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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Europe's leaders have hit back at 'lecturing' by some countries

MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just held a late night press conference in the Mexican resort town of Los Cabos, after a day of meetings with G20 leaders.
Discussions were predictably dominated by the eurozone crisis and Julia Gillard has been at the centre of the action.
But European leaders have also hit back at what's been perceived in some quarters as "lecturing" by other countries.
North America correspondent Jane Cowan is in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Jane, first of all there's been some debate about whether any of the critical comments were directed at Julia Gillard; what can you tell us about that?
JANE COWAN: Well Mark she's certainly dismissing that suggestion out of hand totally.
The speculation was sparked mostly by the timing of it all. Yesterday was when Julia Gillard strongly talked up Australia's economic credentials here and even suggested the solution to Europe's woes might lie in following Australia's example.
She was urging the European leaders to be courageous and was advocating a blend of not just austerity measures to rein in budgets but also investment to generate growth.
Then today the European Commissions' president, Jose Manuel Barroso, expressed a generalised irritation; saying that European leaders hadn't come to the G20 for lessons on economics. He said he wouldn't be taking lessons from anyone. He also emphasised Mark that Europe was taking action to fix the problem but said that it would take time to make reform happen.
And the Australian media contingent here in Los Cabos has certainly fixated on the connection between the two remarks. But you have to point out, that the Australian Prime Minister, although she's been a strong voice, has hardly been the only leader here to weigh in on Europe's handling of the crisis.
Everyone from the British leader David Cameron, to the South Korean president have commented and business leaders I spoke to yesterday after Julia Gillard first made these remarks, who were in the audience, certainly had no problem with her tone. They were saying that they thought she had earned bragging rights given the state of the Australian economy compared with a lot of other countries that are struggling.
For her part though Mark, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard is saying that she saw Mr Barroso today and she says he was amused at the suggestion that anything he said anywhere would be reported as being about Australia. She says they actually laughed about the whole thing earlier today and she says that means it's obvious it was crystal clear in Mr Barroso's own mind that he wasn't meaning Australia.
Let's have a listen to some of what she told us.
JULIA GILLARD: I had a conversation with president Barroso today and advised him that he was running strongly in the Australian media. That came as a complete surprise to him, given he hadn't had anything to say about Australia.
JOURNALIST: Who do you think he was actually referring to?
JULIA GILLARD: Well he was answering a question from a Canadian journalist who was asking very explicitly on behalf of the people of North America.
You come here to make your views known and what's my job here is to make my views known because the views I'm putting here are in Australia's national interest.
MARK COLVIN: Amusingly I'm told that in the Canadian press they think the remarks were aimed at them. So make of that what you will.
Jane Cowan the meetings today were behind closed doors; what do we know about what they said inside?
JANE COWAN: Well it was all smiles for the cameras as the leaders were posing for the group photo that's customary at these things but the meeting has really laid bare the tensions over how to best respond to the turmoil in Europe and we're told that behind closed doors the talk was very frank in the meeting today and that the prevailing mood among non-European leaders was a sense that more does need to be done to spur growth and the point was being made that austerity and growth are not mutually exclusive, they're two wheels on the same cart.
There were fears expressed that incremental approaches now mightn't be enough to convince the markets and that what's required is bold action to get the continent really ahead of the crisis.
There was even some play on words with Greek mythology where one leader we're told described the task ahead as Herculean.
MARK COLVIN: And what can we expect when the G20 wraps up tomorrow?
JANE COWAN: Well the leaders are to agree on a communiqubut judging by the leaked draft that emerged today it's not necessarily likely to offer more than a broad road map.
European leaders have been pointing to another meeting that they'll hold amongst themselves about 10 days from now and that's really where the detail is more likely to be hammered out.
No-one expects that this will be something that's fixed overnight; it's still a long and rocky road ahead.
MARK COLVIN: Jane Cowan in Los Cabos, thank you very much.


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