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EU Brussels summit to focus on eurozone crisis

EU leaders are due to begin a two-day summit in Brussels that will focus on issues surrounding the eurozone crisis. High on the agenda will be controversial plans for a eurozone banking union, seen as a key element in restoring confidence in the euro.

In the run-up to the summit, Germany has been urging EU states to consider pooling more economic sovereignty.

Meanwhile Greece, which is at the centre of the European debt crisis, is braced for another general strike.

It will be its 20th since the debt crisis erupted in the country two years ago.

Talks in Brussels are also expected to focus on banking supervision, stricter fiscal oversight and direct recapitalisation of banks from rescue funds.

The summit will take place amid calmer European stock markets than in previous meetings and with less concern over the debt crises in Spain and Greece, analysts say.

Speaking on Wednesday, French President Francois Hollande said an end to the eurozone crisis was "very close" and he wanted a deal agreed on the first stage of a banking union.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has proposed a full fiscal union - control at European level of tax and spending.

On Wednesday, Mr Schaeuble added that eurozone countries "need to tackle problems themselves", adding that the eurozone bailout fund was there to help countries do just that.

But he reiterated his view that further steps towards political integration would strengthen the bloc.

The meeting in Brussels will be the fourth time that leaders of the EU's 27 nations have met this year.

Borrowing costs for struggling eurozone economies have fallen sharply since the European Central Bank (ECB) announced last month that it was prepared to buy their bonds in unlimited amounts under strict conditions.

The BBC's Gavin Hewitt says the calmer economic climate is being used to discuss buttressing economic and monetary union, and little will be agreed at this summit.

On Wednesday, Greece and its international creditors are said to have reached a deal on austerity measures needed before its next bailout instalment.

Nevertheless, large demonstrations are planned across the country against the next package of spending cuts.

Taxi drivers, ferry workers, doctors, teachers and air traffic controllers are among those taking part in a general strike across the public and private sectors.

(Source: bbc.com)