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Preparation of Eurogroup and Economic and Finance Ministers Council, Brussels, 15 and 16 February

Commission Européenne - MEMO/10/38   15/02/2010

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MEMO/10/5

Brussels, 15 February 2010

Preparation of Eurogroup and Economic and Finance Ministers Council, Brussels, 15 and 16 February

( Amadeu Altafaj, Chantal Hughes, Emer Traynor)

EUROGROUP (AA)

Eurogroup ministers will meet at 17.00 hrs on Monday 1 5 February in Brussels. Olli Rehn, Commissioner responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs will attend as well as European Central Bank Governor Jean-Claude Trichet. A press conference is expected to take place after the meeting.

Ministers will continue their discussion on the succession of the ECB Vice-President Lucas Papademos. The eight-year term of ECB Vice-President Lucas Papademos will expire on 31 May 2010. The heads of state and government of euro area Member States will formally appoint the candidate recommended by the Eurogroup at their summit of 25‑26 March 2010.

Ministers will discuss the economic situation and the latest developments in financial markets. They will also be debriefed on the recent G7 discussions. Recent data broadly confirms the picture set out by the Commission in the autumn so far.

See the key indicators for the euro area updated on 11 February: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/db_indicators/key_indicators/index_en.htm

Ministers will then continue their regular exchange of views on the economic, financial and fiscal situation in Greece, notably on recent developments and announced policy measures. On 15 January the Greek government submitted the update of the stability programme to the Commission and the Council (see: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/sgp/convergence/programmes/2009-10_en.htm .

The programme envisages reducing the general government budget deficit by 4 percentage points to 8.7% of GDP in 2010, and correcting the excessive deficit in 2012 . The programme contains a package of concrete fiscal consolidation measures for 2010, providing also the estimated quantification of each one of the measures included, as well as the timeframe of their adoption and implementation. In addition, it includes the broad lines of a number of structural reforms aimed at improving the budgetary framework and the efficiency of public spending, enhancing investment and improving the functioning of labour and product markets.

Given the recent deterioration of public finances in Greece and the persistent external imbalances, for the first time an integrated approach to the enhanced surveillance mechanism is applied. Therefore, the Commission recommends to the Council to adopt on 16 February an opinion on the Greek Stability Programme for 2010-2013, a Decision under Art 126(9) of the Treaty on the correction of the excessive deficit and a Recommendation under Art 121(4) of the Treaty on structural reforms. Under Art 121(4) of the Treaty the Commission recommends to the Council that Greece adopts a comprehensive structural reform package aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the public administration, stepping up pension and healthcare reform, improving labour market functioning and t he effectiveness of the wage bargaining system, enhancing product market functioning and the business environment, and maintaining banking and financial sector stability . Under the Commission recommendation for a Council decision in accordance with Article 126.9 of the Treaty, Greece is required to follow the adjustment path outlined in the 2010 stability programme in terms of nominal deficit, structural deficit and change in debt levels, and detail the measures to be implemented. The recommendations include measures to be implemented already in 2010, whereby Greece should, as announced in the programme, stand ready to adopt additional measures to ensure that the adjustment path is followed. In the medium term, Greece is required to implement further adjustment measures of a permanent nature, continue with tax administration reforms and improve the budgetary framework (IP/10/116)

The Commission will continue to monitor the situation in Greece very closely, in close contact with the President of the Eurogroup. Greece is required to submit a first report in mid March 2010, spelling out the implementation calendar of the measures to achieve the 2010 budgetary targets, standing also ready to adop t additional measures if needed.

Following up on a first orientation debate on the subject in January, the Eurogroup is also due to have a discussion on the surveillance of competitiveness developments and imbalances within the euro area. In its report on the first 10 years of Economic and Monetary Union (see EMU@10 : http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/publications/publication_summary12680_en.htm , the Commission concluded that macroeconomic surveillance needed to be broadened to include divergences in competitiveness and imbalances and the Eurogroup members endorsed this view. For a recently published analysis of the issue see special report in the first quarterly report of 2009:

http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/publications/publication14650_en.pdf .

E COFIN COUNCIL

The Council of Economics and Finance Ministers will start at 10.00 hrs on Tuesday 16 February. It will be preceded by a working breakfast at 9.00 hrs. The ECOFIN meeting will be attended by Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn, Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier and Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud Algirdas Semeta. A press conference is expected to take place after the meeting.

Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact (A A)

As the economic and financial crisis takes its toll, the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) is guiding Member States to ensure that the budgetary impact is reversed, that excessive deficits are corrected and that fiscal policies are specified and subsequently implemented to achieve long-term fiscal sustainability. The SGP possesses the necessary flexibility to deal with current exceptional circumstances, while maintaining focus on the consolidation needed to prepare for the budgetary impact of ageing as well as the structural reforms required to enhance stability and growth potential.

  • EDP steps for Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Romania

In July 2009, the Council endorsed Commission proposals to open the excessive deficit procedure (EDP) and issue recommendations to ensure that the deficit be brought below the 3% reference value by 2010 in Malta, 2011 in Lithuania and Romania, 2012 in Latvia and Poland. For Hungary, a new set of recommendations were issued at the same time to ensure a correction by 2011. The Council recommendations established a deadline of 7 January 2010 for effective action. The Council will now assess the action taken in Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Romania to progress towards correcting their excessive deficits.

For Hungary, Latvia and Poland, the Commission adopted Communications on 27 January and 3 February 2010 concluding that effective action has been taken (IP/10/53) . The Council is expected to agree with this assessment, and no further EDP steps are proposed at this stage. Meanwhile, the Commission and the Council continue to monitor developments in line with the SGP and conditions related to EU medium term financial assistance.

Also in the case of Lithuania, Malta and Romania, the Commission found that adequate progress had been made (IP/10/53 and IP/10/137 ). The SGP foresees that where recommendations are complied with but the economic situation deteriorates significantly and beyond the control of the country concerned, the Council can revise the recommendations and the deadline for the correction of the excessive deficit. On this basis, the Council is expected to follow the Commission recommendation to extend the deadline by one year, i.e. 2012 for Lithuania, 2011 for Malta and 2012 for Romania.

Internal Market – Services directive (CH)

Ministers are expected to adopt conclusions on Services in the Internal Market and Market Monitoring. These conclusions recall that, despite remarkable successes, the full potential of the Single Market is not exploited. Pending the Commission proposals for relaunching the Single Market taking due account of the forthcoming report of Mr. Mario MONTI, the conclusions stress that the deepening of the Single Market should be a key element of long-term EU strategy for sustaible growth, Europe 2020. In the short term, the Council calls for the completion of a comprehensive and ambitious implementation of the Services Directive. The conclusions also highlight the importance of the 2010 mutual evaluation exercise foreseen by the Services Directive, which aims at taking stock of the state of the Single Market for services and identifying, where needed, additional initiatives. They encourage Member States to actively participate in this exercise. Finally, the conclusions give their support to the market monitoring and smart regulation initiatives as evidence-based tools to further deepen the Single Market in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy.

Presentation of work programme by Commissioners BARNIER, REHN and ŠEMETA

Following the election of the new College of Commissioners, the Presidency will invite Commissioners BARNIER, REHN and ŠEMETA to present their work programme to the Ministers.

Prudential standards of systematically important institutions

Ministers will discuss the state of play of the discussions on the regulation and the supervision of "Systemically Important Financial Institutions", in the context of i) the G20 roadmap on the reform of financial regulation; ii) the work of the Financial Stability Board and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision at international level and of the European Commission and the Economic and Financial Committee at EU level; and iii) the recent proposals of the US administration.

Presentation of the work of Mr. MONTI on the relaunch of the Single Market

The Presidency will invite Mr. Mario MONTI to present his work on the relaunch of the Single Market.

Discharge 2008 EU Budget (ER)

ECOFIN Council is expected to adopt a recommendation granting discharge to the Commission for the 2008 EU budget. The recommendation, which requires qualified majority in Council, is based on the Court of Auditors' report of 10 November 2009 (see IP/09/1690 ). Following its adoption, the Council's recommendation will be transmitted to the European Parliament which should decide and vote on the budgetary discharge at the Plenary Session in Strasbourg in April."

At the invitation of the Presidency, Commissioners Rehn, Barnier and Semeta will also present their work programmes for their new mandates.


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