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Barroso sees widespread support for EU stimulus

  The European Union stimulus package has widespread support and Germany is sure to play an active part in it, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Monday.

 

Barroso, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy dismissed speculation that Germany -- Europe’s biggest economy -- had reservations about the €200 billion euro plan. “I was proud to see overwhelming support for the European economic recovery plan presented by the Commission,” Barroso told reporters after meeting Brown, Sarkozy and European business leaders in London. “I have full confidence in the efforts that Germany is making and will make. Germany is the most important European economy and so it would be completely unreasonable to think about any plan without the active co-operation of Germany.”

European leaders will meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to discuss the stimulus package, which includes spending €5 billion on energy and broadband projects, and plans to bring forward €4.5 billion for infrastructure to earlier in 2009.

However, the London meeting had threatened to be overshadowed by the absence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with suggestions she had been snubbed by Brown and Sarkozy over her lack of enthusiasm for the EU plan. “I don’t share the view, on the eve of our European Council meeting that there is disagreement on the seriousness of the crisis and the need for stimulus,” Sarkozy said, a view reiterated by Barroso and Brown.

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS

Merkel is under fire from some EU nations and domestic lawmakers for what they say is a dithering and isolationist approach to the financial crisis. In particular, they are angry over her reluctance to embrace the EU approach, although her coalition has pushed through a national stimulus package it says is worth €31 billion.

A spokesman for Brown insisted the London gathering was an “informal meeting,” adding that the British and German leaders had discussed the economy in a phone call on Sunday. “Obviously each country has to take the action that it feels appropriate,” the spokesman said. “We have already seen the announcement of the fiscal stimulus package in Germany.” “We continue to work closely with Germany on how we can help businesses and families in both of our countries to ensure that we get through this downturn as fairly as possible.”

Brown has brought forward public spending projects worth £3 billion as part of a £20 billion stimulus package to mitigate the effects of the looming recession. In a statement earlier on Monday, Downing Street said Brown believes speeding up infrastructure investments “will not only cushion the blow to the construction sector, which is slowing down sharply in most member states, it will also enhance Europe’s longer-term sustainable growth potential.” (Reuters)