European leaders gather for an informal dinner summit in Brussels
Wednesday, dominated by increasing calls for growth measures and gloomy
news about the state of the eurozone economy. France's new president
Francois Hollande is expected to champion a particularly controversial
measure - eurobonds.
This latest meeting of European Union leaders takes place amid a changed
political and economic landscape. To be sure, the main problem facing
the 27 European leaders remains the same; creating jobs and growing the
troubled eurozone economy. Pressure for strong and speedy action is
mounting amid fears that the eurozone's weakest member - Greece - may
soon exit the 17-nation currency union, a move that may spark a larger
"I don't think the eurozone has turned the corner," said Thomas Klau,
who heads the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
"It's turned the corner in terms of the political will. I think the
mainstream parties across the eurozone are very strongly committed to
keeping the eurozone intact and see it through this crisis. But I don't
think they've done enough to make that commitment work in practice."
European leaders received more grim economic news this week. A report by
the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
warned the eurozone risked severe recession. The OECD's chief economist
Pier Carlo Padoan called for swift action.
"Things have begun to deteriorate again recently. So we cannot rule out
a downside scenario which, if ignited, could lead to serious
repercussions worldwide," Padoan warned.
leaders are facing growing calls for injecting growth measures along
with budget cuts in dealing with the eurozone crisis. That message was
delivered by U.S. President Barack Obama at the Group of Eight summit at
Camp David last week.
"Today we agreed that we must take steps to boost confidence and to
promote growth and demand while getting our fiscal houses in order,"
Obama said. "We agreed to the importance of a strong and cohesive
eurozone and affirmed our interest in Greece's staying in the eurozone
while respecting its commitments."
France's new President Francois Hollande will be bringing that message
to Brussels, during his first meeting with his European counterparts.
His strong support of growth puts him at odds with German Chancellor
Angela Merkel, who also wants strong doses of austerity and structural
The leaders of Europe's largest economies are also split on the concept
of eurobonds - jointly issued bonds that could fund just about anything
and might eventually replace the debt of a given EU country. Merkel is
against them. But Hollande will push for eurobonds during the Brussels
French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici says all options will be
considered in Brussels, including eurobonds. The idea is gaining
traction in Europe. Several top EU officials, including European
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, are for them.
At a recent news conference, Barroso outlined a more modest pilot of
It will be a completely new mechanism
and system of getting some financing and investment in projects that are
important in Europe.
Analyst Klau says these specific project bonds are one area where France
and Germany can agree.
"That's essentially a joint bond-finance infrastructure project - roads
for example - which would provide long-term stimulus to the economy,"
European leaders will likely be discussing other ways to stimulate
Europe's economy, along with helping out large and troubled European
banks, like those in Spain, which are floundering during the economic