Expatica news

Zapatero in talks on fight against terrorism

4 November 2004

BRUSSELS-Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero met the French premier Jacques Chirac and his German counterpart, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, to discuss the fight against international terrorism.

The three leaders, who held the closed-door meeting while attending the EU summit in Brussels, are also understood to have discussed the proposed EU constitution.

They are also thought to have held talks on the result of the US elections, the future of Iraq and the ailing health of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

European Union leaders were gathering in Brussels for a two-day summit, with EU economic reform high on the agenda.

Zapatero has joined other leaders to approve the next steps in a strategy aimed at helping Europe catch up with the US as the world’s most dynamic economy.

The summit will also cover measures to help stabilise Iraq and EU efforts to coordinate immigration policy.

However, the EU’s painful internal split over the Iraq war is expected to influence debates.

When Iraq’s interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, joined the summit on Friday, the leaders approved a modest package of measures to support his government’s aims.

The EU will set up a training scheme for Iraqi police, lawyers and election officers, and hold out the prospect of a formal Iraq-EU agreement on trade and other matters.

But the impact of these things will depend on improved security on the ground, which is not the EU’s direct concern.

The leaders’ main business in Brussels is to approve the next steps in the economic reform strategy to help Europe catch up with the US as the world’s most dynamic economy by 2010.
But the report prepared in advance by former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok says plainly that the strategy is not working, because some EU governments have not been willing to take their reform medicine.

The leaders will also approve an ambitious long-term plan to harmonise many aspects of asylum and immigration policy, as well as cross-border law enforcement across the EU.

But key parts of the plan are not yet agreed, including controversial ideas for preventing would-be migrants to Europe from entering illegally.

These include finding ways of processing their bids for asylum or for work permits in some countries in North Africa and other transit regions.

The so-called Lisbon Agenda called on EU governments to implement a range of economic and social changes, including tax cuts, reform of healthcare and pension systems, and making it easier for companies to hire and fire workers.

The EU’s economic growth is projected to be 2 percent in 2004 and 2.4 percent in 2005 – roughly half the global growth rates for those two years.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news