EU ministers call for focus on economic crisis, single EU voice

Earth Times (Link) (January 13, 2010)

European Union European affairs ministers on Wednesday stressed the need for faster and more flexible action in the face of the economic crisis, sources with the Spanish EU presidency said. EU ministers or officials gathered in La Granja de San Ildefonso near the central city of Segovia for the first larger EU meeting since Spain took over the rotating EU presidency on January 1.

The ministers agreed with Spain that the bloc needed to set itself �ambitious� goals, but put more emphasis on other aspects, such as economic recovery or the need for the EU to speak with one voice, the sources said.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero earlier sparked controversy by saying the EU needed a �binding� economic strategy. Spain later denied that Zapatero had proposed penalties for countries which would fail to comply with the EU�s new economic strategy over the coming decade.

The ministers discussed the EU�s new diplomatic corps under foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, with Spain stressing that it needed to be compatible with national diplomatic services, the sources said.

Italian European Affairs Minister Andrea Ronchi described the meeting as launching a �new phase� in the EU under the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on December 1.

The EU�s rapid reaction to the devastating earthquake in Haiti was an example of more efficient policies, he said.

The meeting was scheduled to conclude on Thursday.