'Multi-speed' Europe emerges after EU summit clash
(BRUSSELS) - European Union leaders failed on Friday to agree on treaty change to fight the debt crisis with British Prime Minister David Cameron pinned as the chief culprit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
But British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Friday that the stand take by Britain would not lead to a "two-speed" Europe.
EU president Herman Van Rompuy explained that 23 of the 27 EU member states will now work to conclude a pact to attain similar goals designed to bring about economic convergence despite some legal obstacles.
As the long-predicted multi-speed Europe appears to take shape, the eurozone is the principal group concerned.
A pecking order already exists within the 17-nation monetary union, based on the debt scorecard given by international credit ratings agencies. The other non-euro nations of the EU have their own economic hierarchy.
The EU states can be grouped as follows:
THE TRIPLE-A EUROZONE SIX
France has faced warnings it could face a downgrade especially if it has to lend more and more money to struggling eurozone partners.
It is one of just six top-rated eurozone states alongside Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland and Luxembourg.
There are another 11 eurozone states in various bands that can be summarised as follows:
Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. This group was given the disparaging acronym by analysts in the early days of the debt crisis two years ago. Greece, Portugal and Ireland were bailed out. Now markets fear that Italy and Spain, the third and fourth eurozone economies, could follow suit.
Another two, Belgium and Cyprus, have themselves recently come under pressure from the EU over their budget plans for next year.
Four more states have adopted the euro: Slovakia, which initially rejected throwing any more of its taxpayer monies into the eurozone rescue fund, plus Slovenia, Malta and Estonia, the most recent country to adopt the currency.
THE NON-EURO 10
Of the 10 non-euro countries in the EU, eight are eventually supposed to adopt the euro. Britain and Denmark have opt outs.
At the summit, Hungary joined Britain in ruling out joining the drive to change the EU treaty.
Another two of the eight, Sweden and the Czech Republic, remain undecided.
The six others, Denmark, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, decided to team up with the eurozone.
And despite all of the disagreements, Croatia will join the EU family in 2013, becoming the 28th member of a divided bloc.
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