» Monday, December 8, 2008

Global Europe Summit

Asked about what would be discussed at this afternoon s meeting and why Chancellor Merkel was not attending, the Prime Minister s Spokesman said that this was an informal meeting that the Prime Minister, President Sarkozy and President Barroso were having with business leaders; it was not a summit, or an intergovernmental meeting. For example, it was very different from the type of meeting we had in London last January, which included all the heads of the largest European countries.

The discussion would focus on the economy and was an opportunity for the three leaders to hear current concerns from European businesses. There would be a lot of emphasis and discussion on the important role that public investment could play in sustaining jobs and growth through the downturn. The Prime Minister welcomed recent proposals by the European Commission, which included a number of proposals to bring forward investment at the EU level, in line with proposals that we set out in the Pre-Budget Report to bring forward capital spending in Britain.

Asked if there would be an announcement on public investment, the PMS said that European leaders would want to discuss that at the European Council meeting on Thursday; it was right that formal discussions of the European Commission s recovery plan should take place then. Today s meeting was an opportunity to have a more informal discussion. The proposals that the commission had put forward, which we supported, included a commitment to put 5 billion Euros from the EU budget into EU connection and broadband infrastructure projects; proposals to bring forward a further 4.5 billion Euros for infrastructure to be made available in 2009; the European Investment Bank plan to increase its investment in energy security and infrastructure by up to 6 billion Euros a year; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development proposal for another 1 billion Euro investment in Eastern Europe. Just as we were bringing forward 3 billion of capital spending as part of our stimulus package, this was investment that both helped sustain recovery, protect jobs and also ensured that the economy was stronger for the future.

Asked if the Prime Minister envisaged British industry benefiting from any decision taken by the EU regarding investment spending and asked specifically about energy connection, the PMS said that this would all have to be discussed. Britain had a particular expertise in the area of digital technology and digital communications, and therefore we stood well placed to benefit from any accelerated investment from the EU. We envisaged British businesses benefiting from the EU wide investment spending being brought forward.

Put that there was a difference of opinion between the Prime Minister and Chancellor Merkel regarding borrowing, the PMS said that each country had to take the action that it felt was appropriate, and Germany had announced a fiscal stimulus package. In Britain we were starting from a position where we had much lower levels of public debt than most of the other major economies, including those in Europe.

The Prime Minister spoke regularly to Chancellor Merkel, most recently over the weekend, and we continued to work very closely with Germany on how we could help businesses and families in both of our countries get through this downturn as fairly as possible.

Asked if most of the companies at the meeting today were infrastructure companies, the PMS said that there were some companies attending that might fall into that category, but there were also financial services companies such as Prudential and retail companies such as Tesco. The purpose of the meeting was to engage with a cross-section of British and European businesses.

Asked if Eurostar would be represented at the meeting, the PMS said that he didn t think Eurostar would be at the meeting but there were no conclusions to be drawn from that.

Asked repeatedly whether or not Chancellor Merkel had been invited or if she had snubbed an invite, the PMS said that he was not going to get into who was or was not invited to an informal meeting. The Prime Minister had meetings with other European leaders from time to time, as did Chancellor Merkel. As had been said, the Prime Minister spoke regularly to Chancellor Merkel, most recently at the weekend when they spoke about economic issues along with other matters.

Asked if the Prime Minister had wanted Chancellor Merkel at the meeting, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was always very happy to speak to Chancellor Merkel, and was speaking to her on a regular basis; he had spoken to her at the weekend and would see her in Brussels at the end of this week.

Asked if there would be a formal joint proposal from today s meeting that would be presented at the meeting in Brussels at the end of this week, the PMS said that it was not a formal meeting. Obviously there would be a discussion today about issues that would come up in Brussels; not only the economy but also the environment and trade.

original source.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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