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22 March, 2003
The European Union's ''15'' leaders, setting aside their differences on the Iraq issue, on Friday met for the morning session of the European Council holding its Spring Summit to discuss coordination of fiscal policies and structural reforms toward further growth within the EU, a direction dictated by the Lisbon strategy.
The EU Council of finance ministers (ECOFIN) on Thursday reached an agreement on the harmonization of energy tax, but Italian objections prevented agreement on a savings tax in money EU citizens have deposited in other EU states.
The consequences that the Iraq war may have on the European economy and the Union's contribution to the reconstruction of that country were also central to discussions at the ECOFIN.
Greek Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, who chairs the Council, told reporters here that ECOFIN was prepared to offer its collaboration ''when required to deal with the consequences of war''.
''For now, markets are calm and there is no great danger in the economic field'', the Greek minister said.
Comparable ''preparedness'' was confirmed on behalf of the European Central Bank by its President Wim Duisenberg who pointed out that the height of the contribution could not be yet determined since the cost of the war depended on its duration.
Finally, Internal Market Taxation and Customs Union Commissioner Frits Bolkestein welcomed an agreement for the issuance of a directive on energy taxation, which he said ''constitutes a big step forward, in spite of its many exception clauses''.
Source: Athens News Agency