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Economic challenges abound as new EU executive starts work


BRUSSELS – The European Union’s (EU) new executive began work on Saturday under its new chief, Jean-Claude Juncker with economic issues requiring the most immediate attention.

Report says Juncker’s team is taking over the European Commission, which proposes EU laws and plays a key role in ensuring they are implemented.

The report said he took over at a time of renewed concern over the bloc’s economy with growth sluggish, inflation too low and unemployment stubbornly high.

According to the report, two of the new commission’s top officials will present its autumn economic forecast, including new deficit, debt and growth estimates for EU countries.

The commission is also in the midst of assessing draft budgets submitted by eurozone countries, under a system meant to spot financial trouble early on.

It said that none of the 2015 budgets were found to be in blatant violation of EU rules, but the commission still had to issue a formal opinion on each of the financial plans by the end of November.

It noted that the budgets of France and Italy were thought to be problematic.

Katainen warned that a clean bill of health was not guaranteed and those who failed to meet the EU’s deficit and debt targets face the threat of sanctions.

Juncker’s team includes a total of seven vice presidents, who will coordinate among the remaining 20 commissioners.

However, first Vice President Frans Timmermans, who is Dutch, is to serve as Juncker’s right-hand man while overseeing efforts to cut red tape, among other tasks.

Other key officials include Financial Services Commissioner Jonathan Hill of Britain; Slovakia’s Maros Sefcovic, who oversees energy issues; and Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager of Denmark.

EU foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini is also taking up work on Saturday.

It added that the most pressing issues for the outgoing Italian foreign minister were likely to be the crisis in Ukraine; the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria; and the Ebola outbreak.

The outgoing commissioner, President Jose Barroso  stressed the importance of addressing social imbalances if the EU would want to win over disillusioned citizens.

“I am very concerned about the huge disconnect and mistrust of citizens who have been hurt by the crisis and who are, indeed, easy prey for intolerance and populism,’’ Barroso said on Wednesday.

Report says Euroscepticism has been on the rise across the bloc, with anti-EU parties scoring gains in European elections in May.

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