Brussels, 18 January 2010
Eurogroup ministers will meet at 17.00 hrs on Monday 18 January in Brussels. Joaquín Almunia, Commissioner responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs will attend as will European Central Bank Governor Jean-Claude Trichet. A press conference is expected to take place after the meeting.
Eurogroup president: following the entry into force last December of the Lisbon Treaty, ministers are expected to appoint the Eurogroup president for a 2.5 years term. T he status of the Eurogroup is recognised and enhanced in Protocol 14 annexed to the new EU Treaty (see p283 for Protocol published together with Treaty in Official Journal C115 of 9 May 2008) while retaining its informal status – decisions still need to be taken by the Council of Ministers (Ecofin).
Ministers will discuss the evolution of the economy and of the financial markets since they last met, in early December. For the latest, published Commission assessment, see the quarterly report on the euro area of 21 December (See IP/09/1981 and full report at: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/articles/euro/article16503_en.htm ) as well as the key indicators for the euro area updated on 14 January on: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/db_indicators/key_indicators/index_en.htm
The Eurogroup is also due to have an orientation debate 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 ( EMU@10 of May 2008) the Commission concluded that macroeconomic surveillance needed to be broadened to include divergences in competitiveness and the Eurogroup members endorsed this view. The subject has been discussed in the past and more thoroughly in the last year and a half. For a recent published analysis of the problem see special report in the first quarterly report of 2009:
Ministers will also discuss the euro area contribution to the G20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth agreed at the Pittsburgh Summit. The agreement called for the launch of a mutual assessment process by the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors involved. In line with the conclusions of the European Council of October and the discussions in the Eurogroup, and with a view to underline the regional dimension and specific institutional set-up of the euro area and the EU in the G20, Ministers will discuss a first draft of such a common contribution for the euro area.
Ministers will continue with an exchange of views on the economic, financial and fiscal situation in Greece as well as on the statistical issues, in the latter case with a view to the conclusions to be adopted by the Ecofin the following day on the Commission report on the Greek statistical revisions (see below – ECOFIN item)
Finally, the ministers are also expected to discuss their work programme, including for 2010, and to discuss the succession of Lucas Papademos, the Vice-President of the European Central Bank, whose mandate expires on 30 May. His successor needs to be appointed by the European Council on a proposal by the Ecofin after consultation of the European Parliament and of the Governing Council of the ECB.
E COFIN COUNCIL
The Council of Economics and Finance Ministers will start at 10.00 hrs on Tuesday 19 January. It will be preceded by a working breakfast at 9.30 hrs. The ECOFIN meeting will be attended by Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquín Almunia and Customs Union Laszlo Kovacs. A press conference is expected to take place after the meeting.
The Presidency intends to have an informal exchange of views intended to prepare the way for an agreement on a set of items that are important for ensuring that Member States can fight tax fraud more efficiently. They include the proposals for three Directives (Savings Tax, administrative co-operation, recovery) and the anti-fraud agreement with Liechtenstein as well as mandates for similar agreements with a number of other European countries. It is expected that – building on the results of such exchange – the Presidency will look at the best way to proceed in order to ensure adoption of all items under the Spanish Presidency.
Spanish Presidency work programme
Ministers will have a debate following the presentation of the work programme of the Spanish Presidency for the first half of 2010. This point will be shown on closed-circuit television. See Presidency website: http://www.eutrio.es/en/index.html
Statistics – Eurostat report on Greece (AT)
EU finance ministers are expected to discuss and adopt conclusions on a Commission report on Greek budgetary statistical revisions. The report adopted on 9 January highlights the continuation of severe problems with the collection and reporting of budgetary statistics to the Commission. The report shows that the problems go well beyond the statistical sphere and are deeply rooted in institutional weaknesses, lack of accountability and poor communication between data providers. The report, requested by the November Ecofin Council, is available on: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/government_finance_statistics/publications/other_publications. It follows the significant upward revision of Greek deficit and debt data in the October 2009 EDP (excessive deficit procedure) notification. See Eurostat press release 149/2009 of 22 October.