EU leaders struggle with divisions during crisis summit

2nd March 2009, Comments 1 comment

Heads of state and government were holding an emergency summit in Brussels to thrash out a united front in the face of the worsening crisis after wrangling for weeks over what to do as Europe slips ever deeper into recession.

Brussels -- EU leaders struggled on Sunday to overcome divisions over the economic crisis as protectionism fears and appeals of help from poorer members prompted a warning of a "new iron curtain" in Europe.

Heads of state and government were holding an emergency summit in Brussels to thrash out a united front in the face of the worsening crisis after wrangling for weeks over what to do as Europe slips ever deeper into recession.

With eastern European countries particularly hard hit, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany called for a new show of solidarity, recommending an international support fund for the region.

"We should not allow a new iron curtain to be set up and divide Europe in two parts," he warned, proposing a fund worth up to 190 billion euros (240 billion dollars).

That was far more than the 24.5 billion euros in aid that international institutions agreed on Friday to make available to eastern European countries to help them cope with the crisis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who arrived late at the summit due to a technical problem with her plane, warned against lumping EU countries into groups.

Stressing that "the situation is very different" from one eastern European nation to another, she cautioned against launching into a debate on "massive figures" of aid for the region.

The financial and economic turmoil has clobbered eastern and central European countries particularly hard because their economies are highly dependent on a steady stream of credit from western sources, which has all but dried up recently.

While Austria has been urging measures to help Eastern Europe, most other countries, including the European Union's current Czech presidency have ruled out special treatment for the region.

"I don't believe that it is necessary now to separate several countries in the European Union," Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told journalists as he arrived to chair the emergency EU summit.

"I will support an individual approach of the European Union to help and support any countries or European countries, (and) not especially Eastern Europe."

Many eastern European countries are also growing increasingly concerned about the spectre of protectionism looming over Europe, especially after France made aid to its car sector conditional on companies not moving production to the region.

While the European Commission deemed the French auto package on Saturday to be free of protectionism, fears lingered on Sunday that as the crisis worsens governments will resort to bailing out their industries at the expense of other countries.

"Always we must resist the temptation of protectionism," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told journalists after a pre-summit meeting of leaders from nine eastern European countries.

Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt said that in the specific case of the car industry bailouts did little to tackle the sector's underlying problem of massive overcapacity in the face of collapsing consumer demand.

"It's not possible with subventions to take jobs from each other without facing the main problem; the fact that we have an overcapacity on the manufacturing side."

According to a draft summit statement, the EU leaders will commit to putting their vast single market at the heart of their recovery plans and stress that the EU's efforts to promote open markets are reflected elsewhere.

EU nations must "make the maximum possible use of the single market as the engine for recovery, to support growth and jobs," said the draft statement, seen by AFP.

EU leaders were also to use the summit to hammer out a common position to take to a meeting of leaders from the 20 biggest economic powers in London in early April.

Leigh Thomas/AFP/Expatica

1 Comment To This Article

  • Germany First! posted:

    on 2nd March 2009, 05:37:59 - Reply

    This video by Geert Wilders, Dutch parliamentary, is a call for Western Civilization to wake up. The desire of Muslims to silence freedom of speech is a real threat. There are now over 20 million Arabs / Muslims living in Europe. Their numbers are rapidly climbing as politicians continue to import them as a source of cheap labor and easy votes.

    This is his movie Fitna. It is meant to inform Westerners of the imminent danger that Islam and rapid immigration pose for open and free thinking people.

    Action is necessary. Before it is too late begin pressuring your elected officials or get into politics yourself if you see this clash of cultures as a serious problem for Europeans and Americans. Take immigration seriously or the European cultures stand to be eliminated, followed quickly by America.

    The video at the bottom of this paragraph, Submission, is what got Theo Van Gogh murdered – descendent of Vincent Van Gogh ( It depicts Muslim women suffering from domestic abuse, with passages from the Qur’an that support abusing women. Van Gogh, an artist, was shot several times on his way to work by Mohammed Bouyeri. However he did not die instantly, he begged for his life before being nearly decapitated and having a note posted to his chest with a knife. The contents of the note:

    Americans and Europeans will have to give up our culture unless we wake up to this threat.