Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek made clear today (9 February) that the need for an extraordinary meeting was triggered by "protectionist steps and statements" made by some EU leaders and in particular French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
France is planning a range of measures to support its ailing car industry, many of which are seen as discriminatory against other EU countries. Specifically, Sarkozy has been advocating the return of production lines to France from Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
The informal meeting is likely to be held at the end of February in Prague, ahead of the mid-March European Council in Brussels. The move is also seen as a response to Sarkozy's previous call for an extraordinary Eurogroup meeting, which Prague had dismissed as unnecessary.
Sarkozy had previously criticised the "passive" Czech Presidency. But holding a Eurogroup meeting at the level of heads of state and government would have taken over Prague's role as temporary EU chair (EurActiv 03/02/09).
The Commission confirmed today that Topolánek aims to organise an informal summit, hailing the initiative as a positive "exchange of views" ahead of spring summit. The Czech prime minister will meet Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Wednesday in Brussels.
The economic crisis, a wave of protectionism and reform of global capitalism will dominate the agendas of the European institutions for the next two months at least. Today, a Eurogroup meeting will focus on these issues. Exceptionally, Barroso will participate in the Eurogroup. Tomorrow (10 February), EU finance ministers will have the same dossiers on their table.
The Commission will present ministers with a paper giving guidelines on how to establish 'bad banks', an idea circulating and being applied in many European capitals to get rid of the most toxic financial assets, which are at the origin of the current crisis. "Which particular format a bad bank takes is important. The key issue is impaired assets. We have to define what impaired assets are," said a spokesperson for EU economics commissioner Joaquin Almunia.
The review of the financial markets and the economic crisis will be at the heart of the agenda of the extraordinary meeting of EU G20 members (Germany, France, Italy and the UK) called by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on 22 February.
A high-level group, chaired by Jacques de Larosière, will present its recommendations on financial supervision and regulation on 25 February. The Commission will use the proposals for the document it will present at the EU summit in mid-March (EurActiv 23/10/08). Finally, on 2 April, the G20 will meet in London to discuss the 'refoundation of capitalism'. The meeting will also mark the first visit of US President Barack Obama to Europe.