Dutch PM says Europe must not lose growth focus

LONDON Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:09pm GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - European Union nations must focus on promoting growth and creating jobs and not get sidetracked by a debate about the future of the bloc, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday.

He also said any EU treaty change in response to the financial crisis should be very limited.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that closer political integration is the solution to the deepening debt crisis in Europe.

"All this institutional debate is taking energy away from what should be our main focus, which is to get growth going. Europe first of all should be about free trade, more jobs, more prosperity, more growth," said Rutte.

"It may be a treaty change is necessary. If so, then we have to debate it and it should be very limited and it should take as little time away from the main debate on jobs and growth as possible," he said during a news conference with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

The Dutch are among the most fiscally conservative members of the euro zone and polls show the public is increasingly resentful of bailing out their troubled peers.

The Dutch, founder members of the European Union, rejected a new EU constitution in a referendum in 2005, reflecting an increasingly sceptical approach to the bloc.

Rutte added that matters relating to EU internal markets should be discussed by all 27 EU members and not left to members of the single currency zone.

Britain is concerned that closer integration by the 17 euro zone nations will leave it sidelined on issues of vital importance to its economy.

"The internal market should always be discussed at the level of the 27 (EU states), and there is a risk when the 17 (euro zone states) are meeting more often that you will have those internal market debates at the level of the 17," Rutte said.

"I will do everything in my power to prevent that."

(Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Keith Weir and Catherine Evans)

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