Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said yesterday European leaders had to be determined to achieve results at a summit this week to create jobs and boost prosperity in the region. In a letter inviting fellow EU leaders to the two-day summit in Barcelona, Aznar voiced confidence that the meeting, designed to speed up structural reforms in Europe, would make progress. Aznar's centre-right government hopes the Barcelona summit, which begins on Friday, will inject new life into a reform agenda launched with great fanfare at a summit in Lisbon two years ago, but which has since run out of steam. Current EU president Spain wants discussion to focus on creating a Europe-wide financial market and integrating European energy, transport and communications networks. Madrid also wants a spotlight on policies to achieve full employment and to improve education and training. But political difficulties, particularly looming general elections in France and Germany, are widely seen as limiting scope for breakthroughs in areas such as energy liberalisation. “It is vital we go to it (the summit) with the intention of obtaining concrete results that allow us to reach the goals that our citizens are demanding of us: more jobs, a greater growth capacity and more prosperity for all,” Aznar said. He said the strategy for reform laid out in Lisbon had grown out of shared values. “That is why I think we will be capable of making progress on these priorities,” he said in the letter. He said the meeting would open on Friday with a discussion of the economic situation and on coordinating economic policies. Later on Friday morning, EU leaders will hold a working session with leaders from mainly eastern European countries which are candidates to join the EU. The talks will focus on how to involve them in the EU's structural reforms. Aznar said he wanted leaders at a late afternoon session to discuss how to achieve full employment, financial market integration and the opening and interconnection of energy, transport and telecommunications markets. At the request of Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, the leaders will then review the state of Ireland's ratification process of the EU's Nice Treaty, Aznar said. Last June, Irish voters dealt a blow to EU expansion plans by rejecting in a referendum the treaty which is aimed at reshaping EU institutions to cope with a dozen new members. All 15 existing EU members must ratify the treaty by the end of 2002, giving Ireland a year-end deadline if it is to stage a second poll. At a dinner on Friday, leaders will discuss the crisis in the Middle East. Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique said in Brussels on Monday there was a “glimmer of hope in the despair” in the Middle East despite some of the worst violence in 17 months of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.

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