European Union leaders to meet on Jan 30

BRUSSELS Wed Dec 21, 2011 3:56am IST

A seamstress sews a European Union (EU) flag in a small workshop in Belgrade October 13, 2011. REUTERS/Ivan Milutinovic/Files

A seamstress sews a European Union (EU) flag in a small workshop in Belgrade October 13, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Ivan Milutinovic/Files

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders will meet on January 30 next year, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said on Tuesday as diplomatic negotiations began on a pact to tighten euro zone fiscal controls.

In a video address, Van Rompuy said the summit for the 27-country bloc would be focused on jobs. He also highlighted the importance of achieving financial stability in the euro zone.

"It will be focused on jobs, and that is a big challenge in the context when zero growth is expected in most of our economies," said Van Rompuy, who will chair the meeting.

"We must take strong action on employment," he said. "Bringing financial stability to the euro zone remains absolutely key for our future."

Pointing to the reforms being made in individual EU countries, he said: "The path is long, longer than we expected. But let there be no doubt, there is a fundamental political will to move forward as a union. We have a moral duty to continue this mission."

Van Rompuy announced the date as a meeting took place in Brussels between EU diplomats, the European Parliament and the European Commission to start negotiations on an intergovernmental agreement to tighten fiscal controls and sanctions in the euro zone.

Britain will attend the negotiations although it has not signed up to the new agreement, which is intended to regulate the 17 countries now in the euro zone plus any others which later join the single currency bloc.

It appears likely that the so-called fiscal compact will be backed by all the 26 other states in the European Union.

Many diplomats and officials, however, have had reservations about pursing a separate agreement to enshrine a framework for imposing discipline on spendthrift countries.

As the meeting to discuss the new pact drew to a close, three lawmakers representing the European Parliament said the goals of the international agreement would have been best achieved using existing EU rules.

One of those members of parliament, Roberto Gualtieri, said in a statement: "I think all that is in this text could be achieved with EU legislation."

(Reporting By John O'Donnell; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Leslie Adler)

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