EU leaders in emergency economic summit

Czech premier Mirek Topolánek currently holds the EU presidency.
European Union leaders were meeting Sunday for an emergency summit in Brussels amid growing fears that national protectionism will sabotage coordinated efforts to reverse the current economic decline.

The summit, called by Czech Prime Minister and President of the European Council Mirek Topolánek and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, will address the ways in which the individual member states implement their recovery plan and fight the impact of the financial crisis. The meeting follows French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s promise last week to bail out his country’s auto industry if it did not move jobs out of France. In a statement posted on the Czech EU Presidency’s Web site, both men observed that at a time when there is strong pressure to adopt protectionist measures, it is necessary to make sure that the rules of the internal market and fair competition are observed. “Europe will only overcome the crisis if we act together in a coordinated way and if we abide by the Community rules,” the statement read. “We do not want any new dividing lines; we do not want a Europe divided along a North-South or an East-West line; pursuing a beggar-thy-neighbor policy is unacceptable. That the internal market remains united is of vital importance. We must make the most of the opportunities offered by the internal market — we must make it the driving force of recovery, promoting economic growth and employment.

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“At the informal summit on Sunday it should be further acknowledged that for the fiscal stimuli adopted by the Member States to be efficient it is essential to unlock the frozen credit flows. All efforts and measures to fight the economic crisis within the EU must respect the principle of solidarity, but they also require that all players show responsibility.” Meanwhile, British prime minister Gordon Brown was quoted by the British Press Association as saying that the region “faced the threat of a retreat into protectionism, with world trade forecast to contract this year for the first time since 1982.” Brown, who will host the G20 meeting of world leaders in London in April, said: “The London Summit on April 2 represents an opportunity to agree a new deal. The EU has an opportunity — and a responsibility — to lead. “Only by working together will we deliver the EU and international recovery we need.”

He added that “Robust action” was needed to reduce uncertainty within the banking system and restore confidence in the financial sector, PA said. “We should agree by the June Council (another scheduled EU summit) coordinated EU guidelines for the treatment of distressed assets which recognizes the cross border nature of financial institutions, while allowing member states to take the right action in light of their individual circumstances.”