Growth and job creation are high on the agenda as EU leaders gather in Brussels for their latest summit.
The economic crisis is not far away, amid warnings that near-bankrupt Greece could run out of money as early as mid-February. Its debt restructuring talks with private creditors continue.
The summit is due to approve a permanent rescue fund for the eurozone and put finishing touches to a German-driven pact for stricter budget discipline.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the importance of the fight against high unemployment.
“Proposals are going to be discussed,” she told reporters as she arrived for the talks.
“Germany is committed to doing everything to lower youth unemployment, which is very high in certain countries, notably in Spain. Youth unemployment is too high across Europe.”
The summit is meant to shift the focus away from politically unpopular austerity. As for diplomatic wrangles, the UK remains aloof from the new fiscal pact.