Chapter News

Remarks by J. Dijsselbloem following today’s Eurogroup meeting

Good evening and welcome to this press conference.

We had a Regular Eurogroup, and a agenda which goes through issues of growth and competitiveness as always.

First let me fill you in on Greece. We took stock of the latest developments. Of course we welcomed the swift formation of the new government. And welcomed the strong commitment of the Greek authorities to implement the programme. A lot of work remains to be done in the coming months. So it is very important to maintain that strong reform momentum. And I think maintaining that attitude of reform is crucial to regain trust inside and outside Greece. So it is crucial for economic recovery. The next set of milestones, prepared by the EWG, have been agreed and they will, once they are implemented, hopefully by mid-October, unlock the next disbursement, of €2bn out of the remaining €3bn. The next set of milestones to unlock the €1bn will have to be agreed later in October. We asked the institutions and the Greek authorities to work as hard as possible to be able to conclude the first review as soon as possible. In order for that to be possible, to finalize the first review, not only should be these milestones be implemented, of course, but also there should be clarity on the reform of the pension system, and the issue of governance in the financial sector should be dealt with. So this is just a highlight of the main issues that have to be worked on in the coming months. Of course at the same time and in parallel, doing the assessment of the banks and also over the course of November and December, the recapitalisation of the banks would have to take place. But once again, a lot of work needs to be done, and finalizing the first review is key in this respect.

Secondly we discussed today services reforms. It is a key challenge for euro area Member States. You know there is still a lot of potential extra growth if we could finalize and complete our internal market and services sector. There is a major challenge there. The euro area as a whole and 10 Member States received country-specific recommendations on the issue of services reform and our aim is to open up markets, make our economies more dynamic and rebalance our economies. We agreed on general principles,  which were prepared by the Commission, principles to guide our reforms such as making regulation proportionate and non-discriminatory, ensuring mutual recognition standards in the fields of services markets and professions, reducing non-regulatory barriers just to mention a few. Major challenges ahead: we are happy to hear the Commission has announced a single market strategy and they will put ambitious proposals forward this autumn and we will revert to this topic focusing on sectors which are particularly important for the finance ministries and for the functioning of economic and monetary union.

Finally, some fiscal issues. As you know we will be discussing Draft Budgetary Plans in a dedicated meeting on the 23rd November. Some Draft Budgetary Plans have already been submitted to the Commission. First one was Spain, which has to do with their elections late this autumn. We have had a short discussion about the procedure of earlier submission and the Commission will come back to that to make extra clear that there will always be equal treatment of countries. The process now, I am sure Pierre will say more about that also, is that the Commission will, once all the Draft Budgetary Plans have come in on 15th October the latest, adopt Opinions, while using the autumn forecasts for that, and I think it will be available at the beginning of November. And all of this to prepare for our meeting and discussion on 23rd November in the Eurogroup.

Finally, we discussed today fiscal policy in a low interest rate environment, which has some good sides and some down sides. And also here, in a joined effort with the Eurogroup working group, the Commission has developed a number of so-called good practices, which is to assess windfalls from low interest rates; make prudent forecasts of the interest burden; and particularly to spend these windfalls wisely, preferably on debt reduction. And if put to use on public investments, to make sure that these investments has a positive net return. So this is about the principles of how to deal with a low interest environment.

Thanks to the Commission for their work.