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EU leaders strike final agreement on new treaty

Twenty-five countries including Ireland have agreed to introduce the ‘fiscal compact’, with only the UK and the Czech Republic remaining outside.

Herman van Rompuy speaking at tonight's press conference
Herman van Rompuy speaking at tonight's press conference
Image: Screen grab

EU LEADERS INCLUDING Taoiseach Enda Kenny have finalised agreement on the ‘fiscal compact’ treaty designed to prevent another debt crisis.

Speaking at a press conference after a summit in Brussels today, European Council president Herman van Rompuy said almost all the leaders present had struck a deal to endorse the fiscal compact.

He said all 17 leaders of eurozone countries would sign the treaty in March. Other countries which are not using the euro but wish to be covered by the measures will also be included.

Only the UK and the Czech Republic have declined to sign the treaty, van Rompuy said. He said finding agreement between 25 countries was “quite an achievement”.

The final wording of the treaty has not yet been released. However, van Rompuy confirmed it would include a “debt brake” – a legally-binding cap on the level of government debt – for all countries.

Enda Kenny has previously said the Government hoped to ensure such a brake would only be applied on an “appropriate basis”.

Van Rompuy also said leaders had agreed to implement the measures “at a constitutional or equivalent level” – a wording which is likely to raise questions for the Irish government as ministers consider whether to put the treaty to a referendum.

The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, hailed the treaty as a “root and branch reform of our budgetary and economic policies”. He said members had taken this hard choice rather than falling for the allure of “quick reform”.

The treaty will enter into force as soon as 12 countries have ratified it, van Rompuy said.

Leaders at the summit also made commitments to help boost economic recovery in Europe. Talks focused on reducing unemployment, especially among young people; make more credit available to small and medium-sized firms; and reinforcing the single market.

More: Kenny: Government has “nothing to fear” from an EU referendum>

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Michael Freeman

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