BRUSSELS -- A summit of European Union leaders in Brussels has given final approval to 5 billion euros of investment in energy and telecom infrastructure projects, including the controversial Nabucco gas pipeline project.
The investments are part of a larger EU economic stimulus program aimed at combating the global economic downturn.
EU leaders agreed to provide 75 billion euros in new loans to the IMF and also to double the EU’s crisis fund for member states struggling to cope with the economic downturn.
EU members such as Latvia and Hungary have already dipped into that fund, which will double to 50 billion euros after the March 20 announcement in Brussels. Romania is also expected to seek aid.
EU leaders also gave their blessing to a package of infrastructure investments worth 5 billion euros. That includes 200 million euros for Nabucco and 1.5 billion euros for gas interconnectors.
Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said the energy investments are a "clear reaction" to this winter’s gas crisis.
After the interruption of Russian gas deliveries via Ukraine in early January, the lack of interconnection between national networks in EU countries was identified as a major reason for the EU's vulnerability to delivery shortages. 'Strengthen Energy Security'
The investments in the EU's energy infrastructure are meant to make the bloc safer against outside pressure. The investments will, Vondra said, "strengthen our energy security."
The Czech Republic’s six months at the helm of the EU Presidency have been marked by tensions over energy security and relations with Europe's eastern neighbors.
EU heads of state and government also agreed on a common agenda for the upcoming G20 summit on April 2 in London. That agenda includes the new loans to the IMF, but the EU is also expected to push the G20 to double the IMF’s war chest to tackle the crisis to $500 billion.
EU leaders declined to adopt any further financial stimulus measures.
However, they were eager to counter any impression of a trans-Atlantic split over more stimulus, which the United States has called for, and greater regulation, which the EU has emphasized.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, speaking on March 20 at the summit, said both approaches are needed.
"We need both a coordinated global stimulus and reform of financial markets to restore confidence, because without a stimulus, we will not have a recovery," he said. "But without a reform of the financial market, recovery will not be sustainable."
As expected, the Brussels summit also endorsed the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative
, which is designed to forge closer ties with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus.