French President Franςois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both talked up the so-called growth pact that European Union leaders are expected to discuss Thursday in the first session of their latest summit.
Speaking to reporters outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Merkel said the pact on growth and employment is "a good program" that will, among other things, help bring down unemployment rate for young Europeans, which stands near 20%.
Hollande said his goal was to ensure that policies to support economic growth "are at the heart" of EU deliberations. "The summit already has the tools to accept the growth pact," he added.
Merkel and Hollande hammered out the details of the pact with the leaders of Spain and Italy last week.
The pact will be worth up to 130 billion euros, or 1% of eurozone gross domestic product. The details have yet to be announced, but euro area leaders have signaled that the pact will center on boosting the resources of the European Investment Bank.
The goal is to stimulate growth and create jobs by spending EU money on public works and other infrastructure investments.
The focus on growth is encouraging, since the European economy is in bad shape. But the amount involved is relatively small and the pact is largely based on existing policies.
The leaders are not expected to make any progress on big picture issues, such as merging the debts of euro area governments.
Hollande said he will push for "supplementary actions" to help countries that are having "difficulties" in the market. Without going into detail, Hollande stressed that he is advocating solutions that can be implemented "very quickly."
France, Italy and Spain are all in favor of steps to bring down the cost governments must pay to borrow money in the bond market. But the fiscally conservative German government has been reluctant to use eurozone bailout funds to subsidize government debt.
Another day, another downgrade in Euroland.
Egan-Jones lowered France's credit rating one notch to "BBB" from "A" on Thursday.
The ratings agency pointed to France's rising debt and slowing economic growth. It also warned that France is fond of subsidizing its banks, which could prove costly for the government.
In a subtle turn of phrase, Egan-Jones summed MOREBen Rooney - Jun 14, 2012 3:39 PM ET
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