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Restoring confidence, boosting growth and jobs - 01/02/2012

EU leaders around a table at the informal European Council meeting © EU

EU leaders agree on urgent action to bring down youth unemployment, support small businesses and tap into the EU market, and set date for signing new treaty on economic policy coordination.

EU leaders agreed on the need for urgent priority action at EU and national level to boost growth and jobs (with special focus on fighting youth unemployment, deepening the single market and helping small businesses).

They agreed the “Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in EMU” which reinforces stability and is a further piece in the puzzle which will allow other aspects of the comprehensive response to the sovereign debt crisis to fall into place.

EU leaders also reached agreement on the European Stability Mechanism Treaty – a permanent fund to help vulnerable euro area countries.

Reducing youth unemployment

Every EU country agreed to prepare a national jobs plan. This will include measures like shifting taxes away from labour and reducing labour market segmentation which can improve employment opportunities for the young and low-skilled.

Action teams will be created with eight EU countries (Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Ireland) with above-average youth unemployment.

Completing the single market

The single market is a key driver for growth. The EU Commission has called for completion of the digital single market by 2015. EU leaders agreed to fast-track existing proposals, and called for France, Germany and the UK to resolve their differences on the EU patent.

Help for small businesses

EU leaders agreed to take priority action to help Europe's 23 million small businesses by increasing access to credit and business funding, reducing administrative burdens and improving access to venture capital.

They also agreed to see how the €82 billion in structural and social funds that have not yet been committed could be redirected to growth and jobs.

A new international treaty

A new international treaty (to be signed in March by all EU countries except the UK and the Czech Republic) was agreed to strengthen economic coordination in the euro area. Important improvements include the voting requirements for opening an “excessive deficit procedure” and the commitment to formalise a “balanced budget rule” at national level.

Agreement on a permanent fund

Euro area countries also concluded work on a separate treaty to create a permanent bailout fund for the EU. The fund should begin operating in July 2012.

More on the European Council meeting 30 January

The Commission’s response to the European Council decisions

Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s presentation on growth and jobs

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