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Netherlands brings deficit back under EU limit

The Netherlands brought its public deficit back under the EU's 3.0 percent limit in 2013 for the first time in five years, data showed Monday. The government managed to push the spending gap down to 2.5 percent of GDP, from 4.1 percent in 2012, Statistics Netherlands said. "The substantial fall in the deficit amount was largely caused by a rise in income: government revenues rose by 7.0 billion euros to 285 billion euros," it said in a statement. Overall, the deficit was reduced by 9.0 billion euros.

EU aid to Africa comes as carrot, not stick

The head of the EU's huge aid programme to Africa warned on Tuesday that tying investment on the continent to democratic reforms risked backfiring if viewed as neo-colonialism. "I would always warn against linking the two things directly, because it seems like blackmailing," the European Union's Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told AFP. He emphasised that conditions on aid were necessary, but said African governments might view them as a "colonial tool".

France fails budget target, Hollande faces reform dilemma

France is way behind budget targets, new data shows, deepening a dilemma for President Francois Hollande over spending cuts which could split his allies, or doing a U-turn in dangerous defiance of the EU. The official figures put the budget overshoot, or public deficit, at 4.3 percent of output last year instead of 4.1 percent as targeted. This raises the stakes for France and Hollande sharply the day after an election debacle, analysts said.

Japan, EU discuss tariffs on wine, autos in key FTA talks

Japan and the European Union began their fifth round of free trade talks in Tokyo on Monday, a critical session before the 28-country bloc decides on whether to continue negotiations with Tokyo based on how much progress has been made. Main topics on the agenda are expected to be tariff removal on EU wine and Japanese vehicles, as well as eliminating nontariff barriers, negotiation sources said.

Japan, EU discuss tariffs on wine, autos in key FTA talks

Japan and the European Union began their fifth round of free trade talks in Tokyo on Monday, a critical session before the 28-country bloc decides on whether to continue negotiations with Tokyo based on how much progress has been made. Main topics on the agenda are expected to be tariff removal on EU wine and Japanese vehicles, as well as eliminating nontariff barriers, negotiation sources said.

China's Xi turns to panda diplomacy to seek EU trade deal

By Robin Emmott BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping will use two pandas to break the ice and soften European opposition to a free-trade deal with China during a visit to Belgium which starts on Sunday. As the first Chinese leader to visit the European Union's headquarters since Brussels established ties with Beijing four decades ago, Xi will also seek to send a message that China is a less confrontational partner, ready to resolve trade disputes.

Mugabe shuns EU-Africa talks after wife denied visa

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will boycott next week's mammoth EU-Africa summit after his wife was denied a visa to enter Europe, a foreign ministry official said on Friday. "We are no longer going to the EU-Africa. We disagreed on the composition of our delegation," said a source at the ministry, who asked not to be named. Harare had earlier on Friday urged the African Union to shun the summit for failing to invite all the Africa bloc's leaders and lift a ban on Zimbabwe's first lady.

Zimbabwe's Mugabe shuns EU-Africa talks after wife not invited

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will boycott next week's mammoth EU-Africa summit after his wife was denied a visa to enter Europe, a foreign ministry official said on Friday. "We are no longer going to the EU-Africa. We disagreed on the composition of our delegation," said a source at the ministry, who asked not to be named. Harare had earlier on Friday urged the African Union to shun the summit for failing to invite all the Africa bloc's leaders and lift a ban on Zimbabwe's first lady. But diplomats in Brussels were unfazed by the call for a boycott.

Zimbabwe boycotts EU-Africa summit

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will boycott next week's mammoth EU-Africa summit after his wife was denied a visa to enter Europe, a foreign ministry official said Friday. "We are no longer going to the EU-Africa. We disagreed on the composition of our delegation," said a source at the ministry, who asked not to be named. Harare had earlier Friday urged the African Union to shun the summit for failing to invite all the Africa bloc's leaders, and lift a ban on Zimbabwe's first lady. But diplomats in Brussels were unfazed by the call for a boycott.

Zimbabwe urges EU summit boycott

Zimbabwe urged the African Union on Friday to boycott next week's mammoth EU-Africa summit for failing to invite all the Africa bloc's leaders, and lift a ban on Zimbabwe's first lady. But diplomats in Brussels were unfazed by the call for a boycott. "We see no risk" of a boycott of the April 2-3 summit gathering 90 nations from both continents, including 65 heads of state and government, said a senior official speaking on condition of anonymity.
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