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EU reaches out to Russia

Thursday, December 15, 2011 - 02:26

Hungary and the Czech Republic say they won't join a new European Union agreement aimed at fighting the debt crisis, as EU leaders meet with Russia, a country which could become the source of more aid.

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Russian president Dmitry Medvedev pays a visit to the European Union council in Brussels. The euro zone's problems are continuing to grow, with Hungary and the Czech Republic now saying they won't join a new European Union agreement aimed at fighting the debt crisis, unless details about joint tax rates change. Before that announcement, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was keen to point out the euro zone's problems could easily hurt Russia too. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EU COMMISSION PRESIDENT JOSE MANUEL BARROSO SAYING: "The European Union is Russia's biggest trading partner, and Russia is our third biggest partner. Europe has a stake in Russia's success as I believe Russia has also a stake in Europe's success." To help out Russia could chip in a $10 billion loan, channelled through the IMF. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT DMITRY MEDVEDEV SAYING: "It is no secret that the situation in the euro zone remains very difficult and is influencing all governments. The European Union is indeed our biggest partner and we hope our colleagues will be able to overcome their problems. We are almost confident they will and we have our interest in that too." The Czech and Hungarian stance puts them in line with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who vetoed the fiscal treaty last Friday. That's escalated tensions between Britain and France. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is quoted as saying Cameron was an "obstinate kid" for refusing to sign up. France is bracing itself for the loss of its top notch AAA credit rating. But French central bank governor Christian Noyer has said ratings agencies should look at the UK first, because of the scale of its debt, inflation, and poor levels of growth. European Central Bank head Mario Draghi is in Germany with a message likely to please his hosts. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK (ECB) PRESIDENT MARIO DRAGHI, SAYING: "It's not enough to restore financial markets' confidence. It's also required that investors be reassured that government debt will always be repaid and timely serviced." Italy's government will hold a confidence vote on Friday, to try and speed up approval for a 33 billion euro austerity package. The human cost of such cuts was on display once more in the Greek capital Athens, where thousands of retired demonstrators protested about cuts to their pensions. Andrew Potter, Reuters

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EU reaches out to Russia

Thursday, December 15, 2011 - 02:26