Cameron To Push For Growth And Jobs At EU Summit
David Cameron will today urge a big push for jobs, growth and trade across Europe at another EU summit overshadowed by the Greek economic crisis.
The meeting is intended to revive market confidence by looking at the economic "big picture".
A statement due to be agreed by EU leaders warns that months of efforts to restore financial stability in the eurozone is not sufficient.
"We have to actively enhance growth and competitiveness, so as to create jobs, preserve our social models, and ensure the well-being of our people," the document says.
But new tensions over Greek efforts to qualify for a second massive cash bail-out and avoid default on its debts is hindering efforts to move the focus onto longer-term recovery.
The prime minister has used a series of pre-summit events to urge the rest of Europe to get behind a jobs and growth agenda, boost trade and complete the EU single market.
But his refusal at an EU summit last month to back treaty change to boost eurozone discipline has soured the mood, with relations still rocky, particularly with France.
Now German proposals for EU control of Greek sovereign tax and spending decisions have raised new tensions with Athens as well as giving British eurosceptics fresh ammunition against Brussels.
On the eve of the summit Greek ministers angrily rejected losing sovereign budget control, raising new questions about the chances of agreeing a Greek bail-out of 130bn euros (£109bn) before a March deadline for the next Greek debt repayment.
Today's "informal" summit gathering will have little time to resolve a series of disputes - it is scheduled for little more than three hours, with no firm decisions expected, and another, formal, summit already on the diary in early March.
Cameron made phone calls last week to EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy emphasising the need for "bold action" to restore Europe's competitiveness.
A Downing Street spokesman said Cameron had urged that today's meeting should "concentrate on how the EU can support economic growth across the continent and set specific targets to liberalise EU trade with other markets and to reduce the burden of EU regulation on business".
The first summit session this afternoon will focus on growth and competitiveness, but then talks turn to the details of a new "fiscal pact", which does not involve the UK thanks to Cameron's veto last month of a 27-nation treaty change.
Key issues are the scope of new sanctions on eurozone nations breaking debt and deficit rules, and the formation of monthly eurozone-only summits while the crisis continues.
Cameron's concern is that those meetings, seeking deeper fiscal and political union among the 17 eurozone states, do not stray into single market areas which could affect the UK, particularly its role as a financial centre.
Yesterday Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith insisted that the Prime Minister would carry out last month's threat to block the eurozone countries from using institutions paid for by EU nations to carry through any decisions reached at such meetings.
The former Tory leader said he had absolute "trust" in Cameron to stick to the ban, amid mounting speculation that he is rowing back on the pledge.
He said Cameron had vetoed the others using the institutions, such as the Commission and European Court of Justice, "because we had no guarantees that what they are proposing would not damage the single market, or for that matter, would actually cause problems for the financial sector".
Duncan Smith also took a swipe at Germany's proposal for an EU budget commissioner with veto powers over Greek taxes and spending.
He said: "You need to be very careful about how you deal with sovereign states and their ability to govern themselves and I know the Prime Minister has said this to them, and I think as one of the great historical democratic nations, we should always stand up for democratic freedoms all over Europe."
The Prime Minister's hardline stance at last month's summit provoked widespread anger among Liberal Democrat MPs, with former leader Charles Kennedy today warning the party would not tolerate a repeat performance at the latest meeting.
In a letter to the Guardian he urged Cameron to take an active and confident role at the heart of the EU, saying: "We want to see the British government work with our EU partners to make the EU a vehicle for growth and employment. Britain's place is at the centre where decisions are made."
The summit comes after German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble took a swipe at Cameron for vetoing a treaty aimed at securing the eurozone in December.
"It would be much more better and better to understand for everyone outside of Europe, if we were to do what we will now have to do in our fiscal compact in the framework of European treaties.
"But that has to be done by unanimous decision, that is the basis of European treaties. Therefore, for the meantime, we go for 17 plus, I hope, nine. Everyone is invited to join," he said.