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EU summit to pass stimulus plan amid worsening meltdown
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By Zhang Bihong

Despite rifts on minor details, leaders of the European Union are set to pass in Brussels at the upcoming summit a huge economic stimulus plan unveiled recently to help save the European economy, which has been hit hard by the global financial crisis.

Eurozone economic picture turns increasingly gloomy

In the face of the financial meltdown, which has been destabilizing stock markets globally, bringing down big banks and damaging the real economies, the EU Executive Commission launched the 200-billion-euro economic recovery plan weeks ago, urging the 27 member states to take such measures as expanding public spending, cutting interest rates, lowering sales tax, and investing in energy and Internet infrastructure.

The gross domestic product in the 15 nations sharing the euro officially entered recession in the third quarter of the year, as it contracted by 0.2 percent in two quarters in a row. The second quarter also recorded a 0.2 percent contraction.

Confidence among businesses in the eurozone has fallen to a 15- year low of 74.9 in November from 80.0 in October, with the economy in a deep recession.

The Commission's indicator of consumer confidence in the zone slipped to -25 from -24 in October, while services sentiment plunged to -12 from -7 and industrial sentiment to -25 from -18.

Big Banks, such as Fortis, Dexia and Commerzbank, have fallen victim to the financial storm, waiting for governments' bailout or acquisition.

Like elsewhere, confidence in Europe remains frail as financial markets are as turbulent as when the crunch started two or three months ago from the Wall Street.

Measures taken to rescue economy

Banks drastically axed rates to boost lending and spending.

The European Central Bank (ECB) slashed its benchmark rate in two months for three times, totaling 150 basis points.

It reduced the rate last Thursday by 0.75 percentage points, the biggest cut since it was founded in 1998.

On the same day, the Bank of England, the British central bank, sliced rate by 100 basis points to 2 percent, the lowest in 57 years, while Sweden's central bank lowered its key rate by 1.75 percentage points.

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