European Union leaders on late-Thursday called for strong measures to address the issues of worsening economic and labor market situation at the EU summit in Brussels, while thousands staged anti-austerity protests at the Belgian capital.
The leaders closely analyzed the region's efforts to balance austerity, growth and employment. There were more calls for pro-growth policies, especially from France and Italy.
At the summit, there was an unusual urgency among leaders to address the unemployment problem, particularly among youth, as they feared it could lead to serious social unrest.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, though stuck to her stance of continued austerity, stressed on the need to fight unemployment. "We will have one priority: the fight against youth unemployment," Merkel said ahead of the meeting. "We have to get the money to the people so that young people get jobs."
In Eurozone. Greece and Spain faced acute labor market crisis with an unemployment rate of around 26 percent. Youth unemployment in these countries is around 50 percent. Unemployment is high and rising in France and in many other European countries.
"We reconfirmed our overall economic strategy," to restore financial stability, ensure sound public finances, fight unemployment and reform long-term growth and competitiveness, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in a statement after the meeting,
Europe must "urgently" fight unemployment, "especially for youth, for whom the situation is dramatic in some countries," Van Rompuy said.
"Growth and jobs are not things governments can buy or summon. It is our overriding objective; a result, for which we have to keep striving," he added.
The governments should pursue well-designed structural reforms, cut expenditure, launch fast-acting and targeted measures to boost growth and employment and ruthlessly tackle tax evasion, Van Rompuy said.
He said the the results of past policy actions are taking time to translate into more economic activity and more jobs. "So we must take short-term action also, to counter the social consequences of the
Though declining spreads or an improved balance of payments are economically crucial, they do not offer comfort to people who fear losing their job or struggle to find one, he noted.
The EU has recently loosened its stance of budget cuts. Policymakers fear that the draconian austerity measures being implemented in many euro area nations may push the region into its second year of recession in 2013.
Recently, the European Commission has allowed Spain, Greece and Portugal more time to balance their budgets.
Leaders from 17 Eurozone countries are meeting on Friday to discuss Cyprus bailout. Cyprus may need around EUR 17 billion, roughly the size of its total economic output, to stay afloat.
by RTT Staff Writer
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