Tim Gosling in Prague -
As governments across Europe topple in the face of a vicious backlash against austerity, the European Commission is to finally bend its strategy somewhat with a bid to boost funds aimed at driving growth.
Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on April 30 that Brussels is preparing a €200bn "pact for growth" to be presented at the next EU summit in June. The plan, which appears to centre on the European Investment Bank (EIB), aims to raise the capital with the help of the private sector for investment in infrastructure, renewable energy and advanced technologies.
Euractiv claims that the scheme is a bid to kick-start economic growth without raising public debt in the EU even further. Data revealed by Eurostat last week revealed that state debt rose to a record high of over 85% of GDP on average amongst the 27 member states. Average debt in the Eurozone approached even closer to 90%.
In apparent response to widening protests against austerity-led reform - which on April 27 saw the Romanian government join the growing list of victims of Brussels' push for budget consolidation - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso insisted that the EU already has an agenda for growth - Europe 2020 - but added that this agenda could be "updated".
"It is always possible to complement it, adapt it to more challenging situations. And indeed I see some progress now in the debate," he said. Barroso referred to his proposal for "project" or "investment" bonds as an example for this possible upgrade, as well as the commission's suggestion for reinforcement of the capital of the European Investment Bank (EIB), which he said was not received well at the time. "Let's be honest, we need investment for growth at European level," he said.
The plan, which takes into consideration ideas of the French Socialist front-runner Francois Hollande - namely leveraging the EIB to boost growth and jobs - will be presented after the French elections.
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