EU finance ministers pressing for urgent reforms to enable investments



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MILAN — European finance ministers agreed Saturday on the necessity of leveraging private investments with urgent structural reforms to relaunch the continent's moribund economy.

The ministers focused on a proposal by Jean-Claude Junkers, incoming president of the European Commission, for 300 billion euros ($388 billion) in public and private investments to revive the economy, but few details emerged at the informal meeting.

"The master plan for growth is more investments, above all private but also public in the form of catalyzer," said Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, who chaired the session under the rotating Italian presidency of the 28-nation European Union.

He said structural reforms are urgently needed to encourage investments and "create conditions of profitability."

The ministers have asked European Commission and the European Investment for reports on concrete measures that would encourage investment, Padoan said.

They could include incentives, regulatory simplification and better use of public money, Padoan said earlier, adding that "it is up to governments to facilitate private investments."

The meeting was the first by EU finance ministers since European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi outlined a three-pillared strategy to save the eurozone economy, including more stimulus from the central bank, added government spending and pro-business reforms.

ECB vice president Vitor Constancio said the central bank supported the 300 billion euro fund, noting that investments in the eurozone were 20 percent below 2007 levels.

Europe's economy was stagnant for the second quarter, and forecast to grow under 1 percent this year. Unemployment remains at a painful 11.5 percent.

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