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Vice-President of the European Commission and member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
Vice-President Rehn's remarks at the ECOFIN
ECOFIN Press Conference/Brussels
9 July, 2013
Thank you, Rimantas.
Let me begin by saying that I look forward to working closely with you on the many important issues on the ECOFIN agenda in the coming semester, including at our next meeting in Vilnius in the middle of September.
But let me focus first on Latvia. From 1 January 2014, Latvians can begin making purchases in euros – at the conversion rate which has been formally agreed today of 0.702804 lats to the euro.
Today’s decision is made possible thanks to Latvia’s high degree of sustainable convergence with the euro area, in both quantitative and qualitative terms. Latvia convincingly meets the five Maastricht convergence criteria and its economic policy is on a sustainable path.
Of course, it will be essential to continue with sound economic and budgetary policies in order to ensure a smooth and successful performance in the eurozone to realise the full benefits of the monetary union and to minimize risks concerning the future.
Latvia will soon follow Estonia into the euro area. Lithuania aims to join in 2015. In other words, all three Baltic States are now either inside, or well on their way to, the economic and political core of Europe. This is a tribute not only to the determined policy action that all three took in the wake of the financial crisis, but also to their remarkable economic and democratic transition since regaining independence in that dramatic summer of 1991.
That is something we should never lose sight of and never stop reminding ourselves of. I wish Latvia now, and Lithuania in the future, the best of success as members of the eurozone.
Concerning other issues, as I outlined to Ministers today, with the culmination of the third European Semester of economic policy coordination, we have now entered the implementation phase. This means that the onus is now on the Member States to address the bottlenecks to growth and jobs in line with the Council’s recommendations. I want to underline that, from today onwards, these are indeed the Council's recommendations. While they have been prepared by the Commission, they have now been formally adopted by the Council. The Commission will monitor very closely the implementation of this reform agenda, which is a blueprint for recovery, sustainable growth and job creation.
Yesterday, we received policy advice from the IMF on the basis of the article IV consultation, and I can say that these recommendations very clearly respond to the main points that Christine Lagarde substantially outlined to the Eurogroup, and subsequently in the press conference yesterday evening - focussing on consistent, but gradual, fiscal consolidation and on economic reforms that help boost growth and jobs. In that sense, these recommendations are in line with IMF policy advice to the eurozone.
Thank you very much.