EU business lobby appeals to Britain to reform welfare systems

Europe's largest business lobbying groups appealed to British Prime Minister Tony Blair Friday to push his European Union counterparts to reform welfare systems, including cutting red-tape to end Europe's current "deep seated crisis of confidence."

In a letter sent to Blair, who currently holds the EU presidency, UNICE President Ernest Antoine Seilliere said the Oct.27-28 leaders summit near London needed to end the bloc's economic and political paralysis.

"There is a deep-seated crisis of confidence, among the worst since its creation and this at a time when we are confronted by enormous challenges linked to demographic aging, technological change and globalization," Seilliere wrote.

The business group listed four priorities which EU leaders had to focus on; including overhauling welfare systems to make Europe's labor force more competitive and flexible, spending more on research, getting a deal on a new EU budget by years' end, and opening up more markets to global trade.

They also called for EU leaders to move quickly to restore public confidence in the EU, which after the defeat of the EU's constitution by French and Dutch voters, is at an all-time low in many EU states.

"The unsustainability of some social systems and the deficits they generate as well as the mediocrity of their performance in terms of growth and jobs are causing great social disquiet and threatened to undermine competitiveness in Europe," the group told Blair.

Blair held talks with French President Jacques Chirac on Friday in Paris to discuss the summit's agenda, including an attempt to resolve the impasse on negotiations on a new 2007-2013 EU budget by year's end, reports the AP. I.L.

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