Jan 31 - All but two of the European Union's 27 member states sign up to a treaty that threatens sanctions for breaches of budget deficit limits. Paul Chapman reports.
All but two of the European Union's 27 members have signed up to a new treaty on tighter fiscal rules. Britain's refusal to sign was flagged well in advance. SOUNDBITE: British Prime Minister David Cameron saying (English): "The key point for me here is what is in our national interest and our national interest is that these countries get on and sort out the mess that is the euro." On the other hand the Czech Republic's opposition to the deal that threatens sanctions for breaches of EU budget deficit limits is more puzzling for French President Nicolas Sarkozy. SOUNDBITE: French President Nicolas Sarkozy saying (French): "We have taken note of that decision, which is some kind of clarification, although I'm not sufficiently familiar with the ins and outs of what's going on in Prague to be able to understand why what was acceptable in December is no longer acceptable now." The treaty, which demands the incorporation of tighter budget rules into each nation's legislation, is being welcomed by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi. SOUNDBITE: Mario Draghi, European Central Bank President, saying (English): "It is the first step towards a fiscal union. It certainly will strengthen confidence in the euro area." The summit in Brussels also agreed to bring in a 500-billion-euro European Stability Mechanism to back heavily-indebted countries a year earlier than planned. But differences over austerity limits and Greece's unfinished debt restructuring talks wrecked hopes for a more upbeat message that Europe's getting to grips with its debt crisis. Paul Chapman, Reuters