European Union leaders are expected in Brussels for their first summit of the year in attempt to reconcile austerity with growth and to approve a permanent rescue fund for the crisis-hit eurozone.
The half day summit on Monday is meant to focus on ways to generate growth and create jobs, while having more austere fiscal measures for nations with unsustainable levels of debt.
The summit coincided with a general strike against the Belgian government’s austerity measures that has kicked off in Brussels, bringing the city to a standstill.
EU leaders are also expected to put the finishing touches on a German-driven pact for stricter budget discipline and endorse the statutes of a 500 billion-euro rescue fund to be set up this year.
Most eurozone member states -, except the UK – have agreed to sign up to the new budget treaty, or “fiscal compact”.
Meanwhile, Greece’s unresolved debt restructuring negotiations with its private creditors may sour efforts to send a more optimistic message that Europe is getting on top of its debt crisis.
Currently there are more than 23 million unemployed people in European Union and there are fears that harsh austerity measures may harm enterprise and training.
Europe is battling a debt crisis that so far has prompted two international credit rating agencies to cut the ratings of at least five of its members including Italy, Spain and the EU’s second largest economy, France, which lost its triple-A credit rating.
There are fears that more delays in resolving the eurozone debt crisis, which began in Greece in late 2009 and infected Italy, Spain and France last year, could push not only Europe but also much of the rest of the developed world back into recession.
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