Leaders of the 27 European Union (EU) member states have agreed on a long-awaited comprehensive package of economic measures at a crucial summit in Brussels to shore up the euro and tackle the bloc’s sovereign debt crisis.
“We adopted the Euro Plus Pact … We have a complete agreement on the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) … even in details,” President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said at a press conference held in the early hours of Friday morning.
The package mainly includes an expansion of the EU’s bailout fund, establishment of a permanent rescue mechanism (ESM) in the euro zone, a new round of stress test in the banking sector and reforms to improve economic competitiveness and convergence of euro zone economies (Euro Plus Pact).
“In terms of economic governance, today was a real breakthrough … The basic framework was adopted today,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said at the same press conference.
Earlier on the day, some 20,000 protesters also took to the streets in Brussels as European trade unions were concerned about the Euro Plus Pact, under which euro zone governments will push ahead with tough economic and social reforms.
Six non-euro zone member states have also voluntarily joined the pact, including Poland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Romania, Malta and Cyprus.
The pact “will provide for a new quality of economic coordination,” the EU president said in a Twitter message shortly after the press conference.
The effective lending capacity of the 440 billion euro bailout fund will be in place in June, according to another Twitter message of the president.
Van Rompuy also told reporters hours ahead of the summit that the European Council was “a turning point in the euro crisis management.”
“We have achieved unimaginable change in policy instruments, a quantum leap,” he said.
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