Thank you, Toomas. I would like to thank you and your team for all the work that you have done during the past six months. The Estonian Presidency has managed to make progress on many challenging files and keep them high on the agenda.
You conclude your Presidency with several landmark decisions on tax.
A decision was made by Member States today on the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. We welcome the fact that this list and the list of those countries that have committed to raising their standards of tax good governance have also been made public, in full transparency.
Member States must continue to ensure that all countries on the commitment list abide by the promises that have been made. We look forward to work on this next year.
We are ready to assist in this regard, but, like I said, these are lists compiled by Member States and therefore we invite Ministers to ensure a strong follow-up to today's decisions.
From the Commission's point of view, stronger countermeasures or defensive measures would have been preferable. But we hope that work will continue in 2018 to deliver stronger defensive measures. On our side, we will work to ensure that the measures already included in legislation at EU level are applied.
The Commission welcomes today's agreement on the VAT e-commerce package. It consists of a series of measures to improve how VAT works for online companies in the EU.
Just to give one example, the new system will be particularly attractive for start-ups, micro-businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) selling goods to consumers online in other EU Member States. Companies with cross-border sales under €10,000 a year will be able to deal with the VAT in the same way as they do for sales in their own countries.
We are also setting up so-called one stop shop: an easy-to-use online portal to allow companies that sell goods to customers online to deal with their VAT obligations in the EU.
This is yet another boost for online companies and e-commerce in the context of the Digital Single Market following the recent decision to end unjustified geo-blocking for consumers shopping online.
And the agreed system will also help Member States to recoup the current estimated €5 billion of VAT lost on online sales every year.
In this context the proposal also abolishes the VAT exemption for goods coming from outside the EU and valued under €22. It is estimated that fraud from labelling a high value goods in small packages as inexpensive goods has caused a loss of €1 billion in revenues for the EU Member States.
Today's decision forms part of our ambition to re-think taxation in the era of digital economy.
We welcome the Council conclusions on digital taxation as adopted today. They will act as the EU's input to the OECD's work on this topic. We look forward to the OECD report on taxing the digital economy due in spring 2018. We have always said that we would prefer concrete and workable multilateral solutions to this global problem. We are keen to see innovative solutions coming from the OECD-led process on digital taxation.
But the European Commission also stands ready to move forward with our own proposals in spring 2018.
Ministers also discussed economic and social priorities for the next European Semester cycle and they broadly share our analysis, which we presented a couple of weeks ago.
On the fiscal side, Ministers approved our recommendation to abrogate the United Kingdom from the excessive deficit procedure. The Council also adopted a revised recommendation to Romania, after we concluded that it has not taken effective action to correct significant deviation from its budgetary objectives. Romania should now undertake a structural adjustment of 0.8% of GDP in 2018, which could also ease our concerns over Romania's fiscal sustainability in mid-term.
Finally, we had a substantial and constructive debate on completing Banking Union.
The Banking Package is the most immediate milestone.
I would like to thank you, Toomas, for the determined work which allowed us to make a significant progress on this file. We have agreement on the so-called fast-track elements of the package.
We urge the Member States to continue working and to reach a compromise as early as possible in the first quarter of 2018.
Risk reduction and risk sharing should go hand in hand.
So I would also like to thank you for the good technical work carried out on European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS). And I trust discussions will be pursued and accelerated under the Bulgarian Presidency.
I have also reported to the ECOFIN today on progress in implementing the Council Action Plan to support Member States' efforts in reducing non-performing loans (NPLs). We have seen good progress – average NPL ratios have come down from more than 6% in 2014 to 4.5% in early 2017.
We are now progressing well on various elements included in the Action Plan and we will present a broad package of measures in spring 2018.
In the context of completing the Banking Union and achieving a true Capital Markets Union, I would say that those are also priorities for the stability and the economic performance of Economic and Monetary union (EMU). We will present tomorrow our new proposals to strengthen Europe's Economic and Monetary union.
In the context of the banking union, the more private risk-sharing we can achieve, the less public risk-sharing we will need in the Euro area.
Therefore it was good to see that Ministers broadly share the sense of priority when it comes to completing the Banking Union.