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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Commissioner Moscovici's introductory remarks at the Eurogroup press conference

Brussels, 11 March 2019

Bonsoir. Concernant la Grèce d'abord, j'ai présenté à l'Eurogroupe le deuxième rapport de « surveillance renforcée » que la Commission a présenté il y a deux semaines. Mon message à l'Eurogroupe a été que la Grèce a continué à faire des très bons progrès, je pense notamment à un budget qui a permis de dégager un surplus primaire de 3,5%, à une réforme du système de santé ou encore à un certain nombre de privatisations qui ont été lancées pour réduire la dette grecque. Nous sommes proches d'un accord sur l'ensemble des réformes prévues fin 2018.

La plupart de ces mesures ont été déjà été prises.

Sur les peu de mesures qui restent à achever, les discussions continuent de façon intense et constructive. Nous portons une attention particulière à la réforme de la loi « Katseli » qui gère la protection des résidences principales en situation de défaut de paiements. Nous visons une solution qui protège les plus vulnérables sans que cela nuise à la capacité des banques de restructurer leurs prêts non-performants. Quand je dis que la protection doit être faite pour les plus vulnérables, c'est pour eux et pas pour les autres.

Je suis donc convaincu qu'une conclusion sur ces points est possible dans les prochains jours et en tout cas avant la prochaine réunion de l'Euro Working Group du 25 mars dans deux semaines, afin de permettre au prochain Eurogroupe de décider formellement le transfert des revenus SMP/ANFA début avril. Je crois que l'esprit de la discussion, j'avais demandé qu'elle soit allante, l'esprit a été très positif. Je suis persuadé que nous pouvons et nous allons parvenir à cet accord dans les semaines qui viennent. Il faut que les points sur la table soient résolus et que nous continuions d'avoir des discussions qui soient sérieuses et substantielles.

We also had a timely discussion today on trends and challenges related to housing markets in the euro area, at discussion in which many ministers intervened.

For my part, I underlined that, while recent housing developments are occurring in a different environment than before the crisis in a number of respects, we must still be mindful of some challenges.

First, protracted high rates of growth in house prices could fuel mortgage credit growth, risking new bubbles forming;

Second, our experience with policy instruments to address real estate boom-bust dynamics is still quite limited; so we should be careful and imaginative at the same time.

And third, there are trade-offs between policies aimed at stability and those aimed at other objectives, like house affordability or home ownership;

In this context, it was important that we had this conversation today. Exchanging experiences on this topic can only be helpful in developing best practices and helping to ease such trade-offs between policy objectives. For our part, the Commission will continue to monitor closely developments in housing markets in the context of the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure and the European Semester, to ensure that the mistakes of the past do not repeat themselves. I fully approve what the President said, that we have in-depth thematic discussion on various matters.

Lastly, as Mario said we continued our discussions today at 27 on the proposed competitiveness and convergence instrument, concentrating this time on aspects related to expenditure. We drilled down into several of the ideas on the table, including those put forward by the Commission and by France and Germany.

It is clear to me, as it is to many in the Eurogroup, that this new tool needs to have enough resources to make a real difference in terms of spending in the areas targeted. Of course, this has implications also for the revenues side of the discussion, where there are different views around the table. For my part, I have nothing against part of these revenues coming from national voluntary contributions. But this was not the focus of the discussion today.

It may seem obvious but it is worth stressing that the new instrument must provide added value compared to existing EU funds. Many made the point that it needs to be able to mitigate the effects of economic shocks that might hit some euro area countries harder than others. In other words, it needs to play a stabilisation role, even if some do not like this word, precisely in order to ensure convergence of euro area countries' economic cycles, which is part of ensuring convergence in a broader sense between euro area Member States. The proposal made by the Commission is still on the table. Many if not most Member States support this idea, for instance through the modulation of national co-financing rates.

There is also broad support for linking this instrument to the policy priorities identified in the context of the European Semester and followed up in National Reform Programmes.

We have made further progress today in this discussion, thanks to everyone's constructive engagement – though of course there is further work to do. We all know that convergence takes time in the Eurogroup just as it does in the euro area, but it is a prize worth working towards and the Eurogroup is obviously the right place to do this work.

SPEECH/19/1633

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