Thank you Vladislav.
First of all, let me congratulate you and your team on the agreement reached regarding the transparency rules for intermediaries who design and promote aggressive tax planning schemes for their clients.
In practice, we have agreed to hold responsible the go-betweens who create and sell tax avoidance schemes.
Intermediaries such as accountants, advisers, lawyers, banks will now be obliged to report potentially aggressive cross-border tax arrangements to the tax authorities.
More than that, the EU countries in which the arrangements are reported will share this information with all other Member States. This will happen on a quarterly basis, and all tax authorities will have access to a centralised database with all the information they need.
Today the European Union has reiterated its commitment to bring more transparency to the world of aggressive tax planning. We are global frontrunners in this field. And the European Union will of course use its political influence to push for similar action at the international level.
Ultimately, today's agreement will result in greater tax revenues for Member States.
Let me now turn to our November 2016 Banking package. The deal on the package is long overdue. While we are approaching the final agreement, it was decided that it is better to take some more time and make sure we get it right.
But it cannot take forever. All Member States agreed, already in June 2016, on a Roadmap to completing the Banking Union. According to this Roadmap, this banking package is a key deliverable for risk reduction in our banking sector.
So I feel that the Bulgarian Presidency has done very good work, and it is a good basis for a final deal in the coming weeks.
We are now working on how to adjust to Basel delays on the Fundamental Review of the Trading Book (FRTB). It is important to note that the EU is fully committed to implementing this.
There was a broad support to maintaining home/host balance as proposed by the Estonian Presidency.
On the total loss absorbing capacity (TLAC) and a minimum requirement for own funds and eligible liabilities (MREL), there is a need for a balanced approach. We should be ambitious on risk reduction, without overburdening banks.
To reach a necessary European compromise, all parties have to somewhat move and be ready for this compromise. This is what I invite EU countries to do.
On the Commission side, we will present tomorrow a complete package of measures to help Member States and banks to work out non-performing loans and prevent their future accumulation. This will contribute to making their banking sectors safer, stronger and more able to lend to the real economy. With this new package, we will be over-delivering on our risk reduction pledges.
Finally, the Ministers discussed the country reports - Commission's analysis of the economic and social challenges in the Member States. The country reports also comprise the results of our in-depth review for macroeconomic imbalances in 12 countries, and the state of implementation of country specific recommendations.
Today's discussion focused on reforms that can improve productivity growth.
Our problem with productivity growth is well known. In 1995, productivity growth in what is now the euro area was around the world average of 2%. Today it is at below 0.5%. It has fallen behind not only the United States but also below major emerging economies.
In the long run, raising productivity is the only way to achieve growth and higher wages and living standards, especially in the context of an ageing population.
We agreed that there is no silver bullet to solving this problem. We need a range of productivity-friendly policies and reforms.
We see progress in response to our policy recommendations over time. But we also see that implementation of reforms is often a challenge.
We are stepping up the EU's support for reform implementation. Already today we offer technical reform support to EU countries upon their demand. For the future we are also proposing to add financial incentives – this is the idea behind our proposal for a 'reform delivery tool', which we will present in May.
To conclude, I invite Member States to present ambitious national reform programmes, and stability or convergence programmes in April. After that, in May, we will issue country-specific recommendations on the most urgent and needed reforms.