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EU’s Barroso Pans ‘Reactionary’ French

Monday, 17 Jun 2013 | 12:03 PM ET
EU Should Pursue Bilateral Deals: EU's Barroso
José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, says Europe needs to pursue bilateral trade deals and that it also need to have more fiscal "discipline".

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso hit back at French opposition to a proposed transatlantic trade agreement as "extremely reactionary", in an interview with the International Herald Tribune on Monday.

(Read More: G8 Leaders Convene in Northern Ireland)

"It's part of this anti-globalization agenda that I consider completely reactionary," Barroso said, adding that he believed in protecting cultural diversity, but not in sealing off Europe. "Some say they belong to the left, but in fact they are culturally extremely reactionary."

His comments come after France insisted on countries' rights to subsidize their own cultural industries, striking a blow last week to talks over a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union (EU).

(Read More: Hopes for G8 Trade and Tax Deals Dented)

Those talks, which could create the world's largest free trade agreement, are expected to continue at the G-8 annual summit, which started on Monday at a luxury golf course in Northern Ireland.

In his interview with the IHT, Barrosso said that fears of U.S. cultural hegemony had been overblown by those with an "anti-global agenda".

Such critics, he said, have "no understanding of the benefits that globalization brings from a cultural point of view, in terms of opening horizons and broadening our perspectives and also the sentiment of belonging to the same mankind, which I think is a very important concept against all forms of narrow nationalism and protectionism."

In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Barroso emphasized his eagerness to pursue free trade agreements for the EU, whether bilateral or multilateral.

"While there is no possibility of having it as a best global agreement for all countries in the world, let's pursue these bilateral agreements, but adding to liberalization not withdrawing from liberalization," he said, speaking in Northern Ireland ahead of the G-8 summit.

On a different note, Barroso said that Europe's recession of the past few years had been inescapable, because of the need to combat excessive levels of public and private debt.

He added that Europe now needs to look "more urgently" at growth, while retaining its focus on fiscal discipline.

"Sustained growth cannot come by artificial stimulus programs, which could only increase the problems of confidence that we have seen before in the euro area. What we have to do is strict reforms for competitiveness and target investment at some areas, namely employment and youth employment," said Barroso.

(Read More: Obama Faces Tough Sell on Europe Austerity at G8)

In a statement at the pre-summit press conference, Barroso suggested that legislation passed by the EU last week to open up access to public data could also help tackle unemployment.

"We believe that open data means opening business opportunities and creating jobs," he said.

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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