25 EU leaders sign off on fiscal discipline treaty
Mar 2, 2012, 8:51 GMT
Brussels - Twenty-five of the European Union's 27 leaders on Friday signed a new German-sponsored budget discipline treaty cast as vital in fighting the bloc's debt crisis, but which does not include Britain and the Czech Republic.
'It is a milestone in the history of the European Union,' German Chancellor Angela Merkel said shortly beforehand.
'I think it is a strong signal that we are learning the lessons from the crisis, that we have understood the signals and that we are betting on the future of a politically united Europe,' she added.
The content of the treaty, known as the fiscal compact, had been agreed at a previous summit in January.
Its main innovations are a requirement to keep to a balanced budget - with automatic corrective measures in case of overspending - and provisions to give the European Court of Justice a policing role over the application of the new rules.
Britain refused to back the measures after failing to secure prior concessions for its financial sector, while the Czech Republic opted out over domestic opposition to the pact.
The signing took place on the second day of the leaders' annual spring summit. On Thursday, several of them had boasted that - for the first time in two years - they had managed to focus on growth and jobs rather than on the debt crisis.
The fiscal compact fits into that picture, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite insisted before the signature.
It showed 'that all member states are saying we are serious and we don't want anymore to be talking only about crisis.'
'It will strengthen the credibility of the euro area ... and the EU's economy policy in the long run,' Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen added.
The leaders were also expected Friday to approve a statement with several economic policy pledges they hope will help boost growth and employment.
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