Leaders urged to follow through on their EU agreements to stimulate growth and jobs, says Commission president José Manuel Barroso.
“It is time to move from crisis mode to growth mode,” he said during the meeting of EU leaders on 1 & 2 March.
The eurozone is taking measures to solve its public debt crisis. Now all EU leaders need to act on polices agreed at EU level, he said.
The Commission's 2012 growth survey – a set of economic policy and priorities – provides a roadmap for leaders to implement national reform plans. These plans should focus on priority measures – including those to reduce youth unemployment and increase support for small businesses.
EU-backed project bonds could also raise funding for strategic investments in transport, energy, and high-speed internet networks, said president Barroso.
Agreement on budget rules
On 2 March all EU countries except the UK and the Czech Republic signed an intergovernmental treaty setting tighter budget rules in the eurozone.
It will enter into force following ratification by at least 12 eurozone countries. Once they adopt the euro other countries will be bound by this treaty, unless they decide to follow the rules at an earlier date.
The treaty would require eurozone governments to keep their general budgets balanced or in surplus. Those who exceed a deficit cap of 0.5% of GDP would have to bring their budgets back into balance, under the oversight of other EU countries.
The treaty is seen as an important part of the EU’s response to the financial crisis – and the eurozone’s debt crisis. By strengthening economic governance and stability, EU leaders aim to restore confidence – among the public and in the financial markets.
At the meeting EU leaders agreed on a roadmap for Bulgaria and Romania to join the EU’s passport-free travel area.
“It is a question of fairness and objectivity,” said president Barroso.
Leaders also accepted Serbia as a candidate for joining the EU. “... it was also a good decision because it shows that the EU remains very attractive,” he said.