Dec. 20 - EU leaders meeting in Brussels are dismissive of an S&P credit downgrade, denying there were any concerns about the bloc's ability to meet budgetary requirements. The summit also issued a statement on the crisis in Ukraine. David Pollard reports.
They say timing's everything. So it was that on the final day of their final summit of the year, a small bombshell was dropped on EU heads of states: a credit downgrade on the whole of the European Union from S&P. S&P is concerned the bloc might struggle to fund its budget - that some members might baulk at paying their contributions. European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso issued a forceful rejection. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT, SAYING: ''We disagree with the assessment made by that particular rating agency. We believe that the European Union as such is indeed a very credible, extremely credible financial institution when it comes to financial obligations. As I said, I don't know many around the world that have zero debt and zero deficit. The record of the European Union is perfect.'' The ratings agency cut its triple A rating by one notch. It came as little surprise after S&Ps recent downgrade on the Netherlands - six other members already downgraded, including France. The current budget runs until 2020 with a ceiling of one trillion euros. Joe Rundle of ETX Capital Markets sees trouble ahead. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) JOE RUNDLE, ETX CAPITAL MARKETS, SAYING: ''The euro zone is definitely struggling and I expect we are going to see a re-emergence of the euro zone crisis in Q2 next year. And its' really sort of emphasised by the fact that Germany is doing fantastically well and Italy and the peripheries are struggling.'' On the main agenda for the day: the leaders were due to draft a statement on Ukraine. There was little immediate sign of economic rapprochement over Ukraine's decision to do a policy U-turn and enter a pact with Russia - even if there was moral support. European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy. SOUNDBITE (English) EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT, HERMAN VAN ROMPUY, SAYING: "The future of our relations is for the long term. We cannot let that compromised by short-term calculations, by outside pressure. It must be a free choice." EU leaders were no doubt aware that even as they met, security in the Ukrainian capital Kiev was being tightened in expectation of large protests over the weekend .... ... while the country's President Yanukovich was taking part in a prayer for peace.