EU summit decides energy policy, condemns Belarus

EU leaders meeting at a March economic summit agreed to co-ordinate energy security policies, but failed to suggest any concrete solutions.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said leaders attending the Brussels summit had pledged support for a common energy policy.

Common energy policy agreed on at EU March summit c EU

But the pledge masked sharp divisions over how far energy markets should be liberalised and what kind of regulation is needed.

EU countries have been at loggerheads over how far governments can protect businesses in key sectors - including energy - from foreign takeover.

European leaders agreed on the general aim to boost energy security after the crisis at the start of this year when Russia's dispute with Ukraine threatened gas supplies to Western Europe.

But there was no immediate signal of how the bloc would tackle specific problems such as soaring gas prices or the EU's reliance on oil and gas imports.

Meanwhile, EU leaders reserved strong words for the newly elected leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, condemning the conduct of the recent elections and the tough crackdown on his opponents.

Leaders agreed to widen a list of senior Belarusian officials subject to a visa ban and said they would also consider financial sanctions.

Most expressed outrage at the outcome of the elections, which re-instated Lukashenko by a huge majority.

"This election was subject to massive fraud and somebody has to say so," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

More than 500 people have been arrested after a wave of demonstrations against Lukaschenko's victory. The protests sparked a bloody crackdown by the pro-Lukaschenko security forces.

But it was French President Jacques Chirac who generated the most headlines after storming out of a meeting when a French business leader chose to address the room in English.

Chirac led three senior ministers out of economic talks after Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, the French head of the European employers group Unice, abandoned his mother tongue to use English as "the language of business".

Gallic pride was only restored when Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the European Central Bank, addressed the meeting in French and Chirac re-entered the room, ministers in tow.