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EU leaders hold talks on growth

Posted on Mar 15, 02:00PM | IANS

Brussels, March 15 : Against the backdrop of easing market pressure but rising unemployment rate, top leaders of the European Union (EU) have held broad talks on growth without making concrete decisions on the first day of the two-day spring summit in Brussels.

"Employment, especially youth employment, was at the heart of our discussion tonight, more than ever," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said at a press conference Thursday.

He brought forward four strands to tackle Europe's economic crisis, namely maintaining financial stability, ensuring sustainable public finances, fighting unemployment especially for the young, and working on long-term growth, reported Xinhua.

"There are no easy answers... We have to tackle its root causes," Van Rompuy said, adding that the eurozone economy was expected to grow by the end of this year.

The eurozone economy contracted by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter last year, or the steepest decline since the first quarter of 2009, while its unemployment rate hit a record high of 11.9 percent in January.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said at the same press conference that the euro was more stable compared to one year ago and the confidence had returned, labeling Thursday's discussion among EU leaders as "the most business-like for a long time".

Barroso also said that the implementation of the EU's growth pact was too low and too slow, urging the European Parliament to move quicker in passing relative legislation.

In February's special summit, EU leaders had agreed upon an initiative on youth employment worth 6 billion euros ($7.8 billion) as part of the deal on the bloc's seven-year financial framework for 2014-20, widely considered by critics as far from enough.