The EU announced Tuesday a summit for January 30 as negotiations over a new "fiscal union" to combat the eurozone debt crisis opened with a key lawmaker warning the bloc is becoming a "monster."
European Union president Herman Van Rompuy gave the date in a video message less than two weeks after Britain vetoed a bid by the former Belgian prime minister to change the treaty binding the 27 EU states as part of efforts to save the single currency.
Van Rompuy said that "bringing financial stability to the eurozone remains absolutely key for our future," adding that "there is a social way out of the crisis."
He noted that "almost all our member states are engaged in huge reform programmes" affecting government spending and the business environment, and warned that "the path is long, longer than we expected."
With "zero growth expected in most of our economies" and some already facing recession, he said: "Let there be no doubt -- there is a fundamental political will to move forward as a union -- respecting fully each other's situation."
Van Rompuy named the date just as representatives of all 27 states wrapped up a first day of negotiations on the legal shape of the new fiscal union.
These talks included Britain, sitting as an "observer" after London vetoed plans for a new EU treaty at a December 9 summit designed to chart a way out of the eurozone debt crisis, fearing Brussels would encroach on its powers.
The negotiations, which also included representatives of the directly-elected European Parliament, did not get off to the best possible start, according to French EU lawmaker Sylvie Goulard.
The Liberal MEP said that "turning Europe into an angry father whipping his children is a fundamental error," adding that she did not subscribe to the draft document drawn up by Van Rompuy's staff.
The agreement notably allows any other EU state signing up to the new fiscal union to take another state before the European Court of Justice if it did not meet the new demand for all members to adopt balanced budgets.
"I do not see myself going off to sell to my fellow citizens a Europe that behaves in this way," Goulard said.
"To say 'it's Europe or democracy,' I do not agree," she said, adding: "We are in the midst of creating a monster.
"Will a single Chinese or American investor be reassured when reading this treaty?" she asked.
The EU has come in for harsh criticism from democrats who argue it is ignoring democratic controls and processes, as in Italy and Greece where technocratic governments have taken over from elected leaders to implement tough austerity measures demanded by Brussels.
On Monday, London refused to back another key decision reached at the December 9 summit when Finance Minister George Osborne rejected calls to loan some 30 billion euros ($40 billion) to the International Monetary Fund.
The money would allow the IMF to help struggling eurozone governments finding it difficult to raise fresh funds from markets sceptical that leaders can stabilise the public finances.