Distribution: immediate - March 16, 2009, 7:40 pm
EU Summit must agree on extra € 5 billion stimulus to growth
European Liberals and Democrats regret the disagreement between Member States over redirecting € 5 billion of unspent money from the EU agriculture budget (€3.5bn in 2008 alone) for use on vital energy, transport and telecommunications infrastructure projects of strategic importance that will help provide an economic stimulus to business growth and job creation for example in gas and electricity networks, carbon capture, wind farms or broadband connection for rural areas.
"Failure to agree on this limited but necessary investment damages the credibility of the Union," said Graham Watson, Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament.
"Member States have been dragging their feet since last November when the European Commission proposed pumping these funds into the real economy. Most measures endorsed until now were targeted at the financial sector. We need more job-creating investments in the real economy and we need them now".
"We are still failing to think and act as one. Rather than returning the funds to prop-up depleted national coffers we have the opportunity to pool resources for common investment in mutually-beneficial projects like the Nabucco pipeline. Although the investment under this scheme will be far from sufficient, it will show there is political will to diversify energy supply".
Anne Jensen (Venstre, Denmark), ALDE coordinator in the budgets committee also deplored the "undignified horse-trading" that has characterised finance ministers meetings recently as they fail to see the wood for the trees.
"The Commission President had a commitment from the French Presidency and Heads of State last year to provide this additional economic stimulus to drive economic growth, but it has been constantly undermined by unseemly squabbling between finance ministers over who gets what from the spoils. It is a failure of political will that only the Heads of State themselves can put right at the end of this week."