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14 January 2016

European Council: Remarks by J.Dijsselbloem following the Eurogroup meeting

Main highlights of Eurogroup president Dijsselbloem's statement were euro area recommendations, banking union, Greece, Cyprus, the reform of insolvency frameworks and the AIIB.

First, we discussed euro area recommendations. [...] The five priorities being structural reforms, supporting employment, sound fiscal policies, dealing with over-indebtedness and continuing the deepening of EMU. These priorities will be enshrined in Council recommendations to the euro area. [...]

We also discussed more or less the same issues with the IMF, as part of the ongoing dialogue on the euro area economy, and I am pleased to report that our assessments (IMF and Commission) of the economic situation and the policy priorities are in close alignment. Recovery continues, it broadens. According to the IMF, we have the appropriate fiscal stance. The IMF was very supportive of the ECBs monetary policy, the accommodative monetary policy. But the IMF was also very clear that we have far too little shock absorption capacity in our economies both on the public and private side. And that the pace of reform is a concern for the IMF and remains a key priority. And of course the completion of the banking union, where also the IMF said "it needs to be about risk sharing and risk reduction" - these two go hand-in-hand. 

The third point I want to make is about Greece. We discussed the next steps and took stock of where we are on the ESM programme. Significant progress, a lot has been achieved after the summer of course. [...]

Then on Cyprus. As you know we are approaching the end of the programme for Cyprus. Cyprus is doing particularly well, has implemented the programme and displayed lots of ownership. There are three open issues now, which the Cypriot government is working on. The programme ends at the of March 2016 and therefore next month we will come back to those three open issues to see where we are. [...]

Then we had a thematic discussion on the reform of insolvency frameworks in the member states. This was part of the eurozone recommendations of last year. That's why it is on our agenda. It's actually also part of the capital markets union of Commissioner Hill and its also the third pillar of the Juncker plan on which Vice-President Katainen is working. 

We exchanged information between ministers. The Italian, Irish and Portuguese colleagues informed us of the reforms they have done in the last years on the issue of insolvency. I think that's already a value in itself to exchange information on reform experiences, lessons learned. The next step we want to take is to establish a number of principles which can be used also to benchmark the insolvency frameworks that we have as member states. Principles to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of these frameworks. So this could be about the speed of procedures, the clarity that investors and creditors have in advance and the costs of procedures. We want to work on a set of common principles and the Commission has said they will support us in doing that. We will come back to that in April or May 2016. 

Then very briefly on the AIIB. I am happy to confirm that all euro area member states which are currently members of the AIIB will form together a euro area constituency at the bank. We've adopted a constituency agreement and that's an important signal towards strong cooperation from the euro area.

Full statement

Main results

Greece: state of play

The institutions and the Greek Minister for Finance, Euclid Tsakalotos, briefed the Eurogroup on the next steps in implementing Greece's economic adjustment programme.

The institutions intend to start the first review of the programme implementation next week. The review is expected to focus on the following key issues:

  • pension reform
  • the 2016 budget
  • medium-term fiscal strategy
  • modernisation of Greece's public administration
  • financial sector reforms
  • reforms in the electricity sector

Ministers called on the Greek authorities to cooperate constructively with the institutions to ensure a smooth and thorough first review. Successful completion of this exercise would pave the way for decisions on possible debt relief measures and an IMF programme, as agreed by the heads of state or government in July 2015.

Cyprus: state of play 

The Eurogroup discussed the 8th and final review of Cyprus' adjustment programme. The institutions pointed out that Cyprus had made significant progress in implementing the programme.

Cyprus is now expected to fulfil two outstanding conditions, the so-called 'prior actions', which have to be implemented to formally finalise the review. The finalisation of the review will pave the way for the final ESM disbursement of about €300 million.

European Semester

The Eurogroup exchanged views on the implementation of the 2015 euro area recommendation and discussed the draft Council recommendation on economic policy of the euro area for 2016, which is scheduled to be approved by the ECOFIN Council on 15 January 2016.

Ministers agreed on five policy priorities for the euro area in 2016-2017, based on a European Commission proposal: 

  • structural reforms
  • supporting employment
  • sound fiscal policies
  • reducing debt
  • continuing the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union

IMF Article IV consultation with the euro area 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) informed the Eurogroup about the main findings of its interim mission in the context of the IMF Article IV consultation, which took place in the first half of December 2015. 

The Eurogroup agreed with the IMF's evaluation of the economic outlook for the euro area and of its policy challenges.

The final mission will take place and the full report will become available later in the year.

Thematic discussion on growth and jobs: national insolvency frameworks

In line with the 2015 euro area recommendation, the Eurogroup exchanged views on national insolvency frameworks and their application, which differ widely across member states. [...]

The Eurogroup discussed individual countries' experiences in reforming national insolvency frameworks. Ministers agreed that in this context it would be useful to establish a set of common principles and benchmarks to improve efficiency and effectiveness of these frameworks, and agreed to continue the discussion in spring 2016.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem informed ministers that all euro area member states which are currently participating in the AIIB have agreed to form a single euro area constituency in the bank.

Full press release

© European Council

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