EU leaders meet amid Portuguese political crisis, protests

14:20, March 25, 2011      

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EU leaders pose for a family photo during the first day meeting of EU Summit in Brussels, capital of Belgium, on March 24, 2011. European Union (EU) leaders began their two-day summit on Thursday amid a political crisis in Portugal and protests by trade unions against austerity measures taken by eurozone member states to struggle out of the debt crisis. (Xinhua/Thierry Monasse)

European Union (EU) leaders began their two-day summit on Thursday amid a political crisis in Portugal and protests by trade unions against austerity measures taken by eurozone member states to struggle out of the debt crisis.

"Even if all problems are not over, we will agree today on treaty change, economic governance, Euro Plus Pact and the European Stability Mechanism," President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy told reporters hours before the summit.

"This European Council is a turning point in the euro crisis management. We have achieved unimaginable change in policy instruments, a quantum leap," Van Rompuy said.

At the two-day summit, the 27 EU leaders are expected to endorse a long-awaited comprehensive package of measures, which will include an expansion of the EU's bailout fund, establishment of a permanent rescue mechanism in the eurozone, a new round of stress test in the banking sector and reforms to improve economic competitiveness and convergence of eurozone economies.

However, the political crisis that emerged in Portugal one day before the summit could dent the efforts by EU leaders to shore up confidence in the stability of the eurozone.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates resigned on Wednesday night after the country's parliament voted against his new round of austerity measures aimed at reducing the high budget deficit to avoid a bailout.


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