Zapatero Pushes EU Electric Car Plan

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has provided further details of his vision for the EU's 2020 economic strategy, including measures to promote electric car production in Europe.

Speaking before the European Parliament on Wednesday (20 January), the Socialist leader, whose country currently holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, said the 27-member union would embark on a major new project to promote electric-car production.

"The other day I met together with a group of companies, some of the most important in Europe, and it was felt it was fundamental that there should be co-operation and integration of efforts in developing the electric vehicle," he told MEPs.

"If our markets don't have a regulatory framework to provide financial support, and if we don't have common standards on the technologies, then it will be difficult for Europe to take a leading role," he added.

EU industry ministers are set to launch the plan at a meeting on the 8 February in the Spanish seaside town of San Sebastian.

Greater energy self-sufficiency will also be key to sustainable European growth, said the Spanish leader whose country was one of the worst hit by the recent recession.

"In the last ten years...our energy consumption has gone up by nine percent," he told euro deputies. "We need to reduce our dependence. If we don't reduce it we won't be able to have any economic growth."

At present roughly 58 percent of the gas used by European homes and industry comes from outside the EU, with last January's dispute between Russia and the Ukraine and the subsequent European energy crisis highlighting the bloc's vulnerability.

EU leaders have scheduled for a brainstorming session next month to debate priorities for the EU's new economic blueprint. The Spanish leader also cited the need to strengthen Europe's information society sector and redouble efforts to step up research and education.

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