Belgium plans EC crisis talks

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The Independent Online
BRUSSELS - Efforts to revive the crisis-stricken European Community are being intensified, with a series of meetings planned over the next six months to agree solutions, writes Andrew Marshall.

The Belgian government said yesterday it plans two contentious summits this autumn, one on 20 September to discuss trade and agriculture, the other on 30 October to relaunch the Community after the ratification of Maastricht. Belgium holds the presidency of the EC.

Both could see some serious disagreements over future strategy, in particular over EC plans for Economic and Monetary Union (Emu). Statements from Germany's Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, that a single currency might have to be delayed until the end of the century have already raised the hackles of his EC partners.

The European Commission yesterday tried to play down Chancellor Kohl's comments. But there is division within the Commission itself over how the preparations for the first stage of Emu, which is supposed to begin on 1 January, will be handled.

Restoring the credibility of the European Monetary System (EMS) is a high priority, and the Belgian government has said it will table proposals this autumn. A meeting of the secretive monetary committee - which failed to handle the crisis in the EMS - is to be held on 7 September, followed by a meeting of finance ministers on 13 September.