EU Leaders to Focus on Economic Growth at Brussels Summit

Posted May 23rd, 2012 at 11:50 am (UTC-5)
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Leaders of the 27 nations that make up the European Union will gather in Brussels Wednesday for a summit aimed at solving the bloc's debt crisis.

The bloc's focus has shifted from austerity to pro-growth policies since the election of Socialist Francois Hollande as president of France and the political stalemate in Greece, where voters rejected the political parties that agreed to severe budget cuts in exchange for a financial bailout package. Mr. Hollande's influence is at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has led the austerity drive since the debt crisis began.

On the eve of the summit, the European Parliament agreed to a pilot program that would use nearly $300 million of so-called project bonds in 2012 and 2013 to finance about $5.8 billion of investment projects.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy says no idea is “taboo” for Wednesday's forum, and that long-term solutions should be explored. Among the ideas expected to be raised are issuing so-called eurobonds, under which wealthier European nations would guarantee the borrowing costs of financially struggling nations. Ms. Merkel is adamantly opposed to eurobonds, a stance shared by Finland, The Netherlands and Austria.

Leaders at the summit may also consider assisting large and troubled European banks like those in Spain that are struggling during the economic crisis.

But no major decisions are expected to be made until another summit in late June, shortly after Greece holds a new round of elections.