do it," Merritt said.

Merritt says European countries can no longer afford the generous social programs they provide to their people, but spending cuts to reduce or eliminate those programs are hugely unpopular.

Monday's summit coincided with a general strike in Belgium, called to protest that government's austerity plans. Merritt says more such actions, what he called “social sulking,” lie ahead as Europe faces a summer of slow growth or recession.

Meanwhile, one of Europe's most troubled economies, Greece, moved closer to agreement with creditors to restructure its debt, and default on part of it. A deal is expected within days, although Greek leaders rejected calls for EU officials to be given veto power over their future budgeting decisions.

You May Like

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs