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Europe

EU Pledges 75 Billion Euros to Boost IMF

An EU summit has concluded with the band of 27 European nations pledging more financial measures in the face of the economic crisis. Leaders also agreed on a plan to improve energy and high-speed Internet connections.

The EU flag and euro coins

The EU summit has wrapped up with another monetary pledge

European Union leaders on Friday, March 20, agreed to provide the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with 75 billion euros ($101.5 billion) in loans at the close of the regular two-day spring summit.

According to Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, making such funds available will enable the IMF "to react better in the context of the crisis."

The pledge on behalf of the EU comes as part of a call to the international community to double the fund's resources. EU diplomats had already proposed that the bloc offer between $75 billion to $100 billion to the IMF.

"The decisions that we have made today, and the extra money that is being released, will help ensure that we do everything in our power to return the global economy to growth at the quickest possible opportunity," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

Saving endangered currencies

Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker

Juncker says the EU is showing its non-eurozone members solidarity

In addition to the IMF pledge, EU members also worked out a plan to prevent EU countries without the euro as their currency from falling into further financial peril. The EU's top leaders agreed to double to 50 billion euros the credit limit on a fund designed to bail out such countries if their currency is on the brink of collapse.

This decision marks the second time in three months that the EU has decided to double the facility.

Hungary, Latvia and Romania have already requested some 16 billion euros from the fund to save their currencies, but politicians at the summit said the move to double the fund again was not based on an expectation that more countries would follow suit.

Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the informal group of countries which use the euro, said the move was meant "to show our partners in Central and Eastern Europe that the EU as a whole is ready for solidarity whenever solidarity would be needed." He added that he didn't "think that this credit line will be consumed."

Juncker refuted reports that the European Central Bank was establishing a similar fund to keep crisis-stricken euro users like Ireland, Malta and Greece from default.

Agreement on energy projects, new partnership

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko

EU leaders didn't make a decision about Lukashenko

Leaders also managed to agree on a long-debated scheme to put 5 billion euros from the EU budget towards projects to improve energy and high-speed Internet connections.

The "Nabucco" gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Austria, in what Czech Deputy Minister AlexanderVondra, who brokered the compromise, called a "clear reaction" to the crisis caused by January's Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, was one of the top projects agreed upon.

The EU leaders also approved the May launch of a new partnership with the EU's former-Soviet neighbors, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. They put off a decision on whether to invite Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who is widely termed "Europe's last dictator."

EU leaders also planned for the Group of 20 (G20) summit in London on April 2 and agreed to focus an upcoming summit with US President Barack Obama on April 4 on energy security, climate change and relations with the Middle East, the South Caucasus and Iran.

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