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EU leaders reach climate and economy consensus


Video by Sarah DRURY

Text by Catherine LE LOHÉ

Latest update : 2008-12-15

European Union leaders, meeting in Brussels, have agreed on a 200-billion-euro bailout package to revive the bloc's battered economy. They have also reached a consensus on a climate deal, amended to cushion the effects on the poorer EU states.

Read our piece on the issues of the summit: Sarkozy faces frosty partners at EU summit

Brussels, 2:28 pm (GMT+1): A declaration of love

At the conclusion of the summit, the President Sarkozy confesses to the journalists, "It was thrilling work. I made new friends — and I am not talking about you!" The room fills with laughter. The president stands up with a smile across his face. The European summit has come to a close.

Brussels, 2:08 pm (GMT+1): "Non, je ne regrette rien"

Evaluating his turn as Europe's president, Nicolas Sarkozy said: "I have no regrets, look at all that can be accomplished in six months! We've broken bad habits!"

As proof he retells an anecdote about a meeting where there was a missing chair. Formal permission was needed to add a new one.

"I told them 'if you don't go fetch another chair, I'll go myself!' It's just a detail, but we can spend hours just counting the number of chairs for each delegation!"

The room erupts in laughter. But Sarkozy adds "that Europe is dying!"

Brussels, 2:02 pm (GMT+1): Lacking ambition

Nicolas Sarkozy, answering questions from the press, says that after chairing yesterday's eight-hour meeting, he is sure that the European Commission's main problem is "its lack of ambition".

"We must overcome national selfishness, on behalf of a collective front," he says.

Final press conference of the French presidency's last European Council

Brussels, 1:53 pm (GMT+1): "Yes, you can!"

This is the message of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to Barack Obama, the US President-elect on climate change. "If we can do it in Europe, you can also do it in the US and in other parts of the world", Barroso said, referring to the motto of the US President-elect.

Brussels, 1:37 pm (GMT+1): Final press conference: sensational declarations and victory for the French presidency

Nicolas Sarkozy cheerfully confirms: "Lisbon is back!"

On the issue of an economic recovery plan, he says: "Everyone has agreed on the figure of 1.5% of Europe’s GDP" as the amount of the stimulus.

Finally, on the climate initiative, the president proudly adds,” What is happening is historic." The rules were adopted unanimously. "I wish good luck to the Czech presidency," concluded the French leader. The room breaks out in laughter. "You are naughty!" kids Nicolas Sarkozy.

Main press centre where all the press conferences happen

Brussels, 12:45 pm (GMT+1):
France and Germany differ on consumer tax

Leaks to the press continue. This time a French diplomat improvises a press conference in the main hall where journalists are gathered. He announces that Paris and Berlin still disagree on consumer taxes. Germany does not want to lower taxes for certain sectors, including for the hotel and restaurant industry. A final press conference should follow in the next few minutes. Journalists remain skeptical about the outcome, as these kinds of standoffs persist on certain issues.

Brussels, 12:00 pm (GMT+1): The stimulus plan is approved

The news is still not from an official source, but according to a European Commission aid, the 27 leaders have agreed on the plan to revitalize the economy with a package equivalent to 1.5% of Europe’s combined GDP. Germany had been opposed to this plan.

Brussels, 11:21 am (GMT+1): The Lisbon Treaty is saved

The 27 members are still in meetings, but diplomats assure journalists that "the European leaders have agreed on a series of safeguards paving the way for a new Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009.”

Brussels, 9:12 am (GMT+1): The final negotiations begin

After a short night, the leaders of the 27 countries return to the Council in flashing motorcades of armoured cars. Leading the pack is the former head of the Polish government, Donald Tusk, and he seems delighted. "I think we're very close to an [climate] agreement," he beams.

Donald Tusk, Polish Prime minister

On his heels, and making haste, Nicolas Sarkozy steps in with an air of determination, and fatigue. A photographer claims he saw the French president running in one of Brussels many parks. This morning the president does not stop to answer the journalists' questions.

Gordon Brown, the British premier, arrives looking radiant, generous with smiles and handshakes.

Gordon Brown, British Prime minister

And now enters Angela Merkel, also looking brilliant, wearing a sombre jacket and pearl necklace. "I am cautiously optimistic that we will arrive at a positive result," says the German chancellor.

Angela Merkel, German chancellor

The parade of leaders continues. The final negotiations will start in a few minutes.

Brussels, 8:00 am (GMT+1): Closing in on an agreement

First and foremost is the stimulus plan. The 27 members gave their approval to the European Commission’s principal proposal, namely a contribution from each country to the tune of 1.5% of its GDP.

Another proposal that had previously been challenged, particularly by Germany is the possibility, for those countries interested, to reduce consumer taxes for service industries with high labour turnover.

Figures were also unveiled for the climate package.

The solidarity fund proposed to the poorest countries by Nicolas Sarkozy during his last trip to Poland should indeed be implemented. It will be backed by revenues from the emissions-trading system — the important "license to pollute" market. 12%, rather than the 10% initially planned, will be issued as a sign of solidarity toward the most coal-dependent countries.

But emissions rights will not all be paid starting in 2013, as the European Commission wanted. A progressive system is planned, which is certainly in response to the fears expressed by Italy and Germany. Thus, in 2013, only 20% of emissions rights will have been purchased by manufacturers. The figure that should would climb to 70% by 2020. Is this proposal aimed at all industry sectors, or only the biggest polluters? This detail should be clarified during the course of the day.

Meanwhile, the member states reaffirmed their goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 20% by 2020. This stated goal sounds a lot like political lip service, given the important concessions that have apparently already been made to industry. Realistic compromise? Perhaps, but at what price?

Read yesterday's coverage of the European Council's summit in Brussels

Date created : 2008-12-12