Friday, December 12, 2008

EU seal deals on economy, climate packages

ABC News Online, Posted 9 hours 16 minutes ago 

Updated 8 hours 18 minutes ago

EU leaders sealed an agreement overnight for a 200 billion euro plan designed to dig Europe out of recession and a package to combat global warming on the final day of a crunch summit in Brussels.

After persuading Ireland to submit a stalled EU reform treaty to a second referendum next year, the 27 leaders then agreed to club together to fund an economic stimulus package and make major cuts in greenhouse gas emmissions.

Although the deal on climate change was only sealed after negotiations that stretched on into the afternoon, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said there had been unanimous agreement on the need for a joint assault on the economic slowdown.

"What Europe has proved unanimously today is that it is ready to act in a united way to deal with the global downturn," Mr Brown told reporters.

"We will continue to reject the do-nothing approach and we will not stand by and let the recession take its course."

Copies of a draft agreement due to be signed at the end of the summit showed the leaders would commit themselves at its conclusion to warding off the threat of a "recessionary spiral".

"In these exceptional circumstances, Europe will act in a united, strong, rapid and decisive manner to avoid a recessionary spiral and sustain economic activity and employment," the draft conclusion said.

Under the stimulus plan, member countries would pump on average the equivalent of 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) into their economies in order to temper the impact of a global recession.

Climate change package

Diplomats meanwhile said that the leaders had agreed on a climate package which they hope will become a model for the rest of the world.

"There is agreement," on the climate and energy proposals aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, one EU official said.

The EU's climate-energy package, the "20-20-20" deal, also seeks to make 20 percent energy savings and bring renewable energy sources up to 20 percent of total energy use.

French President and summit chairman Nicolas Sarkozy said that the targets had not been watered down during the negotiations amid calls by several states for amendments to the initial package at a time of recession.

"The objectives remain the same," said Mr Sarkozy. "No way can the (economic) crisis be used as an excuse not to move on the environment."

France's minister for sustainable development, Jean-Louis Borloo described the agreement as a "historic decision".

"For the first time countries are deciding on a real change for the planet, with an extremely precise and operational system of constraints and assessment for all," he said.

Officials also confirmed the leaders had formally adopted a deal to pave the way for Ireland to stage a second referendum on a stalled package of key reforms, the Lisbon Treaty.


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