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Europe: Leaders Begin Summit On Currency, Reform


Dublin, 13 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - European Union leaders opened a two-day summit today to discuss the path to a single European currency in 1999 and proposals for closer cooperation in foreign, defence, interior and justice affairs.

The meeting began at Dublin Castle only hours after EU finance ministers came close to agreement on a budget discipline pact to ensure countries that join the single currency, the Euro, respect strict deficit limits.

The EU finance ministers ended their meeting at three in the morning local time, leaving it to the presidents and prime ministers at today's summit to resolve.

The Finance ministers approved the whole package apart from the technical but politically sensitive issue relating to fines for those countries which allow national budget deficits to exceed three percent of gross domestic product. The sticking point was how severely countries must be hit by recession before they can be exempted from the fines.

Germany fears too much flexibility would weaken the euro and spur inflation. France and others favor a softer line.
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