Barroso hits out at EU budget cut drive
(BRUSSELS) - The determination of some EU states to drive down the bloc's budget makes a mockery of claims about investing to create jobs for the future, the head of the European Commission warned Thursday.
Jose Manuel Barroso told an employment conference in Brussels that unemployment -- at record highs with more than 25 million European Union citizens out of work -- is perhaps "the most critical challenge" leaders face if they are to avoid social breakdown in Europe.
The former Portuguese premier was speaking as the EU readies for tough bargaining on the 2014-20 one trillion euros ($1.26 trillion) budget proposed by the Commission but resisted by key countries.
British Prime Minister David Cameron in London is at the forefront of calls to slash at least 100 billion euros from the budget, at least in part to match the austerity policies many states have adopted to balance their finances.
With all eyes on Frankfurt and decisions on the eurozone debt crisis to be announced Thursday by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, Barroso focused his attention on the mounting human cost of the crisis.
"More integration in the economic area has to also mean additional efforts in the areas of social and labour policy," Barroso told participants.
"We do not want social cohesion, social rights, be put into question or diminished in Europe for those who need them more."
To that end, Barroso said "it is quite disappointing that some member states are now proposing to put an end to the fund for adjustment to globalisation that was created some years ago at the initiative of the Commission."
The fund is small in size and Barroso was making the political point that only limited cash is available to back up EU leaders' pledges to put more emphasis on growth to battle the slide into recession.
"We are close to reaching a moment of truth," he said, ahead of a special summit expected in November to settle the budget.
He said this was "a moment where member states' political commitments such as those in the Compact for Growth and Jobs will be measured against decisions taken and resources allocated."
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