The fruit of discussions begun in 2008 and conducted throughout the global economic and financial crisis, the ‘Euro-plus pact’ approved at the 24/25 March European Council aims to provide a collective guarantee for the stability of the Eurozone. However, it will not be fully functional until the Commission, the EU Parliament and member states have established a multi-year plan for the reduction of national deficits, and this will also have to be accompanied by structural reforms to facilitate economic growth.

The pact and the European Stability Mechanism will do much to safeguard the future of the euro, but sustainability of the single currency is not in itself a guarantee of economic growth. And this was one of the key points made by a recent letter signed by nine mostly non-Eurozone states, which calls on Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Commission President José Manuel Barroso to explore and identify new directions for sustainable post-crisis strategy. In particular, the signatories affirm that in the current era of globalisation, the EU should maintain its focus on issues of competitiveness, and also take into account the specific interests of individual member states.

The package of economic measures discussed in Brussels was also the subject of intense debate in Eastern and Central Europe, where it met with a mixed response. Romanian and Bulgarian leaders have justified adhering to the terms of the pact as part of their overall drive to join the Eurozone. At the same time, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has affirmed that Hungary has opted not to join in the wake of consultations with the country’s opposition. In the Czech Republic, the government’s decision not to adhere to the pact, on the basis that it may have a negative economic and financial impact, has been criticised by the opposition which claims that Prague is excluding itself from the future of the EU.

In its conclusions, the Council argued that the emphasis on competitiveness and convergence will revitalise the "social market economy" of the EU, and this commitment will go hand in hand with a drive to involve a full range social partners in the development and support for structural reforms that will help achieve these goals.