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MEMO/06/70

Brussels, 13 February 2006

Preparation of Eurogroup and Economic and Finance Ministers Council, Brussels 13 and 14 February

EUROGROUP

Eurogroup ministers will meet at 19:00 hrs on Monday. Joaquín Almunia, Commissioner responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs, and European Central Bank Governor Jean-Claude Trichet will attend.

The meeting will start with an exchange of views on the economic situation and policy stance, focusing in particular on developments in activity and inflation.

Ministers will discuss the Commission’s recommendations of 1 February for Council opinions on the updated stability programmes of Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria ahead of formal consideration by the Ecofin Council the following day. (For details on Commission’s assessment see IP/06/100).

Ministers will then have an exchange of views on the euro area section of the Commission’s annual progress report on the new Partnership for Growth and Jobs adopted on 25 January 2006 (see IP/06/71) as well as on the implications of ageing populations for the euro area, on the basis of a report on the impact of ageing on public expenditure (see below). Both reports will also be discussed at the Ecofin meeting.

Finally, Ministers will have an exchange of views regarding the candidates suggested in view of the appointment of a new member of the European Central Bank Executive Board, in replacement of Otmar Issing, whose mandate expires on the 31st of May. ECB Executive Board members are appointed for eight-year terms by a decision of the Heads of State of Government of the euro zone countries on a Council recommendation and after consulting the European Parliament and the ECB’s Governing Council.

ECOFIN COUNCIL

The European Union's Council of Economics and Finance Ministers will start at 10.00 hrs on Tuesday 14 February. The European Commission will be represented by Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquín Almunia.

Application of the Stability and Growth Pact

  • Assessment of stability and convergence programmes

The Council is expected to give its opinion on the second group of updated stability/convergence programmes on the basis of recommendations put forward by the Commission on 1 February for Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia (for details on the Commission’s assessments see IP/06/100 and IP/06/101)

The next group of programmes will be examined by the Commission on 22 of February and is expected to concern France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Malta, Lithuania, Cyprus and Portugal.

Preparation of the European Council (23-24 March 2006)

  • Lisbon Strategy – Communication Annual Progress Report

The Council will have an orientation debate on the Commission’s first annual progress report on the new Partnership for Growth and Jobs (the revised Lisbon Strategy) adopted by the Commission on 25 January 2006 (see IP/06/71).

In the Annual Progress report, the Commission has assessed the National Reform Programmes submitted by Member States, concluding that there has been good progress in many areas, but reforms could be stepped up in some respects. It identified four areas where Member States can deliver concrete results to increase Europe’s growth potential and to create more jobs. These are: a) investment in education, research and innovation; b) freeing up SMEs and unlocking business potential; c) employment policies that get people into work; and d) guaranteeing a secure and sustainable energy supply. For each of these areas, the Commission makes clear proposals for European leaders to commit to when they meet at the March Summit in Brussels.

  • The impact of ageing on public expenditure

The Council is also due to discuss a report on the effects of ageing for the European economy and for national public expenditure. The report, prepared by the Economic Policy Committee and the European Commission, finds that with the population set to become considerably older by 2050, EU economic growth risks being halved while the costs of pensions and other age-related costs will put public finances in many Member States under considerable strain.

The projections on the impact of ageing show that the reforms already carried out by a number of Members States are paying off. But there is no room for complacency. Member States ought to use the small window of opportunity still available before the full impact of ageing kicks in to intensify the reforms and reduce public debt, thus making sure that future pensioners -- whose number will increase by 77%, or 58 million, in 2050 – will enjoy a pension without overburdening future generations (for more details on the report see IP/06/150).

  • European Investment Bank (EIB) contribution to promoting growth and employment

The Ministers will have an orientation debate on a report prepared by the EIB outlining the Bank’s increased efforts to promoting growth and employment, specially in the following areas: Research & Development, Energy, SMEs and Transport and Infrastructures.


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